Spencer C. Knox, MD

Internal Medicine Resident Physician, PGY-3

Tag: doctor

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

PGY-1 “Intern” Year In Review

It’s time for the obligatory “year in review” post, and I couldn’t be more proud.  Intern year is an emotional rollercoaster, marked by episodes of triumph and failure.  The year is almost over, and I am (anxiously) awaiting my second year of residency training.  Finishing intern year (first year) is a huge milestone in my professional medical career.  Many medical students ask me:  “Any advice for my first year of residency?”  My answer:  The learning curve is supremely steep; the first few months – really the entire twelve months – are extraordinarily difficult no matter your rank within your medical school class.  Personally, I worked hard to maintain a top ranking position within my med school class, but still felt the full burden of the many lessons that intern year teaches.

Dr. ________, (you) are responsible for official-record documentation

From Day 1, most specialties require new baby doctors, aka “Interns,” to be responsible for patient History & Physical’s and Progress notes.  These are the real-deal.  Gone are the days that your medial student notes are reviewed by the resident or faculty mentor and then set aside for your next practice H&P/progress note.  Other physicians, residents, and nurses will read your documentation and you will be judged accordingly.

Dr. ________, can patient in room 618 eat?

I was asked this question during my first official pre-rounds on adult wards.  I had no idea if the patient could eat and had to consult with my senior resident.  You as the new intern will be asked this simple, yet important, question.  Answering wrong means the vascular surgeon won’t be able to operate as scheduled.  Your patient could continue to suffer and your consultant surgeon won’t be happy.  Synthesizing pertinent data points is no easy task for a baby doctor, but you will learn quickly.  Trust your seniors to help you early on, and remember your cases.

Patient in ED bed 23 needs something for pain.

Many rising PGY-2’s will probably agree that the first days of intern year are scary in that YOU are now responsible for some of the orders (and likely all of the orders as your PGY-1 year progresses).  Every medication has its therapeutic (good) effects and adverse effects (some potentially deadly!).  I’ll never forget some of the very first few pages I got from floor and ER nurses asking me for medication orders.  For IM, the very long list includes pain control, blood pressure reduction, fast heart rate control.  A ubiquitous order request is for pain control.  Everyone, including the layperson, is aware of some of the deadly effects of opiate pain killers.  Yet, as an internal medicine, surgical, etc. intern, you’ll be asked to evaluate a variety of cases that require high-intensity pain control medications.  This happens month one of residency.  This is another instance where your senior will help guide you, in most cases.  It’s scary yes, but be prepared for it and you’ll get through it too!


Intern year was amazing.  I love Internal Medicine.  It’s a cerebral specialty – your thinking will either positively, neutrally, or negatively affect your patient’s wellbeing.  That’s powerful.  The learning curve from medical student to intern year (first year of residency) is STEEP.  Just when you feel you know everything about Atrial Fibrillation with Rapid Ventricular Rate, you’ll be presented with a new patient who hosts a complex medical history and be forced to rethink how to care for this particular patient.  Other specialties are not dissimilar; I enjoy talking to everyone about ways they’ve needed to evolve their thinking.

Intern year = baby doctor learning the basics of the basics, lessons required to become an independently practicing doctor.

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