What’s in a Name?

By Joe Savarese

Mnemonics are definitely useful tools for medical students – useful for quick recall and short-memory techniques on frequently difficult topics. However, I found that when I am in the exam room with 72 seconds per question, my mind likely will not remember the twelve cranial nerves with this classic long sentence: “On old Olympus’s towering tops, a Finn and German viewed some hops.”

I prefer an acronym where each letter can stand for various items without the goofy sentence or I will commonly reshape the word in such a way that I can recall something significant about it. The latter method gives me the opportunity to remember forgotten memorized facts if I am stuck on an exam question. We have all had those moments where we recognize the word, yet we forgot everything about it. Instead we sit in the exam room and continuously repeat “Oprelvekin. Oprelvekin. Oprelvekin.” while changing our emphasis on different syllables.

Below are a few examples of difficult drugs (in my opinion) that I used while studying for Step 1.

Hopefully this is a good review of some recombinant cytokines:

  • Oprelvekin, recombinant IL-11, changed to Oprev11vekin.
  • Filgrastrim, a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, changed to FILLgrastim because it will FILL the bone marrow.
  • Aldesleukin, recombinant IL-2, changed to AlDOSleukin, where dos is two in Spanish.
  • Sargramostim, a granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, changed to SargramoSTIM because it will STIMulate the bone marrow.

Antimicrobial medications:

  • Raltegravir, mechanism of action works to inhibit the HIV strand from integrating into the host’s genome via the inhibition of HIV integrase, changed to HALTegravir because the viral DNA is HALTed from integration into the host cell’s DNA.
  • Enfuvirtide, blocks fusion of virus with host cell membrane and thus viral entry into cell via binding at gp41, changed to ENFUSIrtide thinking of the word INFUSIon.
  • Caspofungin, part of the echinocandins class and used for refractory or invasive aspergillosis and candida infections, C_ASP_pofungin, spelling remains the same but emphasized letters, where C is for Candida and ASP is for ASPergillosis.
  • ChlorAMPhenicol, where A is for Aplastic Anemia, M is for its clinical use against Meningitis, and P is for Peptidyltransferase block (the mechanism of action). Also COLORamphenicol to recall GRAY baby syndrome characterized a GRAY COLOR skin hue, vomiting, flaccidity, and shock if a premature infant is given this medication.

How do you use mnemonics to remember difficult concepts? Tell us in a comment below!


5 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

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