Today I carried out a medical examination on a young lad who is soon to emigrate to the United States with his family. In order to enter the education system there he requires proof of vaccination and medical supervision. And so it was that I found myself filling in a form for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
My patient was charming and a credit to his family. He appeared adequately healthy and mentally hygienic. He had even washed behind his ears. The examination was easy, but completing the form was slightly more difficult. First I got the dates the wrong way round as the months have to go before the days, 08/14/08 instead of 14/08/08. Then I had to convert his weight from kilograms to pounds and his height from centimetres to inches. It seemed odd that the most technologically advanced nation in the world should still be using British Imperial measurements to monitor its children. Fortunately my metric measurements came in handy for calculating his BMI, as I presume this was wanted in kilograms per square metre (normal range 20 - 25) and not pounds per square inch (normal range 0.028 - 0.036). Although this latter unit of BMI might catch on, since even a clinically obese person could say “my BMI is only 0.04” which sounds hardly worth mentioning.
Having finally completed the form it occurred to me that I should have put crosses (“check” marks) in the appropriate boxes and not ticks. But I expect the NYCDHMH will know what I mean, and with luck they will also accept my GMC number as evidence that I am a proper doctor. I don't have an MD, since that is a higher degree in the UK which only a few academic doctors receive. Like most British GPs I'm just a plain ordinary Bachelor of Medicine, although many of us have also passed the membership examination of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Britain and the US may be two nations divided by a common language, but our medical professions also seem to have a few differences.