What’s in Our Names: First, Last, Doctor, or Provider?


What title do you prefer?


Liudmila Dutko/AdobeStock


On one hand, some physicians want to be addressed by their first name, not Dr So And So. One reason provided is to break down paternalistic barriers, as described in the Medscape article of November 23, “Don’t Call Me ‘Dr.’, Some Physicians – but Most Prefer the Title.”1

On the other hand, other physicians, especially women, feel that being on a first name basis is a lack of respect and that they are not friends with patients.

A combined option for me, especially with a difficult to pronounce last name, would be “Dr Steve.”

At the same time, in another article on November 16, “NP Must Pay $20K for Implying She Was a Doctor,”2 it was reported that a nurse practitioner was fined for using the designation Doctor, conveying that she was a medical doctor rather than a nurse practitioner.

More generally, out of the business intrusion into medicine, physicians are now often called “providers,” with the implication of no distinction among health care professionals. Personally, I think “provider” is the worst. Providing what? Seems like how one might describe a drug dealer on the streets.

Although studies of such terminology do not seem to have been broken down by psychiatrists, we generally dress more informally and, not wearing white coats, often are mistaken for psychologists.

“Doctor” itself is ambiguous in application. PhDs can all be called Doctor.

Perhaps this designation uncertainly reflects a decreased societal respect for scientific expertise.

What, then, should psychiatrists be called? I generally followed the lead of the patient’s preference in order to help establish a therapeutic alliance. If they asked me what I preferred at the get-go, I would say Dr Moffic. To supplement that, I think our professional organizations should communicate that saying Dr So And So is the most appropriate.

What designation do you prefer and use?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Loudin A. Don't call me 'Dr', say some physicians -- but most prefer the title. Medscape. November 23, 2022. Accessed December 13, 2022. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/984533

2. Henderson J. NP must pay $20k for implying she was a doctor. MedPage Today. November 16, 2022. Accessed December 13, 2022. https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/features/101767

Related Videos
Dune Part 2
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.