Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Secular Tailwind

“Well Hannah, we really think ABC, Inc. is poised for a big uptick. We see them riding a strong secular tailwind in the 3rd quarter with earnings to follow”

Excuse me? “Secular tailwind?” Seriously, WTF is a secular tailwind? Does the presence of a secular tailwind mean that there must be a secular headwind hiding out there somewhere? And how about the “secular” part of this weather front? Secular always seems to be accompanied by sectarian. You know, like Sunni’s and Shiites. The yin to someone’s yang. Heathens and infidels on one side, true believers on the other. If a “secular tailwind” is good, how bad is a “sectarian headwind”?!

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I not only play a doctor on TV, I also play one in real life. We doctors have been vilified for using impenetrable language to make ourselves look oh so very smart, all the while confusing the heck out of our patients and making them feel unintelligent. Small and embarrassed. Kinda like when you ask the wine steward for a suggestion and you just know… you KNOW… everything he said about the wine was pure nonsense, and your wallet’s about to get violated. Heck, at least we doctors had the decency to use opaque phrases in a different language. We really sounded pretty cool and very smart when we said everything in Latin or Ancient Greek.

Not the good folks in finance, though. The don’t even really SAY anything. They’re just making S__T up. “Secular Tailwind.” Seriously, how do they say stuff like that and keep a straight face? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that everyone who watches or listens to those financial shows is doing so by choice; unlike a patient in his doctor’s office who has some kind of illness to be sorted out, the people watching CNBC or MSNBC are voluntarily tuning into Cramer and his buddies. Not a soul in that audience needs to be listening. Their reward is to be insulted.

It turns out that the relative “literacy” rate for medical information is roughly akin to the vocabulary of an eighth grader. In other words, if I choose to use words or phrases that would not register with the average eighth grader a substantial percentage of my patients will not understand what I am trying to get across. Real research has been done on this stuff and reasonably so; it’s important to understand what your doctor is trying to tell you. Many of us in medicine really do get this, and really do try to neither speak above or speak “down to” our patients. Gone are the days of multisyllabic jargon sandwiched between words from a dead language.

Imagine if that wasn’t the case. Even worse, imagine what it would be like if physicians and other caregivers acted like all those financial talking heads and not only tried to confuse you but just blatantly made crap up while doing so. “Well Mrs. Jones, I’m afraid there’s a involitional reservoir of hard fluid residing in the retrosplenic attic which appears to have suspended all glomerular transport underneath. There are a number of ways it could have gotten there, and of course there’s no guarantee ┬áthat we are right,┬ábut we are pretty sure it was blown there by a Secular Tailwind.”

Don’t worry, though. We’ll just start a little IV Novena…

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