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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Trip to the Doctors 1


Do you ever get sick? What kinds of doctors have you been to?


When I was a boy, I spent a lot of time in hospitals, meeting specialists. But most kids never saw anyone except the "family doctor."

The family doctor is long gone. He was replaced by the GP (General Practitioner), and now she has been replaced by the "Primary Care Physician."

By whatever name, this doctor is the first one we visit in the American medical system. He or she will do some basic tests (take our blood pressure and temperature, for example), listen to our complaint, and then take care of any small problems we're having. If we have a big problem, though, we will be passed along to a specialist.

We almost never go directly to a specialist. Because of the system of medical insurance, we must have a referral from a Primary Care Physician before going to the specialist.

Here are 10 kinds of specialists, and what they each do:

a. anesthesiologist: this is one you will rarely see--if he does his job right! He administers the anesthesia, the drugs that make us sleep during surgery. "Anesthesia" itself means loss of feeling or lack of sensation.

b. audiologist: from the Latin root "audio," meaning "to hear," the audiologist deals with hearing problems. However, see below for a doctor who treats the ear itself.

c. cardiologist: a heart specialist. We sometimes see the root "cardio" used alone in reference to exercise that's good for the heart: a cardio workout, etc.

d. dermatologist: "derm-" is a root meaning skin, so the dermatologist is a skin doctor. We see this root in the word "hypodermic needle": hypo- means "under" or "below," so a hypodermic places its load under the skin.

e. ear, nose & throat specialist: This is the more friendly term; you may also see the intimidating word "otonasolaryngologist." This is a doctor of the passages of the ear, nose, and throat. "oto-" is "ear"; "naso-" is "nose" (as in "nasal congestion"); and "laryngo-" is "throat," related to the word "larynx," the so-called "voice-box."

f. internist: an internist practices internal medicine. He is concerned with the functioning of the internal organs. There are further specialists, as well: gastroenterologists for the stomach and intestines, hepatologists for the liver, nephrologists for the kidneys, and so on. The internist can be contrasted to the surgeon, who invades the body with a knife. The internist, instead, observes the body's function and diagnoses and prescribes accordingly.

g. neurologist: a doctor of the nervous system. One who operates on the nervous system is a "neurosurgeon."

h. oncologist: a cancer specialist. "oncos" is Greek for mass or tumor.

i. obstetrician and gynecologist: We usually abbreviate it "OB/GYN," pronouncing the five letters ("oh bee gee why en"). Obstetrics is the study of childbirth; gynecology is the study of women's parts. Because of the relationship between childbirth and women's parts, they usually make up one specialty. Obstetrics comes from a Latin word "obstetrix," meaning midwife (a woman trained to assist at childbirth). Gyne is the Greek root for "woman," seen in such words as "misogyny" (hatred of women) and "androgynous" (having both male and female traits--"andros" means man or male).

j. urologist: This seems easy enough: a doctor of the urinary tract (the system in the body that lets us get rid of urine). But in addition, because this is also where many of a man's reproductive parts are, the urologist is also a "man's doctor" the way the gynecologist is a "woman's." (But he or she also usually will care for the urinary tract in women.)


If you went to the Primary Care Physician with the need below, which specialist might she or he send you to?

1. I have a lump in a place where I didn't expect one.
2. I have a pain in my stomach.
3. I need to have my hearing tested.
4. I have no feeling in my fingers.
5. I'm going to have surgery, and need to be "asleep."
6. I have pain when I try to pee.
7. I have a pain in my chest when I climb stairs too fast.
8. I think I'm going to have a baby!
9. I have a really bad cold.
10. My legs itch terribly, and have red bumps on them.


1. Why do you think so many of these words depend on Greek and Latin?
2. What's the difference, again, between the jobs of an audiologist and an ear, nose & throat specialist?
3. Why do you think a urologist can take care of a man's reproductive system, but there is a separate doctor (an OB/GYN) for women's reproductive system? Could there be more than one reason?


1 h; 2 f; 3 b; 4 g; 5 a; 6 j; 7 c; 8 i; 9 e; 10 d

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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