Category Archives: Pre-clinical Years
Lange’s Case Files Pathology is a book whose purpose is to integrate our knowledge of pathology for diagnosing realistic scenarios in medicine. There are 50 clinical cases written in clear USMLE-style format. For each clinical case, there are four parts: 1) a summary with straightforward answers and clinical correlations, 2) basic science concepts including objectives and definitions followed by a brief discussion of the topic of interest, 3) a few comprehensive questions that reinforce key points, and 4) “pathology pearls”, which are important take-home points. When going through each case, important information is bolded for emphasis and explanations are concise and precise—eliminating the trivial concepts that should have become second nature by the end of organ systems. This means that this book is not for learning materials, but rather more effectively used as a tool for review, reinforcement, and integration of learnt information to allow for synthesis.
Although all Case Files books may or may not fit the needs of boards review, Case Files Pathology is a book that can only help. With key take-home points and short-and-sweet explanations of case material, you should have little problem learning the essentials—the fundamental architecture of clinical pathology. For example, you may come across a case of ventricular septal defect (VSD), requiring you to utilize your knowledge of epidemiology, embryology, physiology, and the clinical presentations of cardiac defects. Of course, take note that this book is for pathophysiology and not just for lab-based pathology, so a good foundation in second year organ blocks material would make this book much more useful for synthesis of all the loosely connected information.
The downside of Case Files Path includes: 1) lack of pictures and images to allow the medical student to truly appreciate the clinical appearance of certain diseases, 2) lack of explanations for various diagnostic tests that may be useful for understanding the diagnostic and elimination process, and 3) the multiple choice review questions at the end of each case are generally very simple and superficial questions asking more for recall than synthesis, despite the fact that the case itself is pretty good at elucidating the more detailed aspects of disease.
Overall, Case Files Pathology would be great to have for some last minute studying or USMLE Step 1 board review, but definitely not for the initial phase of studying. Get the foundation down solid, and then use this book to cement everything together. As for where to use this book, it is not a useful resource for studying for medical school classes since the cases in the book is written in USMLE format rather than in the format of questions on medical school examinations. However, it is definitely a good book to have at the end of your studies for USMLE Step 1 to get the bigger picture and practice applying medical knowledge to realistic medical cases, uncertainties and all.
After graduating from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1967, I practiced neurology, ophthalmology, and family medicine at one time or another. I also did research and taught at the University of Miami School of Medicine for 25 years in the Cell Biology/Anatomy department, where I taught neuroanatomy, and was an attending in the Family Medicine department.
In 1979, I formed the MedMaster publishing company after my first book, Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple, was rejected by multiple publishers for making a serious topic funny and being too brief. Strangely, the aspects of the book that were criticized were the same ones that my students appreciated. The book went on to become a best-seller in the U.S. My students awarded me the George Paff Award for Most Outstanding Professor eleven times.
Other authors of like mind, including my students Mark Gladwin and Bill Trattler, who wrote Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, submitted books that went on to become the MedMaster “Made Ridiculously Simple” series. I was invited to give the commencement address at the Washington University at St. Louis School of Medicine in 2004 in appreciation of the MedMaster contribution to medical student education.
It occurred to me that when a publisher receives a book, it is often sent for review to someone who may be expert in the field, but not necessarily expert in understanding the needs of a student learning the topic for the first time. Such experts often feel a book is “incomplete.” Hence, the student is often left with very large texts with a lot of clinically irrelevant information, and has difficulty grasping the subject as a whole. One study indicated that the leading cause of stress in medical school is that there is so much to learn and so little time to learn it. Another study showed that if a first year medical student actually did all the reading that was assigned, this would entail reading more than 24 hours a day. So MedMaster embarked on publishing books that are brief, clinically relevant, enjoyable to read, and promote understanding.
The medical student needs 3 kinds of books:
- The reference text. While such large books provide essential reference information, the student can get lost and not achieve an overall understanding of the subject. Understanding is very important. The human brain is better at understanding than at memorizing huge numbers of esoteric facts. Computers are better at facts; humans are better at understanding. Understanding not only helps in dealing with the many variations on patient problems, but also facilitates the learning of facts.
