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How Super is the “Super” in Super Speciality Hospitals ?

Submitted by on August 27, 2012 – 6:04 AM 11 Comments

What had intrigued me for a while is the question as to why are there are so many “Super specialties” and “Super Speciality Hospitals” existing in some countries and not so in some other parts of the world. In many countries, “multi specialty hospitals” exist and I have no problems with that.

My understanding thus far had been that specialties such as Neuro surgery, Plastic surgery, Cardio-thoracic surgery as well as others are essentially “SUB” specialties of General surgery (surgery in general). But then, how did they metamorphose into “SUPER” specialties?

The answer perhaps, can be traced back to around the time the large private sector hospitals made their appearance. As newer and newer sub specialties emerged and got established, some hospitals acquired the services of specialists from these sub-specialties and came to be called as “super speciality hospitals” . Thereafter, other smaller hospitals and institutions followed suit.

The reason for preferring the term “super” over “sub” appears to be for marketing reasons. The term “Super” is certainly more attractive than “sub” from a business point of view. The word “sub” is commonly equated by the lay public as something “inferior” or below par. For example, ‘sub standard’, ‘sub inspector’, ‘sub junior’ and so on.

Moreover, by this time, the public had been exposed to things “super”- such as, “super stars”, “superman”, “super markets”, and “super bazaars” etc! In this scenario, these hospitals would have hardly preferred to claim that they were providing “sub specialty” services! Thus, the term “super” appears to have entered insidiously and got firmly established. Obviously, no one else bothered to point out the inaccuracy. Everyone took it in their stride. Why would anyone object if someone called them “super”?

Now some may feel why this should bother anyone?  As a business tactic I concede, it is perfectly harmless. But this has led the students in some countries to forget that the so-called “super” specialties are in reality “sub” specialties of general surgery. Hospitals and even universities innocently follow this. All one has to do is to connect to the internet and type “super specialty courses offered by universities” and hit ‘Enter’. Are there any benefits for the students in all this except perhaps that prospect of joining a “super” specialty course certainly appears to inflate their egos more than really necessary!

Today, “Hyper markets” have surpassed “Super markets”. Are we likely to see “Hyper specialties” and “Hyper-speciality hospitals” in the near future?

About the Author: Dr. Aroon Kamath is a retired general surgeon from Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore, India as an Assistant Professor. He loves to teach, write for medical blogs and conduct medical quizzes.  He can be reached at: [email protected]

About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2012 for the theme : Future of Medicine

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  • tulip

    What you have said is true indeed. Well said and a good observation. It is all because of the business style that medicine and some professionals have turned into.
    Well said again. and it has given me also some insight into the matter being a medical student.

    • Aroon kamath

      Thank you Tulip for your comments. I would be very obliged if you and others took some time to connect to the internet and try searching 1) ‘super specialty hospitals and courses in the United Kingdom’….and 2) ‘super specialty hospitals and courses in the USA’…and 3) just ‘super specialty hospitals and courses’. I want medical students to see for themselves where such super specialty hospitals and courses predominantly exist. I had left it to the readers of my blog to find out these facts as iI felt that it was the more effective mode of conveying my point.

  • nandakishore

    nice article sir.As medical field is expanding so rapidly and becoming more gadget dependent these high fi english words will be misused to attract public.may be people are more accoustomed of these words than their real meaning depicts!

    • Aroon kamath

      I Thank you immensely for your valuable comment.

    • Aroon kamath

      If you have not read through may other 4 blogs, kindly do so and I would welcome your sincere comments.

  • Vidyuth

    Nice Article Aroonmaam…

    • Aroon kamath

      Thank you Vidyuth! I truly appreciate your compliment which encourages me.

  • Deepak

    A well crafted and well said article about a “MISNOMER” in medicine.

  • Usman

    Dear Dr Aroon,
    I agree to what you have said and will not go into the business points as am myself against of doctors doing business in health industry but need your expert opinion on a point of giving a credit.
    If someone has worked hard to specialize in a field of Medicine or Surgery, why should the word ‘sub’ take that credit away from him/her and why shouldn’t he/she call him/herself super-specialist instead of sub-specialist in our Asian context? After all, one should be given the credit for their achievements, and, mere a word should not take it away from them by adding ‘sub’ to their speciality. It just feels like, ‘Oh, he didn’t get a medal, it actually was a silver medal, not a gold’. Isn’t that unjust?
    Isn’t the word ‘sub’ and ‘super’ affected by our Asian context and should be adjusted according to it (if that adjustment is ‘super’ for the word ‘sub’ of European/American dominant literature)? After all we call our undergraduate medical institutes ‘medical colleges’ while the European and Americans call the equivalent ‘medical schools’.
    Dr Usman

    • Aroon kamath

      Dear Dr. Usman, Thank you for your response. The basic fact is that they are sub specialties of general surgery. It is within one’s rights to call oneself what oneself likes, feels like or likes to be called as – I agree with you on that. But I would like to clarify that the word “sub” in “sub specialty” does not take away even an iota of credit from a super specialty or the person who studied and worked hard to get trained in that. It only indicates that general surgery is the ‘parent’ and all others are born of that. This fact should not be taken away from general surgery as well!
      Warm regards,
      Aroon kamath

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