The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Friday it is changing the Korean name of urology clinics from “binyogigwa” (literally translated as urinary organs department) to “binyoeuihakgwa” (urinary medicine department).
The name change from “organs” to “medicine” is aimed to improve people’s perception, given the negative image in the word urinary organs, officials said.
The Korean Medical Association held an executive committee to win the consent of other doctors regarding the name change earlier the year. The KMA requested a name change to the Ministry of Health and Welfare in March.
Urology clinics in Korea had been closely perceived to be places to go when one has a sexually transmitted disease.
“Koreans are reluctant to go to a urology clinic because they associate it with the male genitals or sexually transmitted infections,” Uh Hong-sun, chairman of the Association of Korean Urologists (AKU), told Korea Biomedical Review.
Uh went on to say, “However, urology is much more than that – we look at the bladder, kidney, adrenal glands, and the urethra. Not only that, but we also look at the female urinary tract system, which most people have been unaware of until the spread of information by the internet.”
Name changes are commonly used in the Korean medical landscape as a method to change public perception and to expand the scope of treatment of the department. “Name changes can be seen as a part of Korean medical culture,” Uh noted.
Other departments, such as the department of anesthesia, radiology, and pediatrics have also changed their names to change public perception and the scope of treatment.
The department of obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN), for instance, has also attempted to change its name from the department of gynecology to the department of women in 2012. Gynecologists, like urologists, have long complained of the stigma attached to their clinics as a place to go when one is pregnant or has a sexually transmitted disease. OBGYN clinics have pointed out single women are embarrassed to go to these clinics, motioning gynecologists to call for a name change. However, the efforts were unsuccessful as other doctors called it an attempt to “stake out territory” not in their realm.
Urologists state the perception of urology clinics has become the primary source of male and female patients shying away from dropping by for treatment.
“When women get cystitis, around 60 to 70 percent go to an OBGYN clinic. They’re supposed to go to a urology clinic, which most people don’t know. In the meanwhile, people around them wonder ‘do they have an STD?’ It’s a cultural issue,” Uh said.
The low number of patients, in turn, signaled to medical residents that the department is relatively less profitable in comparison to other units.
Statistics show the number of medical residents applying for the department of urology in 2012 was 47 percent, 44.8 percent in 2013, 26.1 percent in 2014, and 40.2 percent in 2015. In 2016, the percentage did not surpass 30 percent, with the overall number of applicants in the past five years not exceeding 50 percent.
Uh, along with other urologists, hopes the name change will change public perception regarding urology clinics. The inclusion of the term “medicine,” in particular, should signal to patients that urology clinics also take care of chronic diseases as well as surgical procedures, according to Uh.
Not all urologists appear to be happy with the name change, however.
“Some AKU members seem reluctant to change. Amending the banner of their clinics is extra work from their point of view. They also question how effective this change will be. We can only keep an eye out for now,” he added.
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