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.