Informant Data: The informant is a second year medical student at John A. Burns School of Medicine with the University of Hawaii. She is Caucasian, and with a distant Irish and Russian lineage that she feels little connection to. She grew up in Seattle, Washington, and obtained an undergraduate degree in Bio-medical Engineering before starting her medical school journey. She is very enthusiastic about medicine and healing people.
Item: the slang term “pimping” as used within the medical community. The following quotations are direct transcriptions of my dialogue with the informant, while the additional information provided is paraphrased.
Contextual Data: My informant was introduced to the term by a classmate in the first few weeks of medical school. My informant defines it as “when an attending asks a difficult question to a group of students to test their knowledge and often it’s with the hope that they answer wrong. Sometimes it’s just to test your knowledge, but it’s often asking a question beyond your background of knowledge. If the student gets the question wrong, then the attending may use it to show your inferiority or make fun of you.” By far, this is not a uniform practice among attendings; however, the term is not restricted to the informant’s campus and is used widely among medical students across the nation. The informant explained the term as an acronym for being “Put In My Place” (PIMP’ed) by a superior. Additionally, the connection to the common colloquial use of “pimping” is the implication that the attending is trying to “trick” you, utilizing a clever play on words to mask the negative implications to outsiders. The informant provided three examples to showcase the context in which the term may be applied:
“So the attending says, “what would the differential diagnosis of a neonate with vomiting?” And when the student (who happens to be obese) ran out of suggestions for a diagnosis and admitted he didn’t know, the attending then said, “Yeah well, it looks like you have no trouble keeping anything down.” This exemplifies how the inability to answer the posed question correctly enables an attending to poke fun at the student’s inferiority, whether it is personal or work-related.
“Neurologist: What would be the presentation of a patient with Moyamoya disease?
Neurologist: Moyamoya disease.
Neurologist: Moyamoya disease.
Student (sounding it out): Mm-mmyeah-mmyweah disease?”
This example shows how students may be singled out and asked a question far beyond their first-year knowledge and studies, to the extent that the student doesn’t even recognize the name of disease they are being quizzed on.
“Endocrinologist: what is the differential diagnosis for an enlarged thyroid?
Student: Grave’s disease? Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? Subacute Thyroiditis? Multinodular Goiter?
Student: Riedel’s Thyroiditis? Malignancy? Pregnancy?
Student: Suppurative Thyroiditis? Iron deficiency? Drug induced?
Student: That’s all we’ve studied..
Endocrinologist: Well, obviously.”
This showcases how an attending may let a student flounder and offer no direction with a case. Similarly, an attending may present a difficult case and express that with the patient, they have exhausted all the normative options and have no insight into the cause of her illness. Then expect the students to brainstorm causes, beyond what the doctor himself has already eliminated.
While the term “pimping” can be placed into the category of occupational folklore, as described by Robert McCarl, as an apparent example of “occupational jargon”, more subtly, the act of pimping can be viewed as expression of a “custom designed to mark an individual’s passage through a respective career” (71). My informant explains, “Many of the attendings joke about its ritualistic properties. They remember being pimped in their school years, and plan to continue on the tradition.” Although it is not pleasant, and can be perhaps likened to some types of hazing, it is also serves to harden your exterior and sharpen your wits.
McCarl, Robert. Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction. Ed. Elliott Oring. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 1986. Print.