From the Editor

After the hospitalization ends, a detailed summary. A quick note outlining the psychotherapy session. Written comments about the patient’s care as she or he begins work with another clinician. Medical records include all of the above.

But do they also include stigmatizing language?

In this week’s first selection, the authors consider such language in a new paper for JAMA Network Open. Jenny Park (of Oregon Health and Science University) and her co-authors look at 600 notes, and find the categories of positive and negative language using a qualitative analysis. They write: “Language has a powerful role in influencing subsequent clinician attitudes and behavior. Attention to this language could have a large influence on the promotion of respect and reduction of disparities for disadvantaged groups.”

 1024px-edwin_smith_papyrus_v2Ancient Egyptian medical records – stigmatizing language then too?

In our other selection, Dr. Katherine A. Termini (of Vanderbilt University) writes about self-disclosure. In a very personal essay, the psychiatrist discusses her own mental health problems – and her decision not to tell others in the medical profession. She then writes about changing her mind. “I encourage you to ask yourself: How have I contributed to this stigma and what can I do about it? If physicians step forward to tell their personal experiences with mental illness to an audience of colleagues willing to listen empathetically, we can make progress on the arduous task of destigmatizing mental health.”


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