Cat Feces and Rust-Colored Sputum.


This is my favorite thing about medical school thus far.

I have found that the pain of hours of memorizing an be greatly alleviated by the magic of recognizing buzzwords in a question step. Oh, there’s a 25 year old who is presenting with low grade fever, dyspnea, pleuritic chest pain, with RLL consolidation on CXR?

Is the sputum rust colored? Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Does he have a pet parrot?  Chlamydia psittaci.

Oh he’s a farmer? Coxiella burnetii.

But wait – he’s a Missouri chicken farmer? Histoplasma.

This is the funnest part of reading patient presentations and question stems, and really makes me feel like a detective unraveling the case. Applying buzzwords to clinical practice is crucial in preventing key aspects that could lead to a diagnosis. For example, a woman who recently gave birth to a child with microcephaly was suspected to have transmitted a TORCH infection.

Was she changing diapers or sharing drinks with other children while she was pregnant? CMV.

Was she changing the kitty litter? Toxoplasma gondii.

Recent travel to Columbia? Zika virus.

Mice droppings in the home? LCM.

Some of the buzzwords are so distinctive, you could literally pick them out of a question stem, having not read anything else, and get the correct answer:

Fruity, Grape-like odor of a wound: Pseudomonas.

Re-heated fried rice: Bacillus cereus.

Epiglottitis: Haemophilus.

Blue-white center: Rubeola.

Red currant jelly sputum: Klebsiella.

And the list goes on! I have done these “Buzzword lists” for every test in medical school, and they have honestly been a life saver. The best part is, when a patient presents in clinic with “LUQ pain radiates to flank” and you immediately remember your buzzwords to make







2 thoughts on “Cat Feces and Rust-Colored Sputum.

  1. This post made me LOL and I immediately reading your list was having Sketchy MIcro flashbacks haha. It is pretty obvious I had a micro shelf last Monday! But I definitely agree although I love your list a lot. I hadn’t sat down to actually write these down this way but IT.WORKS!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – it’s so true though, right?! You see the word ‘Iguana’ in a stem about Sickle cell and your mind immediately jumps to ‘Salmonella!’. So ridiculous haha! Last night I went hot tubbing and all I could think about was the Sketchy Micro Pseudomonas image of Mona Lisa eating grapes in her hot tub.. #medschoolprobs 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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