Medical profession

I Am a Doctor—Not a Health Care Provider

Wayne State University

Dr Fischer is professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. He is also co-chief of the division of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine in the Carman & Ann Adams department of pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

In February 2006, I wrote a Commentary for this journal titled Skeptical Sentiments, in which I described things that I did not trust; for example, “Doctors who refer to a child or baby as it.” My list of 20 items prompted readers to send in lists of things that they didn’t trust. One such item was “Parents who say their 2-year-old knows not to touch the stove.” From these responses, a list was compiled and published as More Skeptical Sentiments in August 2006.

Since then, I’ve had some time to think of more things I don’t like. One of these things is the disappearance of clear language. Here is a list of terms in danger of being replaced by jargon and other vagaries that I—and many other doctors—hear or read on a daily basis:

I am a doctor ... not a “health care provider.”

I belong to a profession … not an “industry.”

I see patients ... not “customers” or “clients.”

My patients have (or don’t have) medical problems … not “health issues.”

I give medical care … I do not create or produce a “product.”

I see pre-adolescent children … not “tweens.”

My patients are patients not “revenue streams” or “profit centers.”

I learned somewhere along the way that clear language reflects clear thinking. What kind of thinking is being reflected by the fuzzy (at best), business-flavored (at worst) language described above? 

Share Your Thoughts

Dr Fischer invites you to send him your list of things you don’t like. His email address is Or you can add your list to his commentary online in “Post new comment” (see below).

The Editors