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Talking about a surgeon, one said that Dr. Sam never did any surgery himself, rather he get it done by his assistants, that is to say, he is a surgeon only in copy and pen.

In our native language we use the phrase "only in copy and pen."

What are the natural ways of expressing this?

Thanks in advance.

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  • "On paper" is the closest, I would say. You could say "by title" or "in title" and it would be understood. "Technically" is a good adverb. "By training" works pretty well. Then there are the negative ways: "a surgeon, but not a practicing one", for example – Justin Stafford Jul 5 '20 at 8:54
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    Nominally (meaning in name only) would fit. Note that your example lacks the word would after he. – Ronald Sole Jul 5 '20 at 9:23
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... he is a surgeon in name only. 

There is a comment that mentions this phrase, and also "nominally", but it is harder to 'naturally' use "nominally" in the sentence as you have it. One could say something like

He is nominally a surgeon, but has always had actual surgery performed by his assistants.

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