Zackary Sholem Berger posts about how he combines his medical studies with his interest in languages:
Like every other medical student, I have a command of several different kinds of medical terminology: the mind-numbing jargon of the scientific literature, the half-macho talk of rounds and last but certainly not least important, the normal words people use to talk in English about whatever’s the matter with them.
It’s this last kind of vocabulary that I lack in Spanish. I can talk a blue streak about genetic predispositions and infectious agents, about endoscopies and anesthesia — these are international terms, much the same in Spanish, English and many other languages. But lay language is different. I’ve already experienced a certain kind of linguistic blockage more than once. I’ve started a conversation with a Spanish-speaking patient, we’ve built up something of a rapport, she’s complimented my Spanish, I’ve figured out why she’s come to the hospital. Then, all of a sudden, I need to ask a specific question to narrow down the field of possible diagnoses. I use what I think is the right word, and one of two expressions appears on the patient’s face: either outright incomprehension, or a polite glazed-over look that means, “I’m going to keep my mouth shut until I can figure out what the heck this nice doctor is saying.” It’s then that I have to search my dusty old neurons for a Spanish word I learned once, many years ago, or for a synonym that’s used in the home country of this particular patient. During one memorable conversation, a patient and I sat through a long, awkward pause before she figured out that I was asking about her period.
He points out that a lot of people would think he should be concentrating on the medical stuff, but says “I’m a person who doesn’t mind sacrificing a little efficiency (or even a lot) to get a good conversation going with the person sitting in front of me. Will that make me a better doctor? Beats me, but I know I’ll have more fun this way.” I personally think it will make him a better doctor, and in fact one reason my wife and I like our current doctor so much is that he actually converses with us as well as treating us. It is possible to be (in the words of his clever title) a medicine mensch.
Incidentally, poetry readers will also find his previous post, a review of a new translation of Pessoa, of interest.