Extrinsic Medicine Joe Segen
As here defined, Extrinsic Medicine* refers to unnatural, inanimate forces and factors that affect the body and cause disease and death.
*By way of explanation, I set up this website in 2012 as a platform for blogging biomedical terminology that I felt would be of interest to an audience of medical students, physicians and advanced health professionals. In retrospect, I did pretty much everything wrong. The layout was stodgy and dark; I blogged 5 terms per page per day, making it difficult for search engines to find the blogged terms, because I was violating the one-term, one-page rule, then I lumped the pages together in blocks of 25 to 30 terms, making already difficult searches impossible. After a couple of years, I’d blogged over 4500 terms, which lacked any form of organization. Enter Kent Hummel, my web guy and database guru. He suggested parsing the universe of 4500 stars into a manageable number (5 to 10) of galaxies. I came up with the following: Classic medicine, Extrinsic medicine, Global medicine, Media medicine, Modern medicine, and Vintage medicine, each of which is defined elsewhere in this work. Each of the galaxies is in turn further divided into relevant sections. No system dividing all of medicine into a handful of sections can pretend to be perfect, but for the purposes of creating a new medical lexicon, one could do worse. Readers who find these subdivisions useful are welcome to use them as they see fit.
These forces can act externally in the form of weather extremes–e.g., hurricanes and blizzards, and disasters–either natural–e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, and forest fires, or man-made–e.g., criticality in nuclear power plants, smog, environmental pollution and toxic spills. Features common to each of this first arbitrarily defined group, is their involuntary nature and their broad reach, having the potential to affect hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people, often overwhelming hospitals and public health resources.
A second group of external factors that act on the body, abuse substances, are in many ways the polar opposite of the above group. On the one hand, unlike the above, exposure to abuse substances is, except for second-hand (passive) smoking and secondary psychosocial issues related to substance misuse, voluntary and affect individuals or small clusters of individuals. On the other hand, like the above group, recreational toxins (German, Genussgifte) such as psychoactive drugs, alcohol and tobacco are, as above, inanimate and the severity of the effect is quantifiable and dose-dependent: a tremor of 2.0 on the Richter scale is called a microearthquake; one measuring 5.3 would be labeled a moderate earthquake. Two standard drinks of alcohol can be viewed as a harmless accompaniment of an enjoyable meal. Five or more standard drinks in one sitting would be viewed as abnormal* and cause for intervention.
*Much of our work as physicians hinges on preventing, managing and dealing with the consequence of these pleasure poisons.