Briefly noted 9/27/18: a remarkable name

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation periodically revises the format for its on-line statements, including after visit summaries to its physicians and labs. As far as I can tell, every such software upgrade arrives with bugs, sometimes spectacular ones; this is, after, the way of software the world over.

So it was with recent after visit summaries, in which my name at the top was given as

Dr. Zwicky M. Zwicky

I have an idea about how this might have come about. Probably not verifable, since it involves decisions by two different people, neither of whom could easily be identified.

One decision seems to have been to break down the patient’s name, for printing out forms, into parts, or fields. At least two, call them A (a first part, FN, possibly with a prefix of some kind) and B (a second part, LN, possibly with a preceding middle initial). In my case, A would be Arnold (possibly with the prefix Mr., Prof., or Dr.) and B would be (M.) Zwicky.

The other decision was to collect information about how the patient wants to be addressed, their preferred address term.

I’ve posted a few times about the complexities of address terms in a medical setting, and I have material for more postings; what makes matters complex is that the choices are different for different medical personnel (physicians, physicians’ assistants, lab technicians, therapists, receptionists, and so on) on different occasions (in face-to-face interactions, phone calls, and written messages, for one thing), and people have their own personal preferences (for terms to give and terms to receive). I’ve explicitly negotiated address patterns with a few medical people, but mostly people just wing it, often quite uneasily. However, in one of these negotiations, the pattern we ended up agreeing on was mutual Dr. LN. And this particular negotiation seems to have come at the time when someone was collecting information on preferred address terms, so in some database it was noted, in effect: call him Dr. Zwicky.

Separately, a great many support people prefer mutual FN (as being friendlier, warmer, more welcoming, etc.). Even some people who would prefer to use the more respectful MPre LN (where MPre is Ms. / Miss / Mrs. / Mr.) have grave trouble pronouncing Zwicky, so they opt instead for addressing me with FN (Arnold) or the combo MPre FN (Mr. Arnold).

Then, I speculate, when it came time to integrate these two pieces of information — parts A and B of the patient’s name and the patient’s preferred address term —  someone made the simplifying assumption that A would just be the preferred address term. For me, that gives

part A = preferred address term (in some database as Dr. Zwicky)

part B = M. Zwicky

therefore: Dr. Zwicky M. Zwicky as my name on printed forms.

I made no attempt to get into the details of PAMF’s system, but just had the name to be printed out changed by hand to Arnold M. Zwicky. Life goes on.

[Added 9/28, to fill in something I didn’t make explicit in the original posting: up until the recent format change (evidenced in a variety of changes in the placement, wording, typefaces, etc. of information), my name was printed as: Arnold M. Zwicky.

Then at the same time, staff members calling me in for appointments began using (with considerable difficulty) the name Dr. Zwicky, instead of Arnold or Mr. Arnold.]

One Response to “Briefly noted 9/27/18: a remarkable name”

  1. bebopple Says:


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