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The Definition of a Doctor

January 05, 2019
by Mark David Siegel

Doctor: “A person who is qualified to treat people who are ill.”

-Oxford Dictionary

Hi everyone,

You’d think by now I’d know how to define “doctor.” All doctors are trained to do the same thing. We sit with patients. We hear their concerns. We examine them. We diagnose. We treat.

But there’s more to being a doctor. Many of us do research, and many of us teach and write. Some do all three. We wouldn’t do these things if we just “stayed in our lanes.”

The same goes for advocacy. Who’s better positioned than we are to address the health consequences of rolling back environmental regulations? Or to highlight the harm done to toddlers separated from their parents? What about advocating for medical research? For clean drinking water? Or to ensure all patients have access to healthcare?

As doctors we can leverage our expertise beyond the hospital and clinic. We can share what happens to patients who can’t afford insulin. We can show how air pollution causes lung and heart disease. We can push to extend oversight over device manufacturers, so profits aren’t prioritized over patient well-being. And, of course, we can advocate for gun safety.

There’s only one reason our opponents want us to be quiet- they’re afraid of what we have to say. Our adversaries prefer a narrow definition of “doctor,” one restricted to a single lane- that’s how they protect their interests.

When our words make our opponents squirm, we must be on to something. So let’s use our voices. We can do a lot of good when we speak up, when we embrace a complete definition of the word “doctor.”

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.


PS A Program Director’s “Program Note”- don’t miss Brian Persaud’s Grand Rounds on gun violence this Thursday morning.


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on January 06, 2019