The term physician-scientist is one of those compound words that has been created to unite disparate elements. Our language has others: student-athlete, warrior-statesman and player-coach. The hyphen is a convenient way to keep the words together, but the hyphen cannot obscure the inherent contradictions that fight within. At that core, physicians and scientists (just like students and athletes) can be worlds apart. Becoming a physician-scientist demands a union that can take years to forge and is often tenuous and unnerving. The compound words I noted have two interesting features. The first is that each describes a person of action—physician, athlete, warrior, or player—in conjunction with a person of thought—scientist, student, statesman, or coach. The second feature is that the order of the two words seems to matter, and, in all but one case (student-athlete), the action person precedes the thought person.