UVA Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society: Saying What We Mean—How Medical Language Reveals and Conceals

April 11, 2024 by

Location: Leonard Sandridge Auditorium (McKim Hall)

Date: Apr 24, 2024 - Apr 24, 2024

Start Time: 12:00 pm

End Time: 1:00 pm

Event Link

Anna DeForest, MD, MFA

Neurologist & Supportive Care Physician, Memorial Sloan Kettering
Cancer Center, New York City

Problems in language create a gulf between medical providers and patients, affecting relationship-building, medical understanding, therapeutic adherence and health outcomes. Physicians pride themselves on scientific rigor, but tend to overlook the complex subjectivities that impact patient wellbeing as much as, or more so than, cell biology, biochemistry or pharmacology. By examining the relationship between language and other cognitive processes, we build a deeper respect for the impact of the words we use, not just when we are speaking to patients, but in our discourse with each other, and even in the reasoning we perform alone in our heads.

An examination of medical language including consideration of syntax, etymology and rhetorical forms provides a useful taxonomy for the strangeness of medical speech: from jargon to euphemism, passive voice to circumlocution, the commonalities of medical phrasing can reveal to us our weaknesses, biases and unmet needs. This will be an interactive session on the uses and harms of habitual medical language, and an invitation to self-examination through the lens of the words we use in practice every day.

Lunch will be provided for the first 40 in-person attendees.

For more information about this event, please contact Charlene Kaufman.

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