Time and the River

By Elwood, Thomas W. | Journal of Allied Health, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Time and the River


Elwood, Thomas W., Journal of Allied Health


"D'ou venons-nous, Que sommesnous, Ou allons-nous?" is inscribed on an oil painting by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) that represents a prized acquisition of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Translated into English from French, the inscription reads: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" These questions may well be asked in the context of reflecting on the Journal of Allied Health.

Gauguin's painting contains a river, which may be likened to a periodical in many symbolic ways. Just as water flows across time and space, ideas in the form of cascading words glide across the decades of a journal's life span. Depending on the season, the current may be rapid and voluminous, while at other times only trickles may appear. Bends in the river occur, intellectual eddies and whirlpools come into existence, and separate tributaries may be spawned as evidenced by the Nature Publishing Group, which is responsible for the production of several related periodicals in the biological sciences.

Nobel Laureate William Faulkner (1897-1962) once noted, "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." Extending this observation to the Journal of Allied Health generated a desire on the part of the Editor to examine what has transpired since the first issue appeared in November 1972. Part of the analysis stems from linguistic theory, as explained by Professor Seth Lerer of Stanford University. According to him, Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) was among the first to explore the mutability of the English language, both diachronically (across time) and synchronically (across space). In the poem, Troilus and Crisyede, Chaucer argued that languages change meaning over time. Words that once had meaning now seem odd and strange. Similarly, the term polysemy refers to the multiple meanings or connotations of words. Some words can take on new meanings and sometimes these are figurative meanings.

Examples of such phenomena can be found in some earlier issues of the Journal. Terms such as paraprofessional and paramedical that appeared in the first issue still may be used in some circles to characterize allied health professionals, but within various disciplines that come under the rubric of allied health, these labels are viewed with disfavor. The term health manpower also was in vogue when the Journal first was launched. Given the fact that most nurses back then were female, along with predominantly female occupations such as dental hygienist, in hindsight manpower would appear to have been an inappropriate descriptor. Within the Public Health Service, the Bureau of Health Manpower eventually became the Bureau of Health Professions in the 1980s. As late as Fall 1990, however, manpower was a word that continued to appear in the Journal.

Since 1972, new generations of allied health administrators, educators, and researchers have assumed their respective roles and submitted manuscripts to the Journal. What, if anything, has changed between then and now? In the more than 1,000 articles and papers that have appeared in the Journal from the time of its inception, is the past dead or is there a transmigration of notions and ideas that continue to have relevance in 2009?

Core curriculum was a topic that occupied the entire Summer 1973 issue. A close relative is core competencies, which still was being discussed in the Summer issue 33 years later. In Fall 1973, an article about an interdisciplinary approach to the education of health professions students became the first of many submissions on this topic that have been published until the present time. Canadian writers prefer the term interprofessional. It's not always clear if individuals who prepared these articles have the same concept in mind, but if so, in the battle of ideas interprofessional gradually is becoming more ubiquitous.

By November 1984, the production of multi-competent allied health professionals was under consideration as reflected in an article. …

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