When I was in veterinary school, the cardinal sin a student could perform, other than making poor grades, was showing disrespect to the staff and facility. Though I was never stupid enough to do so, I witnessed many a class and schoolmate have their day, if not immediate future, ruined for using one forbidden term towards a facility member. They referred to him as “Doc.”

That word was considered an insult of familiarity and disrespect for the accomplishments of the individual in addition to the institution of veterinary medicine. The disdain for the word “Doc” was so ingrained into me throughout my training, I found it difficult to hear and say some 31 years post-graduation. Even though it was uncomfortable for me, times changed and so did I, despite my best efforts . This past month, I have been managing multiple cases involving older animals with chronic health conditions. Coincidentally, all the cases are animals belonging to members of my church. With such a secular related case load, free time prior to church usually used for meditation and reflection have become a client check in time. I have on occasion referred to my seat on good old pew number eight as my second office. I don’t mind the interactions, which consist of a quick report and my assessment if things are going well or if we need to do a telephone consultation or office visit later.

There have even been Sunday mornings when I have made medication deliveries, accepted lab samples both solid and liquid, and even the return of remains to a client prior to start of services.

Typically, these exchanges begin with “Good morning Doc…” and end with “Thanks Doc.” Though they all know my first name, and I don’t mind them using it, over the last few years I have become known as “Doc” or “Doc Bland” to many. I have yet to be referred to as “Ol” Doc Bland,” but am sure that is coming. When my name change first began, I shuddered at the mention and replied, ‘Please call me Pierre.’ It was as if I had said nothing and was encouraging the practice of calling me “Doc.” In time,

I just gave in, accepting my Sabbath morning identity as “Doc” despite my Tuskegee pedigree.

As my acceptance grew, I noticed a unique occurrence: for every time I was called “Doc,” I was hugged at least once and sometimes twice. A 1:2 ratio that sometimes included a kiss on the cheek. So what was ingrained in me as a term of derision has become one of appreciation, respect, and affection. In fact, it feels pretty good to have my clients and friends refer to me as “Doc.” I was even told by one client the only time he thinks of my first name is when he writes me a check. That is not a bad thing at all.

So I have proven once again I am more than the sum of my program, having accepted and appreciated my transformation into “Doc.” With that said, please refrain from the temptation to ask “What’s up Doc?” I have not advanced that far.

Dr. Bland is a practitioner in Oakland Park, Florida. He can be reached a 954 673-8579.