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August 26, 1983

By Any Other Name?

JAMA. 1983;250(8):1090. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340080068034

Since I entered medical school 3 1/2 years ago, my teachers have tended to address me as "Doctor Wilson." This puzzles me since I hold no doctoral degree. During the past two years it has come to bother me a great deal and here's why.

When a physician addresses medical students as "Doctor," the students are often flattered. They feel that the physician must think highly of them to address them as colleagues. As such, addressing students as "Doctor" is a part of the professionalization all medical students go through, the process of learning to act like a doctor.

However, addressing medical students as "Doctor" in front of patients or other health care personnel is misleading and could even be dangerous, especially in hospitals or clinics where medical students are not usually present. A nurse who thinks a medical student is a physician by virtue of the title "Doctor" used