In ways, this seems silly. In larger perspectives of the barrage of horrid occurrences in the world of 2018, the significance is nil.
However, society perpetuates oppression–especially, for purposes here, of the microaggression variety–and gives people little choice about how their lives are dramatized. Insisting on being heard and rejecting institutionalized assumptions constitute acts of survival and of resistance.
As regular readers will know, I have been a patient at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center forever. 27 years now! I’m going to be 32 in a few days! People there have saved my life, and with a combination of over a dozen medications and regular visits, they make life more comfortable than it would otherwise be. I sometimes donate a few dollars to M.D. Anderson, too. It really is an important place.
However, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center continues to exhibit symptoms of cultural lag and cultural disrespect. In its online account system, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center asks patients to fill in a box that says, “Address me as.” My response–“Andrew or Dr. Pegoda”–is below. (There’s not enough room to also list “AJP”! I also generally reserve that for family, friends, and colleagues.)
To my on-going frustration and at this point, great interest (it’s even kind of funny!), nurses and others completely dismiss this information–across-the-board. I am constantly called “Mr. Pegoda” even when signing an email “Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda,” even when my voicemail says “You have reached Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda’s voicemail,” even when I correct them, even when I sign in as “Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda.”
Part of me thinks that they don’t think a patient can also be a doctor. Part of me thinks that they don’t care. Part of me thinks they are creatures of habit. Part of me thinks they think only medical doctors are “doctors” even though the Ph.D. is actually a higher academic degree.
What I find most problematic is that M.D. Anderson Cancer Center ASK patients what they would like to be called, YET M.D. Anderson Cancer Center REFUSES to actually use this information.
The situation is more severe given that M.D. Anderson Cancer Center ask a preference and it categorically does the opposite.
At some point, the medical providers usually ask me to verify my full name, to which I reply “Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda.” This often meets unusual responses, being outright ignored chief among them.
One time the nurse replied, “Did you say you were a physician?!”
Today the nurse replied, “Did you say you were a doctor?! What kind?!” When I later explained that I cannot stand “Mr.” she interrupted and said “because it makes you feel old.” There was no question mark in her statement. I said, “No. Because it’s too gendered and too patriarchal.” Her reply only manifested in a look of shock and disbelief.
(I have also asked M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to fix the “J.” in my medical record. “J.” is not my middle name. I have asked them numerous times to change it to “Joseph,” and it refuses to do so.)
And this brings me to my next point, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center makes people select between “male” and “female” under the preferences menu. As an institution of higher learning and as a premier medical institution in the world, one would think it would be more on top of science and understand–on an institutional level–that the sex-binary is absolutely flawed and inaccurate. There are as many sexes as there are people and one’s sex constantly changes. Why doesn’t it let me set my gender as “genderqueer”? Facebook does. For scientific, political, academic, and personal reasons, I do not actually identify with “male” in any typical way. Why must M.D. Anderson Cancer Center force people to pick from only two inaccurate and unscientific boxes?
This post probably makes me sounds cranky, but people have a right to be called what they want to be called. Hopefully, with continued pressure, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will do something to truly remedy this situation. To no avail thus far, I have spoken with patient advocacy about this and have occasionally voiced complaints on Twitter for two years now.
If M.D. Anderson Cancer Center addressed patients according to their wishes, patients would feel slightly better. People generally smile when hearing their name stated correctly and to their wishes.
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda
Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives