Reviews Soundings

Bring back post-nominals

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 04 May 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1101
  1. James Owen Drife, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology
  1. Leeds

    Dear Editor,

    Catching up with my back numbers (I have a pile of unopened BMJs in the dining room) I was shocked to find in your issue of 4 April 1992 that letters like MB, MD, or FRCP will no longer appear after authors' names. You said: “The eagle-eyed will notice various small changes in this week's journal.” Indeed we have, and may I be the first to protest.

    Alert readers realised something was afoot on 4 October 1975, when you removed all full stops and commas from authors' qualifications. We stayed silent, feeling in those straitened times that the saving on ink was worth inadequate punctuation. That was our mistake. Emboldened, you lost no time in removing the letters themselves. This is a different matter entirely.

    Using abbreviations to list one's achievements is a British tradition, still practised by Masters of Fox Hounds (MFH) and Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Many years ago military decorations embellished your pages, and no editor would have dared to delete DSOs, MCs, or DFCs. My generation was just as proud of our hard-won academic credentials, but in today's BMJ the only place we can be MD FRCS FRCGP and TD (Territorial Decoration) is on the obituaries page.

    Some will argue that you have struck a blow for egalitarianism by cocking a snook at the medical elite. What you have really done, I fear, is sideline universities, whose PhDs and MDs betoken academic excellence, and undermine the medical royal colleges, which have a hard enough job maintaining standards in today's jungle of incompetent quangos.

    So please, stop hammering nails into the coffin of academic medicine. Bring back post-nominals to inspire the younger generation. If you don't like the old ones, you can invent new ones to represent today's medical hierarchy.

    Young high-fliers could have a BOT (Been On Telly) while their seniors will trump this with FBOT (Finished Being On Telly). Doctors on local committees will be KTBW (Knows The Buzz Words) and those on national committees, KATBW (Knows All The Buzz Words). And for doctors who actually see patients, MB will be replaced by FA. (Fully Appraised. What did you think?)

    Your humble and obedient servant,

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