The Central Region Chapter of the AAMC:GEA Special Interest Group on Basic Science Education met on April 18, 1996 in Chicago Illinois. This was during the annual CGEA~ conference which this year was hosted by Rush Medical College. Our topic was Textbooks: Selection and Use.

Audience consensus confirmed that textbooks as a study aid for students ranked absolutely last after note service, faculty handouts and even last year’s note service! With that information as background, the discussion focused on the value of textbooks in general. It was agreed that although they can be used as reference sources, the rapid changes in many fields make obsolescence a continual problem; and most textbooks purchased in medical school are out-of-date when the new physician begins in actual practice.

If used as a study aid, should textbooks then be review or comprehensive? This generated much discussion from the audience with varying views expressed. Large detailed textbooks are least useful in the crowded schedule of medical students, whereas quick review books, while more popular with students, are seldom recommended by faculty. Students vote with their dollars and buy the books that serve them best, e.g. the Lippinncott illustrated texts in biochemistry and pharmacology. However, errors and omissions in such review books are often detected by faculty.

It was the opinion of many that content of basic science courses is dictated by perceptions of USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) questions within each discipline. Although the format for the USMLE has changed, the anxiety that a course will omit essential information drives faculty to consider completeness as a virtue in recommending a textbook. Few contemporary texts accurately reflect the content of USMLE because that specific content is largely unknown. Therefore thins rationale for selection is outdated.

It was agreed that few basic science courses are designed around a specific textbook, as faculty are very individual in selection and depth of each topic covered. Therefore, no one textbook will be completely acceptable to all instructors, with it being noted that even some of the best sellers are deficient in clinical content. Changes in technology may soon alter the way textbooks are produced and used, and interactive and computerized formats will likely displace passive reading and study in the near future.

The discussion ended without a conclusion upon which all could agree, but airing opinions and realizing others held similar concerns was a useful end in itself.

We are always interested to learn of the topics you consider should be addressed during the Regional Chapter meetings. Please send your suggestions for future meetings to me on the following:

PLEASE RETURN TO:Murray Saffran, Ph.DFAX: 1-419-382-7395