The eponymous syndrome
How can you impress your seniors when quizzed on an eponym?
- By: Aravinthan Varatharaj
To the doctor, fame; to the patient, confusion; to the unwary, a minefield; to the initiated, a treasure: medical eponyms are all things to all people. Patients with eponymous syndromes abound in all areas of medicine. An understanding of how to approach a patient with an eponymous syndrome, although complex, is an essential skill in clinical practice.
Although little known outside specialist circles, my method—Varatharaj’s gambit—allows the student of eponyms to easily portray encyclopedic knowledge while masking catastrophic ignorance. When coming across an eponymous condition you may be asked, “Who was such and such?” You must face your questioner with confidence and answer in the format century, nationality, specialty. This is easily memorable with the mnemonic CNS. Therefore, when attacked with “Who was Osler?” you reply, “He was a 19th century Canadian physician.” Such a format is imbued with such intrinsic truth that even the most seasoned questioners have been