What is it with a woman or person of color with an advanced degree that makes some men see red? A writer from the Wall Street Journal penned an Op-Ed about First Lady-elect Dr. Jill Biden and how she should drop the doctor title from her name. My initial reaction was to sigh and think to myself, “Here is another male being condescending towards an accomplished woman.” I am tired. Just tired.
Our First Lady-elect, Dr. Jill Biden, has a doctorate in education and holds two master’s degrees. She also obtained her doctorate at age 55 while teaching, being a wife, mother, and grandmother. The Wall Street Journal article author thinks that only doctors who have delivered babies have the right to call themselves doctors. This individual may need a history lesson. The word doctor comes from the Latin word teacher. The term doctor was initially reserved for eminent scholars in the 1300s. Physicians did not use the term doctor until the 1900s.
As a Black female physician, the Op-Ed struck a nerve because, much of the time, people do not even see me as a physician. I have been mistaken for the nurse, orderly, cleaning staff, or food service worker, despite introducing myself as Dr. Davis. Our male colleagues also sometimes deny us our titles of doctor. How many times have we observed or experienced a male physician being referred to as Dr. Smith, but the female physician referred to by her first name? One would hope that society would be used to female physicians since we have presently for many years represented 50 percent of the graduating classes at most medical schools in this nation. Many of our Ph.D. colleagues have to fight for recognition, as do many of us.
Recently, one of my friends was frustrated with a situation at her job. For the second year in a row, her Ph.D. credentials were not appropriately listed on a course syllabus. She is the only Black woman on her team, and yet hers were the superior credentials that were not correct. She stood up for herself, and the situation was corrected after many apologies. However, one gets tired of seeing women, especially Black women, having to fight for their due. We work hard and face many obstacles to achieve our degrees.
Deciding to get an advanced degree while already established in your career is a huge undertaking. Earning a doctorate under any circumstances is worthy of applause and admiration. That work should be acknowledged. We are all doctors- we worked hard for MDs, PhDs, PsyD, and Eds. We should not be told to humble ourselves. Would anyone ever ask that of a man?
Dr. Jennifer Davis is an adolescent medicine specialist who practices in New York City. She is co-author of the Women in White Coats book two and is a Women in White Coats Fellow. She is on Instagram @jaydee_md