When is a doctor not really a doctor?

| 05/07/2017

I notice that the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) has awarded several honorary doctorates in the last year. I have three questions, Auntie: Is the UCCI internationally accredited to award these honorary degrees? Who decides who shall receive them and after what criteria have been examined and fulfilled? And are the recipients thereby entitled to call themselves Dr This and Dr That? Are there strict academically sound protocols in place governing the process of awarding these honorary degrees and is there a protocol in place stating whether they can use the title Dr? We seem to be getting a lot of “Drs” in the last few years, even including persons who do not have even a bachelor’s degree. Not a good example for our young people.

Auntie’s answer: I have my own opinion on this, but first I did some research to find out what the conventional wisdom is. While I will admit that I certainly didn’t check every possible source out there, I did manage to access a good cross-section.

Since the degrees are not academically based, any university (including UCCI) is free to decide on its own who should receive an honorary doctorate and what the criteria are. I cannot speak to what the protocols would be for each school, but judging from some of the degrees that have been conferred — Kylie Minogue, George Foreman, William Shatner, Steven Tyler and Kermit the Frog (Doctorate of Amphibious Letters; I kid you not) – the system seems a bit loose, to say the least.

From what I have read, the university conferring the honour may choose to address the recipient as “Dr” in correspondence, but it seems to be generally frowned upon for the recipient to ask to be called “Dr” or to write that title in front of their name.

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem that even all legitimate holders of PhDs choose to be called “Dr”. Also, in hospitals and other medical facilities, the general protocol is that only medical doctors be called doctor to avoid any confusion.

So, here’s my take: I agree that it is lovely to be recognised with a doctorate by an educational institution to honour your contribution to society, but after you received it, I think it should be put (either literally or figuratively) on the shelf with any other awards you might have been given in your life.

I believe that actually using the title or requiring others to call you “Dr” is insulting to all those individuals who put in years of study and hard work to earn their doctorate.


Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the belief that “Dr” should only be used for medical professionals, and that includes psychologists and physiotherapists. Too many narcissists earn PhD’s just to add the title to their name and ride a high horse which is sad and ridiculous.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s a laugh and a half because UCCI isn’t accredited to award real PhDs. The only kind they can hand out is honorary. It has the same effect as if I printed one up for you. Many undergraduate schools do it though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    When he is a Time Lord.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Even with legitimate PhD scholars, it is usually considered pretentious to call oneself “Doctor”. To insist on it is considered obnoxious, and to use the title for an honorary degree is just grotesque.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What about Dr. Who?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The host and guests and callers in to Connor’s morning radio show fall over themselves to use the term “Dr” about a couple of the recipients. Clearly some people think this award actually means something. It does not, of course.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree 100%!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if Dr Steve McField and Dr Mary Lawrence would agree with your last sentence, Auntie!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Hmm! I don’t think we should give a damn what these two think about Auntie’s last sentence. It’s true!! I mean, really! Please!

    • REB says:

      We will do anything and say anything to chip away at island peoples achievements. We are a sad little place under the sun.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not at all,1:00pm, the comments are just making it clear that we are making fools of ourselves by grovelling and calling these people “Dr”. They are local radio “celebrities”, a lawyer of dubious talent and a failed MLA candidate of 40 years or more who has never had a job except what Mckeeva gave her. Of course people are going to think this is pathetic. So stop with the chipping away at “islands people achievements”. These two have little to show except to a narrow disgruntled fan base. Fawning over them makes us ” a sad little place under the sun”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Their use of the title shows a complete lack of class.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hear! Hear!