By Enrique Rivero
Medical journals publish studies at an almost dizzying pace, with each new finding leading to others that expand and enlarge on a wide range of scientific topics.
Medical students and doctors often find it difficult to keep up with this avalanche and as a result, are not always up-to-speed on the latest literature, which frequently builds on findings from earlier publications.
To help medical students find their bearings, Dr. Michael Hochman, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar in the division of general internal medicine and health services research, department of medicine, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has self-published “50 Studies Every Doctor Should Know: The Key Studies that Form the Foundation of Evidence Based Medicine.”
The book, available in paperback and as an e-book (www.50studies.com), is intended as a handy guide to help medical professionals – and anyone interested in the medical literature – slash their way through the thicket by honing in on the key studies in all branches of medicine: preventive and internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, radiology, neurology and psychiatry, and systems-based practice such as palliative care and care coordination.
“It’s basically the CliffsNotes of the 50 key studies that doctors should know,” said Hochman, who cares for patients at the Veterans Administration of Greater Los Angeles. “It’s written at a level for medical students, nurses, and other medical professionals, but it would also be appropriate for a scientifically minded lay person who’s interested in the science behind medicine.”
According to Hochman, the book provides summaries and analysis of studies that have defined key concepts in medicine.
“For example, I picked one of the pivotal trials showing that medications and psychotherapy are equally effective for treating most cases of depression,” he said. “And I included the landmark study demonstrating the harms of post-menopausal hormone therapy.”
Hochman, who has written on medical topics for the Boston Globe and other lay publications, writes in the preface that as a medical student he himself had difficulty picking up on the key studies, and was sometimes scolded for these knowledge gaps – and those gaps in turn had an adverse effect on his decision-making.
Once he became familiar with the studies, he made it a point to summarize them for his own students so that they, too, could be well versed in the literature. In fact, he put the summaries between covers at their prompting.
“The medical students and residents I worked with said, ‘Gee, we really like the way you do this and we don’t get this anywhere else,” Hochman said. “Can you put it in a manual for us?’”
And so he did, and his new book has gotten thumbs ups from top researchers, including some whose studies Hochman summarizes.