Thursday, July 8, 2010

July Decisions

It’s early July and newly minted interns and residents are gracing the hallowed halls of hospitals across the country. Not only do these intrepid souls have to cram every possible byte of data into their sleep-deprived craniums, maintain their patients and respond to pimping questions from attendings, they need to decide what they will call themselves at the end of their training.

General surgery is easy – when you’re done, you’re a surgeon. No one really has any questions about that. But what if you chose Orthopedic Surgery? When you’re finished, will you refer to yourself as an “Orthopod” (which brings up visions of a scary armor-plated vector to some), or an “Orthopedist” (which, strangely, some individuals seem to confuse with a Podiatrist)? Adjacent to the surgeons are the anesthesiologists – will you (should you) really tell someone you “Pass Gas” for a living?

Then there’s the pronunciation factor. If you choose to go into Obstetrics and Gynecology, will you practice O-B-JIN when you’re done, or are you going to practice O-B-GUY-nee? If you follow in our beloved Fizzy’s footsteps and specialize in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, will you be a fiz-EYE-a-trist or a Fizzy-AT-trist? (And when you examine the bony structure of your patients, are you looking at the SKEL-a-tal system or the ska-LEE-tal system? Perhaps it depends on whether you had any British instructors…)

Perhaps most confusing of all, those who choose general internal medicine – will you be an Internist? Will you practice Internal Medicine, I.M. or “Medicine”? Family Practitioners don’t have it much easier – too often, they’re considered Generalists or General Practitioners and the time they spent in training is ignored.

Some specialties don’t seem to have issues with confusing acronyms. The only time anyone had any questions about my field of Neurology was when he misheard my response to “What type of doctor are you?” as “An Urologist” rather than “A Neurologist”. Physicians who specialize in Pulmonology, Cardiology and even Proctology rarely receive questions about what they do – most people outside of the medical world know what those names mean. And I’m happy that some specialties maintain their formality: Would you really want to see a Hematologist/Oncologist who refers to herself as a “H-ONC”? (Is “QUACK” the logical next step if that were to occur?)

Medical school and Match Day are memories for those in training by this point, but the hard work is really just beginning. The title “Doctor” is a given – how will it be modified?



  1. Mildly related: I hate it when doctors say "sontimeter." WTF is up with that?

  2. Med Peds is easy, but then everyone just hears the "Peds" part of it. And then I have to explain the whole thing to them anyway.

  3. My pathology subspecialty is cytology. When people ask me what I did my fellowship in (I did two), in additional to surgical pathology (GI emphasis), I tell them I am a cytologist.

    "What? You are a psychologist? How is that related to pathology?"

  4. I find myself saying, that's right, a pediatrician. Oh, but I don't take care of animals, I take care of kids.

  5. I always joke that I went into medicine so that when people asked what my job was, I had a one word answer that everyone is familiar with.

    Although I have once or twice ask if I am a foot doctor......

    KSK- Pediatrician

  6. I often work in my office with my door open and about once every 2 weeks, someone walking by will ask what in the world a "hospitalist" is.

  7. Love it. As an emergency physician, I will never get tired of cute little old ladies (including my gma) asking me when I'm going to finish my training and open my own office. (Emergency medicine? A *specialty*?! Why would anyone do that?!)

  8. Thanks for sharing - these are all great examples!


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