It’s no secret that I think the Huffington Post is an teeming den execrable pseudoscientific snakes. Still, when it comes to fanning the vaccination manufatroversy, they are really off the deep end. Take the latest piece of dreck on Jenny McCarthy, GoD (Google Doctorate). It’s written by the infamous “Dr.” Patricia Fitzgerald, and this is where I get cranky. Worse than all the drivel spouted by Jenny is HuffPo giving their imprimatur of authority to Fitzgerald. Let me ‘splain.
Look, there’s a lot of ways to legitimately gain the title of “doctor”. The most common are to go to a professional school and obtain an MD, DDS, DO, PhD, PharmD, DVM, or a few of the other well-recognized clinical and non-clinical doctorates. Anyone else who calls themselves “doctor” is using a title in a way not generally recognized as legitimate by our society. The reason we are careful with this title is that it confers a certain type of authority and power on those on whom it is bestowed. People who are called “doctor” must be very careful how they use this title. If a PhD in history uses the title, they must make it clear that they are not a doctor in the clinical sense but in the academic sense.
Since this title carries so much authority, manuals of style generally limit who can be called doctor in print. This is especially important in medical writing, as “doctor” invariably leads the reader to assume that the writer is a medical doctor.
Now, I hear the complaint all the time that this is petty, silly, “oppressive”, etc. Really, though, these titles mean nothing if anyone can use them. We use these titles to protect people and to help signify a professional’s type of expertise.
This is all by way of saying “Dr” Fitzgerald is a doctor the same way I am a tree frog. No, this isn’t a turf battle. Its truth, and truth can be harsh. Fitzgerald claims the title of Doctor of Homeopathy. While you and I might know that this is equivalent to Doctor of Magic, a sick person (or a reader) could be easily deceived. Her byline simply says “Dr” and her bio page lists her “doctorate” without explaining that no sane American health care professional looks at homeopathy as being anything other than wishful thinking with a bill.
So, in the fight for truth and honesty in journalism, I propose the following more accurate titles for the HuffPo medical writers who are commonly referred to as “Dr”:
Patricia Fitzgerald, Doctor of Homeopathy, “Doctor of Magicks”
Jonny Bowden, PhD in nutrition, Doctor of Heart Disease Promotion (for cholesterol denial)
Now, there are plenty of other doctors writing at HuffPo. Many of them actually have MD degrees, but many of them practice so far outside the mainstream that their title has lost its meaning. Examples?
Dr Jay Gordon, Doctor of Infectious Disease Promotion via his vaccine denialism
Dr. Srinivasan Pillay, psychiatrist who calls himself a brain-imaging expert despite his lack of significant publications. His belief in distance healing makes him an Adjunct Professor of Magicks.
Dr. Alex Benzer, dating guru, hypnotist, and Master Practitioner of something called NLP, which to my knowledge is the only “degree” with a trademark.
That’s all for today’s rant.