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September 13, 2010

Medical Eponyms: Time for a Name Change

Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(16):1499-1500. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.281

A medical eponym is the name of a disease or condition based on the name of a person or a place. It has traditionally been considered an honor for physicians to have an illness, microorganism, semiological sign, or anatomical area named after them. Eponyms can be a convenient shortcut to refer to groups of pleomorphic conditions whose specific descriptions are difficult to remember and describe. As Woywodt et al1 pointed out, it is much easier to speak of Fallot tetralogy than congenital cyanotic heart disease due to ventricular septal defect, pulmonary stenosis, right ventricular hypertrophy, and aortic dextroposition. Furthermore, eponyms often provide a historical context to the description of the syndrome and a link to the development of medical science.

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    1 Comment for this article
    Condemning the Unknown-Reply to Medical Eponyms: Time for a Name Change
    Joseph T Nezgoda, MD, MBA | UMDNJ-RWJMS
    Dear Author, It may be a bit harsh not to separate the scientist or physician and their accomplishment from the political circumstances of their time. Werner Heisenberg made countless contributions to physics yet may have been connected to the Nazi regime. Should his accomplishments be discounted as they occurred in Germany during the time of this horrible movement? Should we also criticize the countless achievements of the Soviets that occurred under Stalin's regime? It is possible in hindsight that the USA will be seen by history as an antagonistic and bellicose power. Would the achievements of our greatest minds be placed as a footnote and divorced from those whose innovation moved science forward?

    Conflict of Interest: None declared