When to and not to use your title Dr.

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by nobycane, Dec 18, 2005.

  1. nobycane

    nobycane New Member

    I wanted to discuss a topic here that is somewhat disturbing to me. I am a secondary earth science teacher in Florida, and our school has a fairly small number of faculty on staff...~ 65 total. The issue at hand is, we have an english faculty member who is Ph.D., a seasoned teacher, well respected, and a fairly nice individual.

    She is the only one in the school who is a Ph.D.

    The issue is, she insists that "everyone" addresses her as Dr.***...including her students.

    Now, all the faculty are on a first name basis, including administration (when studnets are not present), but this individual will not acknowledge you (fellow faculty member, student, admin, parent, etc...) unless you address her as "Dr.".

    A vast majority of the faculty honestly believe that this is a bit inappropriate. This is high school, not college or university, and we think she is just using this to get the ultimate respect and flash a status amoung others ... much like everyone else is beneath her. She went as far as removing her door name plate that had her last name and replaced it with Dr. ***.

    The students think it is a silly thing...they are confused by the title of Dr. in this case...they still believe that Dr. refers to Doctor in medicine...not Ph.D.!

    What do you think....
  2. 3$bill

    3$bill New Member

    I think the harshest and simplest action would be to let her continue to alienate her colleagues and amuse her students.
  3. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    What an interesting situation. There will come a time when she will need to come to you (or to someone else) for a favor or for a request. You said that she will not acknowledge you unless you call her doctor. It is when she needs something from you -- and when she approaches you to ask you about it -- that would be the best time to call her by her first name. LOL :eek:

    Sometimes we carry the doctor thing too far. In a professional setting, I might call someone "doctor," but in a relaxed setting, I prefer first names. After all, we are professionals, no?

    As far as the MD vs. PhD doctor issue... I didn't know that there are some people out there who feel that only MDs should be titled as doctor. That is frankly bizarre.

    In the old days, in a land far far away... PhD doctors made a lot more money and received more prestige (IMO). But today, MDs make a ton of money, so their status has been drastically elevated in the last 100 years.
  4. 3$bill

    3$bill New Member

    No, that would be the best time to call her "Doctor."
  5. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    "...but this individual will not acknowledge you (fellow faculty member, student, admin, parent, etc...) unless you address her as "Dr."..."

    Be careful. The next step is that if you do not call her Doctor, she'll hold her breath until she turns blue.

    One wonders:
    (1) Is it a very a newly-received doctorate? People are entitled to a grace period when they get to exult and be excessive. A month, I think, under international law. Humorist Stephen Leacock wrote that he celebrated his new Ph.D. in mathematics by taking a Great Lakes cruise. When the message came over the speaker that a very attractive woman had fainted, and was there a doctor on board, he rushed to the captain's cabin . . . but was preceded by two doctors of divinity and a doctor of sacred music.

    (2) Do we know where the Ph.D. is from? Laura Callahan, at the Dept. of Homeland Security, apparently also demanded to be called "Doctor" and hers was bought from the fake Hamilton University.
  6. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Can you please explain why?
  7. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This is a topic that comes back again and again.

    I am of the opinion that the protocol works something like this:

    • In a medical or treatment setting, non-medical PhDs must never be addressed as Doctor -- to avoid confusion and misrepresentation.

      "Dr. Smith, this is my mathematician friend, Joe Bloggs."
    • In an informal setting where almost everyone has a doctorate -- first names.

      "Hey, Jane -- how's the hubby and kids?"

      "Doing fine, Bill. And how 'bout you and yours?"
    • When referring to a doctorate holder in the third person in a formal way (such as in a letter) -- use the prenominal on the first use, and last name only on second use.

      "Dr. Joe Bloggs has informed the committee that he will be in attendence. Bloggs is known for his seminal work on the lifecycle of the South American Snipe."

      This varies by discipline. Some would use Dr. followed by last name in the second and subsequent usage. In Computer Science, however -- I have noticed that it is very common to refer to colleagues by their last name only, without titles. It sounds a bit stark -- but it is common usage -- and does not convey any sense of impoliteness.

      In the case where the person being referred to is well known -- and not in a medical or treatment field -- Dr. would not be used at all, in any instance, and first name might also be omitted:

      "Bloggs informs us she will be attending."

      If one must ask: "Which Bloggs that, then?" then obviously that person is not well enough known in the field. ;)
    • When trying to make someone with an unaccredited doctorate feel conspicuous, quotation marks.

      "However, as 'Dr' Bloggs has noted...."

      (I'm familiar with, but do not agree with, this particular "usage". Others seem to find it amusing and/or effective.)
    • Once a person has requested to be called by first name, or without title -- typically it is good form to honor this request.

      The reverse of this is always up to the speaker. If someone demands to be called by title -- it really is up to you to decide whether or not to honor that request. Failing to honor that request may have socio-political consequences that only you can decide are worthwhile enduring.
    • In certain company, certain titles trump. The rules of style-usage are complex, and people will tend to make "mistakes" if they are not familiar with those complex rules.

      It is always considered a sign of good breeding to refrain from correcting those who mis-title if the title is included amongst those you hold. The only time a correction is called for is when someone confers a title on the spot, so as to avoid allowing someone to believe you hold an honor you do not. For instance, if someone calls someone Mr Bloggs, he ought not say, "Um, that's actually Chev Bloggs." However, if they were to call him Rev Bloggs, he might say, with a nice smile, "Not a reverend, yet, guvnah."
    • Sometimes people assign titles to you out of courtesy. It's hard to judge when this is happening -- they might be mistaken -- or they might be assigning a temporary honorific. Best to just let this pass unless they refer to you as such to someone else.
    • Different cultures have different conventions. For instance, in Iranian culture, the title "Doctor" is almost always used when the addressee holds any form of doctorate, from anywhere, in anything, so much so that anyone not using it will stand out as being bisharafi (a highly insulting thing to be called literally translated to mean ignoble -- but any of the "bi-words" in Farsi are usually considered quite insulting and typically have more polite forms). When referring to the wife of a doctorate holder, one might even say what amounts to "Doctor's Wife" (qaanom-doktor or some such).

      In Iranian culture, this depends on the age of the person to whom one is speaking. I've heard wives refer to their own husbands of many years by the husband's last name -- never by the first. Older Iranians also have a polite-form for "I" that translates to "[your] servant". Friends of many years might refer to one another by their last names only. (Which I find convenient, given that my first name is often mispronounced by Iranians who don't yet have the soft "i" of Quinn -- whereas Jaksen is easy for them.)

      There is even a word for "introductions" that also means, roughly, "putting on airs" (ta'arof). When one is said to be ta'arofi basically one is being called insincere. There are many "formulas" in ta'arof -- standard replies to standard statements. Some of these are quite amusing to witness. "Do not pain your hand for me." -- "No, you pain your head for me." "I am your sacrifice." How many times must one say "No, please, no" before finally saying "If you insist!" Not knowing how many times to say no before finally saying yes can make one come across as rude. Not eventually saying yes has the same effect.

      The rules are complex in some cultures. The tricky part about this, I have found -- if one makes a small effort to understand these rules -- one is often held to higher expectations. Meaning this: if one makes an effort to use the correct forms in one instance -- often one is held to a standard in all social situations. If one obviously doesn't know any of the rules -- people are much more likely to let "violations" pass without taking "offense".

    Society is very complex.

    As long as you don't call me late for dinner, as the saying goes, eh what?
  8. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    She's been refusing to respond to you except on her terms. Now she suddenly needs a favor from you. You turn her down, saying "Sorry, Doctor"
  9. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    My choral director in secondary school was Dr. Baxter. He was an excellent director, and we were lucky to have him. We all called him "Dr. Baxter" and occasionally "Dr. B.", but other teachers called him Bob. He was a pretty formal guy, yet approachable -- dignified but never pretentious.

