Many women change their last names after marriage, after a divorce, or just because. During my 30-year career in medicine, I have had three last names. Yes, not a typo, three!
I got married for the first time during my internal medicine residency. I didn’t change my name and was “Mrs. Married Name” to friends and family and “Dr. Maiden Name” at work. I grew as a physician, conducted research, and published a few articles under my maiden name. Seven years into my marriage, I decided to change my last name and officially took on my then-husband’s last name. Two years later, I was divorced. That’s a different story.
I decided to keep my ex-husband’s last name. It was the same last name as my kids and logistically seemed easier at the time. For the next 15 years, I had a productive career in clinical and academic medicine. Last name number two is the one I’ve had for the longest in medicine, with scores of research presentations and publications to full professorship. I also published a book on divorce and started a podcast under my maiden name during this time.
Two years ago, I got remarried and officially and formally changed my last name again. I took on my new husband’s last name. Name number three. At about the same time, I transitioned to a new career in the pharmaceutical industry. As a medical director meeting new audiences, I frequently saw something happen. I would introduce myself (name number three) at the start of a presentation or meeting and see people instantly trying to look me up, pull up my work, and verify my “research credentials.” Not finding publications or a digital footprint/track record that supported my credentials, I would see the confusion on their faces. Sometimes I got the question, “Where were you in practice again?” or “Could you spell your last name?” I knew they were drawing a digital blank. I would then tell them my former last name(s) and see the nods and smiles that said, now we can find you, you’re legit, now you’re verified.
While I have had three different last names in my medical career, the vitality and gust I approach life have never changed. I recently co-founded a wellness coaching company with my husband, and our company name includes parts of my maiden name (mix and match at work again).
It can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes humorous when the “Who are you?” digital search starts. I know many women physicians have faced similar issues in their careers.
So, did you change your last name? Keep your maiden name? Hyphenate? What were the pros or cons that came with changing your last name? Any suggestions on merging your digital academic/productivity footprint when your name changes?
I would love to hear from you.
Toyin M. Falusi is an infectious disease physician.
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