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Creating Waves of Awareness

A boy, aged 7, was under my treatment for his Atopic Dermatitis. He had already consulted me three or four times, and was regularly taking my medicines. Meanwhile, he had an acute fever, for which he was brought by his parents for an urgent consultation at my residence. In a hurry, they had forgotten to take the registration card. They were very familiar to me; still, I could not remember the name of that boy.


Just for the sake of record keeping, I had to ask his name even though I was little reluctant to do so. (Asking the name of a familiar person is a little difficult). Believe me friends, the reply from the child was a sudden shock to me. “Doctor, you can’t even remember my name, then how can you remember the diseases and medicines?” he asked. Yes, it was my mistake, I had to admit it. We often go through the case paper before the patient enters the cabin just to greet them. But, I could not apply this trick, since I had no paper case with me. But, thereafter I always try to remember the name of the patient first. And needless to tell you, now his name can’t be forgotten, because he was the one who inspired me!

William Shakespeare’s famous quote "What is there in the name," indirectly says that the name is not so important. But, we, medical practitioners must give great importance to the name. ‘Name’ is the first step of our case taking. A long case taking without the name of the patient is of no use! If we don’t remember the symptoms of the patients, it is tolerable, but at least we must remember the name of the patient. It can even force the patient to say goodbye from one particular physician. In the business field, also, remembering the name is very important.

The feeling we get when somebody calls by our name is different, because we feel more intimate to that person. When I started my practice under the late Dr Sasidharan, we had one case of a middle-aged man having allergic bronchitis. A few months ago, the same patient consulted me. The moment he entered my cabin, I greeted him by calling his name. He could not recognize me and he was really surprised to know that I still remembered his name even after 12 years. His unique name and his peculiar nature some how recorded inside my ‘hard disc.’  I could recollect this person on the spot. But this may not always happen. After all, we are human beings.

The inspiration I got from our surgery professor Dr G M Khan, sir, is noteworthy. During my internship, I used to visit his clinic during my free time. The way he used to communicate with the patient was really impressive. He knew the name of each and every person in the family and their jobs. I have noticed many patients discuss the family matters with sir and he used to give suggestions, also. Dr Kasim Chimthanawala’s unique method of case taking is another method that has inspired me. Each and every patient is asked to maintain a daily record that has to be submitted during each visit. By this method, the whole individual picture is presented to the physician and the patient develops a rapport with the physician. The list of people who inspired me never ends here.

Different ways to remember the names of our patients:

· Do not always depend only on the case paper. We must be in a position to handle the case even when the case paper is missing. We must identify the patient even when we receive a phone call from them.

· When the patient goes out of the cabin, try to remember by heart the name of the patient and diagnosis (both disease and remedial diagnosis). It will be an extra benefit if we remember the investigations done (or else, we will again suggest MRI for a person who has already done the same last time).

· Try to remember the name of all family members and try to connect each name, one after the other.

· Try to connect the name of the patient with another known person, material or event. Yesterday I had one patient named Navneet. Now I won't forget his name since I connected his name with my friend Dr Navneet Bidani.

· Mnemonics can also be used for the same purpose.

In contemporary days, the family doctors are becoming an endangered species, due to the over importance to the concept of specialization. Hence, we should make use of this opportunity.

There are hundreds of websites dealing with the tips to remember the names of people.

Copyright with Dr Muhammed Rafeeque.

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Comment by Viktor Kalocsai on February 3, 2017 at 5:15am

it's a good gadget to use (HWC or me, we don't have any business relations with them)

Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on September 19, 2012 at 1:23am

Thanks for the comments.

Comment by Dr. Natvar Pansuria on September 17, 2012 at 1:05pm
As you are experience person then also i say what i do to remember the name of my patient...when ever i am free i read cases taken in past...i got 2 benifits ..i remember name of patient and i recall what i had done in that case...
Comment by Dr. Aadil Chimthanawala on September 15, 2012 at 2:21am

Alzheimer's or No... this is quite an unique problem faced with many professionals from all walks of life.. Even I remember my patients by their diagnosis or the medicine that i have given them but there are times when i forget their names... I apologize and directly ask the name to the patient!

Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on September 12, 2012 at 7:35am

Thank you Dr.

Comment by Kuldip Singh on September 11, 2012 at 11:09am

Dr. Rafeeque, age is on your side, you are quite youthful, articulate enjoying good health.  You can reasonably be proud of your memory. Your write-up on ‘What is in a name’ is very interesting . In fact many of us practitioners do experience similar situations. You are right, certain peculiar names of some persons and patients of some strange personality do get sometimes permanently saved on our ‘hard disks’. In fact calling a patient by his name imparts confidence in him assuring him that the doctor is taking a personal care of his case. You have given quite useful hints & tips. Well done.

Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on September 10, 2012 at 2:34am

So far I have not taken any medicines for that. But I am trying to remember the names by various ways. Finally, when there is no result, I will consider a remedy.

I think mental exercise is very useful. We should make use of each areas of our brain. Storing and re-use of stored information should be a regular activity. Like the machines, brain should not be kept unused, because the smooth running can be affected. Regular reading also helps.

Comment by Debby Bruck on September 9, 2012 at 9:37am

We can have a discussion about dementia, Alzheimer's and when people have had trouble remembering names as their constitution. All three differ from each other. A combination of actions may help, such as, the amount of rest we get, deep breathing, brain exercises, mnemonic tools, the type of food we eat, supplements and homeopathic remedies.  

Comment by Dr. Wequar Ali Khan on September 8, 2012 at 10:38am

Dr Rafeeque, a extremely important subject in a doctor and patient relationship, remembering names. Its a good reminder to all of us. But, then as you age, you start forgetting names or it takes effort to get to it. Debby's remark is valid too, how do we keep our memory sharp as we age? We keep forgetting names, telephone numbers, addresses etc. I, for one, feel miserable when I forget the names of my favorite movie stars. Recently, I had a tough time remembering two names of my favorite heroes, the late Paul Newman and William Holden. Any suggestions?  

Comment by Debby Bruck on September 8, 2012 at 10:11am

Have you ever taken remedies to help you remember names? What about gingko biloba? 

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