Tuesday 22 November 2011

Don't bullshit me


I've said before that I don't claim to be the smartest guy in the world, but after 4 years of college, 2 years of graduate school, 4 years of medical school, and 5 years of surgery training, I think it's safe to say that people like me are some of the more highly-educated people in society.  There are some other very highly-educated people in this world as well (Ph.D.s, lawyers, educators, pharmacists, dentists, etc), but that doesn't give them any insight into medicine or physiology.  Some highly-educated people just don't seem to get that.

A patient of mine introduced himself as "Dr. Suchandsuch" (not his real name), so I naturally assumed he was a medical doctor.  Now my conversations with other physicians are on an entirely separate plane as compared to non-physicians, because there is a reasonable assumption of medical knowledge no matter what the field.  Even a psychiatrist knows most surgical jargon.  This guy nodded and went along with me through my whole talk with him about his condition.  When I was done, I asked him if he had any questions.

"Just one - what did you just say?"

Turns out the guy isn't a doctor at all - he has a Ph.D. in mathematics.  He's a SMART guy, don't get me wrong, and I would have no problem calling this guy "Dr. Suchandsuch" if I were a student in his class as a sign of respect for someone in his position.  But I'm sorry, if you are a Ph.D., you do NOT introduce yourself as a doctor to another doctor when you are the patient.  I don't think of myself as better than this guy, but that's nothing short of arrogance.

I've had chiropractors pull the same bullshit with me.  Chiropractors are NOT doctors, despite their "DC" tag that they give themselves.  When I've been a patient, I've introduced myself as my first name.  If the subject comes up, I'll tell the doctor that I'm a physician as well.  That allows us to communicate a lot easier.  But when I'm a patient, I'm a patient.  When you're my patient, don't bullshit me.


  1. Aha! I know exactly what you mean. On the other hand, medical doctors can be complete arrogant asses too. I worked at a medical research lab for a while and my supervisor has been working there for about 10 years. While working on a project with another lab, the PI from the other lab refused to communicate with him (didn't answer emails, phone calls, etc.) because he didn't have a doctoral degree.

    Some people just think too much of their title.

    1. I am a PhD and I can understand why this guy does so, especially if he's an academic - he is called "Dr" X all of the time and introduces himself as such. It becomes a habit and he would no more introduce himself as "Mr" as he would "Mrs". It probably didn't occur to him that it would carry the type of implication that it did. I never correct people who refer to me as "Mr" but it does feel odd.

      Of course, having said that, I should also say that I am careful not to use "Dr" in any medical context because it just creates confusion. I would probably follow quite a bit of what might be said to me because my doctorate is scientific and I work in the pharmaceutical field but my knowledge of anatomy, for example, would potentially be an issue and in any case it's not helpful to create a false impression.

      On the other side of the coin it can be frustrating to those who are not medical doctors, but nonetheless do understand things, to get any type of explanation above that which you might give a 6-year-old. You probably find that too when you are a patient if you don't tell them you are a medic. Not sure that a solution exists give the time pressures doc's work under.

  2. I am a pharmacist (PharmD). However, I do not introduce myself as doctor (ever!). My technicians do not call me doctor, nor do my patients. Of course, some of the patients seem to think I am a medical doctor. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten asked questions about different types of rashes, if a child's finger is broken or just sprained, or if a person is diabetic (yes, I had a patient ask me to "diagnose" him with diabetes...). I've had to explain that while I do know a bit about the disease states, I am in no way qualified to diagnose ailments! So, maybe you could try explaining this to some of my patients?

    1. I would never ask a pharmacist anything not immediately related to a prescription but I see all the time in articles "Ask your doctor or pharmacist." I suppose people take that suggestion and apply it broadly, thinking pharmacists are just behind-the-counter nurses.

  3. You don't look like a pompous ass at all.

  4. I HAAAAAATE calling my PhD professors "Dr." you're not a damn doctor! You have a doctorate degree but you are NOT a doctor. Get over yourself!

  5. The irony is that PhDs have the temporal claim to the title.

    Doctor was used to refer to those with terminal university degrees back in the 14th century (and to Church fathers/religious instructors well before that).

    The use of Doctor in the medical sense was not common until the 16th century. Prior to that, physicians were called (I am not joking) leeches.


If you post spam or advertisements, I will hunt you down and eliminate you.

Comments may be moderated. Trolls will be deleted, and off-topic comments will not be approved.

Web-hosted images may be included thusly: [im]image url here[/im]. Maybe. I'm testing it.

Not dead

I'll start this post by answering a few questions that may or may not be burning in your mind: No, I'm not dead.  No, I didn't g...