01/20/2005: Of academic degrees and titles: "I don't get no respect...."
Over at Signifying Nothing, Chris Lawrence updated us on the latest contents of his TiVo, and in telling us about the SciFi channel's "revisioning" of Battlestar Galactica, he invited us to read some of his past raving about the show (Chris likes it a lot, and I'm not seriously disposed to argue with him about that). While chasing that pointer, I stumbled across this "lament" buried in a post on "My vote in 2004", where Chris was considering the long since deceased presidential campaign of Howard Dean:
which reminds meóI just busted my ass for five years to get to be called "doctor." $20 says Dean didnít write a fucking paragraph to get his M.D., yet the damn AP will call him "doctor" but me--nu-huh. Wassup with that?Based on my observation of medical student workloads both at law school (at Northwestern the law and medical students shared the same dorm space) and in my present job (at an academic health science center) I'm fascinated by Chris's implication here that the only way one can "bust one's ass" is in the research and writing of a dissertation--most (if not all) medical students and medical residents of my acquaintance would categorize their long hours of study and practice, and low pay during their residencies, as "busting their asses", even if it doesn't result in a few hundred pages of scholarship. The total investment of time it takes to prepare a person to practice medicine is at least as long as that for a Ph.D.; keep in mind that there really is no such thing as a general practitioner in American medicine anymore. Even primary care physicians specialize, usually in internal or family medicine, and that generally represents an investment of 3-5 years beyond medical school graduation (residency training, in most teaching hospitals I'm familiar with, is referred to as "graduate medical education", and for excellent reason).
In the case of Governor Dean, we can pin this down exactly, though. A quick visit to the American Board of Internal Medicine website reveals that there is a form which allows you to confirm whether a doctor is board certified or not. Using the form reveals that Dr. Howard Brush Dean III was board certified in internal medicine in 1981. Therefore, we know that Dr. Dean studied medicine for 4 years (the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where Dean received the M.D., does not have a 3 year medical program), and he had to complete an additional three years of residency training after the award of the M.D. degree. So Dean spent at least 7 years in professional study; granted, three of those years were postdoctoral rather than doctoral. But no doubt Dr. Dean "busted his ass" too, though perhaps in different ways than Dr. Lawrence.
I feel Chris's pain; after all my J.D. degree is considered a doctorate (I even got to wear a doctoral gown and hood at commencement, so there), and if I started insisting on people calling me "Doctor Cleavelin" they'd start seriously questioning my sanity. (And to address that other issue, yes, I did write quite a few paragraphs to get that doctorate (a historical study on the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to be precise), since Northwestern had at that time (and may still, for all I know) a writing requirement for J.D. candidates; in theory, the writing we produced had to be of publishable quality, but I wasn't conceited enough actually to try to get mine published. I did spend two fewer years than Chris did to get his, so I'll concede he outranks me there.)
But I digress; at least Chris should be thankful that he's not living in the U.K. Over there the first professional degree in medicine is a bachelor's degree, yet English physicians are still addressed as "Doctor". If there are M.D. degrees given in England (a quick glance at several of British med school websites--Oxford, Edinburgh and University College, London--leaves me unsure that British medical schools award the M.D. degree anymore), they are analogous to a Ph.D.--a research degree requiring the research, writing and defense of a dissertation (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle received an M.D. from the University of Edinburgh after completing such a course). Those damn British physicians get to be called "doctor", and they don't even have a degree that says "doctor" on it.
Those lucky stiffs.
Len on 01.20.05 @ 01:37 PM CST