Tackling the Learning Curve of Medical Terminology: Experience of a Medical Student with a Background in Classical Languages
Keywords:Undergraduate Medical Education, Medical Student, Terminology, Anatomy, History of Medicine
Upon entering medical school, many students encounter a steep learning curve when handling the vast and intricate vocabulary that healthcare workers use daily. Since the basis of medical terminology has developed from the roots of classical languages, it would theoretically be helpful to provide medical students with a foundational knowledge of Latin and Greek. My experience with learning classical languages before entering medical school has allowed me to have a formulaic approach when tackling unfamiliar medical terminology. By breaking up medical terms like transsphenoidal hypophysectomy into their respective roots, I can create a quick definition for myself before being given any formal teaching on the matter. The primary advantage of this learning style is that it reduces the burden of memorization on the student. The lectures from medical school help refine the preliminary definitions, which makes memorization much easier since students already have a basic framework for each new term encountered. However, certain considerations need to be kept in mind when utilizing the classical approach to understanding medical terminology. For example, the Latin and Greek roots cannot define eponyms like Wilson’s disease, named after the person who discovered the disease, or provide information on medications as their names have non-classical origins. Overall from my experience, the benefits of the formulaic approach make it a valuable tool during the initial years of medical school when the content is taught in a classroom setting and it can provide the foundation for an easier transition into the clinical environment.
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