Dictionary of Modern Medicine database
After years of tweaking and fine-tuning, we at www.newmedicalterms.com have begun releasing portions of the 21st century’s first new medical lexicon, the Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD).
Instead of covering the same ground as that covered by the Dorland’s, Mosby’s, Stedman’s, and Taber’s medical dictionaries, the DMMD has focused on areas of biomedical and clinical interest which, whilst increasingly important to the understanding and practice of medicine, one doesn’t find in these venerated works.
Over time, we will extend our reach to include that material…but for the short term the DMMD will focus on important terminology not found elsewhere under the same roof.
Rather than blah, blah, blah you, dear reader, to death about what’s in version 2 of the database, I invite you to see for yourself. Late last year (2017), we released version 1, which had 37,739 definitions in 6 categories. Version 2 has 45,400 definitions, now including an additional category, that of Inherited syndromes (see chart). Noteworthy is the number of aliases and synonyms in the DMMD. In the Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary one sees three entries for the synonyms syndactylia, syndactylism, and syndactyly. We count 1 definition and 2 aliases. As of today, 11 August 2018, the DMM database has 188,892 entries in varying stages of completion. In addition, we have 194,901 aliases for a total of 383,813 biomedical terms (including aliases). At last count, we have 50,391 references, based on our recognition that in the 21st century even secondary literature is beholden to prior work and the need to quote the source of information.
As curator, I would note that the Genes subdatabase is a work-in-progress. Version 4 has core information (definitions) on 12,600 genes that I’ve come across in reading. Whilst that may seem like a large number, the human genome has well over 20,000 genes (both DNA and RNA), pseudogenes, and non-coding stretches of nucleic acid. This means that users won’t find every “important” gene. To address that gap, I expect to release version 5 around Christmas 2018 and add another chunk of genes, in addition to countless corrections and updates of the genes subdatabase.
www.newmedicalterms.com is the only website specifically dedicated to medical lexicography. It is the result of one physician’s belief, first articulated in 1984, that the medical dictionaries currently in print (Dorland’s, Mosby’s, Stedman’s and Tabler’s) were–and continue to be–grossly inadequate and didn’t/don’t address the needs of advanced health professionals. New Medical Terms (NMT) has:
Blocks of definitions
(1) Opinion pieces on medical lexicography (https://www.newmedicalterms.
(2) A classification of medical terminology designed to facilitate interaction with IT systems (https://www.newmedicalterms.
(3) eBooks currently available for purchase (https://www.newmedicalterms.
New Medical Terms Blocks of definitions:
The downloadable Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD, above), the raison d’être of which is to provide facile access to terminology that is an ever-increasing part of our daily practice as physicians, yet has been either completely ignored or addressed so briefly that the information provided in other information products borders on useless. Version 2 of the DMMD launched in late September 2018 and is comprised of 7 subdatabases: abbreviations & acronyms, alternative medicine, British medical practice, genes, inherited syndromes, sexology and suicidology. Version 3 should be available in early November. The plan is to provide users with a new and expanded version of the DMMD bimonthly. We believe that users will find the upside of having at their fingertips succinct definitions not available in a single source worth the downside of loading a fresh version of the DMMD every couple of months. Once we secure sponsorship, each new version will be ported to a server, allowing users to directly query the database in real time.
A Searchable section with 4,500 terms This section represents the full array of terminology required of a medical dictionary that serves the needs of physicians, medical students, and advanced healthcare professionals in the 21st century. All terminology directly or indirectly related to healthcare and medicine has been divided into seven main sections–e.g., Classic medicine, Global medicine, Modern medicine, and so on (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/alphabetized-page-list/) and multiple subsections.
As examples, under classic medicine, the user will find terminology from anatomy, cardiology, imaging, pathology and so on. Under modern medicine, one notes the vocabulary of AIDS, evidence-based medicine, informatics, sports medicine, transplantation medicine, and many others. Under vintage medicine, readers will find terminology that should be retired; most of the terms in this section have been googled to verify their status as retirees; many will have comments on usage and provide current synonyms
BLOG Those who read peer-reviewed biomedical publications will come across countless terms every day which, whilst important, rarely find their way into medical dictionaries. Because of the sheer quantity of work required to create a broadly useful soup-to-nuts medical lexicon, parsimony will guide the number of terms I blog. The plan is to publish the more interesting and/or important “newbies” on a bimonthly basis (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/blog-2/) and add them to NMT’s Facebook page, so the reader can find them in two places.
COMING SOON This section tells users what to expect in the next version (we just released v.4) of the DMMD, including number of new definitions in which areas of interest and whether new subdatabases have been added (https://www.newmedicalterms.
FAQs This section (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/faq/) is intended to address questions users might have regarding the DMMD, the NMT and those of us involved in its creation and development. Feel free to email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions regarding content; if the question is broadly relevant, I would add it to the other FAQs.
