Call Me Doctor: Opinion Editorial
My dad suffered a stroke when I was in high school and part of his return to normalcy was working with a speech pathologist. I was fascinated by the process, and it led me to declare it as my major when I attended the University of Florida (UF) as an undergraduate. I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.
My curriculum and training in speech pathology intertwined with audiology, and I soon found myself drawn to its study instead. In the late 1990s, the doctor of audiology degree was still new, with few schools offering it. Upon graduation from UF, I entered an AuD program at the University of Louisville and completed my residency at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. After eight years total of university learning, I graduated as Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) White.
My first decade as an audiologist took me all over the country where I met amazing patients and colleagues and learned about a variety of issues that affected their hearing and quality of life. My patients always treated me with the respect deserving of my training and expertise. When I introduced myself as “Dr. Liz White” it seemed to bring them ease. They hoped that I had the expertise to improve the quality of their hearing and their lives and I prided myself on filling that role.
As a young practitioner, however, I noticed a trend among co-workers. Receptionists, administrators, and even physicians in other fields would leave off the “Dr.” when addressing me. When specialists would refer patients to me, I was “our girl who handles hearing” or “our girl in the back.” My protests to call me by my proper title—the one I had worked so hard to earn—fell on deaf ears—pun intended. It seemed that my title was not real to anyone but myself and my patients.