Top 180 Vignettes for the Surgical Wards

Celebrated by medical students for over a decade, Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes is the highest-yield surgery review for the shelf and USMLE Step 2 CK exams.
Surgical clerkship allows senior medical students to develop clinical skills and gain a better understanding of surgical disease while caring for patients. But time in the wards is limited, and clerkship covers only a tiny sample of the surgical universe. Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes: Top 180 Vignettes for the Surgical Wards, by distinguished surgery instructor Dr. Carlos Pestana, contains the surgery knowledge you need to excel on the Surgery shelf exam and USMLE Step 2 CK.

If you are an MS-III studying for the surgery shelf I cannot recommend this book enough. I, like most, had heard of the 70 page Pestana pdf floating around and used that for the first 5 weeks of my rotation. Had I known sooner about this expanded version I would have made the switch ages ago. It is a very easy read written in a similar tone Dr. Pestana’s surgery review. He distills only high-yield facts and adds many clinical pearls. Surgical Recall is an excellent resource for on the wards and OR pimping but this text is invaluable because it cuts through the additional low-yield nonsense that Lawrence provides and gives you what you need for the test. Many times during the shelf I wanted to mentally caress Dr. Pestana’s insane eyesbrows as the questions seemed as if they had been taken right out of the book. The surgical clerkship can be a hectic time with a seemingly endless time crunch but with this resource you should be more than ready to ace the shelf.

I used this book for the surgery shelf exam and the clerkship. My honest opinion is that it is more helpful for the shelf than the wards. You’ll definitely read pieces of information that will help you when pimped by attendings and residents. For non medical people, these are just two levels of doctors you see in teaching hospitals. I read it over twice in its entiretiy, plus answered all 180 questions, during the last 7 days before the shelf exam. Each time I found something that I had forgotten or did not fully undrstand from the first read. This book can be read in 4-5 hours if you stay focused, so I highly recommend it both for cursory review during the clerkship AND for cramming during the last few days of the clerkship, prior to the shelf exam. HOWEVER, this IS NOT ENOUGH for the shelf. I thought the NMS Casebook and First Aid Surgery were useful additions, especially for covering the random bits of information that this book does not cover.

Pros:
– small and easy to carry in white coat
– good comprehensive review for shelf exam (contains the MUST knows for the shelf)
– good for reviewing prior to entering a case so you don’t look lost in front of your attending

Cons:
– does not have some details about the pathophysiology of diseases
– does not cover finer points about care, such as which antibiotics to use for anaerobic vs. gram negative infections, etc (penicillin, ampicillin, clinda?

Ultimately, doing well on the shelf requires you to have some ingenuity, as well as basic knowledge. Everything in this book is necessary to know, but not SUFFICIENT


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