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From The CriticsReviewer: Robert M. Klein, PhD (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Description: This book seeks to review relevant medical embryology and provide a series of United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)-type questions for students preparing for examinations on embryology content in their courses and/or Step 1 of the USMLE. Although there are limited illustrations, these are ample for a national board review book and are sufficiently clear and well matched to the text. The book presents important factual information in outline and tabular form.
Purpose: The purpose is to provide undergraduate medical students with a thorough and complete review of key concepts and topics in medical embryology. The book covers pertinent embryology with an appropriate clinical focus, using a limited number of figures, functional outlines, and tables. Each chapter contains national board-type questions. The book has a worthwhile focus although there are limited numbers of embryology-specific questions on Step 1 exams, so the market for this book may be limited. Also, the market may become even more limited if USMLE moves forward with their "Gateway" exam approach to licensure. The new edition has important updates on chromosomal abnormalities and the relationship of genetics to congenital dysmorphologies.
Audience: This book will be used by undergraduate medical students. Furthermore, it will serve as an excellent resource for medical students who need to prepare for embryology questions on exams while enrolled in the preclinical curriculum, whether integrated into systems or taught in a discipline-based mode. The authors have done an excellent job of consolidating embryology and some developmental biology material into a format that facilitates rapid review of the topics: fertilization, early development, systems embryology, pregnancy, and teratology.
Features: Readers are provided with important diagrams and images and supplemented by relevant factual information that explains embryologic details. It effectively places embryology in an integrated medical context. While not at the level of a complete embryology book, this work serves as a worthy supplement and an excellent resource for embryology exams and in preparation for USMLE Step 1. The information is concise, complete, and easily accessible in outline and tabular form. Highlights of the book are the clinical correlations integrated with the descriptions of normal development. The authors also do a good job of including some molecular and developmental biology concepts where appropriate. For example, they include the role of FGFR in achondroplasia and the role of various molecules in limb development. Multiple choice questions for each section and a comprehensive embryology exam are located at the end of the book. Each question has succinct feedback that, overall, is concise and appropriate for the intended audience. The best questions in the book are vignette-style. The shortcomings are minor, but should be mentioned. The authors include some questions which represent descriptive multiple true-and-false items rather than process or mechanism-driven questions. For example, in the teratology section, there are many questions which list a disease and ask about a disease in the following format: "Cri-du-Chat syndrome is characterized by...." National board format requires the use of all stems ending in questions rather than incomplete phrases. Those questions are not truly national board format, but may still be a valuable resource for students reviewing embryology. Better use of tables for high-yield information would be welcomed by students studying for national boards who crave concise presentation of material. There is some trivia, such as the mention that the clavicle is partially formed by endochondral and intramembranous ossification. It is not clear that this is important for a student studying for Step 1. There is verbatim redundancy in the overviews of chapters 19 and 20 on upper limb and lower limb
Assessment: This is an excellent resource for undergraduate medical students preparing for USMLE Step 1. Since most students will use a standard embryology text (electronic or print) and there are few embryology questions on Step 1, there is a limited market for this book. This is certainly not the fault of the authors who have done an excellent job of consolidating the topics and providing a series of USMLE-type vignette questions for student review and preparation for their licensing exams. Clinical correlations should facilitate mastery of the complex embryological material, and will likely be a useful resource at least through USMLE Step 1.