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A Piece of My Mind |

Learning to Talk

Alison Landrey, MD
JAMA. 2012;308(2):145-146. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.7435.
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Like Verghese's main character in Cutting for Stone, whose initial encounters with medical words are described above, as a beginning first-year medical student I was fascinated by the utility and beauty of the language of medicine. We started out learning the musculoskeletal system, and I quickly realized that this really was an entirely new language, and not an easy one. I briefly regretted not having studied Latin in high school, yet there were still so many connections to be made to words in English and the romance languages I had studied that it was likely almost as fun. The other women in my study group and I did pirouettes to remember piriformis and gave ourselves headaches demonstrating the two heads of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the platysmus, which called to mind a platypus tail. The Lachrymose section of Mozart's Requiem sounded in my head as I located the lachrymal duct on our cadaver. I marveled that I would have spent my life not knowing the names of these parts of the body had I not gone into medicine. I felt privileged to be taught such an intimate road map to the bodies all of us are born and die with.


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