Top Information Sources in Biomedical Reference Services

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See also Abbreviations including journal abbreviations | Collection development | Core Titles in Medical Reference | Reference services | Top Ten Competencies in Medical Reference

Vade mecum: "...a Latin phrase meaning go with me, used to mean a guidebook that someone carries around...."

This entry is a selective list of top biomedical texts used and requested frequently at the UBC Biomedical Branch Library in Vancouver, Canada. The list is not meant to be exhaustive but is an entry point for discussion and debate. Health librarians select, catalogue and maintain print and electronic collections for the purposes of delivering reference services to users and answering clinical questions. Any text, book or journal in a library collection is a potential source of evidence-based information. Common types of reference books are dictionaries, directories, handbooks, encyclopedias and textbooks - however, the distinctions between these formats are rendered practically meaningless in the digital era. Many sources below were once recommended by the Brandon & Hill lists – a collection development tool that was superceded by Doody's Core Titles. However, there are few websites or selection tools that specialize in the best Canadian medical books – a prime reason why this entry was created. Your input, comment and feedback is much appreciated.


4-star.gif 4 stars denotes librarian-selected, high quality information. Starred sites are great places to begin your research.

  • An online or print publication intended to present Canadian information for Canadians 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

A to L

A standard text in online and print versions for medical students

ACP Medicine, produced by the American College of Physicians, was developed to help physicians keep up with changing guidelines in primary care. It is continually updated, and includes guidelines, evidence-based reviews and patient information. A kind of medical textbook, it is also issued in looseleaf and annual hardbound formats.

A classic of anatomy illustration with ~5,000 illustrations covering medicine, basic science, diseases, disorders and treatments. Since 1948, ~20 million print and electronic versions have been used by students and practitioners. The Atlas of Human Anatomy, now in its fourth edition, has sold over 1 million copies since 1989.

This is an ideal text for medical students learning the basics. Fully updated by embryologists, this medical reference book provides concise guidance on human embryology at every stage of development, utilizing rich illustrations and photographs designed to further explain content.

The CCDR provides a current Canada-specific report on communicable diseases, and issues alerts about international outbreaks. (See editorial board.) Notifiable Disease Summaries show incidence of new cases, Health Canada guidelines, symposia, and an annual index. For American equivalent, try Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report MMWR.

The 2014 5e presents concepts in 45 chapters that every Canadian nurse needs to know. Its writing makes it a favourite among nursing students. Practice issues, and a focus on evidence-based practice, safety and end-of-life care. Includes sections on prioritizing and care plans.

The only complete listing of physicians in Canada the Canadian Medical Directory lists ~60,000 doctors, their credentials and geographic locations. The CMA Directory contains the Canadian Medical Association's code of ethics, separate sections on hospital locations, medical faculties, expert medical witnesses and each doctor's area of expertise.

The comprehensive listing of drug information in Canada. Produced by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the CPS is a listing that includes proprietary and nonproprietary Canadian drugs intended for human use. The online platform is called RxTx (formerly e-Therapeutics).

This internal medicine manual provides treatment and diagnostic information for more than 1,000 common diseases and disorders that are encountered in inpatient and outpatient care.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is published in its 5th edition by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM provides clinicians in psychiatry and psychology with diagnostic criteria, descriptions and classification and diagnosis (using ICD - International Classification of Diseases) of mental disorders; provides information about features, culture, age, gender, prevalence, and familial pattern of mental disorders.

Fitzpatrick is the big name in dermatology. This text covers basic dermatology from skin biology to surgical treatments. Skin conditions are covered such as benign and malignant, chronic and acute, infectious and cosmetic. Full-color photos, chapter templates, 2000 illustrations, and more.

The classic medical bibliography

Leslie Morton had a distinguished career as a medical librarian, but was known as compiler of the indispensable reference work Garrison-Morton. GM provides a chronological bibliography of the most important books in medicine. From the 7800 entries in the 4th ed., the fifth was expanded to a total of 8927, making it the most comprehensive medical bibliography available.

A classic. Gray's Anatomy for Students is an anatomy textbook inspired by the famous Gray's Anatomy and aimed primarily at medical students. Beautiful illustrations. Clinically oriented - lots of anatomy, clinical cases, and well explained and annotated radiology cases.

A very highly regarded medical text used by health care providers. Provides overviews and detailed articles in internal medicine. Updated daily; e-content is stable until new print editions are published. Expanded features include references, acronyms, clinical trial data, concise reviews and editorials, self-assessment questions, links to MEDLINE® and information from emerging fields.

Emphasis on patient care, diagnosis and treatment, rather than scientific aspects. This 12th ed. features use of tables, charts and figures, current ACC/AHA guidelines, interpretations of clinical trials and cardiology data found in the Human Genome Project.

