Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do I Know You?

As I get older and the average age of medical students remains constant, the obvious result is that the age gap between me and the students that I teach is widening. I am now approaching being twice as old as the typical first-year medical student. (Egad, how did that happen?)

I am now (as much as I hate to admit it) of a different generation. I am now teaching medical students who belong to the so-called Millenia Generation.

I knew that they were coming and so I've kept up with the "studies" (I've not yet seen an actual scientific study about this generation, so the "studies" that I have seen have been media reports and/or personal opinion columns).

The "studies" have not painted this generation in a favourable light. This generation is described as feeling self-absorbed, entitled and expecting a flattening of social hierarchy.

Well, I teach medical students. I don't ever expect that they could possibly become (as a whole) more self-absorbed or more full of self-entitlement than they already are/ever have been. That's just the nature of the beast (don't get your knickers in a knot because you know it's true).

Hence the first two criticisms of the Millenia Generation don't apply to medical students. However:

I also don't expect a flattening of the social hierarchy. Especially from self-absorbed, self-entitled medical students, who will undoubtedly expect society to call them "Doctor" when they graduate.

Yet I experienced it this week.

This week I had a first year medical student stroll up to me, say "heeeyaaa, FirstName" and present me with his palm expecting a high-five. As if we were long lost friends greeting each other at a barbecue after a few beers.

Do I know you?

I didn't know this student from a hole in the ground. I assume that he's been in my lectures that have been delivered to the hundreds of first-year medical students, during which I presented myself as Dr. LastName.

I am so hopeful that this one student is simply a dumb-ass who doesn't "get it" (and indications are that that is the case: I have not yet experienced another student this year who does such a thing) and that this isn't the beginning of what I may see if the reported Millenia Generations' expectation of "flattening the social hierarchy" comes to light.

I don't care what generation you are from. It is never appropriate to greet your medical school faculty with a high-five gesture and the use of the first name.

It's called professional respect or, if you don't have respect, at the very least it's professional courtesy.

Let's break this down:

1. It is NEVER appropriate to expect your faculty to greet you with a high-five.

2. Unless a faculty member invites you to use their first name, it is NEVER appropriate to do so. Not ever. Not ever for a single second ever. Not EVER.*

My response when the student greeted me with a "heeeyaaa, FirstName" and presented me with his palm expecting a high-five? I reached out my hand for a hand shake, told him that I didn't believe that we had met and said "pleased to meet you, I'm Dr. LastName".

Little does that student know how closely he is now circling on my (and my colleagues') radar screen. Medicine is a small world.

*I have (informally) surveyed the rest of the faculty members at my medical school. I did not hear otherwise from a single faculty member, regardless of their age.


Anonymous said...

Here in the UK, everyone goes by first name and emails never start with Dear, only Hi, Hello or just Firstname, hmm. It's only us traditionalist Asian foreigners who still think we should respect the faculty, but it seems like they want to be treated like friends.

adam said...

There's a name that our generation likes to use to describe people like him.... "douche."

Nina said...

That is very strange behavior. Maybe it was a joke? or someone bet him to talk to you like that? I am currently a nursing student, and I am uncomfortable when my professors ask me to call them by their first names. I generally defer out of respect and still call them by their last names and titles, but many insist I call them by their first names. I am part of this generation you are referring to and I find this student's behavior odd.
Both my parents are doctors and they have earned the right to be called doctor. My mom is an ob-gyn and many of her patients, regardless of age, will call her by her first name; even after she has introduced herself as Dr. Last name. It is not always a generational thing, but rather how the student/patient views you.Unfortunatly for women, we are called by our first names far too often no matter what our status/title is.

Dragonfly said...

I'm with Adam. I have classmates who call professors by their first name. I call interns by their first name and some registrars (but prefer to call them Dr Firstname, which is used in some overseas hospitals I have been in. Consultants invariably by their title). My classmates who do that tend to be ones with doctor parents (not that all the doctors children do that though) and may feel entitled to do that. The same people have been seen parking in their fathers parking spot at the hospital as well, but I digress.

Respect... When I am an intern I am quite happy to be called by my first name, but in some cases would rather be "Dr Firstname" (because otherwise the assumption that I am a nurse can make things difficult).

So yes, I completely agree with you.

Pieces of Mind said...

Maybe he was stoned?

Even now that I'm older, I would never call a teacher or a physician or a CEO or an older person by their first name, unless they insisted on it.

Dr. Wannabe said...

I'd like to say that as a so-called "Millenial" I would never call a professor, physician, anyone I was ever introduced to as Mr./Mrs. Last Name by their first name. Even Professors that were commonly know as "Dr. B" I would still call them by their full last name. Also, I would love it if this could be the end of stereotyping an entire generation. It's not cool just because we're younger than you.

Dr. K said...

Dr. Wannabe: stereotyping of entire generations has been happening since the baby boomers. I don't think that it's going to end anytime soon and I think that it's natural: each generation is different than the one before it and those differences will always be highlighted when the current generation enters the work force/higher education. It happened to my generation too and your generation will do it to the next one, I am quite sure.

Dr. Wannabe said...

Note to self: Generation X was a generation who turned into their parents.

Dr. K said...

Dr. Wannabe: I don't understand why you are so offended by differences in generations. It's really just one of those old facts of life.

I also don't understand your last comment of generation X turning into their parents. I am of generation X and I am very different from my parents.

Colour me confused.

webhill said...

I grew up on the east coast. I am 39 years old. I went to college at an extremely well-respected institution on the west coast. When I got to the university and started my first class, all the way back in 1987, I about freaked when the full professor teaching the class requested that I call her "Marian." I couldn't. I always called her Dr. Diamond. I'd say 90% of my professors were similarly casual and wanted to go by first names. It seems to me (and I will note that I returned to the east coast for professional graduate school) that the west coast folks tend more to want everyone to use their first name and the east coast folks are last-namers.

And, I happened to notice last week our rabbi was high-fiving everyone on the way out of the sanctuary after shabbat services. He's about 40 years old.

I'm just saying, the high-five is not necessarily a mark of disrespect.

tracy said...

i cannot believe a medical student or any student would behave in that manner...ah, youth.

But i must say, if i could start life over, i would be a med student...a respectful one!

Webhill i heart your Rabbi...egads, i am 7 years o l d e r than him...sigh.