One of my favorite things about medical school is the crazy amount of new words I am learning. It has been a huge source of frustration at times, but ultimately, the English major inside of me gets a little sick and twisted enjoyment out of it.
Learning to be a doctor is very much like learning a new language. I honestly wish I could see how many new words I’ve learned in the past year. I think it would be pretty impressive…and maybe a bit scary.
I started to make a list of some unfamiliar words I encountered while I was studying yesterday. Here’s what I came up with in the morning: micturition, operculated, proglottid, sylvatic, fasciculations, and decussation. My studying in the afternoon filled two pages of straight up vocabulary terms I need to know for my exam tomorrow, but here are a few of my favorites: akathisia, hemiballismus, allodynia, chorea, graphesthesia, stereognosis, and dysdiadochokinesis.
I love learning new words, and I love expanding my vocabulary, but there are days that I feel like I have to look up every other word. Just the other day I encountered this sentence in my notes: A mold with septate, multinucleate mycelium with a coencynotic, rough conidiophore and conidia on a phialid. I looked up most of them…still don’t know what a phialid is. Hopefully it’s not important…
Learning the lingo is even harder when you encounter real doctors because they use so many slang terms. A few months ago when I was shadowing a dermatologist, a patient came in with an “SK.” The resident kindly told me that an “SK” is a seborrheic karatoses. (Hopefully you never see one the size of that patient’s because it was gross.) I got really confused in the next room when the patient kept talking about taking “rat poison.” The doctor didn’t even seem bothered by it, which struck me as odd, because I’m pretty sure rat poison is bad. Turns out “rat poison” means Warfarin, which is a commonly prescribed drug to treat blood clots. Apparently it is also used to kill rats. Learn something new everyday…
It takes me forever to write my notes after my standardized patient encounters because I don’t yet know all the standard abbreviations. I learned a few weeks ago that O.D. means right eye, O.S. means left eye, and O.U. means both eyes. They come from Latin and stand for oculus dexter, oculus sinister, and oculus uterque. PERLA stands for pupils equally reactive to light and accommodation and EDC stands for expected date of confinement (kind of strange way to say “due date”).
Sometimes I think I know what something stands for, only to find out that I don’t. While studying bacteria, we learned that Haemophilus Influenzae only grows on blood agar with “Factors X and V.” I accepted Factors X and V to be outside the realm of my understanding, just memorized them, and moved on. Then when talking with my friends after our case presentations, I overheard someone say something about “Factors 5 and 10.” I had nooooo clue those were Roman Numerals. I was just thankful that my own case presentation didn’t include that bacteria because I would have looked like a complete idiot talking about “Factors X and V” instead of “Factors 5 and 10.”
The one thing that every med student learns is that Wikipedia is your best friend (closely followed by Google and YouTube). I don’t know if there has ever been a day where I haven’t had to look something up somewhere. It just makes me thankful that I live in the day and age of technology, and I don’t have to carry around a huge medical dictionary with me everywhere.
One month to go, people! Summer is right around the corner!