Tag Archives: med school books
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.
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.
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.
For those interested in making corrections to information in your copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012, the official FA errata is now posted to the FirstAidTeam.com website. You can check out the webpage to learn more about the process, or RSS subscribe for updates. If you’d like to bypass the site and just go straight to the errata, the document can be found here (pdf).
Keep in mind that you can send in a correction for any mistake you find by clicking on the “Contribute” button on the right side of their site or this post (both bring you to the same place on their site). While they promise $20 Amazon gift cards for new information, someone else has probably already beaten you to any given correction. Nonetheless, making any submission will get your name printed in the preceding version of Step 1.
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.
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.
Pocket Neurology (also known as “The Yellow Book”) can be readily found in the white coats of many Neurology residents. Unlike its Medicine counterpart (The Green Book), Pocket Neurology does not seem to hold the same popularity among medical students. There are a few reasons for this. First, it hasn’t been around as long, and thus it hasn’t had time to built up the full extent of its reputation. Few attendings will readily reference it during rounds, and residents simply won’t expect students to own or have access to a copy. Second, Neurology is usually a clerkship of shorter duration compared to Internal Medicine in most medical schools, and therefore comprehensive pocket guides are less bang for the same buck.
What Pocket Neurology covers, it covers very well. However the target audience for this title is not the same as for Pocket Medicine as a result of the focus in our medical education. We are taught the core principles of Internal Medicine from an early point on entering medical school, including history taking, physical examination, general findings, and many organ system courses focused on Internal Medicine subspecialties. It is because of this focus that new third year medical students can open a copy of Pocket Medicine and understand the more advanced topics without the need for referencing the basics.
This is not the case on a Neurology rotation, where most students are just starting to learn the specialty’s language, techniques, and the significance of common findings. For example, students may be frustrated if trying to use the book to assess the common presentations of migraine prodrome, despite a concise and comprehensive overview of headache differential diagnosis and workup. Getting past the basics quickly to fully utilize this book is highly recommended, as it will certainly be a strong resource to those who can wield it well.
As with all of the titles in the Pocket Notebook series, downsides include lack of space for annotation, and small print font, but these come with the territory of creating pocket reference guides. Another consideration for this title specifically is an index section that is somewhat lacking. Topics not contained within tidy concepts involve a good amount of searching in the appropriate chapter. As a result, many residents will place labeled flags or earmarks on pages to quickly access commonly referenced topics.
Specific sections include neurologic emergencies, lesion localizing in clinical neurology, neuroimaging, vascular neurology, neurocritical care, acute intracranial hypertension, interventional neurology, seizures and other spells, electroencephalography (EEG), delirium, dementia, movement disorders, behavioral neurology, poisons and vitamin deficiencies, meningitis / encephalitis / brain abscesses, infectious diseases, headache, central nervous system vasculitis, pain, dizziness and deafness, demyeliminating diseases of the central nervous system, spine and spinal cord diseases, motor neuron diseases, peripheral neuropathy, radiculopathy and plexopathy, neuromuscular junction disorders, myopathy, electromyography (EMG), neuro-rheumatology, neuro-oncology, sleep medicine, pregnancy neurology, neuro-ophthalmology, consult issues, and selected pediatric disorders.
Overall, this is a title worth purchasing for all Neurology residents and medical students interested in the field. Medical students who wish to excel in their Neurology clerkship or enter a field that uses neurology such as Internal Medicine, Trauma, or Ophthalmology should consider purchasing Pocket Neurology with the above considerations, based on their personal preferences. This is probably not heavily needed for students who have no interest in neurology.
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.
At this point in the year, most medical students have already started Gross Anatomy and have gotten a feel for many of the resources available to them. A review was previously written that compared some of the more popular anatomy atlases, and only a brief mention has been made on this site so far regarding anatomy flash cards. For many students, the idea of atlas flash cards seems redundant. You should be familiar enough with your study and learning habits to get a feel of this already. However, there are some benefits to this resource which are best shared by people who have already gone through the full experience of medical school.
Regardless of which atlas you have selected, you are most likely going to be bringing it around with you, or using the local library copy. However, this has its limitations. Pulling out a copy of Rohen on a crowded bus can not only be disturbing to those around you, but produce a serious issue of professionalism. Similarly, waiting for a bus or standing around somewhere makes balancing a thick anatomy atlas somewhat annoying. The first strength of Netter’s Anatomy Flashcards (now in their third edition) is their size. Reviewing them is not only easy to manage, but they are also easy to hide.
