Dr. Google

My sister is currently finishing her second year of medical school (a fact that makes me both proud and inexplicably envious–having no real desire to be a doctor). Every May, as part of their fundraising activities, each years’ students perform collectively in a variety show called Tachycardia. The show is designed not only to raise money, but to also provide comedic relief from the gruelling school year. It consists of amateur actors and singers performing musical parodies–taking jabs at the other years and at the profession writ large. This year my sister’s class performed a skit involving a medical student trying to offer advice to a resistant patient. The patient was convinced that her Google diagnosis was superior to that of our poor medical student who struggled to compete with the Internet’s endless information.

Don’t worry. Our hero prevailed and Dr. Google was defeated. Alas, we are reminded that information and knowledge are different. However it’s hard to resist using Google to self-diagnose. Just a few keystrokes and the world of Web MD, the Mayo Clinic, Wikipedia and a myriad of chat rooms are all readily available to provide reassurance that you’re dying.

It started for me during my pregnancy. Anytime I would experience a new symptom, I would Google it. Inevitably I would find answers ranging from “regular pregnancy-related issue” to “fetus in distress.” I thought I was having a miscarriage every day from weeks 6 to 24. I would march into my monthly doctor’s appointment with a comprehensive list of questions and possible ailments. My OB would sigh, visibly annoyed. The message was always the same: “stop Googling. You will drive yourself crazy” (and drive myself crazy I did).

I would hear this same message echoed five months later from my daughter’s doctor, “no she doesn’t have thrush. No she doesn’t have Grunting Baby Syndrome. No she doesn’t have Gastrisis. Stop Googling.” But I can’t. I spend hours down the rabbit hole perusing forums of information from people presumably smarter and definitely more experienced than me, especially as a new mom.

A friend of mine, also pregnant at the time, recently admitted to Googling. Her partner joked that he would start adding a fake symptom just to hear my friend’s reaction (come to think of it, I DO have an itch under my left earlobe).

Well I’m sorry medical community, but with information this tantalizingly close, I will never stop Googling. The allure is too strong. But don’t worry, I promise to check out a range of sources before making any broad statements or sweeping generalizations (to modernize another doctor: with brains in my head, and Google to use, I can steer myself in any direction I choose). And even though it may be frustrating to our future health practitioners, I’m sure they can relate. After all, the term Medical Students’ Disease derives from medical students who perceive themselves to be experiencing symptoms from the disease they are studying. Can they blame us if we do the same thing using Google?