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FAQs New Medical Terms

What is New Medical Terms?

New Medical Terms is a website dedicated to medical terminology. It is the home of the 21st century’s first new medical dictionary and, at over 46,000 entries and an additional 155,000 searchable aliases/synonyms, may be the largest such resource on the web.

Definitions found in other medical dictionaries are missing

That is correct…for the moment.

Rather than repeat material that one finds in other medical dictionaries,* at the end of 2017, we began releasing material that is part of modern practice, which has gotten short shrift in other medical lexicons. Our goal is that newmedicalterms.com becomes users’ “go to” place where they’ll find important definitions unlikely to appear in other medical dictionaries. 

*Dorland’s, Mosby’s, Stedman’s, Taber’s

For the short term, we are filling in huge gaps in terminology that are currently, and likely to remain, missing from traditional medical dictionaries. Some of these voids are becoming an ever-increasing part of daily practice–e.g., the plethora of abbreviations integral to Medspeak, as well as the material (think, genes) being taught in medical school which will soon be a core component of our therapeutic armamentarium. Other gaps in terminology vary in size and importance from “must know” to“nice to know.”

In early 2017, we released the first block of terminology, 16,000 medical aliases and acronyms (A&As) which were culled and compiled from peer-reviewed journals and mainstream medical websites.

The January 2018 release had 38,000 terms and included 20,000 A&As, 8,000 genes and smaller blocks of entries from alternative medicine, British medicine, sexology and suicidology, in addition to some 85,000 aliases and synonyms.

The August 2018 release has 46,000 terms and includes 21K A&As, 12,000 genes, and 3,000 inherited syndromes, in addition to 155,000 aliases and synonyms.

Until we can provide users definitions for all of the “important” genes and most of the 20,000+ genes identified by the Human Genome Project, we do users a disservice by allowing ourselves to get distracted and define terminology that users can already find in the other medical dictionaries.

We expect to begin incorporating traditional definitions–e.g., from anatomy, cardiology, physiology, pharmacology, surgery, etc in 2021. It is impossible to project how long it will take before that process is complete…perhaps 3 years.

How large is the New Medical Terms operation?

Minuscule; NMT has one full-time content person (JCS, MD) and one part-time webmaster/database manager (KH).

As a one-man operation, how do you ensure high quality of definitions?

Other dictionaries have a large in-house staff of lexicographers and board of physicians and consultants. To counter the inevitable criticism that would be leveled against NMT, a work compiled by one person, which has hundreds of thousands of entries, references (most with URLs) have been included with many definitions. At last count, the database from which definitions are generated in NMT has over 51,000 (!!!) references, mostly to respected, intensely curated databases–e.g., Genecards, UniProt and the OMIM. Given that 51K references is at least 2 orders of magnitude more references than the Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, one could argue that NMT is (far) more authoritative than the Dorland’s.

What makes New Medical Terms unique?

(almost) Everything about New Medical Terms (NMT) and the linked Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD) breaks new ground. To name a few:

(1) The definitions and data in NMT reside within an actual database, allowing keyword and boolean searching. The real world translation is that a search for information which takes minutes on the Kindle version of a medical dictionary and is typically unsuccessful, takes milliseconds and never misses, despite having a much larger pool of data (the DMMD dataset, is as of today, 22.08.2018, ±50% larger than the Dorland’s)

(2) The NMT includes material traditionally ignored by other medical dictionaries, in particular genes and genomics, but also terrorism and torture, alternative health care, evidence based practice, clinical trials…all of which is in the pipeline and planned for release to the publicly accessible part of the DMMD within the next few years

(3) The DMMD has from the beginning recognised that references are required in any work intended for health professionals and scientists. At last count, the DMMD has over 51,000 references compared to the ± 200 references found in the Dorland’s Medical Dictionary.

(4) It is written/compiled by one person/physician/pathologist

(5) The DMMD does not view aliases and synonyms as valid entries. The database format allows us to cull this material and place it in a separate field. Up to 30% of the entries in the Dorland’s refer the user elsewhere. Even being conservative, if 20% of the Dorland’s entries are aliases, that work’s claimed 124,000 entries (X 0.8) is actually 99,000. As of today, the DMMD has 188,991 entries, not including aliases.

(6) No illustrations. I produced about 150 black and white illustrations for the first edition of the Dictionary of Modern Medicine. For the second edition, named Current MedTalk and published in 1996 with Simon and Schuster’s medical division, I rendered a number of additional images using computer graphics soft- and hardware. For the past 20 years, I have focused on the material itself and not included images and illustrations. That could change in the future, but there are no current plans to add images to material released from the DMMD. 

(7) The material is written at a peer level–i.e., not dumbed down to appeal to a wider (read, less sophisticated) audience. As an example, it is assumed that peers won’t need translations of commonly used abbreviations, to wit ADHD, AF, AIDS, ASD, CAD, CFS, CHF, CMV, CNS, CSF, CT, DM, EBV, EKG, ESRD, GI, GU, HBV, HCV, HIV, HPV, IBD, IFN, IL, IM, IV, MI, MRI, MS, NK, RA, RBCs, ROM, RTI, SLE, STD, TB, TMJ, UC, US, UTI, VSD, WBCs

Why is New Medical Terms important?

