Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 5 - Page 22

REFLECTIONS : WHAT ’ S IN A NAME ? AUTHOR Teresita Bacani-Oropilla , MD
REFLECTIONS

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young physician kisses his sleepy wife , “ I am leaving for early rounds , sweetie ,” he says , to which his wife answers , “ Be safe , John . Mwah !”
One evening , a drug rep meets a lady at a hotel . “ Good evening , Mrs . Brown . I am Douglas Boone ,
I come to host your women ’ s meeting .”
Two occasions , two ways of using names . Do we ever consider how precious our names are ? Why we were named so ? It distinguishes us , one from the other . Was yours something special ? Was it chosen to perpetuate a loved one , to establish a dynasty , to give a role model to follow ? Or was it conveyed in jest , because you showed the characteristics of one , even as they were changing your diapers ? Or were your name givers just following a trend ?
We thus have royal and unroyal families with names like Hilario I , II , III ad infinitum , all carried with pride . We know the series of Thereses in the 1920s after a saintly French nun of that period . There were many Georges after the first US President , and later Abrahams or Abes after the great emancipator . We seldom hear of Ciriacos , Cirilos , or Clovises nowadays , nor Policarpias , Patrias , nor Pocianas too .
Even in those days , some modernized their names to suit their times . A certain Policarpia , named after a grandmother , preferred to be called Polly . She was a teacher and a beauty queen . She probably thought Policarpia did not cut it .
In these modern times , we do hear of Elvises , Princes , Ellens , Joys , Dianas , Peaces and Mavericks . We know Taylors , McKenzies , Danas , Pats and Jamies of either sex . It seems that names have evolved through the years , became more fanciful , descriptive or named after present heroes or entertainers . Most people love their monikers and live up to expectations , others however , do not , and tread their own path .
This brings us to the related subject of honorifics . Do they mean anything nowadays ? Do they still serve a purpose ? An elderly patient
20 LOUISVILLE MEDICINE

REFLECTIONS : WHAT ’ S IN A NAME ? AUTHOR Teresita Bacani-Oropilla , MD

in his eighties sat quietly awaiting his turn to be seen by a doctor . Soon an aide comes out , calls him by his first name , tells him to come in , weighs him and leads him to a room . He is then questioned about his symptoms and medications as she records them in a computer . He is then told to wait until the doctor comes in .
While waiting , the old patient sadly ponders how medical practice had changed since he himself had cared for patients as an internist for 45 years . They were people with names , feelings , fears and hopes that their ailments would be diagnosed and cured . Now he felt he had been a “ nobody ” who ’ d been run through a conveyor belt ! He hoped that at least the doctor would treat him as he himself had done in the past , i . e ., as a person .
Would it have changed the way the old guy was treated ( it definitely would have changed how he felt about that office ) if he had been addressed by his honorific “ Dr . Old Person ”? Or is that no longer relevant in this busy “ everyone is equal ” days ? Why are people not instructed properly in basic etiquette , or is the use of first name only a way to preserve privacy in the waiting room ? Either way , in private , it grates to hear a young person addressing an old one on an immediate first-name basis : inside the exam room , certainly a full name with title can and should be used .
For instance , at a certain veteran ’ s clinic , patients were never called by their first names at first sight . The honorific “ Mr .” was used , since rank was not always on the chart . This courtesy was well deserved and pleasing to our veterans who had served and risked their lives in Korea , Vietnam and the Middle East . Their services were part of what they were and defined them . The honorific “ Mr .” acknowledged that .
First names , on the other hand , in many cultures , denote equality , friendship , camaraderie and even intimacy . Could it be the content , the tone of voice , that get the point across ?
What ’ s in a name ? MUCH INDEED ! “ USE WITH CARE !!” .
Dr . Bacani-Oropilla is a retired pediatrician and child psychiatrist .