Livin' on the MDedge

Many specialists are on the wrong side of the patient-jargon relationship


Doctor, doctor, gimme the news. I got a bad case of misidentifying you

There are a lot of medical specialties out there. A lot. Everything from allergists to urologists, with something like 150 subspecialties grouped in among the larger specialties. Can you name every one? Do you know what they do?

The point is, telling a patient or anyone in the general public that you’re an ophthalmologist may not be as helpful as you might think, if a recent study is to be believed. In a survey of 204 adults, conducted at the Minnesota State Fair of all places, researchers asked volunteers to define 14 different specialties, as well as five medical seniority titles.

Doctor surrounded by question marks Minerva Studio/ThinkStock

The results were less than stellar. While more than 90% of people correctly defined what cardiologists and dermatologists do, 6 of the other 12 specialists were correctly identified by less than half of those surveyed. Nephrology was at the bottom, correctly identified by just 20% of the fair-attending public, followed by internists (21%), intensivists (29%), hospitalists (31%), pulmonologists (43%), and neonatologists at 48%. The hospitalists are particularly concerning. They’re doctors, but in hospitals. How hard is that? (Yes, it’s obviously more complicated than that, but still.)

The general public didn’t fare much better when it came to correctly lining up the order of progression from medical student to attending. Just 12% managed to place all five in the correct order of med student, intern, senior resident, fellow, then attending, with senior resident proving especially troublesome. More than 40% put senior resident at the end, compared with 27% for attending. Which does make a certain amount of sense, since it has senior in the name.

While the results speak for themselves – maybe elaborate on what the heck your fancy title actually means – it’s too bad the researchers didn’t throw in something really tricky. If two-thirds of the population can’t identify a hospitalist, just imagine how many people would misidentify an otolaryngologist.

Beach-to-table sand could fight obesity

People are always looking for the new weight loss solution. Whether it’s to just look good in a new pair of jeans or reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, there are millions of diets and exercise routines out here. We’re here to tell you that the next new therapy to reduce fat comes from a very unsuspecting place: Sand.

Sand dune David Stanley

Like sand from the beach and desert, sand? Well, yes and no.

The research involved engineered porous silica particles made from sand that are designed to have a high surface area. Investigators used a two-step GI model in which gastric digestion was modeled for 30 minutes, followed by a 60-minute intestinal phase, to show that the porous silica particles helped prevent fat and sugar adsorption within the GI tract.

By mimicking the gastrointestinal environment during digestion of a high-fat, high-carb meal, the researchers found that the porous silica created an “anti-obesity effect” by restricting the adsorption of those fats and carbohydrates.

Okay, but how is that on the tummy? Much gentler on the stomach than a drug such as orlistat, said senior researcher Paul Joyce, PhD, of the University of South Australia, Adelaide, who noted the lack of effective therapies without side effects, such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, that deter people from treatment.

Obesity affects over 1.9 billion people worldwide, so the researchers think this could be a breakthrough. Reducing obesity may be one of the most preventable ways to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other weight-related chronic conditions. A treatment solution this simple could be the answer to this global health crisis.

Who would have thought the solution would be as simple as sand? But how would the sand get in our stomachs? Do we sprinkle it on our food? Mix it in during cooking? Or will the sand come in pill form? We sure hope it’s that third one.


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