As I reflect on my 20-year journey as a pharmacist, I can’t help but think about the challenges, the triumphs, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I am proud of my accomplishments and have no problem demanding the respect I’ve earned by asking to be addressed as “Doctor.”
I graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2003 at twenty-three. The six-year program required lots of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. I spent countless hours in the library while my sorority sisters and friends hung out. When they share memories, I’m constantly reminded that my absence was because “you were in pharmacy school.”
My pharmacist journey was a challenging one. There were sleepless nights, difficult exams, and moments when I doubted whether I could continue, but I persevered because I was passionate about the field. (My mother said I expressed my desire to become a pharmacist at the age of seven!) One of the most frustrating aspects of having a doctorate in pharmacy is the lack of respect that often comes with it. Many people assume that only medical doctors deserve the “Doctor.” While I greatly respect medical doctors and their critical role in patient care, it’s important to recognize that pharmacists with doctorates have unique expertise and responsibilities.
Pharmacists don’t just count pills; we are medication experts who play a crucial role in patient care. We ensure that medications are safe, effective, and appropriate for everyone. We collaborate with healthcare providers to optimize treatment plans and manage complex medication regimens. We educate patients on how to take their medications and monitor for potential side effects or interactions. Pharmacists are integral to the healthcare team, and our knowledge and expertise should be acknowledged and respected.
I’m willing to bet that a pharmacist has saved your life—if not, they will.
I’ve encountered my fair share of situations where my title was overlooked or dismissed. Early in my career, I was told that I was too young to be a doctor. Patients—and even some healthcare colleagues—have referred to me as “Miss” or “Mrs.” rather than “Doctor.” I’ve even been asked, “What kind of doctor are you?” when my title is included in front of my name.
When I reply, “I’m a pharmacist,” I am met with awkwardness as if that isn’t good enough.
Seeing the hard-earned recognition of my expertise undermined simply because I’m not a medical doctor is disheartening. However, I’ve learned that it’s essential to advocate for myself and to demand the respect I have earned. I have no problem correcting people.
So, to pharmacists entering the workforce, I want to offer some valuable advice:
- Own Your Accomplishments:Be proud of your education, expertise, and the title of “Doctor.” You’ve earned it! Be bold and correct people when they address you incorrectly. You deserve to be acknowledged for your hard work.
- Educate Others:Many people may need help understanding the role of a pharmacist. Take the opportunity to educate your patients, colleagues, and friends about your responsibilities and the importance of your role in healthcare.
- Network and Collaborate:Building relationships with other healthcare professionals can help bridge the gap in understanding and respect. Collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to demonstrate your value to the team.
My journey as a pharmacist has been filled with challenges and triumphs. I’ve learned that it’s both acceptable and necessary to demand respect for the degree I’ve worked so hard for.
And this advice doesn’t just apply to pharmacists—it applies to women in all careers and positions. You’ve earned it.
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