This Ph.D. earning mama has a few words to say about a recent WSJ article that downplays the intelligence and work of a woman in power who’s earned her EdD. While I have a lot more to say than this blog will allow, it’s so important for us all to reflect on why this one op-ed, which said only those with an MD could be considered a doctor, has caused so much of an uproar – and consider how we all can be a part of the solution.
Mr. Joseph Epstein explains why Dr. Jill Biden should not use the honorific “Dr.”, saying she’s fraudulent or being comical for using a title that reflects her work. I have a problem with this. To give you a bit of background about myself, I earned my Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) in Health Education in 2016, so yes, you can #CallMeDoctor.
My kids sometimes call me Dr. Mom, which makes me so proud.
This is not a “one year of research” accomplishment as Mr. Epstein led people to believe. From 2010, and having a single birth in 2013 and twins in 2016, I completed coursework, took qualifying exams, conducted research and defended my dissertation on addressing chronic pain (of which I suffer from and have written about here). One of the absolute proudest moments of my life was waddling across the stage to be hooded on April 20, just 30 days before my twins were born, with my family in the audience. I share this not to toot my horn, but to help explain why it was no small thing and yes, I feel I, along with Dr. Jill Biden, have earned the right to ask that you (sometimes) #CallMeDoctor.
Many professionals put in a lot of work and impact the field in a different way that has been (mostly) accepted as another reason to be called ‘doctor.’ Those who are DC (doctor of chiropractic), EdD (doctor of education), JD (doctor of jurisprudence), DPT (doctor of physical therapy), are others, just to name a few. I’m not saying you have to have an advanced degree to be intelligent, but those who have them ought to be able to use their title of doctor to acknowledge their mastery within their respective field. Why allow some, like Mr. Epstein, knock them down?
Dr. Beth Linas does an excellent job explaining the reasons why using the term doctor, despite not being accepted in many media outlets due to traditional Associated Press standards, is something we need to help create legitimization of the contributions of each and every person who has worked to further the knowledge base. Women and persons of color are especially found diminished in the workplace. There are far too many instances of women and persons of color who have been targeted for acknowledging their accomplishments, like Dr. Julia Baird experienced.
I’m really more-so a situational doctor, which is why unless you need to know, I don’t go out of the way to refer to myself as doctor.
I don’t flaunt it personally, but do lean on it when I’m working professionally. I don’t have it listed on my Facebook, but I do on my LinkedIn. See, I’m not trying to elevate myself, seem obnoxious, or create a divide between myself and someone who hasn’t completed an advanced degree. I’ve actually left it off to prevent from being written off as too academic or too arrogant/would ask for too much money. I do, however, use my title when I’m teaching my college students, when I submit to present at conferences or events, to establish my leadership and assert the knowledge I have. Becoming a doctor myself felt like a way to help me “level up” to the individuals I was trying to help, but it does have some caveats.
I’m not linking the WSJ article here, as honestly, I don’t want to give them the clicks. The article written by Mr. Joseph Epstein (which was defended by the editor) not only diminishes the degree earned by Dr. Jill Biden as being lesser, but he also referred to her as “kiddo” in the beginning of the article. Seriously? Many of my colleagues anecdotally have shared similar experiences – of being treated as if they were the administrative assistant in a meeting/professional setting, being assumed and called Miss/Mrs. while their male counterparts are assumed to be “Dr. Dude.” It’s frustrating and demeaning, and unfortunately common.
I know the worry is that sharing the title across professions may confuse people when they are seeking medical advice to know who they are speaking to. But that’s on the professional to clarify their professional role and their scope of practice. When we don’t use the titles, as the article suggests, women are often left to feel they’ve done less, they earn less and they are written off/passed up for opportunities. So what can we do?
- Use titles when it’s appropriate! As a reminder and an example: I don’t expect anyone to #CallMeDoctor when we go grab a coffee – but if we are doing networking together, introduce me as Dr. Ashley Varol.
- Gently correct individuals if you see they are using the wrong title for a friend/colleague.
- If you’re in a setting and confused about someone’s credentials, simply ask! No professional should have to hide their work to make someone else’s life easier – we can speak up, learn more, and do better!
I want my daughter to know that her mama worked hard to get into the role she’s in. I want her to see what I contribute both inside and outside of the home. Dr. Jill Biden said it best:
“Together, we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished.”
Shine on First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. We are grateful to have you as a role model for women everywhere.