Origin of ‘Doctor,’ a Resident’s Perspective

It’s extremely helpful and interesting to know the origin of words.  People working in medicine are delineated, in part, by their title.  It assists patients and professional colleagues in knowing who to trust when information is needed.  A key member of the medical team is the doctor, also known as physician.

Where does ‘Doctor’ come from?

A quick query in the dictionary yields the origin of ‘doctor,’ docere (translation:  to teach).  First coined in De Oratore (55 BC) by Cicero, the famous Roman politician and lawyer, the word has solidified its place in our lexicon.  It defines an individual who is expected to know relevant facts, be able to apply those facts in a logistically feasible fashion, and efficiently communicate that information to the patient and/or staff.

Of note, the role of a resident doctor/physician is humbling in a number of ways.  Perpetually learning myself, I find that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  Translation:  there is always something new to learn.

As part of an academic program, residency gives us residents the opportunity to impart our knowledge on medical students.  I love to teach what I know.  It’s especially enjoyable to see the reaction on a student’s face when your explanation results in a “lightbulb”-type moment.  No matter the level of training, the role of the doctor is to teach; the list includes medical students, nurses, medical assistants, and non-medical staff.

Origin of ‘Physician’

Doctor and physician are synonymous.  I find it important to remind myself that physicians are expected to provide a trusted source of information in the treatment of living beings – people.  We are also looked upon to prove that our teachings – recommendations – translate to a healthier life.  I hope to improve my knowledge and wellbeing a little everyday, so that I can one day show a new med student, resident, anyone that anything is possible.

Definition source:  New Oxford American Dictionary

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