M to Z

Irwin & Rippe’s Manual of Intensive Care Medicine has established itself as an invaluable reference for students, interns, residents, nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in critical care. It's a "how-to" atlas of procedures offering sections on noninvasive monitoring for rapid bedside reference.

This is the annual financial statement of billing submissions by BC physicians. It is used to determine doctors' salaries. Keep in mind that the figures are gross billings and do not account for overhead, staff salaries, office space, etc.

New scholarly approach to scientific concepts and updates to help explain latest break-throughs and the newest clinical algorithms. As an Expert Consult title, includes a fully searchable e-book from any computer with an Internet connection.

The 10th edition of the Manual of Clinical Microbiology sets the reference standard for state-of-the-science lab practice as the most authoritative reference in the field. The 10th represents the efforts of 22 editors and more than 260 authors worldwide, all experienced in medical and diagnostic microbiology. The manual is fully updated in two volumes, nine sections and 149 chapters filled with research findings, infectious agents, methods, practices, and safety guidelines.

The Online Mendelian inheritance in man (OMIM) is a standard genetics source of information and a catalogue of human genes and genetic disorders. Edited by Dr. Victor McKusick (considered the father of medical genetics) and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, OMIM provides entries with a description of the genetic disease, references to the seminal research and a clinical synopsis to aid in diagnosis. Links to NCBI's Entrez database of MEDLINE articles and sequence information.

Published by the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements since 1938. Critical reviews of over 2,000 English-language tests covering education skills, personality, neuropsychological, achievement and intelligence tests, psychology and related medical areas. Includes lengthy descriptions, references, and evaluations pertaining to published tests in English. See also: HaPI and ERIC indexes.

Merck index.jpg

The Merck index (14th ed.) should not be confused with the Merck manuals consulted in health libraries. The Merck Index is a unique encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs and biological compounds with over 10,000 monographs on single substances or related groups. It includes an appendix with monographs on organic name reactions.

Covers pediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics, gynaecology, dermatology, pharmacology, ophthalmology and otolaryngology. New topics include hand disorders, prion diseases, death and dying, chronic fatigue syndrome, rehabilitation, smoking cessation, and drug therapy. Language is technical. Other Merck manuals are available including Geriatrics and Consumer Home Editions.

Covers principles and advanced subspecialty procedures. In-depth coverage of basic science and pharmacology step-by-step instructions for patient management and an in-depth analysis of ancillary responsibilities and problems.

Contact information (and maps) for 5,000 agencies and programs in the Lower Mainland. Allows keyword searching by organization and/or subject heading; limit by geographic location. A searchable directory of community resources serving the Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver, Squamish-Lillooet and Sunshine Coast regional districts. Published by BC211, and accessible via the UBC library catalogue.

A classic pediatric text. Since it was originally published in 1897 as Diseases of Infancy and Childhood, editors aim to provide a comprehensive view of underlying principles, features and treatment of childhood and adolescent diseases. This is a must for dealing with daily problems, differential diagnoses and passing board exams. Suggested for initial purchase and minimal core collections.

Comprehensive coverage of surgical topics with emphasis on surgical oncology. Includes chapters on basic science, anatomy and physiology for each organ system, diagnostic test and procedures as well as photos and line drawings of surgical techniques and radiographs.

In its 18th edition, S&T's provides a concise, well-organized text for the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of diseases managed by urologic surgeons. It covers basic science and clinical topics to diagnose and treat urologic diseases. Focuses on anatomy and embryology of the genitourinary system, physical and diagnostic examination, and specific disorders including bacterial infections, neoplasms of the prostate, kidney disease and renal failure. 400 illustrations including CT scans, radionuclide imaging scans, and x-rays.

An landmark resource called "the bible" for emergency physicians, nurses and physician assistants who practice medicine in the ER, and for emergency medicine fellows. Now in full colour, includes companion DVD with 17 additional chapters.

Review of specialities (anaesthesia to urology) written in concise form. Colour atlas and CDROM (DigiDoc, an interactive exploration of internal medicine). Very popular with nurses, and allied health professionals. Indispensable for understanding disease processes and management. Arranged by topic (similar to W's in NLM classification). See USMLE series for American medical licensing exam books.

The Washington Manual® of Medical Therapeutics has been the "bible" of the medical ward for more than 40 years. The recent edition has been updated with inpatient therapy coverage expanded, new chapters on solid organ transplantation and oncology including bone marrow transplantation. The book's handy pocket size, easy-to-use outline format, bold headings, plentiful charts and tables, and extensive index ensure fast access to desired information.

A classic obstetrics text (23rd ed., 2010) takes an evidence-based approach to obstetrics with content, including management guidelines and treatment recommendations, rigorously referenced throughout.

A standard hematology text that is organized to help physicians find clinical answers quickly and easily. Includes coverage of molecular genetics, pathogenesis, hematopathology illustrations, information on new medications and rapid bench-to-bedside development.
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