Throughout Medical School, you are required to learn a huge amount of information about the human body and beyond: its precise components, how they work and what to do if they are not working properly. I therefore like to think that the main textbooks can be divided into three categories, excluding very specific books: anatomy atlases, physiology and clinical medicine.
Elsevier were kind enough to send me the books made by them in these categories, so that I can review them from the perspective of a first year medical student. This will hopefully advise and benefit those interested in investing in these books (which might be you).
We start off with…
Atlas of Human Anatomy [Frank H. Netter]
The best of art combines with science to showcase the complexity of the human body. 4.7*
After a mere skim of the 500+ pages, you will notice that the images and diagrams preserve every inch of the complexity of the human body. They are mostly illustrated by the pre-eminent Frank Netter, and the striking views of various sections do well to give an insight into the human body and point out key areas.
As a first year student, this was the first time I had laid hands on an anatomy atlas. Naturally, there was a learning curve in terms of navigating the book and quickly looking for the sections/angles I wanted to see. However, the book has been hugely useful for learning anatomy and coping with the dissections at UCL. When working with cadavers, structures are very difficult to spot and these very lifelike drawings help to get your head around the precise strucures.
The only drawback is that, in a way, it is too perfect and for the final exams you will need other sources that show what to expect in an actual cadaver. Also, although the diagrams are much better than in Gray’s anatomy in my opinion, it does help to use 3D anatomy software to aid visualisation. It’s also important to note that there are hardly any explanations of the anatomy in the book; it’s merely an atlas.
Overall, what you get with this book is more than just an atlas of the isolated components. There are schematics present throughout, to give an idea of how different systems around the body are interlinked. Examples would include the constituents of the sympathetic nervous system, or the fine details of blood circulation in the lungs. Also included is StudentConsult, an online platform which has extra quizzes, dissection videos, bonus plates and 3D models. It’s been a huge help, as it’s available on laptops/tablets/phones and so can be accessed from anywhere. Lastly, an amazing feature is to hide labels on every diagram so that you can test your existing knowledge.
To conclude, there is something special about the anatomy atlas and how it has been perfectly adapted to the needs of doctors / medical students. The consistency of the labelling and images make for a great learning experience, helping it serve well as the sole resource for anatomy that you probably need.
[Kumar and Clark’s] Clinical Medicine
The perfect harmony of scientific understanding and clinical practice. 4.5*
Contained within this 1400+ page trove of information, is seemingly everything you need to know about seemingly every disease. The essence of medical education is to harmonise scientific understanding and clinical practice, and the book does this very well. Overall, it’s divided into 3 parts: Good Medical Practice, Clinical Sciences and Clinical Practice (the bulk). Good Medical Practice covers topics such as ethics, communication, clinical pharmacology and poisoning. Clinical Sciences, implied by the name, covers specific concepts in molecular biology, immunology and more. The last section, Clinical Practice, is split into broad sections which then hone in on particular diseases in medicine.
All aspects of the clinical process are explained: starting from clinical features/symptoms, to investigations and (differential) diagnosis, and finally treatment.
I particularly like the holistic focus, from the diagram of affected parts of the body to the inclusion of global health and crucial findings over the last few years. Access to the StudentConsult online platform contains resources for special topics such as Ebola and provides tips by junior doctors/consultants on how to practice medicine effectively. I appreciate that, as a first year student, it will be 2 more years until I put the skills learnt into practice. However, we have encountered the scientific basis of many diseases so far, and consolidating this with a clinical insight never hurts.
I genuinely believe that this will be an invaluable resource in my years to come as a medical student and beyond. The stunning breadth of the material covered is not only reassuring, but also relevant.
[Guyton and Hall Textbook of] Medical Physiology
A complete, concise and systematic review of all of physiology. 4.8*
Physiology is essential to have an understanding of the human body before deducing what is wrong. Guyton & Hall’s main focus (as written in the preface) was to produce a consistent, easy-to-read book so that students have a secure foundation in physiology. The book prides itself on a ‘single-author voice’ which gives you confidence in what to expect regardless of topic. It can go into precise detail at some points, but it manages to stay accessible and logical in those explanations.
In our current module of Circulation & Breathing, it has proved to be a priceless resource. I found the book to be most useful in explaining concepts with a systematic approach rather than being a reference for facts and figures. For example, most recently, I’ve appreciated its section on cardiac arrhythmias which is both comprehensive and easy to understand. Pair this with StudentConsult, which allows you to search and read any topic on a variety of devices, and you have a very efficient tool. If you want to switch sections every few minutes for revision, you no longer have to spend time scrolling through the hefty book.
Lastly, alongside the detailed science, there are often assigned sections which deal with the clinical relevance of said mechanism and provide more information (if you wish to study it more deeply).
Overall, I find it hard to fault the book as it delivers on all fronts. It presents all well-established parts of physiology in a refined manner.
Hope you found the reviews helpful! If you have any extra thoughts or want to recommend other books, feel free to comment below.