Tag Archives: First Year Medical Student Books

What You Need to Know about Thieme’s Atlas of Anatomy

Gilroy's Atlas of Anatomy by Thieme

Anatomy – the first huge hurdle for many medical students to climb over. The anatomical knowledge gleaned in this first course will be used repeatedly as part of the foundation of medical knowledge. With that in mind, a solid foundation of resources is an absolute must. Frank Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy has been the gold standard of anatomy books for many years. Professors stand by the atlas and will expect you to memorize most, if not all, of those beautifully colored structures in the Netter plates.

That being said, it is important to introduce the Thieme Atlas of Anatomy by Gilroy. Its 2,200 beautiful images have been painstakingly drawn by Markus Voll and Karl Wesker, and appear to jump off the page. The book takes a different approach from other atlases, by starting with deep structures and working its way superficially. This allows for an understanding of the foundation of the body and how the other structures add on to it. At the end of each section, questions are posed to allow the reader to integrate the knowledge they have learned.

Thieme's Winking SkullThe book not only covers gross anatomy, but also illustrates peripheral innervations, arterial supply and venous drainage, lymphatics, etc. The anatomy is bolstered by clinical correlations, and important details are summarized in wonderfully easy-to-understand tables.  The Muscle Fact pages organize the essentials of origin, insertion, innervations in one place, making it much easier to memorize and review. The book also comes with access to WinkingSkull.com PLUS,  Thieme’s online resource and study aid, which gives the user access to over 600 plates with removable labels, and quizzing capabilities.

The largest, and only, detriment to using the Thieme atlas is that most professors still stand by the Netter atlas, and reference page numbers during lectures. To remedy this, Thieme has composed a table which compares Netter plate numbers to Thieme’s, allowing students to find similar plates.

Overall, this is a highly recommended book that many students believe far surpasses Netter in providing  comprehensive and integrative anatomy knowledge to beginning anatomy students and pro’s alike.


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Ace Anatomy: Free copy of Moore’s Anatomy and Rohen’s Flashcards!

Free Anatomy Book Giveaway

CLOSED! Congratulations to the winning First Year at Indiana University School of Medicine!

We’re continuing the book giveaways, transitioning from general advice for incoming medical students to focused resources for the premier med school course: Anatomy. This site has previously reviewed a head to head analysis of some of the more popular anatomy atlases out there, and they generally come down to personal taste. As a complement, we’re going to provide some of the other supporting resources needed to ace anatomy.

First and foremost, every student needs a good text, and Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy can provide just that. We will be giving a formal review of the title on this site in the upcoming weeks, but for now rest assured that it is a well established and helpful resource.

Rohen Flash CardsSecondly, students should take advantage of study recall, and for that goal we are also giving away a free set of Rohen’s Flashcards. As a reminder: these are graphic images and should not be used in crowded areas in view of the public.

As extra icing on the cake, Lippincott is throwing in a free 6 month subscription to Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy Online as well, which is a video series of gross anatomy structures to help students better visualize human anatomy with visual manipulation and pertinent narratives.

Acland Video Atlas of Anatomy

Brand new copies of all three of these titles will be given to one lucky winner randomly selected from the comments of this post. To enter, simply leave any comment, and a valid e-mail address so we can contact you if you should win. As usual, we NEVER use e-mail addresses for anything outside of these contests, as we are medical students too and appreciate privacy. Applicants must be US medical students to win.  See our full contest rules for further details. Contest ends August 20, 2012 at 11:59pm. Good luck!


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Advice for the New Medical Student

This summer, approximately 25,000 students will begin their first year of medical school in the United States. While the path to medical school was challenging, medical school itself holds a number of additional challenges, as well as significant opportunities. “Concerns about succeeding academically, choosing a specialty, maintaining a social life, and making time for family can certainly cause anxiety among new medical students,” writes Dr. Meg Keeley, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.1 Below, we offer some key advice for the new medical student.

Evaluate your study habits

In one study, researchers found that “in general, study skills are stronger predictors of first-semester total grades than aptitude as measured by the MCAT and undergraduate GPA.”2 There are many reasons for this, but one of the main reasons relates to the immense volume of information to be mastered. April Apperson, Assistant Director of Student Services at the University of San Diego California School of Medicine, explains “The material presented in medical school is not conceptually more difficult than many rigorous undergraduate courses, but the volume flow rate of information per hour and per day is much greater – it has frequently been described as ‘drinking from a firehose.'”3

Utilize active, rather than passive, learning strategies

The USMLE Step 1 exam is a critical factor in the residency selection process. With a strong focus on clinical applications, rather than rote memorization, the USMLE is a distinctive and challenging exam for most students. How should you study for an exam of this importance that’s so distinct from other exams? Drs. Helen Loeser and Maxine Papadakis, Deans at the UCSF School of Medicine, advise: “Use active learning methods as you integrate your knowledge and apply basic science information to clinical vignettes.”4 Research has shown that active learning leads to better long-term retention of information and easier retrieval of information when needed.

impacting communities

Impact your community

Medical students have been able to impact their communities in wide-ranging and meaningful ways, through student organizations, national groups, or through their own initiatives. Student-run health clinics offer one example, in which students often serve an underserved population, including the uninsured, homeless, and the poor.