- The Board review book. I’ve noticed that many of the student forums focus on study for the USMLE. Passing the Boards is necessary; indeed, MedMaster publishes its own review books for USMLE Step 1, 2, and 3. But simply relying on the rote facts in Board review books is insufficient for practicing medicine, because Board review books do not promote understanding, which is vital in dealing with patients.
- The small conceptual book, which provides understanding in addition to key information useful not only for exams but for practical application throughout one’s career. MedMaster emphasizes such books, which can be found at www.medmaster.net. MedMaster’s blog, the Goldberg Files, deals with methods to promote rapid learning and other ways to deal with the stress of medical school.
Did you ever wish your course materials had less research-driven material that was bogged down in details? Did you ever wish that relevant information wasn’t presented in a complex and sophisticated manner such that you could spend more time learning and not sorting through the hot mess that is a syllabus?
Lilly’s Pathophysiology of Heart Disease: A Collaborative Project of Medical Students and Faculty solves both commonly-heard complaints with a well-organized and informative text that will be essential for your Cardiology or Physiology course. The book was written by Dr. Leonard Lilly, a Harvard cardiologist, who understood the pains of the first two years of medical school. He gathered 79 medical students who provided insights on how to present and teach pertinent information to medical students. The book itself has received many accolades from around the world and may already be required at your medical school.
There are quite a few benefits to using this book. The content is set up in a way that allows you to read the book, well… like a book (I know it’s hard to imagine in med school). It starts with pertinent information that med students will need to know in order to understand each subsequent chapter. The material in the Fifth Edition covers: 1. Basic Cardiac Structure and Function, 2. The Cardiac Cycle: Mechanisms of Heart Sounds and Murmurs, 3. Diagnostic Imaging and Cardiac Catheterization, 4. The Electrocardiogram, 5. Atherosclerosis, 6. Ischemic Heart Disease, 7. Acute Coronary Syndromes, 8. Valvular Heart Disease, 9. Heart Failure, 10. The Cardiomyopathies, 11. Mechanisms of Cardiac Arrhythmias, 12. Clinical Aspects of Cardiac Arrhythmias, 13. Hypertension, 14. Diseases of the Pericardium, 15. Diseases of the Peripheral Vasculature, 16. Congenital Heart Disease, 17. Cardiovascular Drugs.
If you choose to use Lilly as a supplemental resource, it is structured in a way that allows you to easily reference sections that integrate disease processes with normal physiologic processes. For example, Chapter 2 has a 6 page excerpt with descripitions of all normal heart sounds, as well as pathological causes and explanations of abnormal heart sounds. If a disease is explained later in the book, Lilly places the appropriate chapter number to point you in the right direction.
There are a few disadvantages to this review book. Lilly admits that Pathophysiology of Heart Disease is not meant to be a resource for in-depth questions prompted by the burning minds of future cardiologists. For example, although the book goes to great lengths to describing the mechanics behind an EKG, it falls short of providing the best explanation and a more exhaustive list for pathologies seen in different EKGs. However, to make up for the lack of detail inherent in a review book on cardiology for a med student, Lilly does provide additional readings that he cites at the end of each chapter.
Nevertheless, Lilly is a must-have to help you sort through the massive amounts of information thrown at medical students during Cardiology. It breaks everything down into concise, but understandable text that is rarely found in medical education. The Fifth Edition of Lilly’s Pathophysiology of Heart Disease can be found at the below links. If you want to save some money, the fourth edition (above) covered practically everything needed for my Cardiology course. Regardless of the edition that you choose, Lilly will not disappoint!
