Friday, September 17, 2010

Adventuring into the New England Journal of Medicine

Several weeks ago, I got a random email from the New England Journal of Medicine telling me they had redesigned their site. I think I once accessed an article there four years ago for a project I was working on, but I decided to take a look. I'm easily distracted.

When I clicked on the link, they asked me which newsletters I wanted to sign up for.  Of course I signed up for everything related to gastroenterology, but I also signed up for their weekly bulletin for medical residents. It contains a teaching case having to do with an article in that week's journal.

I get the first issue and it's like I am learning how to read all over again. I'm not sure why it surprised me; I'm not the target audience. It's really a whole new language.

I have to look up a word every other sentence or so, but it's fascinating. I enjoy words that mean very specific things. Auscultation means listening to the internal sounds of the body, usually with a stethoscope. I don't think I'll remember that unless I come across it a lot, but I like it anyway.

At a certain point, though, maybe the doctors are just showing off. Do they really need to call a blood pressure meter a sphygmomanometer? Yes, that's one word, but it contains more syllables than the three word phrase it represents. And is "esophageal dysmotility" really all that clearer than "can't swallow?"

My favorite, though (so far), is when I came to a line that said, "The patient may have then inhaled aerosolized spores into her oropharynx and then ingested them." I didn't have to look up any of the words to know what they meant. The patient had breathed the damn things in.

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