Maintain your emotional well-being

Studies have shown that students experience significant stress during the preclinical years. This can have real consequences, including depression, anxiety, and effects on patient care. It becomes vital that students develop strategies now to cope with stress and promote their own well-being, in order to maintain resilience and the highest standards of professionalism throughout their career.

Explore different specialties in medicine

In one study of medical students, 26.2% were unsure of their specialty choice at matriculation.5 A similar proportion remained undecided at graduation. Exploring different fields during the preclinical years may help. Students have done so by participating in specialty-interest groups, shadowing physicians, performing research, and identifying mentors.

About the Authors

Samir Desai is the author of Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years and writes about residency match success at TheSuccessfulMatch.com.Author Rajani Katta

Rajani Katta is the course director for dermatology in the basic sciences at the Baylor College of Medicine, and the author of
The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match.


1Keeley M. Ask the advisor: How to successfully navigate the first year. AAMC Choices Newsletter August 2011.  Accessed June 18, 2012.
2West C, Sadoski M. Do study strategies predict academic performance in medical school? Med Educ 2011; 45(7): 696-703.
3University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Successful Study Strategies in Medical School. Accessed February 20, 2012.
4University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. Rx for Success on STEP 1 of The Boards. Accessed October 19, 2011.
5Kassebaum D, Szenas P. Medical students’ career indecision and specialty rejection: roads not taken. Acad Med 1995; 70(10): 937-43.

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Free Book Giveaway: Success in Medical School

Success in Medical School - Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years

This contest is now closed. Congratulations to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine student who won!

We’re nearing the big dates for white coat ceremonies and new first year medical students coming into med school! For those of you who read the previous post on Success in Medical School, we’re giving away a free copy randomly to any US med student (including those about to start) who leaves a comment to this post. The comment can say anything (or nothing), but if you have time, please answer the following:

If you could give advice to pre-meds who will be applying to med school to be in your position, what would it be?  What do you feel are the most important aspects of a strong med school application?

You do not need to answer the question to enter – the winner will be selected at random. We just like sharing helpful insights on this site.  Contest ends July 31, 2012 at 11:59pm EST. As usual, e-mail addresses are kept confidential, only used to contact the winner, and never used for spam/evil. Full contest rules apply (but the essentials are that you should be a US med student of 18 years or older). Good luck!

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Success in Medical School: for a push in the right direction

Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years is the latest title from the MD2B publishers.  The book is laid out across 17 chapters, and explains the basics of how to excel in the first and second year of medical school. Notable chapters specifically include History and Physical Exam techniques, the importance of research, community service, extracurricular activities as they relate to residency applications, professionalism, what to do in the summer between first and second years, and tackling the USMLE Step 1 or COMLEX Level 1 exams.  The book is laid out in list format, making it a particularly easy read, as topics are concisely broken into the most important take away points. These lists are generally composed of three types of information: anecdotal evidence, data-driven concepts, and general good advice.

Success in Medical School - Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years

The data-driven points tend to vary. Some can be incredibly insightful for someone new to a particular topic. They can range from subjective surveys of medical students, course directors, and residency program directors, to more objective histories and statistics. These last two categories are useful when referencing chapters on the USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1 exams, as they address many of the common questions this site receives through our contact form about them. What is average? Why are there two reported scores for Step 1? However, a small minority of the fact-driven points can be underwhelmingly simplistic. One point, for example, quoted the Merriam Webster definition of the word plagiarism as its take home message. These types of low-yield facts almost suggest that there is a fact-quota, and makes the book feel fluffy every so often.  For most of the book though, the thorough references are insightful, and incredibly helpful on topics that involve describing different specialties or best practices in medical school.

Anecdotal experience can be a huge benefit for rising medical students. This website is largely built around that very idea. However, a lot of the med student comments in Success in Medical School tend to be unhelpful, and focus on the personal opinions of the cited med student on a particular seemingly-trivial question (e.g. “my favorite course in medical school was…”). While these types of opinion-comments are scattered throughout the book, they are thankfully not a large majority, and don’t detract from the surrounding value.

Lastly, the book offers some general advice which isn’t necessarily reference or backed by data. Often times these can be a good starting point for med school success, but they can be rather vague for someone seeking specific means of improvement.  However, there’s no way for any single book to offer specific methods of studying that would work for all students, let alone up to date, so this generalization is somewhat understandable.

