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Views And Reviews Acute Perspective

David Oliver: Should doctors be on first name terms?

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 09 September 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3408

Rapid Response:

Re: David Oliver: Should doctors be on first name terms?

Dear Editor:
I wanted to respond with my own perspective after 42 years as a primary care physician with some other other roles in my organization to a half-time job as Chief of the Anticoagulation Management Program and Epic physician builder in the organization. Starting in 1975, when I left my residency to start practice, I always introduced myself to patients as Alan Brush rather than Dr. Alan Brush. For most patients, meaning those who did not request otherwise, I referred to them at visits and in letters by their first name, as well, and signed mu named without the "Dr" or "MD".. I did this because I knew they already recognized that I was their doctor, but as a human, I was on an equal fitting. I think this facilitated my ability to empathize with them and their understanding that this was happening. Many patients, despite this implicit permission, were unable to transition to calling me anything but Dr. Brush. That was fine with me as well, though not expected or preferred.

Since leaving my primary care practice, I work entirely a step away from direct contact with patients. Doing anticoagulation consults and my work as a clinician builder of Epic in my organization, I respond as "Alan" to our anticoagulation manager nurses, PCPs, specialists, and IT systems analysts. Yes, some folks continue to not resist calling me Dr. Brush. Most of the time, that disappears when I threaten calling them Mr. or Ms. Whatever.

My title was well earned, but does not place me above others or in need of regular recognition. I think it is demeaning to insist on being called Dr. and referring to a patient by their first name, for example, and I think that approach would create a barrier I never wanted to face. Same for my other colleagues.

aka: Alan D. Brush, MD

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 September 2020
Alan Brush
Atrius Health
1177 Providence Highway | Norwood, MA 02062