There is a hierarchy of prestige in medicine. Numerous studies have found that surgery and internal medicine are thought of most highly by doctors while while psychiatry, geriatric and child medicine come near the bottom. A study published in Social Science & Medicine took this idea one step further and looked at which diseases have the most prestige among the medical community.
Sociologist Erving Goffman wrote a highly influential book about the social dynamics of stigma in which he suggested that it has its social power through associating people with stereotypes.
It’s interesting that doctors who specialise in working with people who have the least status in society (children, the ‘mad’, the ‘old’) also have the least status in medicine.
The Norwegian researchers asked senior doctors, general practitioners and medical students to rate diseases and came up with the following list, which ranks diseases from the most prestigious at the top, to the least prestigious at the bottom.
Needless to say, mental illnesses fill most of the bottom slots.
Myocardial infarction [heart attack]
Pulmonary embolism [normally blood clot on the lung]
Meniscus rupture [‘torn cartilage’]
Ulcerative colitis [inflammation of the bowel]
Duodenal ulcer [peptic ulcer]
Sciatica [‘trapped nerve’]
Bechterew’s disease [arthritis of the spine]
Femoral neck fracture
Inguinal hernia [abdominal wall hernia]
Apoplexy [internal organ bleeding]
Hepatocirrhosis [cirrhosis of the liver]
Link to PubMed entry for study.