Board Review Series (BRS) Physiology, now in its 5th edition, is the leading resource on physiology concepts crucial for the foundation of medicine as well as those highly tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1. This book, written by the esteemed Linda S. Costanzo, Ph.D, provides very clear and concise explanations of essential physiological principles of each organ system as well as those of cellular physiology. This text contains many clinical examples and sample problems to help medical students test their understanding of these concepts and their application in clinical scenarios. Each chapter concludes with a review test, accompanied by explanations and references to sections from which the question arose. To further aid appreciation and long-term retention of these key principles, many full-color illustrations, flow diagrams, and tables as well as a summary page of “Key Physiology Equations for USMLE Step 1” are included. Additionally, each book features a scratch off code which provides access to supplementary online resources, such as a question bank and a comprehensive examination with an image bank, on The Point.
This book provides a clear outline with appropriate breadth and depth of high yield material that is most commonly tested on USMLE Step 1. It is recommended that this book be read in conjunction with corresponding physiology courses throughout med school or as part of review for the boards. Because this book presents the material in a very straightforward manner, it helps to simplify difficult concepts to better understand medical physiology.
Despite the many benefits of using this book as part of any study plan for the USMLE, there are a few drawbacks which should be noted. Many of the questions featured in the chapter Review Tests and Comprehensive Examination are not written in the style of the USMLE Step 1. Rather, most are short questions that are aimed to test the knowledge of key concepts and should not be relied upon to gain familiarity with the format of the USMLE Examinations. The review questions are also simpler than most found in question banks and the exam itself. Lastly, this book is designed to be a review book and as such should be used in conjunction with more comprehensive resources such as textbooks, classroom lectures and syllabi.
The material in this book is organized into seven chapters by organ system, each of which ends with a review test and explanations. The first chapter provides a general overview of Cell Physiology followed by chapters on: Neurophysiology, Cardiovascular Physiology, Respiratory Physiology, Renal and Acid-Base Physiology, Gastrointestinal Physiology, and Endocrine Physiology. This Board Review Series book culminates in a 99 question comprehensive examination which is followed by explanations and page references.
Overall, this book is highly recommended to medical students for learning the physiology of the major organ systems, and especially in conjunction with Tao Le’s First Aid for those who are preparing for the USMLE Step 1. This reasonably priced review text will provide any medical student with a clear understanding of the most frequently tested physiology concepts and to provide a solid foundation for a career in medicine.
Rao’s Rational Medical Decision Making (MDM): A Case-Based Approach by Lange is a narrative textbook on biostatistics. Chapters include A Brief History Lesson, Biostatistics for Medical Decision Makers, Scientific Approach to Diagnosis, Design of Research to Evaluate Therapies, Understanding the Results of Studies of Therapies, Etiology, Survival, Systematic Reviews, Decision Analysis, and Clinical Practice Guidelines.
Within these chapters is a comprehensive review of biostatistics in an applied fashion. Whether it’s T-tests or ANOVA or Chi-squared tests, you’ll find realistic applications and examples to help you understand and to fortify your learning. Even if you plan to do a masters degree in epidemiology or PhD and need in-depth knowledge of statistics, you would still find this book a good starter or review of the main biostatistics concepts with relevant examples.
This book does not take the traditional “textbook” format. Given that the book takes the narrative format, it does not present information in a bland, isolated manner where synthesis and understanding of the information are secondary to (and seems less important than) information overload. Rather, Rao’s MDM is a narrative and all the relevant information is presented with equally applicable case examples. The major concepts, from T-tests to ANOVA to research design are paired with exemplary cases in which Rao helps med students learn biostatistics through realistic and practical examples.
In the narrative format, Rao’s Rational Medical Decision Making is easy to read, easy to understand, and yet still provide all the information you’ll need as a medical student to succeed in biostatistics. Of course, if you dive below the depth of the main concepts, then you may need help from some supplementary sources. But for the purpose of medical school biostatistics and the USMLE Step 1, this book is perfectly sufficient and is, in fact, quite a comprehensive book for the beginner medical scientist or a great review for the intermediate medical student biostatistician. The practice questions at the end of each chapter can help any reader solidify concepts and practice real problems.
