Candidate Abdul El-Sayed’s Use of ‘Doctor’ Stirs Lively Debate –  Deadline Detroit


Cheap shot or bulls-eye? The call depends on who’s reacting to a Crain’s Detroit Business blog post about a statewide candidate’s use of the title “Doctor.” 


Chad Livengood’s column about Abdul El-Sayed, summarized earlier this week in coverage below, sparks fesity clashes on social media and at Crain’s over whether the first-time candidate inflates his professional status.


Arguments are pretty much the default response to political commentary. Toss in an open governor’s seat and a Muslim upstart seeking the Democratic nomination and you’ve got a particularly spicy recipe.    


Abdul El-Sayed: “People are going to try and chip away. . . . That’s the nature of politics.”

(Campaign photos)


“Just another Chad Livengood hatchet job on a Democrat,” Crain’s reader Greg Stephens comments there.


“I tried to add some context to El-Sayed routinely talking about how he’s a doctor and his claim of diagnosing patients,” the writer responds on Twitter to another critic. In a Facebook thread, he adds: “I tried to explain the nuance, which often gets lost in our sound-bitey politics.”


Here’s a sampling of this week’s fray about whether a medical school graduate who didn’t serve a hospital residency can legitimately say he’s a doctor who diagnosed patrients.


El-Sayed defenders say:


  • An MD and a doctorate in public health? He’s two doctors in one. . . . I also think Chad Livengood was fair, and allowed me to reach the conclusion that El-Sayed likely knows more about the health system than most practicing doctors. — Laura Berman

  • Cheap shot. — Tony Spokojny, West Bloomfield

  • El-Sayed has never claimed to be licensed to practice medicine. He’s publicly talked about his decision not to pursue residency and instead go into public health on numerous occasions. — Yunus Shabandri

  • This is a bullshit hit job. — Jodi Jacobson

  • I’m an accountant in the public sector and I have a degree in accounting. This is like saying I’m not an accountant because I didn’t become a CPA. — Cheyenne Groth

  • What you have reported here is no big deal to me. Their are teachers without a teaching certificate that call themselves teacher. Keep digging, find something else. — D. Simmons

  • To say he’s not really a doctor is incorrect. He is. He’s just not a physician. He’s just not a physician. . . . We can’t discount his knowledge from his education. But touting himself as a physician leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve been an on-again/off-again supporter of his and I still like him. — Dana Fortier

  • Abdul has never lied or mislead people about his background. It’s right there in his bio. This is a pathetic attempt to discredit him, based on absolutely nothing. — Meredith Buckley

  • Abdul El-Sayed was assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Medical School. Whoever wrote this article is trying really hard to sound like the expert they aren’t. It’s a hatchet job. — Kerry O’Connor, Detroit

  • Dude has a PhD and a MD degree, and was a Rhodes Scholar. Really, Chad? — Adam Pelletier

  • He has an MD. He is a physician. He learned to diagnose patients in medical school like every other student. He is bright and would have had NO difficulty getting a residency but chose to go down a public health path. There is nothing shady or suspicious about this, it is, in fact, public record and he has publicly explained why he did this path along with many otherw who choose to do so. — Lynn Cronin

  • That’s like saying even if I have a master’s degree in social work I cannot legally call myself a social worker because I didn’t pay the state a fee to call myself a social worker — even if I’ve already been working in the field of human services for four years. — Rachel Norwood, Detroit

  • Every time Abdul tells his story he says that he did not complete his residency. He is the very most transparent candidate with exactly what his qualifications are and how they apply to the job he wants. . . . His PhD in epidemiology and public health and experience as health director in Detroit should make people trust in his policy and his ability to do the job. . . . He is considered a world-renowned expert on public health. —  You can find YouTube videos of major networks asking him to speak on the Ebola outbreak back when that was the headline. The man has some serious credentials. — Amber Shelton

  • His medical degree (like mine) says physician on it. He learned to diagnose patients in medical school. That’s kind of what we do. This bright young man would have had no trouble getting a residency had he chosen to do so. . . . Residency is not the right next step for someone wanting to go into public service. — Lynn Cronin (two tweets)


El-Sayed critics say:


  • You cannot claim a professional title that you have not earned. Licensure is the final step to calling yourself by a professional title. If you haven’t earned it, you can’t claim it. — Mike Norris

  • Imagine that, a politician stretching the truth. — Gary Briggs

  • No one denies he’s really smart. He just doesn’t practice medicine, as he implies. — Linda Blumstein, Detroit

  • He seems to have portrayed his medical career as something more than it has actually been. . . . The question is whether he has actually practiced medicine, and that might have some shades of gray in it. — Neal Rubin (two comments)

  • Nobody is questioning his academic credentials. But the guy has been passing himself off as a practicing physician. Time to hush. — Ken Jackson


Original article, Monday:


Democrat Abdul El-Sayed has made his doctor credentials the focal point of his campaign for governor, but he’s never actually practiced as a post-medical school doctor and is not licensed to practice in Michigan, reports Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business.

Featured_abdul_el-sayed__his_campaign_photo_30975
“I’m the only person up on this stage who has had to deliver a diagnosis,” the Democrat said during a recent debate.


“I’m a doctor,” El-Sayed said during the May 31 bipartisan gubernatorial debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference. “I’m the only person up on this stage who has had to deliver a diagnosis — and then watch as somebody had to worry about how they were going to pay for it, let alone what the treatment was for that ailment. That should never happen in Michigan.”


El-Sayed says he worked as a sub-intern during med school at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Allen Hospital near the Bronx, where he treated patients as part of his study of medicine.


“My job was, in effect, to be the junior doctor who took care of the patient,” El-Sayed said in a June 1 speech in Southfield, where he detailed his “Michicare” single-payer plan.


In the fourth year of med school, students go on hospital rounds with doctors.


“But you don’t do diagnosis — you’re still a student,” Mohammed Arsiwala, M.D., a Livonia internist and president-elect of the Michigan State Medical Society, tells Crain’s. “You’re under supervision. You can’t do patient management.”


El-Sayed is dismissive of such scrutiny.


“I have a degree that’s called a Medical Doctorate, which makes me a medical doctor,” El-Sayed said in an interview with Crain’s. “People are going to try and chip away, they always do. That’s the nature of politics.”

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