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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Paul St. Romain, BA (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Description: This is an update to the 2007 edition of this general pathology textbook.
Purpose: The goal of the editors is to help medical students learn what they need in order to practice patient care in the future, "without punishing students with superfluous information." The book does indeed come across as accessible and clinically oriented, and I know of many medical students who use it exclusively as their pathology text for this reason.
Audience: The editors point out that the book is not intended "to train bench scientists." Indeed, it occasionally reads more like a novel or newspaper article reporting on the key points of a particular disease than like a specialized textbook — certainly a positive reflection on the readability. The authors are mostly professors in pathology from prominent academic institutions in North America. However, in keeping with the clinical bent of the book, authors represent other disciplines as well, including surgery (shock), hepatology, and endocrinology.
Features: The book is organized into 10 chapters on general pathology and 19 chapters on organ system-based pathology (including an entire chapter on diabetes mellitus). Whenever a disease is discussed, paragraphs are divided according to pathology, clinical features, etiology, molecular pathogenesis, and epidemiology. Hence, students accustomed to color-coding these topics will have to find other gainful employment for their highlighters, which are no longer necessary. The gross and microscopic pictures are clear and high quality, although occasionally the images would be more helpful if they were more thoroughly labeled. On the other hand, the cartoon diagrams are fantastic — having just finished my MS3 surgery rotation, I found I couldn't stop admiring the elegant, big-picture presentations of "causes of GI bleeding" and "causes of GI obstruction."
Assessment: This is an excellent, clinically relevant pathology textbook for medical students. I am most familiar with Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease, 8th edition, Kumar et al. (Elsevier, 2010), the gold-standard general pathology textbook, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rubin's comes across as less technical and more clinically focused. The two books cover similar material; Robbins goes into more detail on molecular pathogenesis and pathologic features, while Rubin's spends more time and space on illustration and clinical features of diseases. Robbins does have a cleaner feel to it; occasionally the number of eye-catching illustrations in Rubin's can be distracting. The bottom line is that either book is complete enough to be adequate for medical school education, and the choice between the two will come down to student and instructor preference. Many medical students I know find Robbins too unapproachable and hence do not read it at all; I would urge them to give this book a try.