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Scrap the royal colleges’ fellowships

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 12 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1609

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Re: Scrap the royal colleges’ fellowships

Dear Des, I enjoy your writing but this one was a little too irascible (and irrational). Honours cannot be “egalitarian” by definition. That’s why they are called “honours”. It’s sad you do not like titles – even your own - “doctor”. This distinguishes you from non-medical people (apart of course from those oddities with PhDs who like it to be known that they too are “doctors”). There will always be a hierarchy in any society or system. Half of the members will be below whatever average you take! If you are someone who wishes to abolish hierarchy you have joined a set which itself has the property of “hierarchy”. We are still living in a class ridden system, as you put it and it’s not going to vanish any time soon. There are class divides all around us but their existence does not make them wrong, unjust or immoral.
We heard about elitism during the boat race last year. The idiot who interrupted the race was protesting about it. I don’t think he knew what it meant. It’s about some individuals being better than others - for example the rowers in the boats compared to those who were not in the boats (or in the water). I do not have “mixed emotions” about the British honours system - it is manifestly and outrageously unjust. Those who deserve honours should be offered them in preference to those who do not. That’s not happening now.
I am proud of my “FRCP” and I don’t regard it so much as an honour (nearly every hospital physician gets it and even if they have failed the MRCP they are often awarded an honorary fellowship) as an indication that I withstood the journey. Just because someone nominated me and a committee wasted half a day considering my name with hundreds of others that does not devalue the award.
There are many other barriers to challenging authority Des, much more important ones. Why don’t you get angry at them? I am sure you will get your “fellowship” one day unless you refuse it of course – a much harder task. And why are you moaning about some people never getting a “gong” when you have just argued that the system should be scrapped?
Oh, and I failed my 11+ twice (Moray House test first) and went to a 4 secondary modern schools as my father, a tank driver in WW2 was posted hither and thither. My schoolmasters told me to forget about studying medicine. I started my career stacking shelves and being a hospital porter. I never worried about egalitarianism,or “the establishment” or whatever, I just got on with the task at hand; to qualify as a doctor!
Doctor David E Ward FRCP, Consultant in Cardiology and Electrophysiology

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 March 2013
David E Ward
St George's Hospital
Tooting SW17 0QT