(2) New Medical Terms Opinion pieces
MEDICAL DICTIONARIES IN THE 21st CENTURY There are four major medical dictionaries: Dorland’s, first published in 1890 as the American Illustrated Medical Dictionary; Stedman’s in 1911; Taber’s in 1940; and Mosby’s in 1982. Each has multiple flaws that limit their usefulness to a key demographic—physicians and advanced healthcare professionals. The Dorland’s, as the largest and oldest of the group, has a plethora of which I, as a medical lexicographer regard as errors or flaws. These flaws include continued use of older names–e.g., Hallervorden-Spatz disease for neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation 1 (Hallervorden and Spatz were Nazi doctors who were posthumously stripped of the eponymic honorific); continued use of Latin nomenclature–especially for abbreviations of prescriptions–e.g., agit vas—the vial being shaken, and cochl amp—a heaping spoonful, when English is the language of biomedical communication; continued inclusion of therapeutics that were pulled from the market up to a decade earlier–e.g., cerivastatin (Baycol), efalizumab (Raptiva), isotretinoin (Accutane), rofecoxib (Vioxx), and valdecoxib (Bextra); anemic definitions–e.g., cholecystitis is defined as <inflammation of the gallbladder>, a definition which the average high school student with a rudimentary knowledge of Latin roots could cobble together. For these and other failings, physicians typically use medical dictionaries to check spelling, if they use them at all, and go to Google or Wikipedia for definitions (https://www.newmedicalterms.
MEDICAL LEXICOGRAPHY in the 21st CENTURY Unlike proper fields in medicine and science…medical lexicography is meant to be invisible. If publications in fields as disparate as genomics, managed care, informatics, cardiology, robotic surgery used a common syntax and system of nomenclature, a publication in Specialty A would use the same name for disease entity A as Specialties B, C, or D. Whilst this usually occurs, until usually becomes invariably, literature searches and reviews will be incomplete. IT tools work best when rules are applied universally; otherwise, it’s GIGO—garbage in, garbage out. A key goal of medical lexicography must be to reduce, or ideally, eliminate redundancy and to embrace naming conventions and rules of syntax, especially those rules that have been widely used in non-medical contexts, and provide those conventions and rules when such are absent (https://www.newmedicalterms.
A NEW MAJOR MEDICAL DICTIONARY In 1984, I started with a blank piece of paper and told my wife, I’m going to write a new medical dictionary (I have since rued that day). In the intervening 34 years, what began as The Dictionary of Pathology Jargon, was expected to have about 500 entries/definitions and take perhaps 6 months, has grown into what is appears to be the single largest dictionary format medical database. The original intent was to provide me with a tool to help study for the upcoming boards exam in pathology. The project outgrew the confines of a single specialty–pathology and the limitations of a particular type of term–jargon, within months. The entries included have been guided by three simple rules: (1) the term should be in current use; (2) any term directly or obliquely related to medicine should be in; (3) References should be included. The project, The Dictionary of Modern Medicine, was first published by the Parthenon Group in 1992 with 12,000 entries. It was last published in 2006 as a paper product by McGraw-Hill as The Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine with 23,000 entries.
By 2005, two years before Amazon launched the Kindle, and five years before Apple launched the iPad, I’d concluded that paper dictionaries were becoming anachronisms, given that books are unwieldy once they grow beyond 2,000 pages and are unreadable when the typeface shrinks below 8 pts. I spent the next two years cutting and pasting the 35,000 pages of text I’d accumulated into Filemaker, a widely used database program. Information queries that once took10 minutes or more when the Dictionary of Modern Medicine was in a text format now take milliseconds as the Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD). The DMMD has, as of today, 4 October 2018, 189,249 entries, compared to Dorland’s 124,000. The Dorland’s 124,000 includes thousands of aliases and synonyms. The DMMD addresses aliases differently, by putting them in a separate field. As a brief example, the Dorland’s counts syndactyly, syndactylia and syndactylism as three separate entries; the DMMD counts one: syndactyly with two aliases. A very conservative estimate is that 15% of Dorland’s entries are aliases and not proper definitions (https://www.newmedicalterms.
(3) A classification of medical terminology A few years ago, shortly after setting up the website, www.newmedicalterms.com, I was fortunate enough to enlist the help of a webmaster and database guru, Kent Hummel. Among his many suggestions was to introduce a hierarchical tier between the many groups (±100) of terms–e.g., cardiology, immunology, human rights, obsolete terms, medical slang and jargon, metabolic disorders, and so on, as a way of improving data management. While no artificial classification solves every problem, we have found it useful, as might readers (https://www.newmedicalterms.
(4) eBooks for sale When I first began porting material from the text files into the database, I had a brief, one-sided romance with eBooks. On the plus side, eBooks weigh nothing beyond the weight of the device; the only limit is the device’s memory. One can modify the typeface, text size, background lighting and even simulate the look and sound of pages turning. For many types of publications–e.g., novels, biographies, magazines, journals, travel guides, cookbooks eBooks are godsends; one can carry one’s entire personal library in a device the size of a small stack of manila envelopes. The eBook format fails dismally for rapid and focused information queries, which is how most of use look for information in a lexicon. I have not updated any of the four eBooks that are still available on the various eBook portals: The Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine; The Illustrated Doctors’ Dictionary; The Dictionary of Alternative & Complementary Medicine; and The Dictionary of British Medicine. I’d planned on pulling them from the eBook stores in 2016, but Kent encouraged me to keep them alive for the short term. (https://www.newmedicalterms.
Other year-end additions will include more inherited syndromes from the OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man) catalogue, and possibly one or more additional subdatabases, which may include evidence-based medicine; forensic medicine, therapeutic monoclonals and recently approved drugs and devices, and sports medicine. It’s hard to project, 4 to 6 months out, where our numbers will be by Christmas 2018, but proper definitions should be north of 55,000 (of the pool of 190+K terms in the DMMD) and searchables (aliases) around 225,000. We believe the DMMD will become your “go to” resource for succinct biomedical definitions.
Feel free to email me with questions on and suggestions for new and current content.
JC Segen, MD, FCAP
Complete list of entries https://www.newmedicalterms.com/alphabetized-page-list/
They’re for your browsing pleasure; feel free to link, like and share.