I follow a Facebook group of physician moms. We share and offer feedback on everything from a clinical puzzle to a frustrating patient encounter and we offer our tricks for how to find balance in a crazy medical life. I’ve seen several recent posts about women being called Mrs. even when it is known they are a physician. Most recently there was a long post where a female physician at a social event was told by a male “friend” that it was arrogant to let people other than patients or professional colleagues refer to you as Doctor. I’m sure you can imagine the responses from our group. But, the fact that this is even a discussion point in 2019 baffles me. I am certain this is not a conversation that has been directed to male physicians. This is what I wish she had said. “First, using my title does not mean I’m choosing my profession over my husband. It is my title. I earned it, it is socially correct to use it, and this is not about me – it is about you not choosing respect. Furthermore, I bet if your wife collapses and someone yells, is there a Doctor in the house, you would then surely want me to respond?”
Sadly, as physicians, we also perpetuate the issue. A study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, monitored over 300 conferences in a two year time span at Mayo. When males introduced the physician speakers, they used titles introducing men 72% of the time versus 49% for women speakers. When females were doing the introductions, they used titles 96% for men and 66% for women speakers. I should be shocked, but I’m not. Women are graduating medical school in higher numbers than men, but the stories continue to pour in of women physicians being mistaken for nurses or patients looking to a male medical student instead of the female attending to answer the difficult questions.
A father and son are involved in a car accident and both are both are badly hurt. They are taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon states, “I cannot do the surgery because this is my son.” Why is this a riddle? I heard it being shared as recently as a few years ago at a pub table of 30 something year olds scratching their heads. There are now more females than males enrolled in US medical schools. It is probable that there will be more actively practicing female physicians than male physicians in the US in our lifetime. Yet, we still have an imbalance of public perception.
I don’t get hung up on being called Doctor, but in a situation where a title should be used – then, absolutely yes, I want my two letters and one period utilized. I want my years of study, my dedication to a noble profession and my level of expertise recognized. I want it to ring in the ears of all that are in the vicinity to hear it. Why? Because, just like my male physician colleagues, I earned it, I’m proud of it, and I am a DOCTOR.