‘Dr. Patty’? Uh, No. But ‘Dr. K’ Is OK

‘Dr. Patty’? Uh, No. But ‘Dr. K’ Is OK‘Dr. Patty’? Uh, No. But ‘Dr. K’ Is OKrealitycheck, practicemgmtBy Patty Khuly, VMD04-07-2010

I  talk a big game about my endless list of pet peeves. They dog me like a slobbery ball that keeps getting plunked in my lap while I’m trying to digest the last few pages of a great book.

But most really aren’t pet peeves. Instead, they’re more on the order of the kind of thing any thinking, feeling person might detest. Case in point: Peeving it up on the subject of people who talk loudly on cell phones in closed spaces. Now that’s just rude! So how can it be a “pet” peeve if 200 similar basic etiquette peeves offer the same degree of I-want-to-strangle-him irksomeness?

That was my long-winded intro to a truly personal pet peeve I happen to harbor: modern day veterinarians who go by their first name with a Dr. preceding it. As in, “Dr. Patty.”

I don’t know about you but it kinda bugs me. Not so much when exuberant clients call out, “Dr. Patty!” and wave across the supermarket. They’re just being sweet and solicitous. OK, so maybe they’re a little like that dog with the ball, but I’m not such a curmudgeon that I won’t play along.

First Name Only, Please

No, what really gets me going occurs when a conscious effort is made to create a moniker where no need for one would seem to exist. The worst is when that sobriquet gets styled into something recurrent. For instance, “Dr. Patty would like to speak to you today on the merits and pitfalls of dental treats.”

Are you starting to get the picture?

After all, if I’m cozy enough with a client to truck out my first name, just plain “Patty” is perfect. Why the doctorly prefix? I don’t get it.

Though I concede it’s appropriate for a veterinarian in a close community whose hospital offers a quaint kind of culture to adopt a nickname with connotations of accessibility, here the naming process tends to happen organically.

The evolution of an appellation in these cases comes about over years of well-worn use, not as a marketing decision or in a fit of false and cloying cute overkill. Observe the obnoxious:

  • “Buy Dr. Patty’s dental chews! They’re the best!”
  • “Dr. Patty thinks it’s best you feed him twice a day.”

Forget the Folksy

Sure, it’s well-known that the stickiest nicknames tend to be diminutives. As I noted in a recent column on the subject of the term “spay,” sometimes the accessibility of the terminology leads to its greater adoption. But when it comes to a doc you’ll never meet face to face, doesn’t it come off as somewhat disingenuous?

How about one who’ll never make a house call, stay after hours (or offer any other first-name-style service, for that matter) and, by the way, expects you to treat her professionally and aloofly, yet she insists you call her Dr. Lisa.

In modern veterinary medicine, is there as much room for the folksy as the ubiquity of this style of name-calling would suggest? I think not. Veterinary medicine, for better and worse, has mostly moved beyond the one-doc-does-it-all shop where your whole family attends and Doc Bill still remembers that Roxy died 12 years ago one wintry day and from what.

No, for the most part we no longer can lay claim to the old-time doc designation. Which only makes sense now that veterinary medicine has evolved into a higher stakes game more deserving of a little professional distance. Which only makes sense if we strive for a higher standard of care and the greater respect and higher incomes that attend it.

After all, no physician I ever met ever went by “Dr. Tom” or “Dr. Sue” publicly. Not even when it comes to selling cheap skin creams and oddball supplements do they stoop to do so. So why do we? And more to the point, what does this ultimately say about us?

Slippery Schmooze

To my sensibility, “Dr. Given Name” signals an oozy, slippery schmooze and a fundamental devaluation of our credibility. It says we somehow feel the need to persist in presenting ourselves as quasi-worthy of the “doctor” designation. Perhaps we feel we don’t quite deserve it. Or maybe it’s merely to do with what we believe our “fur baby”-owning clients expect from us.

Whatever the case, I can’t help thinking it’s somehow a tad pathetic for a newly minted grad to go the way of “Dr. Jane” or “Dr. Joe.” We’ve outgrown this approach.

When veterinarians stick with it, they ignore the reality of modern veterinary medicine. Instead, they cave to the falseness of the cute factor, all while undermining their colleagues’ hard work, intellect and professional integrity. <HOME>

Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA, is a small-animal practitioner in Miami and a passionate blogger at Dolittler.com. She earned her veterinary degree in 1995 and her business degree from Wharton in 1997.

This article first appeared in the April 2010 issue of Veterinary Practice News

I talk a big game about my endless list of pet peeves. They dog me like a slobbery ball that keeps getting plunked in my lap while I’m trying to digest the last few pages of a great book.I talk a big game about my endless list of pet peeves. They dog me like a slobbery ball that keeps getting plunked in my lap while I’m trying to digest the last few pages of a great book.pet peeves, veterinarians, veterinary medicine

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