Monday, July 30, 2012

Books For Third Year Medical Students

We previously covered books for first year medical students and second year medical students. The section on books for USMLE was important enough to merit its own post. But, as third years, you are through with Step 1, you are through with basic sciences, and you're geared up for the clinics. Alas, day 1 comes and goes and you realize: there is still a ton to learn! Where do you go to find all that information?

The books described here are meant to give you a high yield, high impact approach to each core clerkship you take. Ideally, for each clerkship, try to read one book throughly and use one book for case reviews / questions. Here is a break down of the books you should get, rotation by rotation:

Family Medicine

Family Medicine is generally a nice rotation, with students primarily rotating in outpatient clinics. If you have already done pediatrics and internal medicine, family medicine covers many of the same topics, but in the outpatient setting. Preventative care is also much more emphasized. Blueprints Family Medicine does an excellent job of covering the major topics and preparing you for the shelf exam.

Internal Medicine

As discussed in the post on Books for the Internal Medicine Rotation, the three books above are all you need. Pocket Medicine will get you through the wards on a day-to-day basis while the other two are what you need to power through on your nights and weekends to ace the internal medicine shelf exam.


Neurology should be on the relatively lighter side of the clerkships, especially if you have taken internal medicine already. Since there are relatively few therapeutics, focus on learning how to differentiate major disease patterns.


My recollection of OB/Gyn is somewhat fuzzy as I took it during fourth year just as interviews were starting up. The major challenge in OB/Gyn as I recall was learning the skills as well as knowing how to work up various conditions (such as an abnormal pap smear). For OB, just remember: almost always the treatment is - deliver the baby!


Pediatrics is generally a fun rotation (babies!). The books you should get for pediatrics are much like the other rotations. Conceptually, again there is some overlap with internal medicine, but there is much more of an emphasis on congenital and infectious disorders.


All you need is the book above - First Aid for the Psychiatry Clerkship, Third Edition. 'Nuff said.


Surgery can be a challenging rotation for many students. Not only is there the typical fund of knowledge of disease that needs to be learned, but also anatomy needs to be refreshed as well as technical skills acquired. Many students ask - what books could possibly prepare me for the surgery shelf exam? Studying for the surgery shelf exam will be a constant challenge. If you can wait, pre-order the latest edition of Essentials of General Surgery, so that you can get it right when it is published in October 2012. For the NMS, make sure you get the casebook, not the full surgery review.


Some topics come up routinely on wards, no matter what service you are on. First Aid for the Wards: Fourth Edition is a great book to cover all those topics that might otherwise fall through the cracks.

Hopefully the books listed above will prove as valuable to you as they have to me - best of luck out there in the wilds of the wards!

Updated 2015-12-25

Friday, July 27, 2012

What Do Medical Administrative Assistants Do?

Ever wonder what all those people in the back-office of a doctor's office do? In this guest post by Nancy, find out all about who medical administrative assistants are. 

Essentials for a Career as Medical Administrative Assistant
If you are on the lookout for a career that promises job security and satisfaction, attractive compensation, and positive growth prospects, then your search is about to end!

Medical assistance or medical administrative assistance, ranked as one of the top healthcare jobs of 2012 by the U.S. News and World Report [1] offers all this and more. Belonging to the burgeoning allied healthcare industry, medical administrative assistants perform important supporting roles in hospitals, private practices and other healthcare facilities.

Here are some noteworthy facts about this profession:
  • Medical assistants held 527,600 jobs in the year 2010 [2] 
  • The median annual income of medical assistants in the same year was $28,860 per annum [3] 
  • The employment of medical assistants is projected to grow by 31% over the 2010-20 decade [4] 
If all this has made you even a little bit more curious about the profession than you were before, it may be worth your while to dig a little deeper into what medical assistance is all about. And to help you out, we present the absolute essentials for a career in medical assistance. 

Medical Administrative Assistance Training
If you have done some research about breaking into this field, you probably know that it does not have any educational prerequisites save a high school diploma or its equivalent. But that’s not something we’d advise aspirants to this profession.

