Yeah, that’s right (left)

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY

Dr. Phillips is a Professor of Radiology, Director of Head and Neck Imaging, at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. He is a member of the Applied Radiology Editorial Advisory Board.

I had pretty incredible feedback from the bit of ranting I did the last few months. So, if howling at the moon, as it were, is what you like, fear not. I have a few stored up, and I can get on it again. I need a little respite from just complaining, though. So, I thought I would discuss another topic near and dear (and potentially also irritating) to us all.

Here’s a simple command. Turn to the right. Move your right hand. Look to the right. Easy, eh? Kids do it. Your friends can do it. You probably used to be able to do it. HOWEVER, NOW YOU’RE A RADIOLOGIST. Right is left, and left is right, right? Or, should I say correct? I know you’ve done it. You have that momentary indecision about someone telling you right or left. You have to remember you’re not at work, because at work EVERYTHING IS BACKWARDS.

I’ll tell you how this came to me as a problem. Any runners in the audience? Lately, there are these new running socks that are really nice. Thin, padded, really comfortable, and great for people who run a fair distance, or maybe not so far a distance. Here’s the kicker, though. They are not like other socks – that, as we all know, are unifoot. These have a right and left side, marked with a little R or L. And, yep, I’ve been wearing them on the wrong foot. I wondered why they weren’t that comfortable, and why I had these unusual marks on my feet from the elastic in them. I have it straightened out now, and they are doing the thing they are supposed to do on my feet.

We’ve all had that experience of turning the wrong way, raising the wrong hand, or something mildly embarrassing because of our insistence that right is left and left is right. I saw a deposition one time and a nonradiology physician was trying to explain to an attorney about the films. It was almost a “who’s on first” moment. “You said right, but you’re pointing to the left.” “Yeah, that’s the way the radiologists do their films.” “Why?” “Because they’re radiologists. They always do that.” “Why?” “Because they always do.” You get the picture.

We know we’re right, though. Everyone else is wrong. Or, is that left? Mahalo. 

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Yeah, that’s right (left).  Appl Radiol. 

November 07, 2012

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