Much like MD2B’s other titles, the goals of this book are quite similar to this site: giving rising medical students an edge. However, the target audience is clearly different, as Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years is really geared towards students who have absolutely no understanding of the basic med school concepts.

So how should one reconcile this mixed review?  Well, the book isn’t for everyone, and can’t be endorsed accordingly. However, there are a few key audience types that would benefit from reading Success in Medical School, and almost all of them are self-selecting:

  • pre-medical students who are nervous or unsure about what is expected in medical school (especially those about to matriculate)
  • students entering a medical school that does not provide a lot of orientation, support, or guidance on expectations or succeeding
  • medical students who find they are consistently not able to excel or who consistently produce lower than average grades and evaluations in the first semester of medical school
  • students who want some extra reassurance that their interpretation of academic expectations is accurate before entering situations that are evaluated
  • the nervous-gunner types who are doing fine but feel compelled to find any and all resources they perceive may be of help

Based on the content type of the book, we would normally recommending renting/borrowing it. However, as it really does cover all areas of the preclinical years, we instead recommend having it on hand and referencing sections that are relevant to a student’s stage in medical school as they arise. After all, there’s really no reason a pre-med student should be reading about Step 1, but that section could be helpful during the summer after first year. Purchasing the book used would save some money without losing value, but since it is so new, that may be difficult to do.

For those who feel they may benefit from Success in Medical School, check back on the site over the next week, as we will be giving away a free copy of this title.


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The High Yield Series: Histopathology, Cell and Molecular Biology, & Embryology

High Yield Histopathology (2nd Ed), High Yield Cell and Molecular Biology (3rd Ed), and High Yield Embryology (4th Ed) are three books in a series whose purpose is to provide high yield topic and content review to prepare us for the boards.

Histopathology topics are covered in 30 chapters and about 300 pages, some of which cover nucleus, cell membrane, bone, blood, muscle, blood, thymus, small intestine, large intestine, respiratory system, eye, and ears.Cell and Molecular Biology topics are covered in about 140 pages consisting of 16 chapters, including, but not exclusively: chromosomal replication, meiosis, mitochondrial genome, mutations, proto-oncogenes, cell cycle, molecular biology techniques, and identification of human disease genes. Finally, the book on Embryology, consisting of about 140 pages, includes topics on overview of fertilization, development of organ systems, and teratology resulting from various external factors such as drug side effects.

These books are fairly comprehensive as far as review books go, but may not be the best books of choice for learning the material for the very first time. Certain topics may require reference or background information from a more comprehensive textbook. The range of topics covered in these books can be described as having more breadth than depth, although depth is generally sufficient for review purposes. Note that these books are in gray scale, which means if you need colorful pictures to keep you entertained, then you probably shouldn’t use these books since they are condensed material with black and white images. However, the inclusion and highlighting of clinically relevant concepts in the “Clinical Considerations” makes these books good sources for review, and helpful for the wards.

Perhaps one of the larger benefits is that these books are much shorter than their corresponding texts. Although many med students will tell you they are too dense or too much to read, other people will tell you that they are perfect for studying. The reason for this disagreement is that people tend to use these books in different ways, for different reasons, and with different backgrounds or expectations. These High Yield books do contain quite a bit of information, which may be considered too dense for those people who are simply looking for a flashcard style review book. However, people who use the High Yield series for learning the material for the first time may find that the information contained in it is insufficient to fully explain the concepts (which is an obvious feature with review books). Few review books are perfect, since there are so many possible topics to be covered, and any topic that one person studied but didn’t get tested on (either in class or on the boards) becomes “excessive material” even though another student may hit questions requiring that knowledge on their Step 1 exam. It’s important to disregard single outlier reports from other med students who took the boards before you. The boards can’t test everything every time.

The fact that these books are black and white makes them a less appealing to study from, but the material included are condensed and easily accessible. Again, they sometimes require some reference/background books from time to time, which is reasonable given that they are review books and not textbooks.

This subset of the High Yield series is good to use for a comprehensive review of the corresponding topics that are likely to be tested on the USMLE and preclinical med school classes. Using these titles by themselves for medical school curriculum may be insufficient, although using them as a “big picture” review for medical school exams is probably fine. Since medical schools rarely teach to the USMLE, it is prudent to keep in mind that these books may not necessarily produce the Honors that you may be aiming for. Use this book when studying for the USMLE, but in conjunction with First Aid and in ways mentioned elsewhere on this site. That way, you can better gauge the highest of High Yield topics and prioritize material to optimize learning for the boards.


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Must Have Cardiology: Lilly Pathophysiology of Heart Disease

Lilly's Pathophysiology of Heart Disease: A Collaborative Project of Medical Students and FacultyDid 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.

Lilly Pathophysiology of Heart Disease Fourth Edition

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!


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A High Yield Complement: BRS Physiology

Board Review Series (BRS) PhysiologyBoard 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.


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