Tag Archives: med student book reviews

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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Free copy of Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking!

This contest is currently closed – the winner has been contacted.

Bates Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking

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.

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Must Buy: Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking

Bates Guide to Physical Examination and History TakingThe 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.


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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards

Netter's Human Anatomy FlashcardsAt 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.

1. Size Matters… for Anatomy

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.

2. Grab ‘n Go Learning is Key

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.

3. Instant Access

Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy smartphone AppPurchasing 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.

4. Reusability

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.

5. It’s cheaper than you think

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.


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Best Ob/Gyn Review: Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology

Best Ob/Gyn Book: Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology

Best Og/Byn Review: Blueprints

While this site had previously reported on the vast shortcomings of Blueprints Pediatrics, the writers of Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology, now in its fifth edition, have thankfully delivered one of the best ob/gyn review resources for medical students who are not going into obstetrics and gynecology. The book itself follows the same format and design as the others in the series, but don’t judge the book by its cover.

The major strength of Blueprints Ob/Gyn is that it is specifically streamlined for NBME exams, which means it strips down all the unnecessary detail and presents the core topics that will aid you in rocking the shelf, as well as the ob/gyn questions on Step 2.  One of the tough areas of ob/gyn is learning all new normal anatomy and physiology while currently learning the pathophysiology.  The book does a good job of breaking this up into an easy to read flow, with chapters that have a manageable length.  This includes both big-picture overviews (e.g. things that go wrong in third trimester) as well as drill down topics (e.g. preeclampsia). Furthermore, the book also has its own question sets which further solidify the topics as you go. This book also doubles as a great guide on Family Medicine as well.

Specific chapters include Pregnancy and Prenatal Care, Early Pregnancy Complications, Prenatal Screening/Diagnosis/Treatment, Normal Labor and Delivery, Antepartum Hemorrhage, Complications of Labor and Delivery, Fetal Complications, Hypertension in Pregnancy, Diabetes in Pregnancy, Infectious Diseases, Other Medical Complications in Pregnancy, Postpartum Care, Benign Disorders of the Genital Tract, Endometriosis and Adenomyosis, Pelvic Relaxation, Urinary Incontinence, Puberty and Menopause, Amenorrhea, Hirsutism and Virilism, Contraception and Sterilization, Elective Pregnancy Termination, Infertility and Assisted Reproduction, various Cancers, and Breast Disease.

Keep in mind that this latest fifth edition has very few changes compared to the previous two versions.  If you can pick up the older copies for cheap or free, they will provide the same knowledge.


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Surgical Recall: Ultimate Pimping Handbook

Blackbroune Surgical Recall for Third Year Med StudentsSurgical Recall is one of those third year med student books that can be your secret phone-a-friend ace up your sleeve, and concurrently your downfall. There are a number of books you will encounter throughout medical school where the outcome of that class or clerkship is dependent on how the book is used. Just as you wouldn’t use Netter’s or Rohen’s to replace an anatomy text, Surgical Recall must be used properly.

As the title implies, Surgical Recall is your guide to all things pimping on surgery.  Unless surgery is your first rotation, you should already be aware that the pimping starts on the very first day. Accordingly, you should ideally grab a copy of this during the weekend before your surgery clerkship starts and dig in quite a bit by time you hit the first day.  This is the book that’s going to help you avoid looking like a total newbie, because common surgical etiquette and culture is not taught in preclinical classes.  This is the book that’s going to tell you all the usual abbreviations, the names of all the different scissors you enounter, why you should NEVER touch the mayo tray (and what that is), and all of the common pimp questions you will commonly encounter.

Like other books in the Recall series, Surgical Recall uses a split page question and answer format that quizzes the reader on all the common things seen in surgery.  The book does a good job in its use of pictures, especially on sections dedicated to surgical instruments and consumables.  This is important as most third year med students don’t know what a JP drain is, what JP stands for, what they look like, and how they are different from other drains. You could responsively google “JP drain” right now, but you won’t know the names of all the other commonly used tools, which is why this book is helpful.

The latest edition (as seen above) has taken on a somewhat retro look.  Perhaps market research has shown med students go for books that are already on fire to quell the need to later set them ablaze in frustration, or perhaps this just allows for the subsequent edition to look modernized in comparison. Nonetheless, we can’t judge a book by its cover, else the BRS series of books would have gone extinct long ago. The first section of Surgical Recall is going to touch on the big picture and background of surgery, including abbreviations, surgical signs, syndromes, cutting, suturing, tying, instruments, preoperative requirements, wound care, hemostasis, nutrition, shock, complications, and surgical anatomy pearls.  Section II goes over the main general surgery areas, including GI hormones, GI bleeds, hernias, laparoscopy, trauma, burns, bariatric surgery, appendicitis, ostomies, fistulas, IBD, portal hypertension, other hepatobiliary diseases, the breast, endocrine, melanoma, vascular, and intensive care unit knowledge.  The third and final section hits the surgical subspecialties, including pediatrics, plastics, hand, otolaryngology, thoracic, cardiovascular, transplant, orthopedics, neurosurgery, and urology.  This book is around 800 pages long, and while the question and answer format allows for a faster read, you should generally focus on the general surgery knowledge and the topics that specifically correspond to your surgical service.

Surgical Recall Illustrations: JP drain and Scalpels

Included with this latest version is the promise of free “Mobile Access.”  As of now, the jury is still out as to whether this is legitimate, as a number of students have had a hard time actually accessing it through their phones without paying the additional ~$45 app price through Android or Apple. It may be fixed in the future, but don’t purchase this book thinking it will instantly be on your phone.

Surgical Recall can be the downfall for the occasional medical student who believes this is the only book needed during surgery.  Indeed it will seem like a cheat sheet, whereby memorizing this book will produce superstar results in the operating room and floors (and it will).  However, the NBME Surgery Shelf Exam doesn’t care about the things that make awesome operating room medical students that get all the obscure attending questions. There is no Surgery Shelf question on one-handed ties, no Surgery Shelf question on drain choices, and no Surgery Shelf question on how your attending likes their coffee.  Make the distinction: there is OR / floor knowledge, and there is NBME Surgery Shelf exam knowledge, with a minority of overlap.  You need both to go for the gold on your surgery clerkship, and Surgical recall is the tool to help with the former.


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How to Reset MKSAP Answers

Since reviewing MKSAP 4 for students previously, we have received a question and several lost googlers trying to ascertain how to reset or restart MKSAP for Students 3, MKSAP for Students 4, and even MKSAP 14 for residents digital question banks.

Resetting these qbanks is straight-forward if you know where to look.  Regardless of whether you are using MKSAP 3, MKSAP 4, or MKSAP 14, the process is generally the same. Just click on Answer Sheet, followed by the Clear Answers button.  That’s it!  You’re all set to restart and reuse your MKSAP question bank.  For the visual learners out there, large purple arrows always help:

How to Reset MKSAP for Students 3 and MKSAP for Students 4

How to Reset MKSAP for Students 3 and MKSAP for Students 4

For the wayward residents who stumbled onto this med student resource site, we’ve also uploaded a visual on how to reset MKSAP 14 as well.

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Must Buy: Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple

Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple ReviewClinical 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:

Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple Collage

Most common cause of the common cold: rhinovirus and coronaviridae. Now it is burned into your brain and you will never forget.


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