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REVIEW: The Color Atlas of Family Medicine

November 26, 2011

NB: I received a copy of this book for free in order to review it

Title: The Color Atlas of Family Medicine
Richard Usatine, Mindy Ann Smith, Jr., E.J. Mayeaux,, Heidi Chumley, James Tysinger
McGraw-Hill Professional
Available From:
$77.89 USD at or $91.87 CAD at or $101.95 CAD in the McGraw-Hill eStore
Best for:
Primary Care Clinicians, Nurse Practitioners, Medical Students

Once upon a time, there was no Internet and paper textbooks filled the shelves in the doctor’s office. With the advent of online physician references, fewer books stayed on the shelves. In any clinic I’ve worked in, Fitzpatrick’s Atlas of Dermatology was the only textbook that anyone in practice absolutely needed, and it is one I regularly crack open – sometimes even in front of patients. Some docs keep an anatomy book, while others can’t let go of a tomb of pediatrics. Most textbooks these days get rifled through in medical school and then sit on the shelf and collect dust forever after, as clinicians click to or flick through ePocrates on their iPhone for all the answers.

With over 1100 pages and 1500 bright pictures, The Color Atlas of Family Medicine is more than just an impressive volume to have on the shelf. There are photos covering the majority of conditions that find their way into a Family Physician’s practice; but it isn’t just a bunch of photos. While it is vividly illustrated, it offers concise – yet somehow thorough – evidence-based summaries for each entry. There are also multiple indexesRegional, Morphology, and Subject – making it easy to find what you seek. This is a book to be used. It’s a good starting place when you are lost, or it can offer the “ah, yes, that’s what I thought” kind of reassurance we all sometimes need.

A quick review reference, this Atlas might not replace your Fitzpatrick’s, but it stretches beyond dermatology; it will come in handy for determining the significance of an abnormal fundoscopy, reviewing a questionable x-ray, or assessing sexual assault, for example.

This encyclopedic text includes diagnostic pearls and management plans. Gosh I was really missing it this week – it is kind of heavy, so I didn’t bring it up to Nunavut with me. We have had a rash of rashes in just a few days; one looked like chicken pox, the next scarlet fever, the next parvo B-19, and the next chicken pox, and so on. Also had an iritis with an unusual fluorescin uptake and it would have been nice to look at pictures and review the summaries for some diagnostic reassurance. It’s also the kind of book that you might open up to a patient to show them, to help illustrate a point like, “no, you don’t have melanoma, if you did, it might look more like this”, and we could go over the ABCDEs together. Or “Did the ‘tick’ that got you look like this?” [flip the pages to Figure 211-2] to determine whether it was a tick bite or something entirely different.

There is an iPhone/iPad app available in the iTunes store, but as much as I love to be mobile and don’t like hauling book across the Arctic, it’s really hard to replace the feel of a big book in the hands, the ease of finding the topic you seek, and the experience of seeing the pictures in glossy printed colour.

Downsides for me? It’s heavy and big, so not easily transported! Some might not find it comprehensive enough. I don’t think you can expect any book to do your work for you; this tackles a broad scope but you’ll have to look elsewhere for in-depth treatment guidelines or diagnostic criteria as well as less-common conditions that are absent altogether from its pages.

Still not sure? Check out the Google Preview on McGraw Hill’s site.

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