Tag Archives: medical student books
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.
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.
Histology has generally fallen out of favor and focus for many medical school curricula these days. Some med schools still have dedicated histology courses and mandatory histo labs with ridiculously priced slide sets, but most have transitioned to incorporating histology within other broader classes, and offer newer digital versions of labs. Due to this transition, as well as the driving field of pathology, countless databases and software packages have been developed to allow for histopathological visualization of electronic slides.
Whether your school’s applications allows for “real time” zooming and scrolling, or just splatters the screen with images, most software options are not particularly great at teaching the topic. All too commonly, we as med students have instructions that go along with slides and read something like “as it is clearly seen, the eosinophilic uptake shows…” Most of the time however, we have no idea what we are “clearly” looking at. Short of capturing a live histologist and forcing them to use the neon microscope arrows to directly point out key structures to make sense of it all, the next best thing is using a database that directly points to, circles, colors in, and directly labels what you need to know.
There are few free online databases out there, but the Histology Learning System from Boston University is among the best. Sure the background is a dull gray and the site navigation is a bit static, but the content and (more importantly) label system are a sure fire way to both learn and teach the material. This is especially useful when you find yourself needing to put together that annoying last minute power point presentation for some small group show-and-tell the next day.
The database breaks down all of histology by system, and also has a sitemap with every image listed. Upon loading an image, users have the option of clicking on the LABEL button to figure out what they’re actually viewing, or click on a black rectangle on the image to increase magnification (enhance!) that structure. Some structures are rather straight forward and have no enhanced images, while others can go several layers deep. Chances are, the histology professor or local guru at your medical school can recognize the BU histology database images on sight, as they are relatively well known in the community and characteristic.
Whether you need a complementary learning tool to be used with your class syllabus, a stand alone reference as you go through medical school, or a database of “normals” to contrast with pathology studying, the BU Histology website is highly recommended.
To prove your gunnery and attain bonus internet points, name the structures contained within this post by commenting here.
Clinical 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:
The purpose of this site is to utilize the first-hand experiences of medical students to create insightful advice when it comes to books and resources. While many of the resources posted so far have had very positive reviews, it is finally time to recommend avoiding the mistake known as Blueprints Pediatrics.
There are a few reasons why this is a common pitfall for third year med students looking for books on their pediatrics rotation. First, it is relatively cheap and easy to come by. Even if you don’t buy it yourself, it’s easy to pick up a free copy that is being given (thrown) away in a med student lounge. Keep in mind it’s being given away for free for a reason.
Secondly, and perhaps the more evil of its qualities, is that it is incredibly easy to read, and herein lies the deceit: reading through Blueprints Pediatrics will make you feel like a medical student superstar genius. You can pick this book up, breeze through any chapter quickly, and feel like you know most of the information already because of your USMLE Step 1 knowledge. Whereas some books really bog the reader down on details, Blueprints Pediatrics takes the exact opposite approach. The end result is a med student who believes they possess mastery of the material for their pediatrics clerkship, when in reality they are ill prepared for the NBME Pediatrics Shelf Exam, NBME Ambulatory Shelf Exam, or wards pimping.
Chapter topics appear like they cover all the bases, but the depth of content is just shallow. The material it does present is accurate, and there is nothing grossly wrong with the book as far as what it does give. It just doesn’t give what is truly needed.
As such, I won’t be linking out to online retailers to purchase this book, or using our handy Price Check plugin. Instead, I recommend Nelson’s Essentials of Pediatrics (reviewed here), as well as Pre-Test Pediatrics for USMLE style questions. Better yet, just check back to the section on this site for Pediatrics Books from time to time, as more books are reviewed and added.