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Book review: Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences

Dr Harry Brown reviews the third edition of the Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences, which is an useful refresher for established medics wanting to update their basic science knowledge.

Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences

Published by Oxford University Press (Published July 21)

Edited by Robert Wilkins, Ian Megson and David Meredith

ISBN 978-0-19-878989-5

Third Edition

Price £32.99

I am fairly sure that many of us are familiar with the brilliant series of Oxford Medical Handbooks that have been used by generations of medical students and doctors (and other healthcare professionals) at different stages of their training.

This book physically resembles its stablemates in size (slightly bigger than my flat palm) and with the traditional and tough protective vinyl cover. Although it is described as a handbook, it is fairly thick (not stupid but in dimensions!) running to 1,022 pages including the index. However, the biggest difference that I have found compared to most of the other Oxford Handbooks that I have used in the past, is this as the title suggests, is not primarily a clinical book. However, that does not detract it’s use for postgraduates. Clearly it will be of substantial to medical students, especially in their pre-clinical years and also into their clinical years.

I also think this book will be attractive to junior and senior doctors who wants to refresh half remembered basic science. A lot of modern medical practice, as well as therapeutics, imaging and bloods tests, sit on top of the grounding laid down by medical science. So, this book is an excellent refresher for established medics wanting to update their basic science knowledge.

There are 15 chapters and the first two lay the groundwork by looking at cellular structure and function then cellular metabolism. The third chapter is about molecular and medical genetics and then a more standard and logical systems approach is undertaken. Finally, there are three interesting chapters near the end which includes, growth of tissues and organs and medicine and society.

Chapter 12 starting at page 853 is an excellent review of infection and immunity and a reminder of how much immunology actually presents itself in clinical practice. Not just in vaccination but in autoimmune disease and other disease states. Understanding the basic science can provide clarity in clinical situations.

This book represents excellent value for money and is a superb offering, which is now in a mature third edition. Two of the three editors are from Oxford UK whilst the third editor is also based in the UK. However, that does not mean this book is not suitable for a global audience. Far from it, a global audience will find this useful at almost every stage in their health professional career. It is an excellent read and apart from healthcare professionals wanting an up-to-date resource in basic science in their clinical practice. It is also an interesting and enjoyable read and for some it could even be a leisure read. For many clinically orientated healthcare professionals, this could be a one stop resource for basic medical science at a very keen price.

Dr Harry Brown is a retired GP and medical editor of Pavilion Health Today


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