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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vasectomies by Dr Dick Chopp, and more physician aptonyms

Dr Richard "Dick" Chopp performs vasectomies at a urology practice in Austin, Texas.

That's not a joke. Dr Chopp is one of a number of physicians whose names describe their line of work -- often humourously or ironically. There are so many examples of this, in fact, that University of Lousville onomastician Frank Nuessel devoted several pages of his 1992 "The Study of Names" to this kind of name, which he calls an aptonym (also called aptronym).

Physician aptonyms were recently the subject of an article in the American Medical News. Alongside a handful of other amusingly named physicians, Dr Chopp makes an appearance:

"My patients call me Dick Chopp. They say, 'How did you get that name?' 'I say, 'It's mainly divine intervention.'

"It's always been fun for me. Everybody wishes they had my name."
He even gives out T-shirts to vasectomy patients. On the back, they read "I was 'chopped' at the Urology Team." Classy.

Dick Chopp isn't the only doctor with a medically appropriate (or inappropriate, as the case may be) moniker -- there are plenty more, including a few Canadians as well.

  • Dr John Looney, adolescent psychiatrist, Durham, NC ("Psychiatric patients are coming in a state of unhappiness," he said in the AMNews article. "They really don't care if your name is Joseph Stalin as long as you can related to them and you're warm to them.")
  • Dr Barret Hyman, obstetrician/gynecologist (source)
  • Dr Joseph C Babey, pediatrician (source)
  • Dr Eric M Knapp, anesthesiologist (he's actually a dental surgeon, not an MD)
  • Dr Dwain Illman, emergency medicine specialist, Indianapolis, IN (source)
  • Dr Stephen Tredwell, orthopedic surgeon, Vancouver, BC (source)
  • Dr Ritchie A L Younger, cosmetic surgeon, Vancouver, BC (source)
  • Dr Thomas Payne, Baton Rouge, LA ("The hardest thing is to try to laugh and make them think they're the first one to say something," he told AMNews. "I tell them my first name is Less.")
  • Dr Kevin Blinder, retina surgeon, St Lousie, MO (A mentor once demanded he change his name before they co-published research, but he demurred. "My father would have been upset," he said.)
  • Dr Robert Stubbs, genital cosmetic surgeon (including circumcisions, naturally), Toronto, ON (He learned his circumcision technique from a Chinese physician named Dr Long.)
  • Dr David Butcher, GP, Prince George, BC (source)
  • Dr D'Eath, surgeon & his partner, the anesthetist Dr Coffin (New Scientist)
  • Dr Aikenhead, allergist (source)
  • Dr David Hart, cardiologist, Columbus, Ohio (source; and he's not the only Dr Hart cardiologist)
  • Drs AJ Splatt and Dr D Weedon, urologists, Britain (source)
Mari Stoddard, a medical librarian at the University of Arizona, has a fantastic list of physician aptonyms -- too many to list here -- on her website. Some are almost too good to be true, I think. A respirologist named Dr Pipe? An infertility specialist named Dr Blank? A urologist named Dr Alden Cockburn?! But Ms Stoddard claims they're all real. There's another good list, which overlaps with Ms Stoddard's, here.

Is it possible the doctors listed above were destined, because of their names alone, to become physicians?

Some have suggested that people with aptonym names are in fact examples of a theory called "nominative determinism." (There's an admirably straight-faced article on Wikipedia on this subject, including a section on Jungian synchronicity. I'm a bit puzzled about that one; isn't synchronicity acausal by definition?)

It sounds crazy, yes. But can you imagine John Tory as a Liberal or New Democrat? I didn't think so.

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  1. The head of the English Department at Brigham Young University, when I was there in the late 70's, was Bill Shakespeare.

  2. I've collected others through the years at my job:

    -Dr. Orajel (orthodontist)
    -Dr. Michael Lean, an obesity specialist
    -Dr. Larry Krotchfeldt (gynecologist)
    -M.E. Cramp (gastroenterologist)
    -Dr. Henry G. Bone, Director of the Michigan Bone & Mineral Clinic
    -Larry Bone, orthopaedist
    -Dr. Pannicker, GI (IBS) specialist
    -ME De Kok, urologist
    -S. Burpee, gastroenterologist
    -Louis Pisters, urologist
    -Dr. Caca, gastroenterologist
    -Dr. Ichinose (hopefully an allergist!)
    -PJ Schwingl (urologist)
    -RB Nadler (urologist)
    -S Droupy, French erectile dysfunction expert

    No joke!

  3. As a medical student, I was taught by both Dr. Tredwell and Dr. Younger. While Dr. Younger does cosmetic surgery, he is an ENT surgeon.

    One Vancouver physician you missed was Dr. Gropper. And, yes, he is an Orthopedic surgeon specializing in hands. He fixed my mother's, years ago. She had another minor procedure done recently, by Dr. Legge (if you can believe it).

    I myself had a narrow brush with being on such a list. I am an anesthesiologist, and my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Death. Would have had to become a pathologist.

  4. My new dentist's name is Dr.Choo (not sure about the spelling- his brother is also a dentist)

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