Thursday, February 22, 2007

Alan, Stella and their Doctoral Degrees

Usually, people with "Dr" in front of their names are treated with respect in our society. They are better remunerated and can talk louder. So, naturally a lot of people want themselves to be called doctors. Nonetheless, only a few groups of people may put the title "Dr" in front of their name.

First, we have the medical doctor. Medical doctor receives rigorious undergraduate training in the field of medicine at the university/hospital for at least 5 years. At the end of their training, they are awarded a bachelor degree. Mahathir Mohamad, for example, is a medical doctor trained in "University of Malaya", Singapore.

Second, we have the doctor of higher degree. The most common doctor of higher degree is the doctor of philosophy (or Ph.D). To be awarded a higher degree doctorate, the candidate, who already equipped with a basic degree, will usually do research on one particular subject and spend 3 to 4 years on it, usually guided by one or more academic supervisors. Albert Einstein, for example, has Ph.D degree awarded by University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Now, it is also common for university to award honorary doctorate degrees to some people for their humanitarian contribution to the society. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, was awarded in 1996, a honorary doctorate degree for his charity work. Another example, Datuk Rafiah Salim, the first woman VC of University of Malaya, is also a honorary doctorate degree holder.

However, the recipient of honorary doctorate do not usually wear the "Dr" prefix probably because they think it is not very right to do so, or maybe because doing so will diminish the value of a true doctoral degree.

In California, we never see people address Arnold as Dr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the UM campus, I never heard people call Datuk Rafiah as Dr. Rafiah Salim.

For that reason, I think it is not academically correct for Alan Wong Kwai Hua and his wife Stella Chin of Melilea (美丽乐) to wear the honorific "Dr" in front of their names and call themselves doctors (黄贵华博士/陈瑰莺博士) if their doctoral degrees are honorary degrees. In their biography, Wong and Chin use the postfix "Hon. Ph. D.", but concerning the University who gave out the award, it is not explicitly mentioned. I think for some reasons, Alan and Stella do not wish people to know the name of the university which awarded the honorary degrees. Maybe a friend of mine who work at Melilea Malacca can help me to ask her bosses.

Also, I am rather skeptical about the doctoral degree of Wong's Taiwanese friend, Henry Chang (张明章博士) as his degree is called Doctor of Naturopathy. Naturopathy does not belongs to mainstream medicine.

The same thing applies to Luke Lin (林光常博士), known for his effort for publicizing the anticarcinogenic properties of sweet potatoes. One of my aunt kept cooking sweet potatoes for her children after reading Lin's book. Luckily, the sweet-potato fever did not last long.

Lin earned his doctoral degree in Oriental Medicine from American Global University, a well-known fake university. And I am very interested to see what is contained in his thesis or at least the title of his thesis.

I think the "Dr" prefix is of little value to these people for they do not need the extra title to strengthen their power for convincing their audience. Even without the "Dr" prefix, I believe these good speakers can convince a lot of people to buy their products.

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