Robert Kirby: I’m back after surgery, and I’ve learned that not any doctor will do

Ph.D.s may be plenty smart, but you don’t want them cutting you open.

Robert Kirby

Well, that was awful.

I knew it would be. Any kind of surgery that requires extended use of prescription painkillers is not going to be a casual affair. I know. I’ve had a lot.

On Jan. 5, Dr. William Gowski took apart my right hand and installed an automatic agony device. Every time I even thought about my right hand, a jolt of hellish pain caused my bladder to empty.

Truthfully, it wasn’t that bad. Dr. Gowski did an excellent job not only on my hand, which is feeling much better, but also on prescribing the right meds to help keep the unavoidable pain at bay.

You know why he did that? Because he could. He’s a doctor. By that I mean an actual doctor, one with over a million hours of training, long experience in slicing people open, and — most importantly — a life dedicated to not fainting at the sight of blood.

That’s why I went to Dr. Gowski and not someone like Dr. Jill Biden, Dr. Martin Luther King, both of whom are/were not medical doctors.

Yeah, I know. Lots of people who are not medically trained can use the term “doctor” even if they would have a hard time making a Band-Aid stick. It may be a point of pride for them, but for a lot of people, it’s just unnecessarily confusing.

No one at the scene of a life-threatening injury has ever stood up and shouted, “Is there a Ph.D in the house? C’mon, people. We need a doctor of philosophy! This guy is bleeding out!”

This is not to say that people with doctorates aren’t worthy of some sort of acknowledgment or title. Getting a Ph.D. is hard work and should not be idly dismissed by less-educated people such as me.

But from my point of view, people who insist on being called “doctor” should give the same consideration to others who worked just as hard to earn their own titles.

I was a cop for 11 years and completed countless hours of training. Why don’t I still get to be called “officer”?

Couple of reasons come immediately to mind, the first of which is that I’m not an officer (anymore) and don’t want to be.

The second, like I already mentioned, is that it’s confusing. I don’t want anyone calling me “officer,” especially when all I really am is an innocent bystander caught in the middle of an armed robbery.

Today, I’m a newspaper columnist. Even though I’ve put thousands of hours into annoying people while earning this title, I don’t want anyone calling me “Columnist Kirby.” It’s too easily confused with “Communist Kirby” and has been by people printing programs for events where I appear, especially those who rely only on spell-checker to get their copy right.

I am well aware of the etymology of the word “doctor.” Doesn’t matter. It’s not the technicality that’s important but rather the way it’s interpreted.

If you’re getting on a plane to fly to the other side of the world, you want the person sitting in the left-hand seat of the cockpit to be an “aircraft” pilot instead of a riverboat “pilot.”

My hand would hurt a lot worse, no doubt, if Dr. Gowski was a doctor of library science instead of an orthopedic surgeon.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.