“Hi, I’m trying to reach Miss Cecchini…”
“Dear Ms. Cecchini,”
I’ve literally signed off on my email: Cherilyn Cecchini, MD. Sometimes, I even decide to write “Dr. Cecchini” before the signature at the bottom. The response back is almost always written to “Ms. Cecchini or Cherilyn, sometimes to Cherylyn or Cheryl (neither of which is my name).
Even wedding invitations often come to Miss Cherilyn Cecchini. Now, others wouldn’t be bothered by this and at first, I really wasn’t. Then it kept happening more and more and it started to irk me. I asked myself, “Why? Why is this frustrating me?” I decided that it is because I worked very hard to earn the title of “Dr. Cecchini.” I went to four additional years of schooling beyond college and I want my achievements to be acknowledged. I want to be called by the correct and accurate title.
Let me mention another scenario. I’ve spent 30+ minutes with this parent and patient. At the end of the conversation, she is frustrated despite lengthy counseling on my end and a great effort to address her concerns. She complains, “This is why I only ever want to see a doctor.” Despite the huge “doctor” badge hanging from my ID tag and despite the fact that I introduced myself as “Dr. Cecchini,” she believes she has not yet spoken to a physician.
I leave the room disheartened and again irritated by the simple fact that many people do not acknowledge my actual role. Why is it that society assumes that because I am a young, fashionable female that I most certainly cannot be the doctor? At least, that is the impression that I get. I may be totally missing the mark, but that is what seems to be the most logical explanation here.
Society needs to reshape their idea of doctors in order to help combat this problem. Many doctors are young and are female and want to be addressed as “doctor.” Why is it that half the percentage of women in the field are formally addressed when introduced by a male in comparison to men? Why must I identify as a male in order for colleagues and patients to address me correctly?
I never address a doctor by their first name (male or female) unless they specifically tell me to, and even then, I usually ignore their request and continue to respectfully refer to them as “doctor” because that is the title they have earned. I believe this is the type of thoughtful treatment that all physicians — young, old, male, or female — deserve.
Don’t bother leaving “#boohoo” or “#firstworldproblems” hashtags here. In spite of similar posts left on Huffington Post, KevinMD, and Gender Avenger, I firmly believe this topic is relevant to women’s overall success in medicine. In fact, researchers have shown that unequal naming practices amplify isolation and marginalization.
So, the next time you sit down to write a letter, or draft an email, or send an invitation, please be sure to double check the title of the invitee. I am sure that he or she would appreciate being addressed correctly. I know that I certainly would.