  10. 3$bill

    3$bill New Member

    For the inner gratification of behaving courteously under extreme provocation.

    If the point is lost on the Doctor, so much the greater the satisfaction from contemplating an annoying person complacently act the boor.
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I use the appellation "Ph.D." in professional and formal settings. I do not use it in informal settings.

    I do not refer to myself as "doctor." Others may. If it is a professional/peer setting and I am introduced as "Dr. Douglas," I jump in with my first name because I expect to use others' first names.

    If I was in a setting where students were required to call me "Mister," like in high school, I would have them call me "Doctor," but I wouldn't correct the use of "Mister." (It is, after all, still correct.)

    I think the rules should apply exactly equally in medical settings, with the exception that I would discourage its use a little more to avoid confusion. But anyone who thinks physicians (or veterinarians, for goodness sakes!) are more entitled to the use of the title "doctor" than are academicians, that's ignorant.
  12. RXI

    RXI New Member

    There is a simple solution to this.

    Though everyone in the department calls you by your first name, remind Dr. So-n-so that when she should address you that you are 'MR.' Nobycane.

  13. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    If this person is content to distance herself from her peers with this sort of formality then I'd just let her do it. When the party invitations go out she will find herself left out. When the baby pictures are handed around she will not be included. These are (among) the hallmarks of friendship. If she is only interested in having formal relationships with her co-workers then I say, let her have just that.
    Who loses in this?
  14. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Ahhhhhh now I see!!! < slaps forehead > To be honest, I could not blatantly do that because that would be too (openly) disrespectful to her -- clearly with the intent to be mean. But that's me. I think it would be less respectful to call her by her first name. :eek: :D
  15. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    I have always been annoyed whenever people call me "mister," but I have no idea why.

    Someday, if I am ever a DBA graduate, then I will only use the term doctor in two settings:
    1. As a billboard advertisement that Dr. so-and-so is speaking or
    2. In a lecture setting that requires formality ie. hi, my name is Dr. John Doe...
  16. roy maybery

    roy maybery New Member


    I think you the rest of the faculty and the students should refer to her as Dr as she insists. This may, as other posters have pointed out. alienate her but that is her problem. You work in the same institution as her, it dosn't mean that you have to like her or socialize with her. In fact I don't remember ever working in a place where I have liked everyone. This is what being polite is all about, getting on with people you may not like. As others have pointed out you should insist that she call you Mister.
    In some way I agree with her. If I had a PhD and I was teaching (at any level) I would insist on being called Doctor by my employer and students (though my friends and peers would still call me Roy.)
    Roy Maybery
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2005
  17. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    I prefer the passive-aggressive route with people like that. The more formal their request, the less formal you get. If she wants Dr. Barb Smith, Barbie fits well.

    Waiting to hear where exactly that PhD is from.
  18. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I was never a fan of "Mister" even before. It always made me think of my father. "Mister Jackson is my father's name," I would think.
  19. Kirkland

    Kirkland Member

    The term "doctor" is bestowed and should never be demanded nor expected. Sounds like her knickers are in a knot over this thing and since it's so trivial, I would guess her colleagues will continue to ignore her. Sounds like she watched too many science fiction movies from the 50s and 60s where there was always at least one "doctor" that everyone looked to for unemotional scientific explanations to counter the screaming, uncontrolled hordes running about the streets in panic (hmmmm... it does sound like high school...).
  20. nobycane

    nobycane New Member

    Re: Re: When to and not to use your title Dr.

    I believe her Ph.D. is either from Florida State University or University of Miami....I know it is one of them two big universities here in Florida that is for sure.
    She has been a Ph.D. for about 5-7 years....

    Because there is another faculty member working on their doctorate...from one or the other.

    Though my question is, should the students be forced to address her as "Dr."? We hear some of them say that this is not college and she is not a professor. Which some students do associate "Ph.D."/Dr. with professors at colleges and universities.

    Others have no clue...and do not understand.

Share This Page