As things stand in the current job market, post-secondary training has become essential for getting your foot in the door for most white collar jobs. So, look for medical administrative assistant training programs at career schools, community colleges or online vocational institutions.

Career training programs in medical assistance may take from a few months to a year’s time for completion. Typically, these programs include coursework in medical terminology, anatomy, healthcare reimbursement system, medical office procedures, typing skills and Microsoft Office training.

Medical Administrative Assistant Certification
Again, it’s not mandatory for medical assistants to be certified, but it’s a highly desirable credential to showcase your competency for the job to prospective employers. Four voluntary certifications are available to medical assistants who meet the eligibility criteria of the awarding organizations:

  1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) 
  2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) 
  3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) 
  4. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

Medical Administrative Assistant Skills
It’s all very well to complete a medical administrative assistant training program and get certified, but there are some basic qualities that one must develop to build a successful career in the field.

Since one of their primary responsibilities is to interact with patients who visit healthcare facilities, medical administrative assistants must be customer service oriented in their approach. It also helps to have a pleasing persona as they are the first point of contact for patients.

Medical administrative assistants are also expected to have analytic ability, attention to detail, as well as excellent time management and organizational skills.

You can consider taking some additional courses to develop the required skill set. For example, taking a course in Microsoft Office suite may make you more proficient and productive in your day-to-day work. Increasing your typing speed is another way to improve your efficiency in fulfilling your responsibilities as a medical administrative assistant.
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Ibid. 
Nancy is a 36-year old stay at home mom of two. She worked as a medical assistant for five years before taking a break to be with her children. Being an SAHM, Nancy is a huge exponent of vocational training programs that provide women like her the power to be their own boss.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can A Social Media Profile Be A Resume?

Thinking about applying for medical school? Residency? A scholarship, perhaps? Your online reputation may precede you. This guest post by Dr. Gregory Mackay explains some of the do's and don'ts of maintaining an online social media profile as a healthcare student and professional.

Social networking has become an inevitable part of our daily lives and although social media and healthcare privacy are not exactly two sides of the same coin, you need to be very careful about how you socialize because social behavior on social networking websites could have a significant contribution to make towards shaping your future career.


These social networking websites have grown by leaps and bounds (the code of conduct has also changed tremendously) over the last couple of years but so have the medical schools and universities who have already embraced social networking and made it a part of the learning curve. Most medical schools and universities have already got a defined set of guidelines that they expect their students to follow while socializing online.

Now, why is it important for medical students to “behave” themselves while socializing online? Social networking, as it used to be some 5to 7 years back, isn't only about having an online presence - it is now seriously considered as an identity replica by the corporate world which does not have enough time to go through background check reports and small details in a curriculum vitae - the only option they are left with is to take people on face value and that is what calls for “socially responsible behavior” on social networking websites. So, that actually translates to medical schools and universities creating a set of social media policies that can help inexperienced students have better profiles and the behavioral patterns on social media websites. Just warning them is not going to do the job because everyone would interpret the instructions differently - only a written set of guidelines is going to help them.

As a matter of fact the popularity of social media policies has also grown by leaps and bounds. More and more people have realized the benefits. But the million dollar question is “what needs to go into those policies”? Some of the key things that need to be integrated in social media policies include:
  • The student should be selective about where he establishes a profile. His online presence should mirror his professional responsibilities and interests - he should never go overboard. 
  • A student should remember that having profiles on online social networking websites does not make him a different person - he is the same professional and his behavior should match his professional profile. 
  • He should be very selective about what he makes public and what information he keeps under wraps. 
  • Students should understand that every online behavior can be recorded and monitored. It's best to think twice before displaying certain characters online. His behavior should in no way be able to tarnish his professional reputation. 
  • A medical student also needs to understand that deceit and pretence are not supposed to be considered positive traits in health professionals and he should steer clear of such things while socializing online.
This actually needs to be taken very seriously because a study that was conducted in 2010 has clearly pointed to the fact that not less than 20% of residency pharmacy directors (employers) completely trust social media behavior while recruiting candidates. As a matter of fact, 89% of them also strongly agreed to the fact that the behavioral patterns of social media websites clearly define the identity and character of a candidate and that speaks volumes about the kind of professionalism that they have and also the kind of attitudes that they would display towards others.

