Chad Blair: Gov. Green Wants You To Know He's A Doctor — Still - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

It’s the kind of thing that probably only journalists who cover the State Capitol would notice: “Governor Josh Green, M.D. submits the Executive Budget for Fiscal Biennium to the Legislature and announces the release of nearly $50 million in grants to non-profit communities.”

Opinion article badge

That’s from a Dec. 19 press release from the administration. Here’s another dated three days earlier: “Gov. Josh Green, M.D. and Director of Health Elizabeth ‘Libby’ A. Char, M.D. have issued the following statement in response to the missing Hawaii Life Flight aircraft.”

The statement was about the issuance of an emergency proclamation regarding the fatal incident off the coast of Maui.

It’s good to see the administration responding so quickly to such tragedies, but it is curious to see that our new governor seems to need to remind everyone that he’s a medical doctor. Is there anyone in Hawaii who does not know this? And isn’t “governor” already a fine honorific that conveys supreme authority?

I asked the administration for comment and received an emailed statement from Green.

“Being a physician is what brought me to Hawaii, in a position with the National Health Service Corps,” he said. “The title of M.D. represents a badge of honor that I carry with me, as service as a public official has become an extension of my work as a doctor in the emergency room. My commitment to the practice of medicine and caring for people is something I carry with me in every conversation I have and every decision I make as Governor.”

Makana McClellan, Green’s director of communications, informed me that Green used M.D. as lieutenant governor and as a state senator, either in letterhead, business cards or office commemorative coin.

My search of legislative documents from Green’s time in the Legislature — e.g., hearing notices — turned up multiple references to M.D. following his name and some without it. Same goes for former Rep. Richard Creagan, another Big Island M.D.

Still, now that Green is governor, it strikes me as overkill. Google “Howard Dean,” for example, and many searches predominantly refer to him as the former governor of Vermont and not as an American physician. Ron Paul, another physician, is usually referred to as the former U.S. representative from Texas.

But maybe they’re just old school. Paul’s son Rand is an ophthalmologist, and Dr. Rand Paul is used in the title of press releases from his office. He is also referred to in those same documents as U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), while his official bio calls him U.S. Senator Rand Paul, M.D.

Sheesh.

Interestingly, all three of the previous docs have run for president. Just putting that out there.

Doctor, Doctor

Green, of course, earned his medical degree and has the right to use M.D. after his name. Many media — Civil Beat included — just won’t follow, though, as it’s not part of journalistic style guides.

letterhead for Gov Green using Kiaaina
A new law requires the use of Hawaiian language in official letterhead along with titles and websites. Screenshot/2022

The use of M.D. also brings up an interesting point about titles. Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie holds a Ph.D., but I don’t recall many people calling him Dr. Abercrombie. Bruce Anderson, who preceded Char at the DOH, was often called Dr. Anderson, but he is not an M.D. Rather, he holds a doctorate in biomedical sciences and is also a master of public health — M.P.H.

First Lady Jill Biden is often called Dr. Biden, too, although she is a doctor of education. Her White House bio identifies her as Dr. Jill Biden first followed by First Lady Jill Biden and Jill Biden, Ed.D.

So there’s a lot of inconsistency out there.

What is more consistent is that Green’s medical background has been central to his political success. While his outspoken role as lieutenant governor during the Covid-19 pandemic upstaged his boss the governor, many people welcomed Green’s frequent media appearances during a public health crisis. But others lamented the mixed messages from the Capitol’s fifth floor.

Political advertising during the 2022 gubernatorial campaign liberally displayed Green in his medical scrubs. The jab from opponents that he was not “board certified” never stuck.

A new law requires the use of Hawaiian for official titles and websites.
The official homepage of the governor of Hawaii. Screenshot/2022

Green’s symbiosis with his medical degree started well before Covid. His work included outreach to island homeless and leading a medical mission to American Samoa, where there was a measles outbreak.

But Green’s predilection toward M.D. can also be a bit misleading. The governor’s Twitter handle is @GovJoshGreenMD (“Father, husband, Governor of Hawaii, Steelers enthusiast. Let’s move Hawaii forward together”). This is not necessarily Green’s fault — my guess is that it’s a Twitter thing — but that handle now applies to all the tweets from that account including hundreds prior to Dec. 5 — i.e., the day he was sworn in. Here’s an example:

Another handle, @DrJoshGreen, does not use M.D., but his bio reads “Husband, father, local doctor. @Steelers fan. Governor of Hawaii.” His official Facebook and Instagram pages do not use M.D., but it’s featured prominently in the Flickr account.

By now some readers may be thinking that this smart-ass journalist is getting a bit carried away. Maybe so.

But here’s another item to chew on regarding the governor’s office: Press releases also proclaim that he is “governor,” or “kiaʻāina.” Visit the official website of Gov. Josh Green, M.D., and it will tell you that it’s the website of the Ke‘ena O Ke Kiaʻāina — the Office of the Governor.

That’s not Green’s doing. It comes from a new law that passed the Legislature this year.

It requires all letterhead of the state and counties to include “consistent Hawaiian names, words, and spelling” including governor, lieutenant governor, state legislators, and heads of principal departments at least once on the main page for their official website and in stationary letterhead.

The legislation was signed into law by then-Gov. David Ige, who has a bachelor of science in electrical engineering.

Pretty sure our former kiaʻāina never referred to himself as Gov. David Ige, B.S.


Read this next:

Neal Milner: Mike McCartney Might Just Have A Career In Stand-Up Comedy


Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.

Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

Contribute

About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

To me, it is a matter of common decency to preface with "Doctor" or "Dr." the names of those who spent long years and countless sleepless nights studying the science and the art of healing people or contributing original research to the advancement of human knowledge and were rightfully conferred a medical or research doctoral degree by a proper academic authority.Joint usage of official titles and academic degrees has long been settled in manuals of style: the first time you refer to a person in a text, the official title needs to be mentioned, e.g., "Gov. Josh Green, M.D." or "Dr. Josh Green, Governor of Hawaii." Subsequently in the same text, the official title does not need to be repeated but the contracted academic title does: it's always "Dr. Josh Green", never "Mr. Josh Green".(Note: there exist a number of professional designations that include the word "Doctor"; as they are neither medical nor require a considerable body of original research as a condition of being awarded, they do not command the usage of "Dr." in front of one's name.)

Chiquita · 3 weeks ago

Yeah... M.D. and scrubs were/are a bit of overkill and posturing. The obsession with branding, both right and left, is kind of annoying.

SleepyandDopey · 3 weeks ago

I agree, Chad. I voted for Josh Green for his capacity as a politician, not a physician. If Governor Green wants that title, he should practice medicine. Until then, drop the M.D.

rs84 · 4 weeks ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.