More than two and half decades ago, Mr Rajagopalan Nair who was our marketing colleague at Indian Express, narrated this incident to us. He went to a retail medical store to buy medicines for his wife. And when preparing the bill, the salesman asked for the name of the doctor which my colleague answered, “Dr. XXX”. Name of patient? “Dr Prema”. The confused salesman repeatedly said he was asking for the patient’s name. The fact was Dr Prema was a scientist at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and our colleague had to clarify it before the salesman could prepare the bill. Ofcourse, despite being a graduate, my colleague took pride in telling others that his wife was a PhD holder.
Now, India holds the third position in global rankings in number of PhDs produced, which means there might be some confusion when such people start prefixing ‘Dr.’ to their name. In school, Mr N Sankaran Nair, an eminent academician trained in UK and former Principal of Government Training College was our Principal for about a decade. He observed that in many nations including UK and US, clinical doctors prefixed ‘Dr.’ while doctorate holders only suffixed PhD to their names. However, in Germany, only those with doctorates prefix ‘Dr’ but followed by abbreviation of their specialisation. For eg. a doctorate in engineering will have the title Dr.-Ing. while a clinical doctor with a doctorate may use Dr. Med.
While I was a PG student in Communications and Journalism at Kerala University, the Botany and Zoology departments were in the same block. We used to see dozens of research scholars eagerly clutching test tubes, apparatus, specimens or heavy books in their hands going from one lab to the other or rushing to seminar halls for paper presentations. They had a serious disposition, hardly smiling, perhaps, more pre-occupied with getting a PhD or making a break through discovery that will bring them glory.
Interestingly, while anchoring the recent Rajagiri Round Table episodes, some eminent panelists mistakenly addressed me as ‘Dr…’ Don’t know whether my greying hair and serious looks made me appear more an ‘academic’ than a media person to them!