This Book’s a Keeper
by Lorien E. Menhennett
A few days ago, I wrote about some books I *might* be using during my first year in medical school. I already know this one is a keeper: How the Immune System Works, by Lauren Sompayrac (Wiley-Blackwell).
Before I talk about this book, let me take a step back. It’s said (by people more knowledgeable than I am) that in addition to the required basic science classes in college, there are three upper-division courses that may help you in medical school: genetics, biochemistry, and immunology. I’ve taken genetics and biochemistry, and done well in both. But immunology is a world I know nothing about. To put it bluntly: I didn’t know my neutrophils from my natural killer cells (which is embarrassing, if you know anything about the subject).
Enter Lauren Sompayrac’s book, which is a “big picture” view of immuno designed to prepare you for more a complex course by showing how parts of the immune system act and interact at a very basic level. At only 132 pages of actual chapter material, it’s a short read. The writing is entertaining, with plenty of analogies and quips thrown in. From now on, when I think of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) – a molecule that essentially serves as a billboard to tell what’s going on either inside or outside the cell it’s attached to – I will think of a hot dog bun. (Yes, there is a photo of a hot dog bun in the book. It works.) There are also plenty of astounding facts too which keep me engaged with the general topic. (Did you know that the area covered by the mucous membranes lining our digestive, respiratory, and reporductive tracts – part of our body’s perimeter that needs defended – measures about 400 square meters? That’s two tennis courts! Immune cells have to patrol all that!)
My goal isn’t to master the immune system before medical school. That’s what medical school is for. But since I have exactly zero background in this, I want to develop a basic understanding of the players before I’m expected to know the whole playbook.
Thank you for this review. I had immunology incorporated into my microbiology course, so it was very interesting, but not in-depth enough. A separate book on the subject would be great!
Could you please comment in any manner about genetics? Were there any resources you’d found useful while you were taking your class? or if you’d liked the textbook you used.
Thanks in advance!
When I took genetics during my post-bac, my professor didn’t actually require a textbook – he created all his own lectures and problem sets from scratch. He did, however, recommend a textbook that’s available on the NCBI bookshelf (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books) for free – An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, 7th edition. You can access it here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21766/?term=genetics. This is not the most recent edition, but it IS free. I went ahead and bought a hard copy of the book on Amazon because it had really great problem sets, which you don’t seem to be able to access with the free NCBI bookshelf version. There is also a solution manual available (which I also bought) – again, very helpful to make sure you’re on the right track. If you want the most recent book, the 11th edition just came out. But if you’re strapped for cash, a used copy of an older edition and its accompanying solution manual (make sure you buy the same edition for both so they match up!) should be fine. Hope this helps!
Thank you, thank you! This is perfect. I’ve had smatterings of genetics in the cell bio and general bio courses, and the cursary review just left me with a feeling that “if I have to see a Punnett square one more time… ” :). The text you are recommending is looking so much more interesting (from the topography of the chromosomes to the aberrant cell control). Thank you!
Glad to help! My genetics professor (who was a mentor to me during my post-bac) would be happy that I was sharing these resources too.
Sorry, that was “cursory”.
You’d mentioned neuroanatomy, and I want to, in turn, point you to a Coursera class (in case you have not encountered that one yet), which I think is very well taught. It is a “Medical Neuroscience” course offered by Duke University, taught by Leonard White, PhD on coursera.org. It is free — you just need to create an account, log in and register for the class.
Here is what the course intro says:
” You should take this course if you are currently enrolled in a health professions curriculum or are preparing to do so having satisfied the usual prerequisites. […] The intellectual challenge and content level of this course is comparable to what first-year students in the graduate-level health professions would experience.”
I appreciate the tip. Thanks Varia!