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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dr. Who?

I haven't picked on Dr. Phil in a long time, but an article I read today in The Philadelphia Inquirer reminded me that he's still out there, being annoying and useless, and making big bucks whilst being so.

And he's not alone.

The article I read was about kids with autism managing their social defecits through communication workshops hosted by people who go by "Dr. Liz" and "Dr. Alex." They do have last names, like your gynecologist and your dentist, they just don't use them. You know, because going by "Dr. Liz" is cool, and going by "Dr. Laugeson" isn't.

Here's the thing, though, Dr. Liz: you're a clinical psychologist. You're not supposed to be fucking cool. Cars with spoilers are cool. New sneakers are cool. Vacations and blowjobs and roller coasters are cool. No autistic child is going to think you're cool and accessible because you call yourself "Dr. Liz." Want to be cool to a kid with autism? Stand really close to them and talk about trains.

I don't understand this kick that we're currently on in America-- our fascination with candy docs-- Dr. Laura, Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz. Well, fine, "Oz" really is his last name, apparently, but are we too stupid and immature to refer to Dr. Drew as "Dr. Pinsky?" The colloquialism of their reference kind of deflates the seriousness of the degrees they ostensibly worked so hard to obtain, and it certainly pours confectioner's sugar all over whatever information they might dispense to the masses, like pez. Of course, I don't know how seriously I'd take anyone who appears on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" dressed in surgical scrubs and doing squats with a champagne cork between his teeth no matter what he calls himself.

My primary care physician's name is Dr. Lander, and that's what I call him. He's eighty-four years old and, back in the time of Christopher Columbus, my great-grandmother used to apply rouge and lipstick in preparation for Dr. Lander's much-anticipated house-calls. Dr. Lander is an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, competent medical practitioner who wears threadbare dress-shirts, bowties, pencil-straight courderoy pants and a stained white coat. The idea of referring to this man as "Dr. Bill" seems incongruous, idiotic and offensive. He is what I like to call "a real doctor." If he ever appeared on a television show or at some flashy conference, I don't think a lot of people would tune in-- they'd much rather watch "Dr. Bill." But that's their loss.

The Dr. Phil's and the Dr. Liz's of this world are here, I guess, for people who don't expect much from them. They're here to entertain, and they're here to make a bigger name for themselves, and to profit. I just hope that people out there don't forget that, and that, if they are really looking for serious advice or help, they seek out a doctor who has the self-respect and the dignity to refer to him or herself by their last name.

Caring for people, dispensing diagnoses, medications, theories or advice was never meant to be cool or marketable. If you think you've got yourself a catchy moniker for your new TV show, why don't you tuck your tail between your legs and return to your exam room or your office where you can look at the degree bestowed on you by the institution of higher learning that you paid a mortgage to acquire. Why don't you go actually do something useful or helpful? If you think you're making yourself accessible to kids by calling yourself "Dr. Liz" or "Dr. Alex," trust me, you're not. Kids can pronounce your last name, and they see through condescending bullshit like that with 20/20 vision-- even the autistic ones.


  1. Just the standard drive for everything to become more sale-able, more relate-able, more reality-tv-ish...

    The devaluing of professionalism has been ongoing for some time now.

    Your 84 year-old doc sounds amazing though!

  2. I just had a strangely similar conversation with my parents... I work at a doctors office and one of our doctors has the last name Andrea. So, often I get people calling for Dr. Andrea and automatically assuming he is a she. Which he is not. DRIVES ME CRAZY. Going by Dr. First name is the stupidest thing ever and just really bad English. That is all.

  3. when I was little I always Dr. Laura's (last) name was Dr. Lorislessinger


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