Letters to the Editor
We strongly resonate with Dr. Steinert's comments. Language including the terms and/or labels we use is often infused with a multiplicity of meanings—sometimes reflecting unstated and/or even unconscious assumptions about “the nature of things.” When this discourse takes place around sites of hierarchy, such as a work environment traditionally controlled by one group (for example, physicians), these terms/labels can reproduce and reinforce existing (if sometimes invisible) power relations. Examples include, as Dr. Steinert points out, defining one group in terms of another (usually more powerful) one. Even entire sectors (e.g., complementary and alternative medicine) can be alter-casted. Given how easy it is to miss these cues, it is well that we periodically revisit how we label and tag things, particularly when the usualness of our ways is undergoing change (which certainly is the case for health care and medical education).
Frederick W. Hafferty, PhD
Professor of behavioral sciences, University of Minnesota Medical School–Duluth, Duluth, Minnesota; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janet Hafler, EdD
Visiting scholar, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.