Category Archives: Must Have
Dubin’s Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s is a one-of-a-kind book that is often referenced in medical schools due to its fun and simple methods of teaching the evaluation of electrocardiograms. More importantly, it provides a high-yield, low-stress method of conveying these otherwise difficult concepts.
In each chapter, the fundamental concepts of EKG’s are delineated in a crisp and clear format. What makes up the bulk of the book is actually not free-text but illustrations that significantly help correlate concepts and electrocardiogram images. Individual diagnoses or findings on an EKG are accompanied by full explanations, including clearly delineated criteria and just enough information to teach pertinent core cardiology concepts (without overwhelming the reader). In fact, the information in Dubin’s EKGs is known for being dumbed down and presented in a “flashcard” style so that it is easy to understand and absorb on-the-go. All concepts are reiterated and presented repeatedly to ensure maximum retention and an appropriate pace. Interestingly, despite the repetitiveness of the material and the seemingly “dumbed down” façade, the book covers all the necessary information that students needs for medical school, and even quick review during residency. Specific chapters include: Basic Principles, Recording of the EKG, Autonomic Nervous System, Rate, Rhythm, Axis, Hypertrophy, Infarction, and a catch-all Miscellaneous section.
While this title remains highly endorsed by the editors of this site, it is important to still note the drawbacks, for completeness. Due to the ease of use, some students find Dubin’s EKG to not be challenging enough. While it remains a strong primer, some students (especially those with prior cardiology experience) believe that several pages of information can be condensed into a page or less. It is important to realize that the aim of this title is to teach only the fundamentals of EKG knowledge. For depth and advanced nuances not needed for medical students, a larger, more condensed resources is warranted. As such, Dubin’s Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s should be used as a quick and superficial “top of the iceberg” but “solid foundations” reference guide to learning the basics of EKG’s.
For medical school: exceedingly useful.
For residency: potentially helpful.
For cardiology fellowships: trainees ought to be well past the basics presented within this book.
Reading Dubin’s Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s cover to cover takes about 4 or 5 hours total, but it is more highly recommended that students periodically return to the book over time for increased retention of the repetitious material. Overall, this earns a strong endorsement and is highly recommended for any new second year medical student learning cardiology.
The 2011 version of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 was previously reviewed on this site as the must have gold standard of Step 1 board review, and this only builds on it. Reportedly the “world’s bestselling medical review book,” First Aid 2012 continues its long line of teaching with a noticeable update. As the rainbow bar on the cover suggests, First Aid is now in full color. The company also reports approximately 20% new content across the additional pages.
There are a good number of benefits that come with the color upgrade. Previous versions stored a small section of pages near the back of the book with certain must-see color images. In 2012 however, they are blended seamlessly around the relevant text, allowing users to go directly from text to image without page references. The color also seems to make a number of the images pop a bit more. Drawn diagrams are easier to encode into memory, and line graphs are easier to trace (although this may be difficult to appreciate in the below image). There also appears to simply be more color pictures in general, complementing the text more completely than previous versions.
Pages without images still have subdued hues of blue and red around the border. Bolding is now in a dark blue, which seems to conflict with one of the improvements many people liked between the 2010 and 2011 versions: bolder, darker font. Nevertheless text remains easy to read.
The other noticeable addition to the book is the use of QR codes found at the start and end of every chapter, linking the user to updates, errata, “and more.” They all actually appear to be the same QR code throughout the book, and come with a link to the title’s associated question bank. As an aside, that same link is where students can submit errors or recommendations to improve the subsequent version, and get their name printed in it as well. While it is difficult to see the practical use for this electronic QR connection, board-study-psychosis can produce erratic behavior in medical students, and it certainly isn’t a detracting feature.
In general, First Aid Step 1 2012 also does a better job with spacing and sizing, as seen in the above image, although this comes at the expense of smaller margins. As mentioned in the previous 2011 review, most students annotate the book’s blank space. Because of this, margins have historically been important, although a good amount of white space still remains. In regard to the physical size of the book itself, it is surprising to see the dimensions to be about equivalent to the 2010 version, despite an additional 50 pages. The downside to this is that the pages are very thin and don’t hold certain inks or highlighting as well as prior versions.
