What’s in a name? 

After six years of medical school, my graduation day came with a title change. Miss Jess Joseph became Dr Jess Joseph. Or so I thought. In my first few months of internship I’ve been called all sorts of names (some good, some bad), but least often Dr Joseph.

Being a young female, it seems most patients find it impossible that I could be a doctor, and therefore insist on calling me Sister. Despite the fact that I just introduced myself as Dr Joseph, or the fact that my name badge says the same thing. I thought this was unique to me, given the fact that when I go out, I still get asked for my ID. Every time. Every single time. Once I ask the bouncer why he wanted my ID and his reply was; “Because you look like you’re twelve”. True Story. 

However, chatting to my female colleagues, it seems they experience the same. In fact, it’s much more a gender thing than an age thing. The other day I overheard a senior colleague being called Sister too. Apparently our half a dozen years of medical school mean nothing, never mind her extra four years of specialization and many more of experience. I’m not really complaining about being called Sister though, because honestly, in many ways being a Sister is far more respectable than being a Doctor. I might prescribe the medication and make the decisions (or ask my consultant, and then pretend to make the decisions) but it’s really the Sisters who deliver the care. 

Far worse is the old man who called me “Meisie Kind” the other day. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Afrikaans, directly translated, that means “Girl Child”. Okay, sir, I’m going to write you a prescription to treat your pneumonia, and maybe I’ll add in some analgesia for that back pain you’ve been complaining about, and I’ll even book you off sick for the next few days. You just keep calling me Girl Child, no worries. 

A few other examples are Dr Josephs (No, you can’t just add an S to my name, and if you must do let’s atleast agree to make it a silent one), Dr J, Jessicaaaa and my favourite, Klein Dokterjie (Little Doctor), hence the title of this blog. 

But at the end of the day, a name is just that, an arbitrary label. Call me whatever you want, I still get to wake up every morning and spend my day doing what I love; doctoring. And it doesn’t hurt that I earn a Dr Joseph salary rather than a “Meisie Kind” one.

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