The Name

“a suffix of nouns, often corresponding to verbs ending in -ize or nouns ending in -ism, that denote a person who practices or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines, etc.” –

Primary care physicians and specialists.

Internists and surgeons.

Audiologists, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, hematologists, neurologists, oncologists, radiologists…

The list goes on and on, filled with “ists” for the various anatomical parts, functions, and anomalies. With so many divisions and subdivisions in medicine, it is possible to become more focused on how health care professionals are different rather than on how they are alike. Identities are described with adjectives drawn from disciplines and departments and degrees.

At this time, my own place in the world of medicine is described in terms of my degree, or more specifically, my lack of one. I am a second-year medical student. No “M.D.” follows the name embroidered with red thread on my white coat, and I still feel a bit awkward at times in that coat.

I know that there are those who have more experience than I and can speak better on the topic of how medicine has become a highly specialized field, but I’d like to share my hope as a med student. Regardless of which medical field I ultimately pursue, my dream is to identify myself throughout my career as a stethoscopist—as one who connects with my patients in a personal way and always recognizes and respects the beauty of their humanity. This, more than anything else, is what health care professionals are. We are stethoscopists.

The concept of being a stethoscopist was inspired by something I heard about Stanford before I matriculated here. At Stanford, the traditional White Coat Ceremony—where all incoming first-years are initiated into the field of medicine—is instead called the Stethoscope Ceremony. The philosophy behind this is that the stethoscope, rather than the white coat, unites the physician and patient. The stethoscope symbolizes the human connection.

And at the end of the day, that is why we are here.

Please come and join me on my journey to becoming a stethoscopist…and if I one day have the privilege of placing a stethoscope chestpiece against your skin, I’ll do my best to remember to warm it up first.

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