Overall, it is highly recommended that every second year medical student has access to a personal copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. Unfortunately, it is generally contraindicated to obtain a used copy of this title due to the annotation produced by most users. The color update with a reported 20% increase in content represents an improvement that should not be overlooked for a new copy of a previous version. Therefore, we strongly recommend picking up a new copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012. As we get further into Step 1 season, MedStudentBooks.com will post any discounts or deals on purchasing this title online, and possibly give one away for free. For now, shop around the below links to find the best price, and be sure to look for the color version.
This contest is currently closed – the winner has been contacted. Thank you to everyone who applied. Stay tuned for the next free giveaway, coming this Halloween!
Med Student Books is proud to announce our first of many book giveaways: Mark Sabatine’s Pocket Medicine. You have probably already heard it referred to as “The Green Book” (the newest edition after “The Red Book“), and seen it sticking out of white coat pockets. Pocket Medicine has been previously reviewed on this site as a “Must Have” book for third year medical students on the wards.
Thanks to our friends at Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, we are happy to give away a brand new copy of this highly recommended resource. As this site is dedicated to using the experiences of medical students to help one another, Pocket Medicine will be awarded to the US medical student who offers the best advice to incoming first year medical students in a comment to this post. It can focus on anything, including but not limited to study tips, ways to adjust to med school life, your favorite anatomy resources, or anything else that you wish you had known coming into medical school. It just needs to be tailored to first years.
As this book is valued at over $50 and we wish to restrict it to the medical community, we ask that you use your medical school e-mail address as verification of your status. Alternately, you can use another e-mail for now, but winners must verify their med school e-mail when contacted. E-mail addresses are not displayed publicly, and will not be used for any purpose outside of this contest. The winning entry will be selected on Friday, October 7th at 11:59pm, and the winner will be notified by the e-mail they provided shortly thereafter.
See our complete contest rules for further details.
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple edition 5 by Mark Gladwin is another one of those must-have best books you can safely purchase upon entering medical school. The focus is to overview all of the bugs (microbiology pathogens) and drugs that medical students encounter in preclinical Microbiology, the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 exams, and the wards.
Whether you are incredibly interested in Microbiology or find it to be a gigantic anxiety provoking and overwhelming burden on your medical school career, Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple will keep you sane. The strength of the book is taking the daunting task of mass memorization and breaking it down into digestible memorable portions, and using very silly drawings (see collage below). The drawings themselves are either produced by a really bad adult artist, or a really talented second grader. Either way, they have a habit of really sticking. I have yet to forget that salmonella hangs out in the gallbladder, despite never being tested on that factoid. In all actuality, the book might as well be named Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculous, because that’s what you’re getting. The book even has its own set of cited “Mneomonists” that helped with the ridiculousness.
If you’re into serious reads, this is not the book for you. The reader of Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple needs to be able to laugh and/or eye-roll at the images. The text itself is completely accurate, though one of the ongoing complaints of this book (and series) is the typos and grammatical errors that pop up (they’re an off-label publisher). The only other people who complain are the hardcore Microbiology PhD students who really do just want a serious text to hit nitty gritty advanced details for which you won’t be responsible to any reasonable degree whilst in medical school.
This book is specifically designed for review and ground up learning for the microbiology newbie. I continue to pull it out for boards and wards, specifically including Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, and Ob/Gyn (STDs are everywhere!). Individual sections include an Introduction to Bacteria, Gram Positive Bacteria, Gram Negative Bacteria, Acid Fast Bacteria, Bacteria Without Cell Walls, Anti-Bacterial Medications, Fungi, Viruses, Parasites, Very Strange Critters (prions), Antimicrobial Resistance, and a final chapter on Agents of Bioterrorism. Remember that microbiology and pharmacology books can give a good overview of antibiotic selection, but medical practices should utilize local data on bug susceptibility to direct care.