Chances are, your anatomy class will focus on one particular organ system or anatomic area at a time. The full Netter’s Anatomy Atlas text is 620 pages, which is overkill for your specific study needs in any given week. While it is a great resource, carrying it around along with a syllabus is going to get tiring pretty fast. A better tactic is simply grabbing the color-coded stack of flash cards dedicated to your current area of interest. The latest version already has hole punches, which keeps organization manageable. At some point in med school, most medical students realize the usefulness of portability. Stack a few cards on top of your snack bars, and you’re set for the day.
Purchasing Netter’s anatomy flash cards new grants access to the studentconsult.com online version of this resource from any computer. Even if you forgot your cards at home, you can still review them. This basically creates a second copy of the cards, which you can access indefinitely, even if you want to share the hard copy with a friend. Some will argue that this is especially useful when accessed remotely on a smart phone, but most med students would disagree. The detail of the structures combined with the small font makes for a suboptimal viewing and thus learning experience. This is precisely the reason the iPhone and Android app of any atlas is usually contraindicated.
While most first year resources are rarely used by med students on the wards, anatomy is something that will need to be reviewed for a number of clerkships, including surgery, ob/gyn, neurology, as well as elective rotations in any surgical subspecialty. Again, a full atlas is always best, but not something easily stored in scrubs pockets and referenced between cases in an operating room.
A set of anatomy flash cards can usually be purchased new for $25. Because they tend to be in moderate demand every year, they have a resale value that will allow you to recover the majority of its initial cost. Furthermore, selling your set used does not remove access to studentconsult.com, which means you can continue referencing the electronic version. Even when new versions come out, older sets can usually still be sold. With that in mind, it is perfectly reasonable to purchase the previous version of these flashcards. Human anatomy hasn’t changed too much since 2006.
As a runner up reason not to overlook Netter’s Anatomy Flashcards: They go particularly well with people in the Rohen camp of anatomy atlases, as it offers a little bit of Netter drawings to complement and enhance the Rohen experience, producing the best of both worlds.
Many will argue that the first mistake third year med students make is buying this book, while others will claim that it is an essential and invaluable survival guide. 250 Biggest Mistakes 3rd Year Medical Students Make and How to Avoid Them by Dessai and Katta is the semi-popular successor of the 101 Mistakes book. As the title suggests, it reviews all of the big issues bound to cause trouble on the wards. But how helpful is it really? The answer depends upon the direction and perspective from which the book is examined.
If an attending were to be pulled aside and asked to write a list of all the things that bring down 3rd year med student evaluations, it may very well produce this book. Therefore, many reason that the opposite must be true: buying this book prevents students from making these 250 mistakes, thereby instantly increasing their grades. That’s essentially the fear hidden in the title of this book: buy it or you won’t get good evals.
Looking at the same scenario from the medical student’s point of view produces different results. If a fourth year medical student were asked to write a list of all the things they wish they knew for themselves coming into med school (one of the very goals of MedStudentBooks.com), only a small portion of this book would be reproduced. The reason for this distinction is because the large majority of “mistakes” in this book are common sense items that the large majority of medical students either don’t make, or adapt to with effortless efficiency.
So why the discrepancy in appreciation of this book from readers? For medical students who have worked in “the real world” or have been held to rigid professional standards previously, pieces of advice such as “show up on time” or “dress professionally” or “get your work done on time” come as an expectation. Others however need gentle reminders that there is a clear distinction in the environment between preclinical and clinical med school years. The majority of medical students come directly from college, and may face an actual professional setting for the first time in their lives at third year. This latter group comprises the students who would most benefit from the nuanced recommendations of 250 Mistakes.
The big picture consists of the following. First, med students should be professional. Second, they should ascertain the characteristics on which they are evaluated by directly asking residents or attendings at the start of each rotation, and reevaluating methods based on feedback along the course of the rotation. It can be an intimidating process for someone unfamiliar with the culture of medicine, but such open communication is a common occurrence. Most attendings at teaching hospitals are happy to help, and do not mind offering feedback. It should be noted however that this falls under a common rule of medicine: don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer. Feedback is only helpful if it is used, and being defensive about feedback is looked down upon.
If you can accomplish these goals of professionalism and open communication that seeks out feedback for improvement, there’s not much else this book has to offer. If however you are new to the working world or want a few gentle pushes in the right direction, this can certainly help. Despite it’s 200+ pages, it’s a rather fast read with big bullet points. The book itself is relatively cheap (compare prices below), but it can usually be found at your local medical library, or borrowed from friends or student lounges.