taxes. I had to change my social security card to reflect my name change, and it became somewhat complicated from a tax perspective. I put both names on formal paperwork and with legal documents.”
Explore This IssueFebruary 2016
Paging Dr. Who?
For couples in which both partners are physicians, sharing a last name can be problematic. Gayle Woodson, MD, professor emerita of otolaryngology in the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, had already launched her career, established her medical practice, and published papers as Dr. Woodson when she married her husband, Tom Robbins, MD, and did not want to drop that identity. Because her husband can also get paged for
medical service, “it seemed that it would be confusing if someone called in the middle of the night and wanted to speak to Dr. Robbins, and we would have to ask ‘which Dr. Robbins?’”
Being in residency at the same time as her husband also factored into Dr. Malekzadeh’s decision to keep her maiden name after getting married before the couple had a family together. “When we were at the hospital together, we didn’t want to get each other’s pages,” she said.
History in the Making
The name connection can mean different things depending on where you live. In Greece, Korea, China, and Spain, it is more common for women to keep their maiden names. But in the
U.S., “there is a great deal of normative pressure for women to change their names,” said Dr. Scheuble. “In the United States, it is how we define a family, which also makes little sense given that we have high rates of divorce, single parenting, and reconstituted families.”
For some, a maiden name is a bridge to past generations and promotes a sense of familial, and sometimes vocational, pride. “I come from a long line of Dr. Woodsons, dating back to the 17th century,” said Dr. Woodson. “So I liked the idea of being another Dr. Woodson.”
Others cited the importance of cultural heritage and maiden names.
“I feel strongly that my name is part of my identity,” said Debara L. Tucci, MD, MBA, MS, professor of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. She used her maiden name both personally and professionally before getting married and never considered changing it.
“I have never used my husband’s name,” she said. “However, I find it surprising that people make assumptions about women’s ethnic heritage when their last name may or may not reflect their ancestry, but their husband’s. People often ask me if I am Italian, which I am, as my name is my birth name; however, they also ask my mother this question, and Tucci is her married name. This is the reason that I say that my name is something I would not change. It says something about me.”