Overall, Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple is highly recommended as one of the best microbiology textbooks available to medical students, to be complemented with MicroCards to enhance learning. I leave you with a sampling:
It is finally time to review Goljan: Epic King of Pathology. All of the legends and rumors you heard were true. He’s an arm wrestling champion, rides a white stallion around his massive pathology fun house, and can break a man’s finger clean off during rectal exam. Indeed, some believe that the mere act of saying his name aloud increases their board score by one point every time. If you don’t understand these things, it is simply because you are not yet enlightened.
Edward Goljan is a world class Pathology Chair from Oklahoma State University. Back in the day, he began doing pathology review courses for his medical students, which have been condensed over the years into the most comprehensive yet concise pathology review available. More importantly, it is perfectly tailored to the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, and even USMLE Step 3 boards exams, as Dr. Goljan has further refined his teachings based on constant feedback he receives from students after they take the boards. As he states:
These notes took 25 years to put together over time. And it dwindled down to the absolute quintessence. It’s like espresso. You just have a little drop and you’re already fixed.
At some point, one of his students recorded his epic lecture series, which continues to float around the internet and med school back-alleys to this day, obtained and abused like crack for the boards. To complement his lectures, he handed out his condensed notes, mentioned above. Over time, these notes coalesced into Edward Goljan’s Rapid Review Pathology book.
The book itself is newer than the audio and has undergone further revisions, whereas the audio remains in its temporally frozen preservation.
Specific chapters of Goljan’s Rapid Review Pathology include: Cell Injury, Inflammation and Repair, Immunopathology, Hemodynamic Disorders (Acid, Base, Electrolytes, Water), Genetic and Developmental Disorders, Environmental Pathology, Nutritional Disorders, Neoplasia, Vascular, Heart, Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, Lymphoid Tissue, Hemostasis, Immunohematology, Upper and Lower Respiratory, Gastrointestinal, Hepatobilliary and Pancreatic, Kidneys, Lower Urinary Tract and Male Reproductive Disorders, Female Reproductive Tract and Breast Disorders, Endocrine, Musculoskeletal and Soft Tissue, Skin, Nervous System, and Special Sensory Disorders.
Goljan’s Rapid Review Pathology also comes with Student Consult, the online portal and electronic copy of the book, giving you access to all of the text remotely, as well as the images (which come in handy for powerpoint presentations). Student Consult for Rapid Review Pathology also comes with a little over 400 USMLE style pathology questions related to the book itself. However, to truly lock in the information with a fantastic complementary USMLE style pathology question bank, Robbins and Cotran’s Review of Pathology (reviewed here) is the recommended book of choice.
Haines Neuroanatomy: An Atlas of Structures, Sections, and Systems is another one of those amazing must-have books that can be reliably purchased going into first year medical school. Unlike the differing opinions regarding, general anatomy atlases, this really is the best neuroanatomy textbook for medical school. It is important to differentiate this from a reading-intensive book from which one would use to sit down and learn new concepts. This is a picture atlas with complementary text specifically relevant to the images, not a text-heavy resource. Its purpose is not to teach new function, but to provide a structural neurology road map along the fibers of the brain and spinal cord, which it accomplishes very well. Similarly, it is rather difficult to discern the neurology (or general anatomy) structures and pathways just by reading text. The use of Haines Neuroanatomy Atlas is best used in conjunction with your first year med school Neurology class syllabus and lectures, to specifically prepare you for neurology lab and the exam. The gold standard of human anatomy, Netter’s Anatomy Atlas (reviewed here), is used in the exact same way.
The atlas features a very clear layout of the spinal cord and brain stem, in an intuitive order. The key value of the book is all about the two-page spreads that feature “raw” cross sectional neurology images on one page, and labeled cartoon overlays on the opposite page. This gives you the perspective of the types of images you will see on exams, while still outlining pertinent borders and areas. If you have a question about where that darker blob ends or what it does, just look at the page above for the border and answer.
