The Death of Specialization

By NIRAN AL-AGBA, MD (20)

George Orwell undated BBC photo, via Wikimedia Commons / Penguin India

“If you control the language, you control the argument
If you control the argument, you control information, 
If you control information, you control history, 
If you control history, you control the past. 
He who controls the past controls the future.”
— Big Brother, 1984. (George Orwell)

Allow me to submit to you: a physician should be called a “physician.” A nurse practitioner should be identified as “nurse practitioner.” Please call a physician assistant, “physician assistant.” These are accurate titles, reflective of their specialized education, training, and expertise. They are all venerated professions which share a mutual goal of improving patient’s lives, yet the vocations are fundamentally different.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
   — George Orwell

A central message of 1984 is that language shapes thought by structuring ideals and limiting ideas. Imprecise syntax spreads by imitation and tradition, even among those people – like physicians–who should know better. Some young physicians do not realize that the word “provider” undermines their profession by devaluing their specialized education and training. 

My request:  Stop calling physicians “providers.” It is insulting, personally and professionally.

Language is a powerful tool.  It doesn’t just allow us to communicate; it is a way to change culture and control people. History has shown us that every oppressive regime to come into power, did so by shifting language and influencing thoughts in order to alter perception and then, form a new reality. There is a word for this weaponization of language.

Propaganda.

Continue reading

If You Call Me a Provider, I Will Assume You are a Nazi

By NIRAN AL-AGBA, MD

As a physician, I am proud of the degree I earned. Upon graduation from medical school, my diploma conferred the title of physician and medical doctor, it did not say “provider.” The word “doctor” originates from the Latin “docere”, meaning to teach. I value highly my role as a teacher to patients, students, residents and colleagues. Physicians should accept nothing less than the title we worked hard to obtain through a great deal of personal and professional sacrifice.  It was a small price to pay to join that sacred society of men and women who have devoted their lives to healing.

Calling me a “provider” is a professional insult, no different from that of discriminating based on my race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.  The source of any argument can often be found by looking at the language used to frame it. Something about the word provider has always bothered me. So I decided to investigate and learn a little about the history of the word. As I researched this story, I made a very interesting discovery, which surprised me. It turns out the term “provider” was first utilized by The Third Reich, who embraced it to devalue Jewish physicians as medical professionals.  

Continue reading