Review of the Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences

Angus J McKnight, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0SP

Title: The Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 9780199588442
Author: Robert Wilkins

The iconic Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine has long been a favourite of medical students and junior doctors alike from all over the country. It is used routinely for reference, revision and help on the wards. The Oxford Handbooks series has greatly expanded over the last few years, and there are now handbooks dedicated to a vast number of medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties targeted at all levels of medical training.

One of the newer members of the Oxford Handbook family is the Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences, first published in 2006 and followed by a second edition in 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences is designed for medical students learning and revising the pre-clinical sciences, and is a comprehensive guide to pre-clinical Medicine. An attractive feature of this handbook is that it references the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine which makes linking topics in pre-clinical and clinical medicine very easy.

The Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences is organised by system, with chapters covering all of the major organ systems in the body. This is the approach now favoured in the teaching of Medicine by most UK Medical Schools and chapters neatly combine the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of each organ system. There are also chapters on cellular structure and function, metabolism, medicine and society, and techniques in medical sciences (particularly useful for medical students with interest in undertaking research).

The handbook is written in a very clear, logical fashion, using bullet points to list key facts in an organised way. Illustrations throughout the book, including colour diagrams of anatomy in the centre, are well-labelled and are useful as reference tools.

If the handbook aims to serve as a reference to clinical students who want to catch up on topics learnt earlier in their education then it certainly succeeds. The logical organisation into organ systems makes looking up key facts very easy, and I would certainly recommend this book for clinical students who want to refresh some basic sciences later in their education. However, I think it is too early to throw out all other undergraduate books yet – the layout and level of the information is extremely good for quick reference but students learning the pre-clinical sciences for the first time might benefit from more traditional books with larger illustrations and less concise text. The reference to the OHCM, whilst useful, might fall down in that the references are only accurate for the 8th edition of the OHCM.
Overall, this is a reliable reference book which I think will serve me very well into my clinical years and I shall keep by my desk for those moments where I need to find a long-ago learnt and now-forgotten fact!