A bit of advice when using Haines Neuroanatomy Atlas: a common mistake many med students make it to bring this book into neurology or neuroanatomy lab with them. While doing so will allow you to utilize the atlas, it is a most assured method of ruining the book as well. It is nearly impossible to avoid getting preservatives/fixatives and streaked brain bits onto the pages as you and lab partners reach over it and attempt to turn the pages. You should try to avoid doing so and then taking the book home or touching it with bare hands later.
As a reference, this is the latest edition of the popular cover shown right, and should not be confused as being a different book. The cover on the right also gives you a taste of the types of images in the book itself.
Overall, Haines’ Neuroanatomy Atlas is definitely not one to miss, and should be used for its intended purpose: as a neuroanatomy picture book that provides the visual complement to your preclinical med school Neurology lectures and syllabus. If you’re going for Honors in preclinical Neurology or your Neurology clerkship, buy this book.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) produces a number of resources, but MKSAP For Students 4 is one of the best things they have to offer medical students on inpatient internal medicine or outpatient primary care medicine clerkships. There are a number of USMLE style question banks and books out there, but this one really covers all the bases in these fields. In case you were wondering, it stands for the “Medical Knowledge Self Assessment Program”.
More valuable than the physical text itself is the CD that comes with every copy. Questions can be loaded directly onto a computer, which comes in handy if you like to study around town with a laptop. Your progress and answer choices are tracked and can easily be reset at any time. My personal favorite use is loading the question bank onto my smart phone so I can listen to music and answer questions while waiting for the bus. Keep in mind that certain Android browsers do not support linking through websites that are on the phone itself. All this means is that you will need to hit the back button and load a new question from the browser instead of just hitting “Next” on the question page itself.
There are a number of different MKSAP question sets, which gets confusing. Bottom line: As a medical student searching for a good book, get MKSAP 4, followed by MKSAP 3 if desired. An article will be posted soon regarding all the differences, including the higher numbered books.
As for MKSAP 4, it covers all the expected topics, complete with dermatology images and EKG interpretations. Specific chapters include Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, General Internal Medicine, Hematology, Infectious Disease, Nephrology, Neurology, Oncology, Pulmonary Medicine, Rheumatology. By the end of the book, you will know every etiology of common presentations such as cough, chest pain, abdominal pain, etc. It really is a great tool for inpatient Internal Medicine, outpatient Internal Medicine, a large portion of Family Medicine, shelf exams, and the USMLE Step 2 CK exam.
The 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope is the best bang for the med student loan-money buck when it comes to superior medical equipment to buy. Some basic stethoscope knowledge: “bell” and “diaphragm” refer to the two side of older traditional stethoscopes that allow the listener to tune into lower and higher frequencies, respectively. The 3M Littmann Cardiology III however uses some magical patented technology to produce this affect simply by pushing lightly or firmly. The second smaller side can be used in a similar fashion as a pediatric stethoscope, or converted to a traditional bell (see insert in picture). Bottom line: this is the only stethoscope that is needed for any medical student throughout medical school and beyond.
The instrument itself usually comes with a 5 year manufacturer warranty, which is perfect because it lasts through intern year. The ear pieces are comfortable, and a new set will come with an extra pair that are easily changed, but most likely won’t need to be. The entire instrument is very easy to clean, comes in handy on the wards when coming in contact with infectious patients.
There will be a lot of options when trying to purchase a stethoscope, so here are a few pointers. First, try to stick to the Cardiology III. Most people believe the Cardiology II simply aren’t as good. You may be tempted to get the limited edition black plated version or spend the extra money on engraving your name into the bell, but keep in mind that there is a small but not negligible population of stethoscope thieves in hospitals.
3m doesn’t sell these directly, so you should do a good amount of searching for the lowest price. Unlike other medical instruments, this one should be purchased new. The best strategy is to search around, and specifically target individuals who are selling them new. The links below should be a good start.