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?