Apr 18, 2009

Why We Love Abbr.

Remember not so long ago in Form 5 English lesson when the teacher repeatedly emphasized no abbreviations in your essay. Yes, not a single one she says, not even in describing daily scenarios like "Dad and I bought some DVDs and watched TV at home for the remainder of the night."
Now, basically everything we approach daily are abbreviations. I guess it's common of human nature to be lazy, especially so when you're discussing genetics or molecular biology - you don't expect your lab professor talking "Now, we know that cyclosporin will activate mammalian activator of T cell. Hence mammalian activator of T cell is an important factor in regulating immune response. Inhibition of mammalian activator of T cell using Fermentek catalogue number 506 will decrease autoimmune diseases effectively." Hail Mary.
While abbr. comes in handy when we're discussing knowledge or writing for a Nobel prize, massive appearance of them on textbooks are specially annoying. When you already have words occupying the entire page, and what you want to do is just to finish the chapter and go to sleep, here they come:

[blah blah blah]...once the FRC has been determined, the RV can be determined by subtracting the ERV from the FRC. Also, the TLC can be determined by adding IC to FRC...[blah blah blah]
[yadda yadda] asthmatic and diabetic patients should use ACEIs because activation of the RAAS will not severely affect... [yadda yadda]
What's more, medical abbr. alters your perception of your previous learned abbreviations. We have MD, which years of dictionary flipping tells me it is 'doctor of medicine', but my doctors told me it is macula densa (something to do with cells). We have CA, which our American friends would proudly say that's the state of California, but we read as 'cancer' (so seeing CA on your disease description doesn't mean you won a free trip there). We see MH, which I proudly reads aloud 'Malaysia Airlines', but my teacher whacks me and say 'watch your mental health, or else you'll not be graduating'.
Of course, we have the more complicated abbr. as well. Think p53, BCL2, CsA, TxA2, MAPKKK which activates MAPKK which activates MAPK which activates MAP. See kRAS, c-myc, 15q11, HbSAg. Now you know why we are so prone to unstable MH, and we have an average LE of 10 years shorter than the MLE (mean life expectancy).
And if you think a medical student's job is to match an alphabet to another and form the longest abbr. you can think of, think again. The names, be it diseases, cells, or medical equipment - accumulated across the century with every doctor hoping to patch something up in the medicine hall of fame. Reed-Sternberg cell, Hodgkin lymphoma, Churg-Strauss disease, Osler-Weber-Rendu disease, Takayasu disease, Aschoff bodies - is it so much fun attaching your name on a disease you find? Which causes death across worldwide hospitals every year? - "Oh, my in-law died from Kawasaki disease." I personally think the WHO should just impose a law 'no more human names on human diseases', which would reduce our disease names to merely 'liver cancer type 2c-7ja' or something like that.
So next time you see a medical student, don't start pouring out how you admire a job which is recession-proof or earns a stable and happy income. Tell them you understand medical school is next to hell and you will be with them even if MS or the MB decides to abbr. everything ASAP. And tell them you'd be a compliant patient who requests for DNR (do not resucsitate) if the time comes and will not do anything AMA (against medical advice).


Anonymous said...

medical field is full of challenging. It brings life n hope to mankind. I salute the medical research for their spirit n prof. ethic. Son, u are smart n lucky to be in the medical field , so....son, keep it up! we will always be with u.

Sheah Qin said...

Hi Jun Yi,
This is Xiaoqun from Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore Branch). I work for the Translation Department and is currently compiling an article about the topic of Silent Mentors for our next magazine. I found your blog by chance and I think your entries in the "From Anatomy Hall" section are very interesting. I wonder if I could adapt them for the article I'm working on?
Please let me know by my email: xiaoqun@tzuchi.org.sg / MSN: sillybirdy21@hotmail.com / Skype: xiaoqun_singapore. I look forward to your favorable reply. Many thanks!

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