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Pet Peeves

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Steven R. Feldman, MD, PhD

CMEMA pet peeve (or pet hate) is a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly bothersome to them, to a greater degree than others may find it.1 I’ve got a lot of these! Several come to mind immediately, like putting the cap on the salad dressing or pickle jar without tightening it down. Ooh, that really peeves me. Too many times, I’ve picked up the salad dressing by the cap, only to have it fall from the cap and spill. Putting books on a shelf upside down really peeves me, too; it’s disrespectful to the book, something I learned from a Rabbi in Hebrew school (really good pet peeves are ridiculous things that wouldn’t bother a normal human, so this one probably counts as double).

I get to read a lot of dermatology papers, some written by my students, others reviewed for various journals. I rarely say no when asked to review an article. Reviewing seems like an academic civic responsibility, especially when one is the frequent beneficiary of the reviewing done by others. (You might imagine I have a pet peeve for prolific authors who refuse to do a review.) One of my pet peeves is starting a sentence in a medical article with a phrase ending in “that.”  “It has been shown that,” “it is known that” and “it is widely accepted that” are all totally unnecessary. If something has been shown, is known, or is widely accepted, then it just is. One of my former students would write preposterously long variants of this useless verbiage, something like, “For many years, based on a variety of studies and anecdotal reports, we have known with certainty, and in such a way as to rule out alternatives, and published in many journals, in multiple countries and continuing without any contradiction in past, present or future research, that” X=Y. It would be a whole lot easier to say just “X=Y.” And please, don’t say “Interestingly, X=Y” or “Notably, X=Y” … If it isn’t interesting or notable, it shouldn’t be in the paper.

When it comes to patient care, I’ve got even more pet peeves. One is when a resident assumes that a patient is taking their medication, especially when the medication isn’t working as expected. Ooh, that burns me. Another one that kills me, one that is especially common in this political season, is when a person in one group tries to tell me something negative about what someone in another group believes. This happens in medicine all too often, like when a patient might say “doctors are only in it for the money,” or when doctors claim “insurers are only in it for the money.” I’ll believe another doctor is only in it for the money when that doctor tells me so, and I won’t believe that insurers are only in it for the money until they tell me so. Presidential politics bring out the worst of this, when Republicans claim Democrats want to take over people’s lives and Democrats claim Republicans don’t care about people. Give me a break. I love hearing facts and I love to hear what people think, but please don’t try to tell me what’s in someone else’s mind.

Finally, I get really annoyed by discussions that go on too long.

Dr. Feldman is with the Center for Dermatology Research and the Departments of Dermatology, Pathology and Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC.

1. Pet Peeve. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_peeve. Accessibility verified June 10, 2012.

(Author’s Note: I apologize to readers who have a pet peeve against citing Wikipedia for information).