My Title Is Dr. and It Certainly Wasn’t Handed to Me

A recent Op/Ed in the Wall Street Journal has sent the internet buzzing, with the author calling Dr. Jill Biden’s honorific “fraudulent, even comic.” Athena member Dr. Mia Mulrennan reflects on her own experience as a woman pursuing and earning her doctorate — and why the Dr. designation is well-earned.

A reflection on my path to Psy.D.

My own experience was far from easy. That being said, it reflects what many women who pursue higher education go through-reaching their goals via fortitude and unprecedented strength they didn’t even know they had due to having to balance school, career, and family.

The history and requirements of doctoral programs

The word “doctor” derives from the Latin “ docēre”, which means to teach. It has historically been used to refer to teachers and scholars-and as such, a medical doctor is (and should be seen as) a teacher or scholar of medicine. In Germany, medical doctors are held in lower esteem than people holding a doctorate degree-the “real doctors” are those who have carried out the rigorous research and discourse required to obtain the medical and academic degree. In France, a man with his doctorate successfully sued a publication for defamation after failing to refer to him as a doctor and rather calling him a “mere scientist.”

A disheartening example of misogynous intimidation

I was disheartened to read this appalling Op/Ed and example of misogynous intimidation in a prestigious national publication, and it was an important opportunity to speak out for all women who pursue big goals in their academic careers. Now, as Dr. Mia Mulrennan, I have the privilege of applying tenets of psychology to business as a CHRO, board member, and I/O psychologist-and also have the honor of representing underrepresented minority women as a mentor, coach, and cheerleader.

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