In 1950, medical knowledge was projected* to double in 50 years; in 2010, in 3.5 years, and in 2020, in just 73 days. With this tsunami of data thrown at us, it’s no longer possible to base our medical education on the leisurely consumption of primary (research and original papers) literature such as Banting and Best’s paper on the discovery of insulin or Watson and Crick’s seminal paper in Nature that proved the most important molecule in the universe, DNA, was a double helix.

*P Densen, Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2011; 122: 48–58 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116346/

Physicians now depend on secondary (reviews, texts and Dr Google) literature to keep them up-to-date in in all but their own speciality. Current medical dictionaries should be the go to place for succinct secondary information. They aren’t. New Medical Terms’ raison d’être is to re-establish the medical lexicon as advanced health professionals’ first port-of-call in a rapidly expanding sea of information. Lofty goal? Yes. Do-able? We believe so.

Do medical professionals need another reference?

If the currently available medical dictionaries actually served the needs of advanced healthcare professionals by providing succinct definitions of genes, clinical trials, managed care, bariatric medicine, sport medicine, transplantation medicine, sexology, etc, etc, then no, physicians wouldn’t need another reference. But there is a vast void that needs filling with a work that defines the tens of thousands of terms that current medical dictionaries have ignored. It’s impossible to guess at this point how big this reference will be when the growth begins to level off, but I believe the minimum is 250,000 entries (not including the estimated 400,000+ aliases and synonyms)

Why do New Medical Terms?

Insanity. If I’d known in 1984, when I began this project, what I know today, I’d have run screaming from the cubicle with the ancient 8088 chip PC and dot-matrix printer where this began and switched my specialty training from pathology to oncology. The Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD) and New Medical Terms website, where users can access ever-enlarging portions of the DMMD, has cost me a marriage, well over one hundred thousand dollars in software, hardware, and paid expertise to breath life into this “albatross.”

I struck the proverbial Faustian bargain with the devil; I’m driven to continue with this until I die…I only hope my sisyphean labors will serve a greater good and service a wider public

Does this medical dictionary target advanced health professionals?

Yes. There are 4 major medical dictionaries in print: Dorland’s, Mosby’s, Stedman’s and Taber’s. Whilst all have highly respected physicians and experts on their editorial boards, each of these works has simplified the definitions to appeal to a broader audience, a nice way of saying, “dumbed down.”

As physicians, we have, on average 10+ years of education beyond university…more than the average support staff we manage, and far more than the lay public. It stands to reason that we should expect a dictionary that serves our needs to provide text bites of useful information beyond “…cholecystitis with relatively mild symptoms persisting over a long period”, which is the definition for chronic cholecytitis found in the 2012 Dorland’s Medical Dictionary.

I won’t apologise for ensuring that the wording, choice of material and details in this work reflect the needs of physicians and advanced health professionals.

How many terms do you have?

Late August of 2018 saw the third public release of the DMMD, which has 46,333 entries/definitions in 7 categories or subdatabases:

  • Abbreviations and acronyms

  • Alternative medicine

  • British medicine

  • Genes

  • Hereditary syndromes

  • Sexology

  • Suicidology.  

Version 3 includes an additional 155,484 searchable aliases and synonyms, bringing the total number of definitions and (easily) searchable terms currently available to users to 201,817.

The DMMD itself has a total of 188,991 entries, of which 46,333 have been published. Considerable work lies ahead to convert those remaining 142,658 entries into viable definitions. Some of the 142,658 will prove redundant or be relegated to the aliases, reducing the total. However, because the current focus is on expanding the number of genes, an increase above 142,658 entries is more likely.

There are an additional 39,810 aliases and synonyms that are not currently available in the 7 published subdatabases.

To summarise, in addition to the 201,817 terms available to users in the current release, the DMMD has an additional 142,658 “work-in-progress” entries and an additional 39,810 unpublished aliases and synonyms, for a total of 384,285 terms. The Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary boasts that it is the largest medical dictionary in print with nearly 124,000 terms (including aliases and synonyms)

How often will the material be updated and expanded?

The last year has seen an initial release of 16,000 A&As and two updates, one with 38,000 defined terms from 6 categories of biology and medicine and the second with 46,000 terms from 7 categories. We expect to add/update the material at least quarterly. Each update is likely to grow the number of available definitions by 3,000 to 5,000, which means that the database will grow by 10,000 or more entries per year. By comparison, the Dorland’s Medical Dictionary is updated every five to eight years and typically adds 5,000 new terms in that timeframe.

Feel free to send any questions you might have to jcsegenmd@yahoo.com and, if of general interest, we will add them to the FAQs in the future. 

Best regards, JC Segen, MD, FCAP

Manhasset, NY