Studying with Chris and Arif

Studying with my friends Chris and Arif

As of September 2013, AUC provides all students with electronic textbooks via a platform called Vital Source, which you can access via computer, iPad, or iPhone. These electronic textbooks are convenient in that you no longer need to carry heavy books around, and it is much easier to search for keywords within the book with a simple “Ctrl F” command. However, being electronic also means that you’ll need to have a computer or tablet with you whenever you want to read the textbooks, which can be an issue for those who prefer paper books, but can be a convenience for those who tote around their iPads all day anyway (like me).

Before coming to the island, you will be given access to Vital Source and can go ahead and download all your ebooks at home (where there is fast internet) before coming to the island (where internet may be slower).

While it’s not necessary to buy books anymore since they are all electronic, there are certainly those of us who prefer studying from physical books. If this is you, I wouldn’t recommend buying all of them, since you won’t have time to read them all. Between lecture slides, tutor notes, and your own class notes, you’ll be more than occupied. It’s also not necessary to read all the books since the block exams are all based off of the lecture notes, and textbooks should be utilized simply as reference if you want clarification on something.

If you want to get physical books, I’d recommend only getting the most useful books, books that you will definitely be using a lot, or books that are not provided via Vital Source. There are many options in getting physical books. You can buy them new before coming to the island, but this is expensive and so I don’t recommend it. Instead, I’d recommend buy them for very cheap from upper semester students at the First Semester Yard Sale on campus at the beginning of the semester. You can also take advantage of the AUC library and check out textbooks that you want. If you do want to get physical books for first semester, here are the ones I found most useful that I would recommend getting:

1. Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy
First and foremost, computers and iPads are not allowed in the anatomy lab, and so if you rely on Vital Source, you won’t be access your textbooks, and for this reason, I highly recommend buying a physical copy of this book. Since Netter’s Atlas is the road map to your cadaver in anatomy lab, you will be using it a lot. It’s easy to read, since it’s a bunch of  drawings with things labeled. I would look through the pictures before coming to lab each time to get yourself familiar with what you are going to look for, and obviously, have the book open at all times during the dissection so you know what you are cutting at and know what to expect to find underneath. You might be able to find a cheap, used (and not to mention, dirty) copy of Netters from an upper semester student during the First Semester Sale, but to guarantee that you have a copy of this book (particularly if you are in a larger September class), I’d personally recommend just buying a copy before you arrive on the island. As anatomy hasn’t really changed since the dawn of mankind, any edition should be fine.

Instead of Netter’s, some students also recommend Rohen’s Color Atlas of Anatomy, since it uses real photos of dissected cadavers rather than drawings. It is a personal preference, as some people learn better with photos. For me personally, I find it easier to learn anatomy from the drawings in Netter because the drawings are clean and clear-cut, and the color contrasts make it easier to understand different anatomical systems.

2. BRS Gross Anatomy
This book is a board review book (rather than a textbook) for anatomy, and so it cannot replace the details you learn in lecture, but it highlights the most important key points and clinical correlates you need to know for the Anatomy Shelf Exam you take during finals week. Because of this, I would use it concurrently with your studies and use it as a way to summarize the key things you’ve learned that day. This book also have lots of great practice questions. BRS Gross Anatomy is not provided by the school via Vital Source, and so it is definitely a book to consider getting. However, there is a free PDF version of this book floating around campus, so if you’re OK with reading ebooks, you could just get a copy from an upper semester student when you arrive on campus.

Here is the AUC textbook list:


  • New Clinical Genetics — Read & Donnai
  • Marks’ Medical Biochemistry — Liberman, Marks
  • Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy — Netter
  • Langman’s Medical Embryology — TW Sadler
  • Histology with Cell & Molecular Biology — Ross, Pawlina
  • Patient-Centered Interviewing: An Evidence-Based Method — Robert C. Smith
  • Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking — Lynn S. Bickley


  • New Clinical Genetics (same as 1st semester) — Read & Donnai
  • Marks’ Medical Biochemistry (same as 1st semester) — Liberman, Marks
  • Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Microbiology — Harvey, Champe, Fisher
  • Janeway’s Immunobiology — K. Murphy
  • Physiology — Linda Costanzo
  • Neuroscience — Purves
  • High-Yield Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Public Health — A.N. Glaser:
  • Patient-Centered Interviewing: An Evidence-Based Method (same as 1st semester) — Robert C. Smith
  • Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking (same as 1st semester) — Lynn S. Bickley


  • Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease — Kumar
  • Physiology (same as 2nd semester) — Linda Costanzo
  • Neuroscience (same as 2nd semester) — Purves
  • Medical Microbiology for the New Curriculum: A Case Based Approach — Carey, Schuster & McGowan
  • Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Microbiology (same as 2nd semester) — Harvey, Champe, Fisher
  • Patient-Centered Interviewing: An Evidence-Based Method (same as 1st semester) — Robert C. Smith
  • Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking (same as 1st semester) — Lynn S. Bickley


  • Neuroscience, 5th ed. 2011 (same as 2nd semester) — Purves
  • Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease (same as 3rd semester) — Kumar
  • Basic and Clinical Pharmacology — Katzung, Masters, Trevor
  • Katzung & Trevor’s Pharmacology Examination and Board Review — Katzung, Masters, Trevor
  • Kaplan & Sadock’s Pocket handbook of Clin. Psychiatry — Sadock & Sadock
  • Behavior and Medicine — Danny Wedding & M. Stuber
  • Patient-Centered Interviewing: An Evidence-Based Method (same as 1st semester) — Robert C. Smith
  • Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking (same as 1st semester) — Lynn S. Bickley


  • Resolving Ethical Dilemmas: A Guide for Clinicians — Lo, Bernard
  • Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (same as 4th semester) — Katzung, Masters, Trevor
  • Katzung & Trevor’s Pharmacology Examination and Board Review (same as 4th semester) — Katzung, Masters, Trevor
  • Kaplan & Sadock’s Pocket handbook of Clin. Psychiatry (same as 4th semester) — Sadock & Sadock
  • Behavior and Medicine (same as 4th semester) — Danny Wedding & M. Stuber
  • Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5 — American Psychiatric Association
  • Patient-Centered Interviewing: An Evidence-Based Method (same as 1st semester) — Robert C. Smith
  • Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking (same as 1st semester) — Lynn S. Bickley

8 comments to Textbooks

  • Tobi AIna

    Which books did you buy in your first semester? Do you think having just the Anatomy books would be sufficient since the Lecture notes are very useful?

    • Benji

      The only book I bought was Netters. The other books I just got in ebook form or from the library. Lecture notes are definitely more than enough material to study.

  • Kunal

    Hi Benji, thanks again for such a detailed and helpful blog. I had heard that taking Mammalian Physiology before coming to AUC would be preferable over Biochemistry and/or Anatomy & Physiology. This same person also told me that Molecular Genetics would be taught during the first semester. I was planning on buying a Molecular Genetics and/or Mammalian Physiology book just to read over for an hour or so a day to get my mind back into some “work mode” since I have not been in a classroom setting for over a year. What are your thoughts and what textbook for which subject would you recommend if I wanted to just review material before I arrived on campus?

    • Benji

      Hi Kunal,
      Congrats on coming to AUC. If you haven’t been in school for over a year, I think it’s not a bad idea to get into the routine of reading. I wouldn’t burn yourself out on studying though before medical school, but getting into the habit of doing some reading everyday can be good. I wouldn’t worry about physiology for now, since you won’t have to deal with it until second semester. But if you do decide to review some physiology, I’d recommend human physiology rather than just generic mammalian physiology. To prepare for first semester, it may be more beneficial to review over some first-semester subjects like cell bio and genetics, particularly focusing on human and bacterial cell bio and human genetics. Here are some of the subjects you’ll cover first semester: http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2010/03/should-i-study-before-starting-med-school/ .
      Best of luck!

  • Itoro

    Hi BEnji,
    I just wanted to ask of the equipment list, which of the equipments did you buy from the U.S. to take with you to the Island?


  • Bianca

    Hi Benji.
    I’m an IMG. Been reading resources to use and saw people recommending NBME exams/ forms(?). Where can I get these? Went to the nbme site(nbme.org) and only saw registration stuff. Dont know where to get them. Lol

    Great blog by the way! And I wish you and your family the best! 🙂

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