Medical Terminology – A Whole New Language

“Most of the time, I don’t understand what the doctors are talking about. They talk so fast and use so many words and phrases that I don’t know the meaning of ; how am I supposed to make sense of all of this if we are not speaking the same language?”


This is the official written documentation and record of your child’s medical history. It includes your child’s birth information, any childhood illnesses, immunizations, and a history of any symptoms that your child has told you about or has exhibited. Your child’s medical history will also include the both sides of the family’s medical history.

Remember that there may be different types of doctors involved in your child’s care and this may get confusing. Therefore you may be asked for your child’s medical history several times by doctors and nurses.

Family Medical History is important information to have regarding whether someone in your family has had one of the following “kinds” of disease:

Genetic diseases – genes and cells that did not grow normally.

Infectious diseases – infected “bug or agent” that gets into the body causing disease.

Congenital abnormalities – born with something not normal.


Social history—people or situations that affect the way people feel or behave.

Symptoms—any change in the body or its functions that may point to having illness or disease.

Conditions—a state of being, as in being whole, fit and/or abnormal.

Be sure you write your child’s history and physical information down and take a copy of it with you to every appointment.

 The Physical part of the History and Physical:

The physical part of the H+P is a record of the physical exam—from head to toe—with emphasis on different areas depending on who is doing the exam.

An example would be that your child needs to see the neurologist and the ophthalmologist

Neurologist —will focus on the function of the nervous system—brain and spinal cord—how you move, do you feel hot and cold, pain and movement of various parts of the body.

Ophthalmologist —will focus on vision—eyesight– and an examination of the eyes and eye movements—do both eyes move together or are they “crossed” or does one not move at all or only in certain directions.

Below you will find a list of definitions of the different types of doctors, branches of medicine, people of medicine, general medical words and terms, laboratory tests and finally x-rays.


Medical students – people who are studying to be doctors.

Intern – doctors who are in their first year of formal clinical training with patients. They have graduated medical school and have received their “MD” (medical degree).

Residents—doctors who have finished at least initial stage of clinical training (medical school and internship) and beginning more specialized training and responsibility for diagnosis and care of patients and their treatment

Fellows— doctors on their way to becoming formal faculty of medical school as a particular type of Specialist.

Primary Care Physician (PCP) – doctor that has broad range of care for preventive & curative treatments.

Specialty Care Physician – doctor that has specialized training in a particular field of care.

Sub-specialists – doctor that requires extra training in a particular field of care.

Pediatrician – doctor specializing in the care of children.

Attending Physician – formal faculty member/doctor who is responsible for supervising, teaching, training hospital staff such as interns, residents, fellows and medical students. They are the ‘doctor in charge’.

Article contributed by Dr. Michelle Simon, MD, PhD