I graduated with a Ph.D. in Counseling and Counselor Education in August of 2008… It was in May of 2008 that I defined my dissertation and I first heard the words, “Congratulations Dr. Bigbee (my maiden name).” I admit from the day I got these credentials that led to a new title, I have struggled with when/how/where to use the title. I admit I downplay my degree. I do this for many reasons… I don’t want anyone to think I feel like I am better than them (I am not, I realize I am incredibly privileged in the opportunities I have in life), I struggle with impostor syndrome, and I was raised by a dad who when he received his doctorate never expected anyone to call him doctor.
I think about this title more than I honestly should. I finally am comfortable using it professionally when giving talks and presentations. I have Amy Grosso, PhD as my name on twitter and my email signature for work. I encourage my colleagues to call me Amy. In some ways I often take it on myself to try to make up for so many with doctorates who are beyond rude and self-righteous about having others call them Dr. (yes I am completely showing my judgement). I have been one that desires people to respect me because of my work not because of my title.
All of these conflicted feelings flooded me the last few days as there was an article suggested Dr. Jill Biden should not use the title because she is not a MD and has never delivered a baby… when I read these words, tears formed in my eyes… attitudes like this have only contributed to my impostor syndrome. It was even worse because the piece was written by a man.
I have worked in many different environments were men are freely given the title Dr. regardless if they have one or not, yet women who do have the qualifications are referred to by their first name. While I normally could care less if you call me Dr. Grosso, I do struggle when men around are given the title yet women are not… and it happens so often… and honestly it bothers me more when it happens to other women than myself.
I also struggled by the article because it basically was saying only those who study medicine have worth and knowledge in our society… which while I have tremendous respect for medical doctors, there are so many with important knowledge in our society and it takes all the knowledge for us to function as a society… it takes all of us working together, standing in our own area of knowledge.
For three years I was a counselor working in a medical clinic. I daily worked beside medical doctors. After about one year, one of my favorite doctors realized I had a doctorate. She (yes it was a female doctor) looked at me one day and apologized that she had not been calling me Dr. I explained it was perfectly fine and honestly in that environment I did not want the patients to get confused by my role. I appreciated her asking… none of the male doctors ever said anything.
Titles are earned, titles are given… titles are personal. What I do know? No person has a right to tell someone they can’t use a title they have rightful earned just because they don’t agree with it. I must admit I stand taller in my title of Dr. Amy Grosso tonight. I still will never ask or expect a colleague to call me Dr. Grosso, but the guy who wrote the article about Dr. Jill Biden…. he can call me Dr. Grosso.