Article Date: 6/1/2008

Don't Get Caught Up in the Name Game
Street Smarts

Don't Get Caught Up in the Name Game

Your new ‘doctor’ title may sound foreign at first, but you'll get used to it. Just don't let it go to your head.

By Dan Beck, O.D.
Leland, N.C.

GRADUATING FROM optometry school is a great accomplishment. Those first few weeks after the ceremony are a fantastic time. People will brag about you, offer accolades, ask for medical advice and generally make you feel like you just found a cure for cancer. The weeks and months following this celebration, however, will be a time of social adjustment. People will begin bombarding you with the names "doctor" and "doc." And that will feel good — very good.

After having been addressed as Mr., Ms. or Mrs. for most of your adult life, being referred to as "doctor" will create a new sense of self that can be extremely beneficial — or brutally detrimental, depending on how you handle the new title.

What's in a Name?

The benefits of becoming a doctor are fairly obvious. As with any rigorous training program, those that succeed gain confidence and respect. In general, the more select the program, the more respect is gained. Since only a limited number of people receive optometry degrees each year, all of you are part of a very elite group. You leave optometry school with an important piece of paper and a new name to go along with it. Embracing the newfound self-assurance that the moniker brings is the first step to using your new title and talents to help you accomplish everything you want in life.

Beware of the Dark Side

All too often, however, the evil twin of confidence — cockiness — takes over and ruins everything. Some folks simply cannot handle their new titles.

Most of you have encountered patients in your clinics or rotations with doctorate degrees. As a group, most are a royal pain to examine. When they're not asking irrelevant questions to demonstrate how much they think they know about your chosen profession, they're scrutinizing every move you make. The biggest insult to their gargantuan egos is when you or — worse — a technician addresses them with the lowly title of Mr., Ms. or Mrs. Nothing gets them riled more than that.

So, keep these folks in mind as you ask yourself a simple question. Do I want to become one of them?

Prepare for Your Pedestal

Whether you like it or not, many people will view you differently once you graduate from optometry school and begin to practice. Our society has always placed doctors on pedestals — even the guy who barely graduated or the young woman who was a genius but possessed the personality of a paper bag. Society views physicians as existing on a higher plane. Maintaining control of your ego may become a full-time job, because it's all too easy to start believing the hype.

When you start interviewing for positions, keep in mind that potential employers will be impressed with your skills, not your title. So always let your skills do the talking. Then you can order those business cards — with your new title handsomely embossed across the top. nOD

Keeping a tight rein on his potentially gargantuan ego, Dr. Beck is a 1993 graduate of Pennsylvania College of Optometry. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2008