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Medical Justice

Making healthcare safe for doctors


Should a Doctor Change His Name? Witness Protection Lite.

01/30/18 9:58 AM

Doctors occasionally change their name. They get married. They get divorced. Some keep their name. Some change their name. It happens all the time. But, that is a deliberate choice.

Are there times doctors might want to change their name – against their will?


Not too long ago, a dentist went to Africa as a trophy hunter. He shot a lion. That lion had a name -Cecil. The Eleventh Commandment is “The internet will skin you alive if you kill a lion with a name.” I won’t recount the details of what happened next. Suffice it to say, the internet lit up and the hubbub did little to help the dentist’s practice thrive. My unsolicited advice at the time was the dentist might want to change his name.

I recently received a call from a doctor in the midst of a Kafkaesque tail. He had done everything right. But, a series of clerical errors led to a lawyer filing scores of lawsuits against him. No patient was injured. But, the news media picked it up. He suddenly became unemployable. He was professionally radioactive.

He moved to a new state. Got a new medical license. Then, a prospective employer had second thoughts. They understood that he was a talented physician. They just weren’t sure that the endless media publicity was worth the gamble.

This is not a common scenario. But, if does happens. Even if a doctor has made a significant mistake, more often than not, that is just a snapshot of their life. Not a movie. But, the internet keeps playing that same scene over and over like the movie Groundhog Day. Some doctors will spend gazillions of dollars hoping to move that narrative off of page one of Google search; living in fear that the story will emerge yet again, like the last scene in Carrie. (Yes, references to two separate movies in one blog post – that’s a first for me.)

Perhaps the simpler approach is to change your name. Just adopt the name of your great grandfather whose name was mangled by immigration agents at Ellis Island generations ago. Yes, you’ll have to explain your background openly and honestly to prospective medical boards, future employers, and hospital credentialing committees. But, you would be judged fairly. Not burdened with the baggage of an unfair portrayal on the internet.

A fresh start.

Not all doctors will benefit from that approach. And some, like Dr. Larry Nassar, shouldn’t.

But, for those fighting an unending unfair and unreasonable battle against the internet, it is an option.

What do you think? Share your comments below.

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Posted by Medical Justice | in Legal | 4 Comments »
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Seriously? Medical boards will treat you fairly? Future employers and hospital credentialing committees would treat you fairly? That never happens, especially if a doctor has had any sort of legal issues in the past. There are far too many qualified candidates out there that are not radioactive. These entities are risk adverse, and unlikely to ever see the physician candidate fairly. Plus there are court records, which if not sealed would be discovered either by the reporter or a lawyer involved in the prior story, so a name change would not stick. The internet will find the person one way… Read more »


The easiest way to change your name to avoid medical boards, credentialing, is to simply use your middle name as your first. If a horror story about Dr John E. Smith arises, a change to Dr J. Ezekiel Smith may be the path of least resistance.

ziga tretjak
ziga tretjak

#retiredMD is 100% correct. If name change is not for marital reason, there is no way to run and hide and when discovered, there is hardly a way to wiggle your way out no matter what circumstances drove you to change your name.
A point of contention though-Larry Nassar may have a medical degree but he is neither a physician nor a doctor.

Carla H Schlissel, DDS
Carla H Schlissel, DDS

If the “radioactive” physician became that way due to a series of clerical errors, can’t he sue that lawyer for libel, defamation of character and a host of other things? And if he did and won, would that then dampen his “radioactivity?”