Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Solution to make Everyone Happy

A recent article in Drug Topics talks about how pharmacists with a Doctor of Pharmacy shouldn't refer to themselves as "Doctor."

Dr. Ruth, Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil... all have the title "doctor," but you wouldn't ask any of them to diagnose a wart on your finger because they're not physicians. Yet, they have most certainly earned the title of doctor in their respective fields.

Ironically, we have a fumbling fool in the media, the ostentatious Dr. Oz. This actual physician is out there recommending utter nonsense, week after week, but no one questions his use of the title "doctor."

Don't get me wrong... I don't think pharmacists just out of school should insist that patients call them doctor. I don't think seasoned pharmacists should introduce themselves as doctor. It is, however, appropriate for a name badge, business card, or any official documents whether it be a hospital pharmacy, compounding, or community pharmacy. 

I have a technician who started using the title "Dr. FirstName" as my title a couple of years ago. I never asked anyone to call me that, but it stuck and now most of my patients call me that. I don't mind, and with these patients I earned the title with excellent counsel and advice.

Pharmacists with the PharmD degree are not physicians, but have earned the degree "Doctor of Pharmacy" and most certainly are entitled to the respect for having attained that degree, just like any other field with a doctorate designation.

What's interesting to me is that Pharmacy Times has published two articles about how PharmDs should not use the title "doctor" while promoting the advancement of having Doctors of Pharmacy obtain "provider status." Doesn't that seem rather contradictory to you? Yes, it does to me too.

So I have a proposition. Since so many out there that have a big issue with Doctors of Pharmacy being called "Doctor LastName," (as if there is something wrong with that) how about we as a profession adopt something more patient-friendly? After all, we are without a doubt the most accessible healthcare professional out there.

Drug Topics magazine wants us to find our own solution?

Ok, I have one.

I propose we adopt the professional title of "Dr. FirstName," just like my tech started calling me in the pharmacy, and just like so many of my patients call me now. I'm their clinical pharmacist, and they defer to me when wanting to know about their medications. I'm not a physician, but I am a professional in terms of drug-related matters. I'm Dr. FirstName, and that makes all the difference in the world to me and to them. Because of the use of my first name, it's not formal or pretentious, yet still establishes a level of rightly-earned respect and dignity.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and an MBA. For those that don't know, an MBA is a "Master of Business Administration." But I don't go around asking people to call me "Master." Certainly pharmacists are not physicians, but Dr. Dre is not a physician either. Nor is Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura. But you wouldn't call them by any other name, would you? It's a show of respect.

There is respect in a title. And in the case of pharmacists... especially RETAIL pharmacists, there should be real professionalism in the profession... and a title is a good place to start. When you tell pharmacists NOT to use their deserved and earned title, you're belittling the profession which ironically wants "provider status."

Retail pharmacy is already rife with a plethora of situations that reduces the credit of the title we have obtained. When pharmacists are expected to work long hours without a break, without a meal, without time to go to the bathroom, all in the name of metrics, that belittles us as a profession. And now we're expected to give up the one thing... the one title, that we worked so hard to obtain? I think not.

When pharmacy magazines tell us not to use our deserved title, it trivializes what we do. This is incongruous with these same pharmacy magazines that try to promote the career by obtaining the designation of "provider status."

I have to tell you, if Dr. Oz can go on television week after week promoting absolute nonsense and garbage, even to the point of having to defend himself before a senate committee, then I don't have a problem with people calling me Dr. FirstName.


  1. Your article is we'll written and thought-provoking. I don't even understand why this is an issue. When all other professionals with a doctoral degree of all kinds agree to stop using the title they EARNED, then I think it should be discussed as pertaining to those who have PharmDs. I don't understand why attorneys don't use the title Dr. since they have a JD.
    Thank you for a great article. I may start going by Dr. first name.

  2. As someone who graduated from pharmacy school in the early '80's with a B.S. degree (and isn't that a more appropriate designation considering what the drug companies and insurers have turned pharmacy into), I have always thought it was really stupid to travel down the "doctor" road since the medical profession already has a sub group referred to by that name. Calling another sub group by the same name is just asking for confusion. Yet here we are discussing this 20+ years later and will most likely still be doing so 20 years from now. Glad I'm going to be stepping out of this litter box in a few more years.