Sunday, October 2, 2011

Is there a Doctor in the House?

Interesting article in the New York Times about the use of the title "doctor" in a clinical setting by non-MD doctorates:

When the nurse wants to be called 'doctor'

The article contains an inaccurate statement:

"[P]hysicians are worried that losing control over “doctor,” a word that has defined their profession for centuries, will be followed by the loss of control over the profession itself. He said that patients could be confused about the roles of various health professionals who all call themselves doctors"

In fact, the word "doctor" has denoted primarily a physician in the English speaking world only fairly recently. And it is certainly true that even today the word "doctor" is well known as the appropriate title for people with a doctorate in philosophy. I have my doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic Studies, with a minor in Arabic, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I teach Latin in a public high school and my students call me Dr. Massey. They also took to calling me "D. Mass", which I have no problem with. But the point is, none of them thinks I am qualified to dispense medical advice. And they also know I can't help them on even Algebra I. But when it comes to linguistics, I'm your go-to guy.

Medical Doctors should not be at all concerned about the use of the title "doctor" in a clinical setting by other medical professionals who hold a Ph.D. No one's going to perform surgery in a certified hospital because they have a doctorate in pharmacology. If your pharmacist has a doctorate, your pharmacist should be referred to as "Doctor."

If MD's want to go after the watering down of the title "doctor", they should long ago have pushed back against dentists, optometrists, and chiropractors using it. Get over it, medical doctors. Some of your colleagues in Europe practice as physicians without having a doctoral degree or the right to use the title. So give appropriate respect to the nurses and pharmacists around you who legitimately earn that title without becoming an M.D. I know you worked hard to become an M.D. And you deserve the title "doctor." And so do they.

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