You don't need to be signed in to read BMJ Blogs, but you can register here to receive updates about other BMJ products and services via our site.

Menkel’s Kinky Hair versus Dilnott Fairer Care – Journeys through Nuncupation

22 Dec, 16 | by James Smallbone, Publishing Assistant

It’s eponymous my dear Watson!

Eponymous
adjective
1. (of a person) giving their name to something.
“the eponymous hero of the novel”

2. (of a thing) named after a particular person or group.
“their eponymous debut LP”

Medical students of a certain vintage will have used the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. There was a section at the end devoted to eponymous syndromes. At the time these were originally described, this was significant innovation and rightly they have lived on. Cushing’s syndrome for example has its own page on NHS choices. Obviously the wider relevance of these conditions depends on their prevalence – Menkel’s kinky hair syndrome stayed with me from medical school but I have never knowingly seen a case. As you would expect, it is becoming harder and harder to generate your own syndrome. This may change with the 100,000 genome project  but the best you can probably hope for is a single nucleotide polymorphism attributed to you & your collaborators!

The same cannot be said for eponymous reports sadly. Are such reports becoming a bit of a career aim for the ‘establishment’? The usefulness of said reports is invariably inversely proportional to the length of the document. I do not arrive at this conclusion lightly and am not going to debate report structures. I discussed knowledge translation in a previous blog  and I firmly believe that less is more.

However, in case it has passed anyone by we have reached something of a crisis in health and social care. Not a Blackadder Goes Forth type crisis, no, this is in fact having a serious impact on all of our roles. This is definitely a time for action, not a measured debate on the Dilnott report as heard on the Radio 4 today program, for instance. Whilst our eponymous hero Cushing made his observations some time ago in 1932 – along with Addison, these do have clinical relevance today.  I am not sure an 82 page report alongside hundreds of supporting documents archived on the government website in 2011 will have the same relevance, now or in 80 years time.

It is difficult to make a direct comparison between syndromes and reports but: here goes. There are over 200 eponymous syndromes  & many redundancies where historical substitutions have been made. It is an honour that a vanishingly rare number of doctors will achieve. The same cannot be necessarily said for parliamentary output  but, while weighty tomes (literally and metaphorically), not every one bears an actual name. For those in the establishment, the usual health and social care suspects include Dilnott, Barker, Altmann amongst others going back in time – no doubt to the inception of the health and social care systems post the second world war. There are also linked reports around pensions/ageing and other aspects that feed in to health. I would hesitate to give a definitive number of reports. If the number is not approaching 200 then the reduction in relative frequency compared to eponymous syndromes is more than compensated by the length. The honour, if there is one, is usually awarded in advance with ennoblement of the lead author whereas the usefulness of most eponymous syndromes are/were often only fully recognised posthumously.

Although the chances of either is approximately zero, I would hope if I ever got the call to add to the metaphorical paper pile of PDF archives, I would find inspiration from one of my medical heroes and channel rule 13 of The House of God.

Yours,

Minton (of the lesser kinky hair)

 

By Ollie Minton

By submitting your comment you agree to adhere to these terms and conditions
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care blog

BMJ Supportive
& Palliative Care

BMJ Group's first dedicated supportive and palliative care journal.
Visit site



Creative Comms logo