Tag Archives: reference book
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.
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.
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.
ENT Secrets, now in its third edition, is the next step up in otolaryngology texbooks for medical students. Previously, this site discussed Primary Care Otolaryngology (reviewed here) as a light read to get through a mandatory ENT rotation or look knowledgeable about otolaryngology in a primary care setting. However, this is not an appropriate strategy for a med student on a sub-internship. To hit the next level of looking awesome, we recommend ENT Secrets.
The benefit of this text book is that it is comprehensive enough for fourth year medical students to learn the fundamentals of every otolaryngology topic, without becoming a monster hardcover. Residents are more likely to reference Pasha or Lee (>1000 pages!), but these are a bit too large and extensive for most medical students on a one month rotation. They are better suited for Ear-Nose-Throat boards, whereas ENT Secrets is better used for things like getting pimped, and not looking like a newbie.
As with many other books in the “Secrets” series, the book is broken down into subspecialties and reads in question and answer format, with numbered titles followed by detailed definitions of terms and scenarios. You’ll get all the usual imaging and diagrams you would expect. This also comes with the online Student Consult. Some of the features, such as online note taking, seem outright useless (please, someone comment if they disagree). However the ability to access the text electronically means you can embrace the med student geek inside you and read while waiting for the bus. It also means you can gank key figures and use them in powerpoint presentations.
If you’re about to hit your ENT sub-internship, this is the recommended book for you. Otherwise, for mandatory clerkships, stick to the recommended reading, or Otolaryngology for Primary Care.
The age old debate once again emerges. This post will attempt to sort out the confusion to help you make the best decision on your first year med school anatomy atlas purchase. While the main issue is almost always Netter or Rohen, there are actually a few other contenders that will be briefly discussed as well.
First, it is important to specify that there are both better books, and different books. What that means is that Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy (reviewed in full here) is going to be a better learning tool than most of its low budget imitators. However there are also apples-and-oranges comparisons, which is where Rohen’s Color Atlas of Anatomy (reviewed in full here) comes into play.
So which to choose? Rohen or Netter? The difference lies in how you like to study. Rohen’s Color Atlas of Anatomy is going to excel at providing actual cadaver pictures, so what you study in the book is exactly what you will be tested on in your anatomy practical exams. Rohens’ also has the benefit of only numbering structures that require a legend, so it is perfect for quizzing – simply cover the answer sheet. However, anatomy is hard for a number of reasons, one such difficulty being that multiple flesh colored structures easily blend together. As a solution, Frank Netter produced his famous Atlas of Human Anatomy, which covers all the same anatomy as Rohen, but with drawings. His illustrations have the benefit of being able to clearly show the borders of structures with differences in coloring, making the anatomy easier to understand (whereas Rohen paints a small minority of structures to a less effective degree). Tiny anatomy like nerves or vasculature pop off the page with contrast from their backgrounds with Netter. The down side is that Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy isn’t completely representative of anatomy practicals, as exams are not so conveniently color coded.
This ultimately comes down to a decision of clarity or authenticity. In the end, the debate will always be split based on this and how each individual person studies. It is recommended that you use both, depending on the situation, to get the best of both worlds. Specifically, Netter’s is a great first-pass reference book to help identify structures when initially exposed to the material, whereas Rohen’s is going to solidify existing understanding based on the actual visuals. In other words, a good strategy is to use Netter’s first, then go to Rohen’s. As owning both books can get costly, try to own the one that appeals most to you, and borrow the other from an opposite-minded friend or the library.
Rohen’s and Netter’s Anatomy Atlases are not the only Anatomy books out there, though they are generally better than most. Some other options deserve honorable mention.
