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From The CriticsReviewer: Paul St. Romain, BA (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Description: This is an organ system-based review of pathology-related topics commonly tested on the USMLE Step 1 that presents the information in a question-answer format designed to elicit active recall. The previous edition was published in 2006.
Purpose: It is designed to be a high-yield, concise, self-assessment tool and last-minute review source for students preparing for the exam. This exam is traditionally weighted heavily towards pathology, and understanding of this material is key for students. However, there are multiple pathology review books already available, and the need for a concise, high-yield pathology review book is debatable. Such an approach carries high risk of losing the integrative, mechanistic understanding of pathology that is required to excel on the exam.
Audience: The book is directed at first- and second-year medical students preparing to take USMLE Step 1, but nontraditional test takers would benefit equally. All the subject matter pertains to Step 1; as such, neither third- and fourth-year students nor physicians will find it useful. As recent graduates of medical school and former medical student fellows in pathology, the authors appear qualified to write a review book for their intended audience.
Features: A chapter covers the pathology of each organ system, with additional chapters on biochemistry, genetics, and radiology. A strong introductory chapter on general pathology is a welcome sight. The chapters that follow integrate high-yield material from pharmacology sporadically, and generally touch upon the most relevant epidemiologic, etiologic, and diagnostic aspects of commonly tested diseases. A bookmark is included to cover up the right-hand column, which contains answers to the questions posed on the left, and I praise this effort to force readers to be active learners. However, vaguely stated questions make the format clunky at times, and the explanations are often unsatisfyingly brief. Illustrations could ameliorate this problem, but are unfortunately of mediocre grayscale quality and scarce. The clinical vignettes at the end of each chapter quickly present classic scenarios, but are overly dependent on buzzwords and ultimately do not demand the problem-solving and integration skills required to answer Step 1 questions. The authors are to be commended for their attempt to include a chapter correlating pathology with radiology, but the use of only one image (a normal chest x ray) in the chapter is a disappointment. Ultimately, to split off radiology-related pathology from the individual organ systems disassociates information rather than connecting it and seems an unfortunate choice, given that the information in the radiology chapter is one of the more uniquely useful aspects of the book.
Assessment: This book's claim of "maximum retention, minimal time" may appeal to students seeking a portable source of quick, high-yield pathology information. The book concisely covers core topics on USMLE Step 1. However, the implementation ultimately feels fragmented and too superficial to build understanding in students. As a result, although this book may find a place on the shelves of students to whom its format and low price tag appeals, Rapid Review: Pathology, 3rd edition, Goljan (Elsevier, 2010), with its superior illustrations and mechanistic, clinical approach will remain the gold standard in USMLE Step 1 pathology review books. Robbins and Cotran Pathology Flash Cards, Klatt and Mitchell (Elsevier, 2009), is an alternative source that forces active recall of pathology-related topics, but includes full-color illustrations and superior clinical vignettes.