I see this manifested daily in the way my language and understanding of language is changing. A few examples: a couple weeks ago, holding a human brain in my hands in anatomy lab, absolutely dumbfounded and awestruck, I could barely form a sentence. This, as a lifetime talker, a worshipper of language, was a shock. In the same week, while taking a history in a women’s health clinic, I asked, “So, how has everything been in the last year in your, um, you know, your, um, lady parts?” (I know the words, I just couldn’t find them fast enough. Thankfully, we both laughed.) The first time I heard my preceptor say “proximal,” I blushed, surprised to hear a word in real life I had just learned in my school life. Since the third week of August, I am dreaming and mumbling under my breath in Latin. Levator labii superioris alaeque nasi. Salpingopharyngeus. Flexor digitorum profundus.
The language of medicine, as I am learning, is wonderful, mysterious, frustrating. Studying for an exam in our Principles of Clinical Medicine course, I was struck by the acronyms we had digested over the last three months: BATHE, AIDET, CAGE, PARQ, RULE, the list goes on. These all have something to do with talking to patients; not only are we learning how people talk (man, it’s complicated, a jumble of nerves and muscles), but we are learning how to talk to people as a means of becoming a physician. Some days I come home and, talking to my husband, I feel as if I’ve emerged from another word, one that’s hidden or secret or completely invented. Others, like during my own, recent doctor’s appointment, I feel as if I finally understand what all the fuss is about. This field is complicated, and the learning seriously does not stop from the moment you put on that white coat, which is glorious and exhausting and humbling. It’s no wonder that most days I feel like I’m learning a foreign language in a country that doesn’t speak the language I’m trying to learn.