Home Polls Whose Diploma is That? Name Changes

Whose Diploma is That? Name Changes

Women graduates discuss name change during graduation
Chuck Savage, Getty Images

A recent WO Poll asked readers whether they feel a name change is necessary or desirable as life circumstances change.

Thirty-five percent of respondents reported using the name that’s on their diploma exclusively. Thirty-four percent say they use their name at graduation in practice but use a different name in their personal life. Thirty-one percent say their name does not match what’s on their diploma. Several respondents said they have changed their name more than once since graduation.

For those who use a different name than what’s on their diploma, 44 percent say that most people do not notice that the name on the diploma is different. However, 21 percent say they are asked about it once in a while, and four percent say they are asked about it all the time.


The decision on whether to change a name professionally triggers a series of tasks, with reporting it to various agencies and licensing boards, so many female ODs do not take the decision lightly. Here’s what some respondents said.


No one could tell me whether I could legally use my maiden name professionally if I legally change it. So I just kept my maiden name.

Proud of the name with which I earned my degree, kept it for professional use only.

I grew up in the area where I practice, and my name is unusual. They see my name and remember me from their past.

I decided to change my name because I knew I wanted children, and I didn’t want to have a different last name from them. If I did not want children, I probably would not have changed my name.

I’ve been married twice. I changed my name for first marriage and changed it back to maiden name after divorce. I married again and didn’t change my name again. I use my name for professional and personal purposes at this time. When I retire, I will change my name to married name for better transition after work life.

Did not change name due to complications with IDs/diploma/insurance credentialing, etc.

In hindsight I would not change my surname, I would have kept my maiden name. It would match my degrees and as I’ve gotten older, I feel like women shouldn’t feel the need to change their last names.

Just change it on Facebook and keep it legally the same.

I wanted to continue practicing with my maiden name so that it matches my qualification.

If I had it to do over, I would probably change my name to match my legal name.

I think it is a great honor in marriage to share the last name of your spouse. I also had a very hard-to-pronounce last name as my maiden name, and my married name is much shorter and easier to pronounce.

I never wanted to change my name, although many (especially male students) told me that I was supposed to. But my husband is fine with it, and said my name was up to me, to change it or not. Most of my female classmates did not change their names when they married. I got married when I was in optometry school, kept my maiden name and have ever since (32+ years ago).

I got married a year and a half after graduating so I wasn’t super established as an OD at that time. I figured it would be easier on me just to remember one name for all purposes and have the same last name as my husband and children.

Gave up maiden last name for married one. When I inquired at SSA office of my options they strongly urged against stacking names or hyphenating. Didn’t go back and change my diploma as I wasn’t married when I received it.

Since I am married and changed my name, I have to use my legal name.

Much easier to leave it. Wanted to honor my parents by keeping it.

I was in practice for ten years before I got married. I added my husbands name legally. I changed my license to hyphenated to be listed in insurances, etc. under my professional (maiden) name. So I use maiden, husband’s and hyphenated and I always sign with both.

I got married after practicing for almost three years. I went back and forth on if I was going to change, hyphenate or practice under my maiden name and socially use my married name. Ultimately, my decision came down to wanting to have the same last name as our future children, and it seemed very confusing having two different names. Patients adapted well, and I’m glad I did what I did.

A tip I got before I got married; if you hyphenate your name, that is considered one word and your legal last name. But, if you have no hyphen, you can legally sign either name. I had already established my career as an optical professional and was known in my community. Socially, I have the same last name as my husband and kids.

I graduated with my first husband’s name, divorced after graduation and kept his name since it matched my diploma. I added my second husband’s name and use his socially. All my legal documents have both names. At work I go by Dr. (first husband) but people ask because my legal name shows up on any documentation. In retrospect, I wish I had kept my maiden name and avoided all the hassle!

I got married soon after graduation. I wish one of our female professors would have asked us questions to get us thinking about how we wanted our diploma to look. I have a very proper name and a nickname, a maiden name and married name. It’s quite confusing. In retrospect, I would have used my proper name, my maiden name and married name on my diploma – too late to change it now (25 years late).

I did not want to change my name when I got married. I knew it would make practicing difficult with having to change my diploma.

I am a solo practitioner and concerned that name change could mess up credentialing. I  couldn’t risk losing payment.

I changed my name in 1983 when I got married during my undergraduate training. The decision to take my husband’s name was driven by knowing I was going on to get my doctorate and would be in patient care. My maiden name was difficult to pronounce and had 11 letters; my married name was very easy to pronounce with only four letters.

I earned my degree before I was married. I kept my birth name as my professional name to honor accomplishments made with the help of my parents.

I got married before I graduated from optometry school. My hyphenated name is on my diploma and legal documents. However, I just practice with my maiden name. As an only child, I forever grateful to my parents for guiding me through my entire life and wanted to tribute my parents by using my maiden name. My husband supports it fully.

I had to change my professional name due to changing my name due to marriage. My professional name had to be the same as my legal name.

My last name is in the name of the practice. I am getting married this year, and do not plan on changing my name legally, but socially in my personal life I will likely go by my husband-to-be’s last name. If I happen to change my mind and change my name legally, I will likely still go by my maiden name professionally.

I married much later in life after establishing my practice and professional relationships with my maiden name. My spouse, who is an MD, often gets called by my name. He just rolls with it now!

Name change was automatic by law when I got married and my maiden name was hard to pronounce so I thought it was easier to keep new name than to legally change it back after marriage.


Ninety-five percent of respondents were female ODs, and five percent were non-OD females.

To view other WO Poll results, click here. 

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