There is another huge benefit offered by social media policies. A set of written guidelines is also going to make sure that the privacy of the patients remains intact and that does not jeopardize the careers of young medical professionals. It was found out in a study in 2010 that medical students not having a “respectable” social media behavioral pattern are more prone to diagnosing patient information on social media websites. That could be a dangerous thing and could seriously jeopardize the careers of young medical professionals.

Dr. Gregory J. Mackay is a board certified atlanta cosmetic surgeon by the 'American Board of Surgery' who practices for “The beauty of knowledge

Monday, July 02, 2012

Books For Second Year Medical Students

After writing previously about books for first year medical students, gotta follow up with a post about books for second year medical students, right? Since the second year focuses more on pathophysiology, the books are geared towards those topics. Eventually though, the two years of training will culminate in the USMLE Step 1 examination, so it is important when purchasing books to keep taking notes with that in the back of your mind. MS2s, as you start your second full year of medical education, consider adding the following titles to your collection:

1. Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease
Although mentioned in the MS1 book list, Robbins remains the definitive book on general pathology. I thought the book did an excellent job not only describing the underlying pathology of almost any major disease you can imagine, but it often clearly explained the physiology as well. Definitely the best reference book I bought and the one I used most often, especially when very detailed questions came up during pathology and immunology courses. The book also serves as the go-to reference when a detailed issues comes up during Step 1 and Step 2 CK studying. For a brief overview of topics, perhaps prior to Step 1, consider Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology, 3rd Edition as well. 

Regardless of whether your medical school teaches via an organ-based system or not, the second year will typically focus more on pathology and pathophysiology. There are many different books out there with regards to each system, but understanding renal pathophysiology will cover the majority of clinically relevant areas of physiology, including the relevant areas of cardiology. Renal Pathophys by Rennke, a Harvard Medical School professor is an excellent, succinct primer on the physiology of the kidney. The book's numerous diagrams and examples help clarify concepts that can at times be fairly subtle to grasp. The thing I appreciated the best was that nearly every questions I had was addressed somewhere within the book - pretty impressive for such a small volume! 

While the author of this text Dale Dubin is covered many times on this site due to his hard-to-believe story, the book itself remains a good introduction to what an EKG is and how to interpret the various patterns seen. The numerous diagrams help clarify concepts that other books attempt to describe in text. While his writing is... unorthodox, to be charitable, his medical knowledge is correct and he does get his points across. The book is also a relatively quick read and has lots of white space for easy annotation. I'd suggest reading this later in the year as you start to ponder wards, and then updating it with copies of interesting EKGs as you enter the wards. 

Like the book above, this is traditionally considered to be a "book for clinical rotations." However, I would argue that it is smart to purchase it early, during second year. Anytime you come across a common clinical complaint, such as chest pain, look at this book's section on it. The book efficiently lists fairly comprehensive differentials diagnoses as well as the next management steps that help you determine the etiology of the symptom or problem. Oftentimes, students in the basic sciences will have heard about various diseases and diagnostic modalities but do not have any idea how to sequence the different diagnostic tests. Pocket Medicine concisely and precisely defines each test and lets one know when and how each test should be used to diagnose a disease. 

While technically this book does not relate to second year courses, USMLE Step 1 comes to dominate the second year, especially the latter half. As I have stated many times before, the trick with First Aid and Step 1 is to buy the book early and annotate it as you go through the year with additional facts or clarifying notes and diagrams. if you annotate the book as you go along, you will create this wonderful resource for yourself that you are intimately familiar with when it comes time to crack open the books to study for the boards.

While there are many other books to buy and refer to during second year, the five books described above should be essential for any medical student in their second year. The beauty of these books in particular is that you will continue to utilize them as you go forward in your medical career, both for directly learning about your patient's conditions as well as to study for board exams. Essentially, these are the books that keep on giving... giving the gift of concise, easy-to-access and understand medical knowledge. 

If you have read Books For First Year Medical Students, and now this post, you are probably wondering about what books to buy for third and fourth year. Don't worry - keep your eyes posted here for those posts coming soon.


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