Names in the news
September 29, 2006 -- For months The Baltimore Sun has included a sidebar feature in its weekly Health & Science section called "Names in the news." This feature includes short accounts of the "[g]rants, studies and appointments" of local figures in health care and science. Unsurprisingly, there tends to be more news about physicians than about any other group. But we have been impressed to see that the feature regularly includes reports about nurses at local hospitals and schools. Today, the feature has a short item reporting that University of Maryland nursing Dean Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been elected to the board of directors of the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. On September 15, the feature included a piece explaining that Johns Hopkins nursing professor Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been named the 2006 Pathfinder Distinguished Researcher by the Friends of the National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR) for her work on intimate partner violence. We commend the Sun for making the public more aware of nursing achievements. And since the feature appears to be based on press releases from the hospitals and schools, it underlines the importance of reaching out to the media to make it aware of those achievements on a regular basis.
In today's "Names in the news," the last of four items reports that Dean Allan "was recently elected to a two-year term on the board of directors of the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research." The item explains that the "interdisciplinary organization's mission is to advance population-based and public health education." While this particular item is short, we note that the University of Maryland has placed a commendable number of items about its nursing scholars in this feature in recent months, a number that clearly reflects a real effort to get the word out about nursing achievements.
The September 15 "Names in the news" reports that Dr. Campbell has received the NINR award in recognition of "her leadership role in research on intimate partner violence and her success in widening interest in the problem among researchers in nursing, medicine and public health." (Dr. Campbell served on the Center's board from 2002-2006.) The piece also notes that Dr. Campbell is a Hopkins School of Nursing professor, and "a registered nurse who also has a doctorate." It says Dr. Campbell has been studying how the relation between HIV and violence against women "contributes to health disparities nationally and globally," as the 2005-2006 Institute of Medicine/American Academy of Nursing/American Nurses' Foundation Scholar. And it includes a quote from Hopkins nursing Dean Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN: "Dr. Campbell joins a most distinguished group of premier nurse scientists." Let's see: "Dr.", "distinguished," "premier," and "scientists." That's pretty good, but next time we want every one of the words in the quote to say "eminent scientist," not just half of them. (Yes, we're joking, and we commend Dean Hill for including such a powerful quote.)
One thing is common to both of the "Names in the news" features: even though Janet Allan, Martha Hill, and Jackie Campbell all have doctorates, nowhere does the Sun itself refer to them as "Dr." There is no indication at all that Deans Allan or Hill have doctorates. And we're guessing that the statement about Campbell's doctorate is only in the piece to explain why Dean Hill refers to her as "Dr. Campbell," although we suppose it could also reflect surprise that one could both be a nurse and have a doctorate. Biomedical researchers with PhDs are likewise identified with no indication that they have doctorates. However, the Sun identifies all physicians with the title "Dr.", in accord with what we gather is its overall practice. However, we are aware of no principled basis to identify only the holders of medical doctorates with that honorific. And we feel certain that this journalistic practice is not the result of rigorous analysis of the comparative difficulty of earning the different degrees or their overall social utility. For nursing, which tends to be considered alongside medicine, this practice sends the message that nurses are second class even when they spend 10 years at university getting a Ph.D.--two years longer, we might add, than it takes to get an MD. That message undercuts the positive ones in the blurbs about nursing scholars.
We thank the Sun for its attention to nursing achievements.