The Dilemma: Dr. Maiden Name or Dr. Husband’s Name

The Harvard Medical Student Review published an article in their January 2015 issue, “Dr. Maiden Name Will Now See You Now” which highlights the decision female doctors make once married – to adopt their husband’s name or to keep their maiden name. The article includes the results of a survey taken by women in the second-year class at Harvard Medical School as well as commentary from two nationally renowned doctors, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel and Dr. Ardis Hoven.

hms graph

Source: Seventy-four women in the HMS Class of 2017 responded to surveys. The majority of the women wanted to keep their maiden names after marriage.

My friends – students and professionals in the health field, discussed this article at length, including the pros and cons of each decision. In the article, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, the President of Brigham and Women’s Health Care, discussed her reasons for taking her husband’s name despite an already established professional career. Some of these included: the difficulty in pronouncing her maiden name and the desire to embrace her husband’s background and culture. In contrast, Dr. Ardis Hoven, the previous president of the American Medical Association, explained that keeping her maiden name was a choice she made based on her proud heritage, her established professional career, and more.

My female friends and I have different views on this. Some proudly confessed they would be keeping their maiden name, while another brought up the possibility of keeping their maiden name as their middle name and taking on the husband’s last name.

My personal choice? Hyphenating.

I’ve thought about this long and hard in the past and my conclusion has remained to hyphenate it: Dr. Maiden Name – X. One major reason is the cultural roots for me. The prefix in my last name has a big significance in my family; it means a lot to me as a Yoruba girl hailing from Osun state in southwest Nigeria and I wouldn’t want to lose it. If I married another individual with the same prefix, I most likely wouldn’t hyphen it. At the same time, I personally choose not to keep just my maiden name because I view marriage is a union, a unity of two different families, two different backgrounds, traditions, and more. I would like my last name to reflect that. To me hyphenating doesn’t mean letting go of my identity. It’s the happy medium. 

I went searching through the internet for why the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, chose to hyphenate hers. As mentioned in a previous post, she is someone that I truly admire. I found two articles where she addresses this:

Doctors and Money: A Doctor’s Dual Missionby Carol Ann Campbell published December 18, 2008

Lavizzo-Mourey knows her double-barreled name is a mouthful — and was a lot for her son and daughter, now adults, to learn to spell in kindergarten.

“Seventeen characters, almost the entire alphabet,” she sighs. But it was important for her children to carry her family name as well as the name of her husband. She says she and Robert wanted to stress the strengths and histories of both sides of the family.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation chief combines drive, dedication and a warm heartby Peggy McGlone published Jan. 06, 2013

When [Risa and Robert Mourey] married in 1975, they changed their names to Lavizzo-Mourey, a statement that their union was a true partnership. “We were both committed to having a dual career relationship and family,” she says.


I also went searching for a related post on this issue on Reflections of a Grady Doctor, a blog authored by Dr. Kimberly D. Manning, whom I also admire. I found such a post. Here is an excerpt:

Say My Name by Dr. Kimberly D. Manning published July 9, 2012

When I first returned to Grady after my wedding and honeymoon back in 2004, quite a few people were surprised when I announced that I had a new last name. ‘Dr. Manning,’ I said without flinching. Not hyphenated. Not optional. This was my new name. And let me be clear: I think taking your husband’s name is a highly personal choice. I do not knock those who don’t one single bit. Especially because the vast majority of these individuals are grown women who should be able to do whatever the heck they want to do with their last names.

But me? I chose to become Kimberly Manning…So I’ll never forget it. I walked into Grady that Monday and one of the first people I saw was one of my favorite senior faculty members, Dr. Michael L. He scowled at me and said, “What’s this I hear about you changing your name? You’ve been here for three years! My brain is too old for new names.”

“You’ll adjust.”…And you know what? Despite his attempts otherwise, eventually he did. He adjusted. As did everyone else around me.

For whatever reason, it was important to me for those around me to respect my decision to take a new name enough to use it. Just as it’s equally important to respect those who choose to keep their maiden names and NOT assign them the name of “Mrs. So-and-So.” I was firm on that. So that meant that I quickly corrected accidental hyphenations and even those who persistently got it wrong. Never did I give in and simply say, “No big deal, Draper is fine.” And for that reason and that reason alone, I feel sure that everyone began to see me as Kimberly Manning.


So my conclusion is that it all comes down to personal preference. I’m all about hyphenating, other prefers to keep their maiden name, and a few others change it. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with either choice and choosing one or the other does not make you “less than” or mean that you’ve tossed your identity to the side or consider your career greater than your family. No, it doesn’t. But these are just my thoughts. What are yours?

Do share. Ciao!

