What's in a Name: Nominative Determinism in Medicine

(Image credit: Flickr user MR38.)

Nominative determinism is the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate toward a profession that is reflected in their name. The Wikipedia page cites a 1977 article titled "The Urethral Syndrome: Experience with the Richardson Urethroplasty" co-authored by two Australian doctors named Splatt and Weedon as one of the inspirations for the term. It's not clear whether this is really a trend, or whether those who fit the theory just get attention for it. However, it seems to be rampant in the medical profession. This could be because we have so many terms associated with health and illness. The wide use of euphemisms plays a part, as you can tell in the great number of urologists and gynecologists that fit the profile. Let's meet some of them.

If you've been on the internet for any time at all, you'll be familiar with the famous Dr. Dick Chopp. Chopp is a urologist who does vasectomies in Austin, Texas. Really.

Dr. Benjamin Leak is a urologist at Chalien & Leak Urology, Ltd. in Blooomington, Illinois.

Mr. Nicholas Waterfall is Consultant Urological Surgeon at Manor Hospital in Biddenham, Bedford, UK. Yes, surgeons in Britain are titled Mr. or Ms. instead of Dr. by the tradition handed down from the 18th century.

Dr. Ralph Zipper leads a team of urogynecologists at Zipper Urogynecology Associates, with three locations in Florida where they offer treatments for female bladder and bowel control conditions. Granted, his name would be funnier if he treated male patients. 

Gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Harry Beaver of Fairfax, Virginia, gained some notoriety as the epitome of nominative determinism. However, it appears that he is now retired.

Dr. Elizabeth Puscheck is an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices at DMC Harper University Hospital and at DMC-Sinai-Grace Hospital in Southfield, Michigan.

Dr. Ramin Jamm is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Aiea, Hawaii.

Dr. Tara Cherry is a gynecologist at Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, Texas. Her biography notes that she is married to her high school sweetheart, but we don't know whether she uses her maiden name or married name professionally. However, we should charitably assume that her parents did not deliberately name her Tara Cherry.  

Dr. Lauren Hyman is a gynecologist at Partnership for Women's Health in West Hills, California. She said she decided against changing her name when she got married, because she already had the perfect name. And she didn't want to have to change her stationery. She was featured on a segment of Jimmy Kimmel Live last summer, along with other people who have perfect names for their occupation.  

(YouTube link)

Dr. Chip Silvertooth, the Austin dentist with a sense of humor, is named Eugene, but his friends really call him Chip.

Dr. Adrienne L. Fang has a practice in Valencia, California, and she's also on the faculty of the UCLA School of Dentistry. Her practice offers communication in a variety of languages.

The Annals of Improbable Research cited a study on pain authored by a team led by Peter Paine of the University of Manchester, UK. A little digging uncovered more of his research. Dr. Paine is a gastroenterologist who you can see in a video here

Another gastroenterologist who may have benefitted from nominative determinism is Dr. Warren G. Butt, a gastroenterologist in Delaware.

Dr. J. Patrick Rash is a dermatologist practicing with Dermatology Associates in Kingsport, Tennessee.   

Dr. Attu U. Butt has a practice in Safety Harbor, Florida. His area? Internal medicine.

Dr. Noah Lott practices family medicine in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His name gave him much to live up to, and I'm sure he would have studied hard to be successful in any occupation he chose.  

Historical Bonus: Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss may seem like a redundancy, but his first name really was Doctor. When he was born in 1825, his parents named him after the surgeon Dr. Samuel Willard. Dr. Bliss went on to a distinguished career that included treating President Zachary Taylor for malaria in 1844 and then treating President James A. Garfield after he was assassinated in 1881. Garfield survived for almost three months after the shooting. Despite his double name and famed patients, many historians consider Dr. Bliss to have been a quack.

Special thanks to Bad Newspaper for the ad clippings.

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