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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Eugene A Davidson, PhD (Georgetown University School of Medicine)
Description: This is the sixth edition of a well regarded general medical biochemistry textbook (first edition in 1982 with updates about every five years). The editor has assembled a strong group of contributing authors. Useful features include a short review of basic organic chemistry and a glossary.
Purpose: The goal is to offer a comprehensive biochemistry text to advanced students with a particular focus on medical students. As a basic science, this is an important goal. There is mixed success in meeting the objectives.
Audience: First year medical students are the target audience. Secondary users may include graduate students in the life sciences wishing a general text of biochemistry. The editor and authors are well qualified.
Features: The emphasis is on applications to medicine and hence the anticipated audience of first year medical students. The book's 28 chapters are grouped into five major sections. Each chapter has a set of study questions crafted in the format used for the step 1 examinations required for physician licensing; in addition, a short bibliography accompanies each section. Appendixes include a short review of organic chemistry (for those students who have taken this hurdle and now would like to forget it) and a useful glossary of common terms. As indicated in the title, clinical correlations are provided in offset text boxes to reinforce the relevance of the material to medical practice. As with most mega-texts, topical coverage begins with purely structural considerations; subsequent sections include detailed discussion of the central dogma (DNA - RNA - protein), protein function (including signal transduction), core metabolism, and a concluding section on hormones, cell cycle and nutrition. The coverage of all topics is reasonably thorough although there are some errors (dTDP-rhmnose is not a precursor of UDP-N-acetylgalactosamine). From a faculty perspective, little of consequence is missing and thus one might recommend this text. However, from a student perspective, the amount of material is overwhelming, there is no guidance as to relative importance (what do I really need to know?), and the clinical correlations sometimes appear to be dragged in. As both medical practice and its scientific underpinning become more integrated, our approach to teaching these materials should reflect this change. In a general sense, perhaps the time of the 1,000+ page textbook has passed.
Assessment: This is a large, comprehensive book with the flaws and virtues of all multiauthor efforts. Although complete, I would not recommend this book to students because they will not know how to read for essential content. This is a moving field and new editions are appropriate if that is the mechanism to keep book up-to-date. Whether such mega-volumes still have utility is debatable.