Hitting a Nerve

Where Do Your Diplomas Reside?


I have a lot of stuff up on my office walls: pictures my kids drew, favorite quotes, a few cartoons, two M.C. Escher prints, a Lego Batman figure ... and absolutely no diplomas.

I have no idea when the tradition of doctors hanging up diplomas started. I assume it was quite a while ago.

Courtesy Dr. Allan M. Block

My neat stack of diplomas on a bookshelf in my home office.

Some doctors just put up a medical school diploma, but most also have them from college, residency, and fellowship. I’ve even known a few who hung up high school and grade school diplomas, with as many continuing medical education certificates as they could find. Not me.

Maybe it’s just a complete lack of ego for this sort of thing on my part. I know I went through all the training, and I don’t need to remind myself.

I also don’t see the point of hanging them up for patients. At this point in history, most of them have seen my picture online, skimmed my website, and probably read my online reviews (in spite of which, they’re coming to me). So if they still question my qualifications, I don’t think having (or not having) a diploma up is going to convince them.

My office partner has his diplomas up in the main hallway. He’s 25 years older than I am, yet that doesn’t stop my patients from looking them over, not paying attention to the name on them, and commenting about how good I look for my age. (Okay, I suppose there’s a reason they’re seeing a neurologist.) It does, however, make me wonder how much attention anyone really pays to these things.

I’m guessing a lot of doctors display their diplomas for pride. You paid a fortune and invested several years in that piece of paper, and you want the world to see it. But at this point in my life and career, the pictures my kids drew for me have a lot more meaning. And because I spend most of my waking workdays in that room, I’d rather be looking at them.

For the record, my diplomas (all unframed) are neatly stacked on a dusty bookshelf in my home office. They lie under a shelf of paperbacks, my daughter’s money jar, an old piggy bank, and a picture of my late grandparents. They are above a shelf covered with foam-rubber brains I used to collect from drug companies and next to a plastic trophy of a ship I won in a trivia contest.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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