The downside about this book is that it is not a textbook. Since it is much more focused on the application of biostatistics, it is less focused on providing every nit-picky detail (in biostatistics in case you are the person who likes to learn everything about everything). This book also does not go that far in depth for the math genius who wants to learn the theories, derivatives, and fundamental basis of the biostatistics formulas/concepts. Furthermore, because the book is a narrative, it does not present information in a condensed manner, because interspersed between major and minor concepts are examples that are meant to help explain the application of the concepts. So if you are looking for a five page hyper-condensed review booklet, this book is not that.
I would definitely recommend Rational Medical Decision Making as it was well written, concise, and relevant, making it an adequately comprehensive starter or review book for biostatistics.
Biochemistry can be defined as the study of metabolism, and metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions in the body. That’s a pretty wide field to cover. Even if your professors clearly explain what you’re expected to know, there will always be information beyond your curriculum that could help you solidify your knowledge. With biochemistry in particular, you can go in two directions, ‘down’ to the chemistry and energetics (repressed undergrad memories bubbling up) or ‘up’ to the clinical correlations and differentials which we hope to know by the time rotations start. Faced with a bewildering array of review books at every point on this spectrum, you might ask yourself, what is the best book to help me in my class, for the boards, and for the wards?
A common recommendation from biochem professors and older students alike was Harvey and Ferrier’s Biochemistry, part of the Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews series, now in its 5th edition. The bulk of the book is a thorough review of proteins, enzymes, and the metabolism of the macronutrients. It describes and comments on important reaction pathways such as glycolysis, the pentose-phosphate pathway, the citric acid cycle, and mechanisms of amino acid synthesis, combination, and degradation. Later in the book, one unit is devoted to integrating these pathways. For example, one chapter looks at the effect on all systems of insulin and glucagon in the fasting and feeding cycle, with chapters covering diabetes, obesity, and nutrition. The last unit covers the special chemistry of genetic information which aims at preserving and expressing information rather than procuring energy or achieving certain concentrations of building block molecules.
My initial look through the book brought an immediate sense of relief. The book seemed organized with a huge number of clear and helpful illustrations. The text itself is succinct but vigorous, like an old-fashioned news anchor might sound if the news of the day for some reason involved the emulsification of dietary lipids. Blocked out in chapters, sections, and subsections, the writing never feels rote or forced but manages to retain a readable, almost “listenable” tone that contrasts favorably to how some other books smother murmur beneath an avalanche of facts. Throughout the text, the authors build on previous topics and indicate points of intersection between pathways, often in the form of strategically placed charts and figures. At the end of every chapter, there is a summary with keywords highlighted, “key concept map” for the chapter, and a few questions and explanations. When that isn’t enough, the thorough index was often handy.
After spending a lot of time with the book, it becomes evident that the editors spent a lot of time designing the reader’s experience. This has the unexpected consequence of making students read more than intended when looking up a particular topic. Often, the next related topic is familiar but not completely solidified. In context, you make a connection you otherwise wouldn’t have, and you can cross one more topic off your list of things to review.
This attention to the reader’s experience is also responsible for what may be the book’s only downside. The details on the diagrams are so focused on making a point that they sometimes have less information than it would appear. In a larger textbook, a chart showing the effect of a drug on blood glucose concentrations over time would probably be large, simple, uncluttered, and accompanied by a lengthy description of the experiment. Here, it is small, marginal, and crowded with word bubbles with arrows overlappingly pointing out features on the graph to which they’re relevant. The effect is that of a comic book: bold, practical, attention-grabbing, but a little bit tiresome all the same.
Nonetheless, this book is very good for its purposes. Though it is an ideal adjuvant to a textbook, it probably is not a substitute for one if you’re being introduced to biochemistry for the first time. Opinions about it for Boards Review are mixed: though it covers all the topics that are likely to come up, some students feel that it is perhaps too thorough for high-yield review. On the other hand, if you use this book during your biochemistry class, you will probably know where to look for what you need to review. Its lucidity and completeness would then be a plus.
Overall, if you’re looking for a book to help you make sense of biochem – to help you know what’s important and give you a sense of how the discipline is used in medicine – Lippincott Biochemistry is highly recommended.
This contest is currently closed – the winner has been contacted.
