LifeAfterDx--Diabetes Uncensored

A internet journal from one of the first T1 Diabetics to use continuous glucose monitoring. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

My Photo
Location: New Mexico, United States

Hi! I’m William “Lee” Dubois (called either Wil or Lee, depending what part of the internet you’re on). I’m a diabetes columnist and the author of four books about diabetes that have collectively won 16 national and international book awards. (Hey, if you can’t brag about yourself on your own blog, where can you??) I have the great good fortune to pen the edgy Dear Abby-style advice column every Saturday at Diabetes Mine; write the Diabetes Simplified column for dLife; and am one of the ShareCare diabetes experts. My work also appears in Diabetic Living and Diabetes Self-Management magazines. In addition to writing, I’ve spent the last half-dozen years running the diabetes education program for a rural non-profit clinic in the mountains of New Mexico. Don’t worry, I’ll get some rest after the cure. LifeAfterDx is my personal home base, where I get to say what and how I feel about diabetes and… you know… life, free from the red pens of editors (all of whom I adore, of course!).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is there a specialist in the house?

Diabetes Superblogger Scott Johnson gets the credit for giving me my online title of “the doctor who’s not a doctor,” and many of my patients simply call me “Doctor.” But I’m not. And the fact I’m called Doctor has often angered the real doctors with the real student loans.

For what it is worth, I spent several years trying to fight this; with several bad outcomes.

About half the time, upon being corrected, the patient ended up embarrassed about mistaking me for a doctor. And that effected all the bonding and communication necessary to do all that education, inspiration, guidance, and stuff.

About the other half of the time it lead to the “well what are you?” conversation, for which there was no simple answer, and that left me embarrassed about not being able to articulate what I really am. Which also effected all the bonding and communication necessary to do all that education, inspiration, guidance, and stuff.

Finally one patient told me, “Well you may not be a doctor, but you are still my Doctor,” and after that, I just ducked the whole issue chicken-shit style by just insisting that people just call me by my first name.

FYI, the word “doctor” derives from the two Latin words doctus and docere. The first translates to “having been taught” and the second translates into “to teach.” So by the literal meaning of the word, I could legitimately lay claim to the title. But of course, there is nothing literal anymore. We use Doctor in our society to signal a person with a terminal degree. An MD, DO, JD, or PhD. And I have none of those, or anything else following my name, for that matter.

And before you suggest it, I did look into those online degree-for-experience places. I was thinking my years of diabetes + my years of helping others with their diabetes + three books about diabetes + plus a long-running blog about diabetes should all = a PhD in diabetes. Of course, if that were the case, we’d be up to our ears in Doctors of Diabetes, wouldn’t we?

So there are a dozen places to get degrees for experience. One even has a shopping cart. Just move the degrees you want into your cart and check out when you are ready. The going price of a doctorate is $500-600 bucks.

Accreditation? One site ducks the issue by stating “The true recognition of any degree comes for its acceptance by the business community…” Another starts off with “Accreditation is achieved when a group of theoretically impartial experts…” Yet another starts by asking “What does the word accreditation really mean anyway?” So yeah, none of these folks are accredited in a meaningful way.

It seemed to me that they were just selling rather expensive faux diplomas. Having a framed PhD on my wall would deflect a lot of flack, but In my heart I’d know it was purchased with a Master Card and two box tops.

One of my secret fantasies is that some organization or school will give me an honorary doctorate. Then I could sleep at night with people calling me “Doctor,” and if someone more inquisitive or hostile asked me, I could simply and honestly reply, “oh, no, I’m not a medical doctor, I have an honorary doctorate from _______________ for all the hard work I’ve done over the years helping my fellow diabetics.”


When I visited with my brain mechanic, I was laying all of this out for her. Then I confessed: even though I know it is wrong, I secretly like it when my patients call me Doctor.

“Well, of course you do,” she replied calmly, “anyone would.”

Then I laid out the problems with any of the other titles that come close to describing what I do.

I can’t really claim to be a Diabetes Educator. First off, I think it is pretty clear that diabetes knows exactly what it is doing and doesn’t really need any help from me. On top of that 9 out of 10 diabetics are pretty fuzzy on who and what Diabetes Educators are and what they are supposed to be doing for us. And in the out-side world, 10 out of 10 people have never heard of a Diabetes Educator, and think that, based on the growth of diabetes stories in the press, that diabetes probably doesn’t need any more education either. It seems to be doing just fine. And of course, the CDE crowd is very, very, very clear that people like me need to by burned at the stake.

Although I have the title of “community faculty” (note the lower case letters) for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center’s Project Echo; it would be too much of a stretch for me to be called “Professor.” And University people like good old fashioned witch burnings almost as much as the CDE crowd.

And I’m not a nurse, of course. Coach is generic enough I could almost get away with it, but I don’t have a sports bone in my body, and the word to a bit too sporty for my taste. Of course I’m legitimately an author, but that really has no bearing on my clinic work and patients would just be confused about why they were meeting with an author.

And even though I practice a bit of sociology, a tad of anthropology, and a dash of physiology I can hardly lay claim to all the titles that go with those fields; and even if I could, that is only a small part of what I do. And the same is true for the rest of the ingredients I laid out in the last post. No, I can’t take any of those titles. They are just the DNA of my job. They all need to go into a centrifuge and help create a new title that reflects all of the disparate aspects of what I do.

My brain mechanic tapped her pencil on her note book and thought. Then clearing her throat she said, “You are a Diabetes Treatment Specialist.”

Come again?

“You are a Diabetes Treatment Specialist,” she said again. “When you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do for a living, you say that you specialize in the treatment of diabetes. If they then ask you if you’re a doctor you say, that, no, your work is much more nuts and bolts. If it’s a light social occasion you won’t need to say anything else. If someone is really interested you can tell them more. Give them details on what you do day-to-day.”

Huh. I specialize in the treatment of diabetes. That sounds about right. After all, education and self management are the pillars of diabetes treatment. So if I specialize in the treatment of diabetes, that makes me a Diabetes Treatment Specialist.

Not as much fun as being a doctor who’s not a doctor, but not too bad.

I think I might just try it on for size…


Blogger Unknown said...

I still like "Doctor who's not (technically) a doctor".

I like "Diabetes Treatment Specialist". It has a comfortable fit, and suits you quite well!

Now to find you somewhere that will pay you to specially treat diabetes. Sigh...

(diabetes superblogger my ass...did I get grandfathered in or something?)

6:12 PM  
Blogger Brenda Bell said...

The title works fine as a job position. I think the correct designation is "peer educator" -- as you're educating your peers (other people with diabetes) on how to live with diabetes and have the best possible quality of life while doing so.

On the flip side, Peers for Progress seems to be appropriating the "peer educator" title for those who have gone through their certification program, which same I have had multiple issues finding out what it is and how to complete it.

5:14 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home