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Father Creates COVID-19 Glossary in Loving Memory of Mila Noelle Rainof, MD

October 02, 2021
by Abigail Roth

"In loving memory of Mila Noelle Rainof, M.D."

This is the dedication in the English-Spanish glossary that Mila’s father, Alexander Rainof, PhD, completed in August 2021. Rainof compiled the glossary, titled COVID-19 General Terminology English-Spanish With Acronyms and a Selected Pandemic Bibliography and an Annotated Bibliography of Pandemic Related Glossaries, as a way to pay tribute to his daughter.

Mila Rainof, MD ’08, was a beloved member of the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) MD class of 2008. She died on April 20, 2008, after being hit by a car the preceding day at the intersection of York Street and South Frontage Road, which is adjacent to YMS’s E.S. Harkness Hall. Tragically, Mila was just a few weeks away from her graduation ceremony and had matched, along with her classmate and boyfriend James Troy, MD, with a prestigious residency in Oakland, California in Emergency Medicine at the Alameda Health System—Highland Hospital

Rainof, his wife Alice, and their daughter Rebecca came to New Haven right after Mila was killed. Rainof says they are deeply grateful to Mila’s classmates for their wonderful kindness, care, and support at this time, during some of the most awful days of his family’s lives. Among other gatherings, the students organized a memorial service for Mila in the YSM Rose Garden and planted a cherry tree in her honor on the Harkness Lawn. Subsequently, the students added a commemorating plaque next to the cherry tree.

Classmates continued to reach out to the Rainofs, sending them photos of Mila taken the day before she died and writing letters that shared stories about Mila. On their graduation day, a few weeks after Mila was killed, every member of the class paused at the corner of York and South Frontage as they processed from the medical school to Yale’s Old Campus, and placed a carnation at the location in memory of Mila. Her friends became active with traffic safety advocacy, hoping to make the York and South Frontage intersection safer. To Rainof’s dismay it is still dangerous: Another pedestrian and a cyclist have been killed by traffic violence at this intersection since Mila’s death. Rainof worries that if no action is taken to make this intersection safer, more people will be killed and/or seriously injured.

According to Rainof, Mila possessed the very rare combination of being very intelligent and highly compassionate. He saw this special combination of intelligence and compassion in many of her classmates, noting that the Yale System of Medical Education, with its focus on cooperation, not competition, likely played a role in further promoting and nurturing these qualities in its medical students.

Rainof says he has “a very special place in my heart for her class,” and stayed in touch with several students, including James Troy and his wife Amy Meadows, MD. Rainof notes how Troy, who has been extraordinarily busy during the pandemic with his work on the COVID-19 team at the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington, took the time to meticulously and thoroughly review the Glossary and suggest 17 additional words, with definitions. To Rainof, this reflects how caring and special Mila’s classmates are.

Rainof wanted to do something helpful during COVID to honor Mila, who he knew would have been in the thick of things in the ER during the pandemic. As he states in the Glossary’s introduction, “This Glossary was compiled out of a need to feel useful, to help in some way those on the front line of the fight against COVID-19 and to assist communication with those stricken with it, as well as with their friends and relatives.”

Because his expertise is in literature, applied linguistics, and language in general, and not medicine, he realized the Glossary was a way he could contribute, particularly since his research showed a more comprehensive resource than the ones available was needed. Rainof describes how the Glossary is an extension of his life’s work. “When one is under stress, in pain and feeling helpless, the fear and despair can be overwhelming. The need for the care team to understand and communicate is essential. I have devoted most of my life to this issue, to the need for reliable communication and the need to understand what is happening.”

His goal with the Glossary was to include both technical terms and everyday terms that a lay person would use and understand. A few examples include ARB Angiotensin Receptor Blocker/BRA Bloqueante del Receptor de la Angiotensina; booster shot/vacuna de refuerzo; and long COVID-19/COVID-19 prolongado, largo, persistente. He also wanted to include acronyms, which he describes as the “bane of translators.” Rainof’s glossary project was driven in part by questions that arose as he was writing a book about the COVID-19 pandemic and past pandemics. It took Rainof about six months to complete the Glossary.

In the Glossary, Rainof notes he waived the copyright “for all of those fighting this pandemic: physicians, nurses, caregivers in general, front line workers, medical schools and students, language mediators, hospitals and clinics, etc.,” just asking that attribution and credit be given when appropriate. The copyright is not waived if the material is used for profit. In his view, “the more people who can use it, the better.”

Because of the gratitude he and his family feel toward Mila’s class, he wanted to share the Glossary with them. In September 2021, it was sent to her classmates, with a cover note from Rainof, and soon will be sent to all students at YSM.

Submitted by Abigail Roth on October 01, 2021