**Image via “Dr. Maiden Name Will See You Now” published January 2015**

17 comments

  1. I use my maiden name. I eloped the saturday before starting med school amd changing all of that paperwork was a pain in the butt… It is nice to have that bit of separation. I can be Mrs. So-and-so socially or Dr. Maiden Name professionally. Separate compartments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was hoping you’d comment on this! 😀 That’s interesting! I actually hadn’t thought about using Mrs. X socially although Dr. Maiden name. I assumed it would be strictly maiden name if one made this decision. I like your alternative! Thanks for the input 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh god I love this. So I changed my name because it was important to W but now almost 2 years later as I’m much closer to being Dr. M, I’m having extreme name change regret. I wish I’d done my maiden name as professional and been Mrs. M personally. Because we train at the same institution, I am PERPETUALLY introduced as W’s wife before I’m introduced in my own right and it makes me livid. My marital status (like everyone’s relationship status) is irrelevant to my competency and inappropriate to be part of my “bio.” That being said, when I broached this subject with W recently, it was not well taken so perhaps I’ll send him the link to the article to better articulate where I’m coming from…Great find!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a really great point. A friend of mine also brought that up, the possibility of working in the same institution and the factors to consider. Also, although it’s ultimately the woman’s decision, another big factor I seem to keep neglecting is how the significant other feels about it. If it matters or not, or is an issue of conflict. So much to consider. Glad you enjoyed reading!

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      1. I really think, in order of importance, it’s about your partner and what it means to them with all the other stuff being secondary. We were the first married couple to matriculate here and there was a lot of PR around that because the medical school needed some human interest piece and in many ways, I think that sealed my fate as Mrs not Dr. W and I are separated for the next year for clerkships and although we’re sad to be apart, I think both look forward to forging our own singular identities.

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  3. This is something I’ve thought about but from the perspective of a doctoral student who will one day be Dr. XYZ, Ph.D. I plan on keeping my maiden name professionally since I’ve published under it and have a well established scientific record as Ms./Dr. XYZ. I’m very okay with being Mrs. ABC in my personal life however.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice write-up! I like the idea of keeping the maiden name professionally and using your married name socially. Never thought of that. If I don’t do that, I will probably go with hyphenating as my mom has always stressed to me how unique my last name is and how she doesn’t want me to lose it. I totally agree with her, so hyphenation seems like the best bet, but with these Nigerian last names, it might be a struggle lol. We shall see though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol I feel you on that struggle. Keeping my maiden name and using the married name socially would definitely be my second option. Thanks for reading!

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  4. Derin, I love how you not only post such thought-provoking issues, but supply additional articles that are interesting reads. Definitely gives me a little more perspective! Given that my last name is both long and unique, I have thought about this quite a lot. I am extremely proud of my last name and would hate to lose it when I become a physician. However, when I considered hyphenating, I thought about how burdening it would be on administration and patients who would have to write out/pronounce such an extensive name. Unless my partner’s last name is three letters long, it seems like it would be tiresome – then again, reading that article from above, maybe it’s best to put my interests first in this scenario because I would love to display that “union” as you mentioned. Guess we’ll have to see when the time comes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thanks! I totally get where you’re coming from with the long name. Another factor to think about! A friend of mine actually mentioned having her patients call her “Dr. A” instead of her slightly long last name. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what we all decide later on!

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    2. My last name is long (10 letters) and people rarely pronounce it correctly ( i think the assume its hard because its not the shortest, but its not hard! hahha) But I dont want to be just Dr.Donald (husbands last name).. I think I will go my Dr. First name.. I think this will go over well in with pediatrics

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I been meaning to post about this as well… I kept my last name. Mostly because it is very important for me to graduate with my last name, it is very unique and my family is really big on our identification.. I want to be called Dr.Maiden for a bit, I also love being identified as a wife, his wife. During school going through the hassle of changing my name (hyphenated or completely) wasnt worth it, but my husband and i decided to change our names at our 10 year renewal (or 9 year anniversary when passports expire)..This is the best of all worlds.. I would have graduated and started residency with my maiden name then will hyphenate my name around the time im done with residency.. also my husband my hyphenate his name too, so we share each others names= one family unit

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  6. I think it’s crazy that I was thinking about this particular topic earlier while I was eating dinner (lol really random thought) and then I stumbled upon the rest of your blog. It’s like God sent me to this particular blog of yours to see the importance of patience and trusting In him. I actually started crying because I realized I’m not so different from others when it comes to this pre med journey. Currently in my gap year fighting through and this gave me the motivation I need to push through it and what is to come. thank you my naija sis, you’re an inspiration to me!

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    1. So sooooo happy you’re finding it helpful and inspiring! I know the journey can be tough, but be comforted knowing others made it through, and by God’s grace, you will as well! Much love your way ❤️

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