Medical education is writhe with terms that to the outside world are confusing or even misleading. I hope this glossary of terms in medical education can shed some light on the mystery.

  • Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) – The gateway to the MCAT, medical school applications and the residency match. You will get to know them well!
  • Adcom – Short for admissions committee. This is the group of people who determine who gets accepted to medical school by interviewing students and evaluating their applications.
  • American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) – Run by the AAMC, they are the clearing house for medical school applications.
  • Attending – A physician who has completed their formal training including medical school, residency and possibly fellowship.
  • Allopathic medicine – The traditional form of medical school in which students will earn a medical doctor, or MD, degree after completing the requirements.
  • Basic science years – Traditionally the first two years of medical school which consist of mostly classroom based learning much like one would experience in undergraduate.
  • Clinical years – Traditionally the second two years of medical school which consist of mostly hospital based learning.
  • COMLEX – Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam; The equivalent to the USMLE in the osteopathic word. A three-part exam taken throughout your medical training.
  • Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) – Like AMCAS is for medical school applications, ERAS is the clearinghouse for applications to both osteopathic and allopathic residency programs.
  • Fellow(ship) – The next step after residency. Physicians completing a fellowship are receiving highly specialized training within a sub-specialty. For instance, one must complete a cardiology fellowship after completing an internal medicine residency to become a cardiologist.
  • Fire hose, The – Often used to describe the voluminous amount of information thrown at your during medical school. “It’s like trying to drink from a fire hose”.
  • GI Rounds– Discussing your patient census over food.
  • Golden Weekend – The rare occurrence when you are post-call Friday and have the two subsequent Saturday and Sunday off making for a three day weekend.
  • Gomer – Get Out of My Emergency Room. In the words of Samuel Shem in The House of God: 

Gomers are human beings who have lost what goes into being human beings. They want to die, and we will not let them.

  • Intern – A physician in their first year of post-graduate training. This person has a medical degree (MD or DO) but is just getting their feet wet. You will often find them in a pile of scut.
  • Match, The – A system which determines which residency a medical student attends. Based on a computer algorithm that combines a rank list submitted by medical students and residency programs to determine the most desirable position possible for each student.
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) – A computer based exam covering the physical sciences, verbal reasoning and biological sciences. Each section is scored on a 1-15 point scale for a combined score of 3-45. Required for admission to medical school
  • National Resident Matching Progra (NRMP) – The program that actually RUNS the match, even though you applied through ERAS (confusing isn’t it)
  • Osteopathic medicine – A less recognized branch of traditional medicine which spends additional time focusing on the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. Students will earn a doctor of osteopathy, or DO, degree after completing the requirements. It is important to note that DOs can practice in all specialties and have all the same practice rights as MDs.
  • Pimping – It ain’t easy. A question on medical knowledge posed by someone of a higher authority to someone of lesser (i.e. attending to medical student) of during rounds in front of a group of your peers. Based on the Socratic method of teaching.
  • q2, q3 etc. – q simply stands for “every”. For instance, “I am on call q3” means I take call every third day.
  • Residency – A 3-5 year training period after graduating from medical school in which you practice under the tutelage of a group of attending physicians. You will need to complete a residency in a specific field to become board certified.
  • Resident – The next step after internship. Still a trainee that reports to an attending physician but is given greater and greater levels of responsibility as they progress through their training.
  • Rounds – A session in which the team, consisting of attending, residents, interns and medical students goes throughout the hospital and develops a plan for each patient on the service.
  • Scrubbing in – The act of sterilizing your hands and dawning sterile garb such that you can operate on a patient while minimizing the risk of transferring bacteria.
  • Scrub nurse – the person who gowns and gloves you in the OR. Notorious for hating on medical students. Do your best to make friends.
  • Scut – Boring, monotonous work often handled by interns and medical students most of which a well trained orangutang could do.
  • Sub-I – Meaning sub-internship. A rotation that can be done in the 4th year of medical school where you function as an intern.. Typically done to try to impress a residency program you are interested in attending.
  • USMLE – United States Medical Licensing Exam; A three-part exam taken over the course of your medical education. The scores of the first two sections are heavily weighted by programs evaluating you for residency positions. Required for MD or Allopathic students but taken by many DO or Osteopathic students as well.
  • Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS) – A service which many medical students are required to use to apply for elective rotations at outside hospitals (aka another way for them to get your money)
  • Work hours – A relatively new set of restrictions on the amount of hours interns/residents/fellows can work now limited to 80 hours per week with specific requirements on the amount of time off between shifts.

Do you have anything you would like to see added to the medical education glossary?


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