St. Mary's Catholic Eye Hospital
Run by St. Mary Catholic Church Ijebu Ode Diocese

What kind of doctor are you?

YOU AND EYE Publications By Dr B.G.K AJAYI -- Published on 1:30pm - Thursday, 17 September 2015

“What kind of doctor are you?” asked Grandma. I was seized with fear. “Why?” Grandma was just recovering from a crippling stroke. Initially, her speech was slur and incoherent but improving every day and in the last two weeks had become more fluent. Now she has developed a twisted sense of humour and making expensive jokes. I was worried that my visitors might take whatever she said as Gospel truth.

A story a friend of mine had told me about an elderly lady who was asked a simple question as a witness in a court of law, re-echoed in my ears. The prosecutor had called the grandma to the stand as his first witness. He approached her and asked, "Mrs. James, do you know me?” She responded, > "Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you."

The lawyer was stunned! Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, "Mrs. James, do you know the defence lawyer?" She again replied, "Why, yes, I do. I've known Mr. Johnson since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him." The defence attorney almost died. The judge asked both lawyers to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, "If either of you idiots ask her if she knows me, I'll send you to the electric chair.”

It has been difficult to forget this story so I braced up for the worst. Grandma repeated the question, “What kind of doctor are you?” I quickly answered, “I am a medical doctor.” “No you are not!” retorted grandma. I was alarmed! Grandma had always known me as a doctor. What exactly does she mean? I was worried. “I have searched through the Internet and to my amazement I could not understand why you call yourself a doctor. I stumbled on your university certificate and it read, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.” For all practical purposes, you are a Bachelor of Medicine not a Doctor. I heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank God we are not going along the line of the other grandma and the lawyers. If that’s all, I can easily deal with it.

“Grandma, you are right. The appellation of Doctor (Dr.) is just a title describing the vocation of those in the profession of medicine. It is not a university degree. We can say it is descriptive just as you associate a bricklayer with bricklaying and a barber with taking care of the hair. The title is endorsed by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria which is the regulating body. It is not a university degree.

Grandma seemed pleased with my response but as I was about to take my leave, she asked again, “Ben, I am a bit confused. What about the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Doctor of Optometry?” “These two are notable exceptions - aberrations. They are both first degrees awarded by the university. They are neither medical doctors nor Doctor of Philosophy. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is awarded by the universities as a postgraduate degree,” I explained carefully to grandma.

“Ben you are yet to answer my question. What kind of doctor are you?” Grandma asked again. “I am a medical doctor who later specialised in medical and surgical treatment of the eye,” I replied. “Doctor Ben do you mean you’re an Ophthalmologist?” “Exactly, you got it right! After a 6year study in the university and graduating as a medical doctor with Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees, I spent another 6years studying ophthalmology to become a specialist eye doctor,” I explained.

“I can see you are in a hurry to leave. I have just one more question for you. What exactly is the difference between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist – both prescribe glasses and both are called doctors?” “Grandma, an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has undergone additional training to become an eye specialist and takes care of both medical and surgical treatment of the eye. A doctor of optometry (an optometrist) is a first degree university graduate who is trained to assist in eye care with special emphasis on prescription of glasses and optical aids. He is not a medical doctor; should not give any treatment beyond first aid and primary care; cannot issue sick certificate or write medical report on the state of health of a patient.” My phone rang and I quickly seized the opportunity to scram.