Simon Morgan is a GP, medical educator and (newly frustrated) travel writer from Newcastle, Australia. He is on Twitter: @drsimonmorgan
First, a Christmas quiz:
- What is Christmas tree bladder?
- Which rash has a Christmas tree distribution?
- And finally, what is Christmas eye? (Clue – it’s not the death stare from your partner at the end of Christmas lunch when your intoxicated sibling is recounting their sordid holiday liaisons in front of the kids)
Like stray tinsel on the living room carpet, medicine is littered with references to Christmas. From Christmas disease1 to Christmas depression2 and to Christmas scrotum (actually, I made that one up), December 25th is frequently referenced in the medical literature. For decades, Christmas editions of every decent medical journal have been chock-full of faux-trials and comic case reports and histological slides that look like a cat’s bottom. With such over-exposure, you might ask, what is there left to write about Christmas?
Perhaps one thing. This festive season, let us consider not just those medical references to Christmas, but by Christmas. Well, Christmases. What have our colleagues, the cohort of doctors Christmas, contributed to the academic base of our profession?
What have our colleagues, the cohort of doctors Christmas, contributed to the academic base of our profession?
To answer this question, I undertook a (thoroughly non-)systematic review by searching PubMed for articles in which the first author has the surname Christmas. I then read the titles of all 307 papers (well, most), and, based purely on whim, selected those that follow for further discussion.
Christmas – a non-systematic review
I can report that it is an eclectic mix.
Firstly, let me to introduce you to the delightfully named Dewey A Christmas, an ENT surgeon from Florida. Extraordinarily, DA was the author of nearly one third of all the Christmas papers, the majority being case studies with a title commencing ‘An endoscopic view of…’. Eyeballing his output (mixed metaphor intended), DA would appear to be the most well-travelled nasal endoscopist around, describing his fibre-optic journeys to places as far flung as the torus tubarious, the uncinate process and the ethmoid strut.
A certain MJ Christmas authored five papers on genomics and was responsible for introducing me to the concept of ‘social parasitism’, a term which I’m sure nicely captures the spirit of Christmas for many.3
There were papers on a cornucopia of topics I have never heard of – constraint-induced movement therapy, Sprague-Dawley rats and a ‘lack of enthusiasm for megestrol acetate’, whatever that is – and many I had – organ donation, Colles’ fractures and measles outbreaks. There was a case series of blister beetle dermatitis in New Zealand soldiers and a primer on common ocular problems of the Shin Tzu dog. And a journal I disappointingly hadn’t come across before, Poultry Science, managed a few entries, including a 1996 paper on commercial broilers, which seems appropriately on-topic.
AB Christmas, a surgeon from a trauma centre in North Carolina, won the prize for catchiest title with ‘MOPEDS: Motorized Objects Propelling Ethanol Drinking Subjects’.4 And easily the most impenetrably titled paper was from a P Christmas, ‘An iron-free double-focusing pi square-root of 2 beta-ray spectrometer of 35 cm optic radius’.5 Your guess is as good as mine.
But, as a GP, my favourite article of the 307 was by WA Christmas, an American internist, titled ‘La maladie du petit papier’.6 In it, he described his approach to the patient presenting with a list of complaints (the so-called ‘sickness of the little paper’), including at times the need to ‘uncover conditions not on the list, like depression, panic attacks and relationship problems’. Gold.
So, to all, Merry Christmas.
Oh, and if you were wondering, there were three first author papers by Navidads, 618 by Natales and 1636 publications by Noels. But they were not included in the review as I got bored reading them all.
So, to all, Merry Christmas for the 25th. And to all those for whom it is Christmas every day, thanks for keeping us well informed.
And the quiz answers…
- Christmas tree bladder is a radiological appearance in which the bladder is elongated and pointed with a thickened, trabeculated wall, typically seen in neurogenic bladder.7
- Pityriasis rosea.8
- Christmas eye, or ‘harvesters’ eye’, is an acute corneal erosion which occurs in a specific region of Australia in the summer months (Christmas Down Under!), thought to be caused by a chemical reaction to a native beetle.9
1. Biggs R et al. Christmas Disease. Br Med J 1952. 2;4799:1378-82.
2. Hillard JR, Buckman J. Christmas depression JAMA 1982. 248;23:3175-6.
3. Christmas MJ et al. Social Parasitism in the Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Is Not Controlled by a Single SNP. Mol Biol Evol 2019. 36;8:1764-67.
4. Christmas AB et al. MOPEDS: Motorized Objects Propelling Ethanol Drinking Subjects. Am Surg 2011. 77;3:304-6.
5. Christmas P, Cross P. An iron-free double-focusing pi square-root of 2 beta-ray spectrometer of 35 cm optic radius. J Phys E 1973. 6;6:533-9.
6. Christmas WA. La maladie du petit papier. J Am Coll Health 1999. 47;6:289
7. The “Christmas tree” bladder. Hirshberg BV, Myers DT, Williams TR. Abdom Radiol (NY) 2018. 34;12:3525-6.
8. Pityriasis Rosea:An Updated Review. Curr Pediatr Rev 2020. Sep 23.
9. Colvin CS. “Christmas eye”. Acute corneal erosion. Med J Aust 1979. 2;12:661-2.