Continuing our trend of offering absolutely free books to fellow med students, we are happy to be giving away a free copy of Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. We recently reviewed Bates Physical Exam on the site, and have gotten great feedback from it so far.
In our last giveaway, a student from the University of Pittsburgh took home a free copy of Pocket Medicine by giving great advice to incoming first year medical students. In a similar fashion, the winner of this contest will be able to provide the best feedback for the following challenge.
If you could improve MedStudentBooks.com to help med student readers from around the world, what would you add to the site? The winner not only gets a free copy of Bates, but may also have their idea implemented on the site.
Please check out the About section to get an idea of the original site goals, but keep in mind that the winner will be chosen based on the helpfulness of their ideas. We not only host reviews, but create new applications as well, so anything is fair game. All contest ideas can be submitted by replying in the comment section of this post, and you may submit multiple ideas for this contest. While it doesn’t improve your chances of winning, be sure to also subscribe via RSS or click on any of the social network links at the bottom of this post or top of the page.
As this is valued at nearly $100, the winner will need to provide a valid US medical school e-mail address to confirm their status. E-mail addresses are never displayed publicly, and will not be used for any purpose outside of contests. The contest will end on Friday, November 18th 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.
The heart of all medical education is centered around a solid foundation in history and physical exam skills. These are not only learned and critiqued early during the preclinical years, but comprise the basis on which medical students are assessed and evaluated during clinical rotations as they are conveyed through presentations. Due to the strong and constant need for excellent history and physical examination skills in producing superior grades, it is highly recommended that all medical students master these abilities early.
Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking, now in its 10th edition, represents the best reference resource for this goal. The book itself is rather extensive as a primer for all things history and physical, which makes it perfect for incoming medical students. The text is detailed and straight-forward, with great complementary pictures, illustrations, and tables. It is important to note that the focus extends behind the basic logistics and mechanics of taking a history and performing a physical. Special attention is placed on normal physiology, as well as the significance of abnormal exam findings. Combined with proper instrument technique and care, this book allows for a deep understanding and mastery of the basic physical exam.
Other benefits of this book include the CD and website access on The Point, which host patient examination and assessment videos, fully searchable text, and cardiopulmonary exam sounds. To a lesser degree, the book is also helpful at providing basic differential diagnosis development. While many medical schools specifically assign chapters in this book as required reading during preclinical years, it remains a fantastic reference source throughout clinical rotations as well, with continued potential for residency.
There are a few drawbacks to this book. First and foremost is the price. At around $100, this “must buy” book is often times considered a “must borrow” from the library. Purchasing the black 9th version of this book will offer nearly all the same content for a slightly lower price, but has issues with page discordance when professors assign specific pages from the latest version. Second, Bates’ strength in providing full explanations to completely inexperienced medical students can sometimes become undesirable later in medical school when trying to obtain a quick concise answer for an understood concept. Along those same lines, the weight of this 992 page book can make constant transport somewhat arduous. It should also be noted that this book does not delve into the depths of specialty exams, but rather focuses strongly on the general history and physical exams needed for core clerkships. For example, the basic eye exam is included, but does not cover the depth that an ophthalmologist might assess. The book does however provide a full and thorough neurologic, pediatric, and gynecologic exam.
The first unit is a general overview, and contains specific book chapters on: Physical Exam and History Taking Overview; Clinical Reasoning, Assessment, and Recording; and Interviewing and the Health History. Unit 2 covers regional examination, with chapters on: General Survey, Vital Signs, and Pain; Behavior and Mental Status; The Skin, Hair, and Nails; Head and Neck; Thorax and Lungs; Cardiovascular System; Breasts and Axillae; Abdomen; Peripheral Vascular System; Male Genitalia and Hernias; Female Genitalia; Anus, Rectum, and Prostate; Musculoskeletal System; and Nervous System. The final unit is dedicated to “special populations,” and includes chapters on: Children – Infancy through Adolescence; The Pregnant Woman; and the Older Adults.
Overall, this is a highly recommended book for incoming medical students to master vital skills. Be sure to use the below links to get a starting price comparison between retailers before making a purchase, as the price can be steep.