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Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Trip to the Doctors 2


How has a trip to the doctor changed since when your father was a boy? Your grandfather?


Let's continue our list of medical specialists.

a. ophthalmologist: a medical doctor of the eye; see "optometrist" and "optician" for more information.

b. orthopedist: This one has a great etymology. "ortho" means straight; "ped" comes from a Greek word meaning "child." The orthopedist specializes in correcting problems with the skeleton, especially in children. When the doctor is finished, you have a "straight child"!

c. pediatrician: The same "ped" we saw in "orthopedist" is here in "pediatrician," a doctor of children.

d. plastic surgeon: No, this is not a doctor who fixes toys. "Plastic" in this case means "able to be shaped, formed." The plastic surgeon reshapes unattractive noses and other body parts. This may be cosmetic, as when a person wants to be better looking; but it can also be done after an accident, to restore the victim's previous appearance.

e. podiatrist: "pod" here means "foot"; this is a foot doctor. The same root shows up in words like arthropod (insects and spiders with "jointed feet") and as "ped" in pedestrian, etc.

f. radiologist: a doctor who specializes in making and interpreting x-rays.

g. surgeon: a doctor who cuts into the body. Interestingly, the word comes from Greek (through French) from a word that means "working by hand," and certainly a surgeon must have a steady hand!

In addition to these medical doctors, there are quite a few doctors whose work, while important to our health, is not classified as part of the medical profession. Here are a few examples:

h and i. dentists and orthodontists: Tooth doctors and tooth-straightening doctors.

j and k. psychologists and psychiatrists: psychologists can only talk to help us with mental problems; psychiatrists are medical doctors who can also prescribe drugs.

l and m. optometrists and opticians: optometrists are professionals who measure the eye for glasses ("meter" means "measure"); the optician is a craftsman who actually makes the glasses.

n. pharmacists: these professionals prepare and dispense drugs. Only a medical doctor can prescribe drugs.

o and p. chiropractor and homeopath: these health professionals are working in a field which, like some parts of Chinese medicine, have a different theoretical basis from the main medical profession. As valuable as they can be, their work is not generally accepted by the Western medical establishment.


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

1. I had a terrible accident, and my arm was cut up badly. It looks ugly.
2. I need to have new lenses made for my glasses. I have a prescription already.
3. There's a problem in my intestines, and pills and medicine won't take care of it.
4. I'm having some problems with my toes.
5. There's pain in my eye when I see bright lights.
6. I think I may have broken my leg, but I'm not sure.
7. My child's legs are crooked, causing his feet to turn inward.
8. I have some emotional problems, but I don't want to take any drugs.
9. My doctor gave me a prescription, and I need to buy some pills.
10. My baby has a bad cold.


1. Describe the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
2. Describe the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician.
3. Why do you think the specialists described in h through p are "not classified as part of the medical profession"?


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

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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