The Sobatta Atlas of Human Anatomy (volume 1 and volume 2) is a hidden gem that breaks up the entire body into tremendous detail across two volumes. Many believe the quality of the illustrations themselves actually surpass Netter’s. It is important to note that this book distinguishes itself from the others by identifying all of the anatomical structures by their latin names. For a surprising majority of structures, this naming system is perfectly fine, as a good amount of anatomy is already latin. If you can use this book effectively, you will come out with a deeper understanding of the anatomy, its function, and its naming system. For example, ab muscles are called Rectus Abdominis because “rectus” comes from the latin for “straight.” Keep in mind that these will increase understanding, but at the time-cost of mastering part of a different language. Own both volumes if you can afford them, but otherwise it is worth going out of your way to find them in your school’s medical library.
Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy is another illustrated book. Unlike Netter, Rohen, and Sobatta, there’s just nothing really special to speak of. It highlights the anatomy and will help your studies, but generally doesn’t bring anything more to the table compared to the above books. Grant’s Dissector, (not to be confused with the Atlas) works particularly well for anatomy lab, but should not be purchased if your med school requires a different book. If they do require Grant’s Dissector, or you purchase it because they don’t require any book at all, you’re in good hands.
Lastly, honorable mention must be given to the epic original (but currently outdated) Gray’s Anatomy, originally named Gray’s Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical. No, it was not named after the TV show. Since the original, a number of revisions and companion books have been produced by new editors under the same name, including Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy, Gray’s Anatomy Review, Gray’s Anatomy for Students, and Gray’s Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice (seen right). See that sticker on the front cover that says “150 years?” That’s there because the original author, Henry Gray, was born in 1827. While anatomy hasn’t changed much since then, our understanding and technology has improved slightly past the mostly black-and-white images from the original Gray’s Anatomy, which can be found for free at Bartleby’s Online Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body. As you go through med school and use Dr. Wikipedia, you’ll see many of the original images from Gray’s Anatomy used as a reference (example below). The above book and many of its similarly name renditions contain up to date text and illustrations, but they are generally anatomy textbooks and not dedicated atlases like the abovementioned publications, to be reviewed at a later time. Gray’s Anatomy is mentioned here for historic reference as the influential publication that really pioneered the way of the illustrated Anatomy Atlas.
There really aren’t a ton of great pediatrics books out there for the core clerkship, but Nelson’s Essentials of Pediatrics is just a solid reference book to provide the basis of med student studying. It represents the condensed version of the 2680-page full version, Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics, often times referred to as the Pediatric Bible. Nelson’s Essentials hits all the key common pediatrics issues, but at 864 pages, it’s a balance between manageable and comprehensive. Still, you’ll have to pick and choose which chapters are read straight through, because you won’t be able to shotgun this entire book in a reasonable amount of time.
The best study technique for pediatrics is to actually use a reference book such as this or Rudolph’s Fundamentals of Pediatrics (to be reviewed later) along with a number of question books such as Pre-Test Pediatrics, as well as online resources like UpToDate. Referencing Nelson’s Essentials of Pediatrics on each of your assigned patients is a great way to prepare for imminent pimping. Again, as a larger book, it’s tough to read cover to cover, or even carry around to the wards, but it is reliable. With that being said, it also comes with Student Consult, which means you can scratch-off the key code inside the front cover to get access to the book electronically. As usual, this is perfect while roaming around the pediatric floors, and for snagging images for formal presentations.
Nelson’s Essentials of Pediatrics has some easy to understand, straight forward (but not overly amazing) diagrams and graphs. Again, it gets the job done. The 204 Chapters are grouped into the following units: The Profession of Pediatrics, Growth and Development, Behavioral Disorders, Psychiatric Disorders, Psychosocial Issues (which comes up a lot on the pediatrics rotation), Pediatric Nutrition, Fluids and Electrolytes, The Acutely Ill or Injured Child (perfect for Pediatric Emergency as well), Human Genetics and Dysmorphology, Metabolic Disorders, Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, Adolescent Medicine, Immunology, Allergy, Rheumatic Disorders of Childhood, Infectious Diseases, Digestive System, Respiratory System, Cardiovascular System, Hematology, Oncology, Nephrology and Urology, Endocrinology, Neurology (useful for the Neurology shelf exam), Dermatology, and Orthopedics.
Again, this is a solid reference book, and a good companion during the Pediatric Clerkship.