Dr Siobhan Moyes and Dr John Chilton Wordotomy
Words used in clinical healthcare can pose a linguistic minefield – but they can be easier to understand if you drill down to their roots in ancient languages (‘hypertension’ literally means ‘high pressure’).  
Now two academics from the University of Plymouth have designed a new game to help students through the terminology, and it’s already travelling around the UK and worldwide.
Wordotomy – ‘otomy’ meaning ‘cutting’ – was created by the University’s anatomy lead, Dr Siobhan Moyes , with illustrations by Biomedical Sciences Lecturer, Dr John Chilton, both based in Peninsula Medical School.
Siobhan had long wanted to create a game to help students understand and remember key terms and, after a chance conversation where John mentioned his love of illustration, the game was born.

Healthcare students are obviously good at taking on new information, but I realised that many were unaware complex terms could be understood by breaking them down into components. My solution was to create a word game with common clinical word roots printed on one side and the definition on the other, for example ‘cardio’ meaning ‘relating to the heart’.

This was an immediate hit and had a good impact, but I often lamented that it was quite boring just to have bits of words on paper. Then I spoke to John and he offered to add illustrations, which made it the game it is today.

Siobhan MoyesSiobhan Moyes
Lecturer in Anatomy (Education)

You might think it’s just as easy to Google terms, but certain words aren’t known for their medical meaning – for example, ‘retro’ means behind, but you type ‘retro’ into a search engine and you’ll get examples of fashion!

By breaking words down, it makes it easier to remember and apply – by understanding the small pieces, we can better understand the whole.

John ChiltonJohn Chilton
Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences (Education)

Wordotomy has a number of different game play options. One sees players identify definitions (such as ‘itis’ – inflammation), and put them together to make key terms (e.g. ‘appendicitis’), while another sees them given the term (e.g. ‘chondrocyte’) and asked to define it based on the breakdown – ‘chondro’ means cartilage, and ‘cyte’ means ‘cell’. 
Students at the University of Plymouth have also started to use it to supplement their learning, and the game has been endorsed by key figures such as presenter and public engagement scientist, Professor Alice Roberts. 
Siobhan concluded: 
“The game is available to buy and profits go back into improving the student experience here. We are starting to use it in our public outreach work too, and we’re so pleased it’s been well received so far. 
“One day, Wordotomy could be adapted and expanded to break down words in other disciplines – such as geography, law, or even dinosaurs! We’re really looking forward to what comes next and are so pleased people are making the most of it in the meantime.”
Students looking at a radiography image (1280x720)

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