Want a recipe for publishing success? Take 71 Johns
Hopkins physicians. Extract knowledge. Stir, and then serve
to the thousands looking to certify or recertify in
Such is the tale of the dozens of
of Medicine faculty who contributed to The Johns
Hopkins Internal Medicine Board Review book (Mosby,
$94.95), published this year and poised to be a big
The weighty text, accompanied by a CD-ROM, is touted
as a comprehensive, user-friendly study guide that
summarizes all the information that readers are most likely
to encounter on the rigorous exam portion of the internal
medicine board certification. The guide covers internal
medicine A to Z, including everything from diabetes and
hypertension to ethics and bioterrorism. It also contains a
section on effective study and test-taking strategies,
debunking, for example, the axiom of sticking with your
first answer--studies have borne out that going back and
changing your answer is, in fact, the right thing to do.
Redonda Miller, an assistant professor of medicine and
one of the book's three editors, says that the concept for
the project arose out of the now seven-year-old Hopkins
Internal Medicine Board Review course and the growing need
for study guides. Today, not only do those finishing their
residency need to obtain certification, but every 10 years
physicians in all of internal medicine's subspecialties
have to recertify, too.
"We saw that the market clearly has expanded for study
guides," Miller says. "Now you have not only the young
resident physicians needing review books but physicians in
practice who, to be honest, need them even more, because
they don't do every aspect of medicine every day. Nowadays,
you're either an outpatient doc, or cardiologist or other
specialist, and you have to know all of internal medicine
Review books put out by the Mayo Clinic and Emory
University currently dominate the market, Miller says. She
adds, however, that many of the books out there are
"densely written" and not user-friendly enough. Thus,
instead of pages of uninterrupted text, The Johns Hopkins
Internal Medicine Board Review book intermingles
boiled-down summaries, bulleted notes, illustrations and
case-style study questions.
"What we thought was helpful to our learners was
algorithms and charts and tables, and putting information
in a format that is easily usable," she says. "Plus, lots
and lots of practice questions."
The book provides answers to all the included
questions, coupled with an explanation of why those answers
are correct. It also includes an eight-page full-color
dermatology insert and many other color photos. The CD-ROM
contains more than 300 practice questions and timed exams
that simulate a test experience.
Miller says she and her fellow editors, Bimal Ashar
and Stephen Sisson, both assistant professors of medicine,
looked for the physicians best known in their particular
How difficult was it to coordinate 71 faculty members?
"Tricky," Miller says.
"But the contributors were great," she says. "They all
did this for very little pay. It took a bit longer than we
originally planned, but we have no complaints. We are all
very proud of it."
As part of the process, each editor experienced a
crash refresher course in medicine facts and figures
outside their respective fields. Ashar says that knowledge
has already paid dividends.
"I knew Redonda, for example, had reviewed certain
chapters, like cardiology. So, if I had a patient question,
I would ask her about one of the chapters she reviewed
because I knew she knew the information," he says. "Plus,
we have to recertify as well some day. I can tell you it's
been a big help to us."
Miller, Ashar and Sisson divided up the sections and
worked on the book in their spare time, typically 6 p.m. to
midnight, for nearly three years.
Ashar agrees with Miller that the labor of love turned
out well worth the effort.
"I think it's as good if not better than intended.
This is something I don't say very often, but this is
something I'm very proud of," Ashar says. "It's a very
thorough work, and it provides the knowledge that residents
and internal medicine recertifiers will need to know."
Miller says that several medical residents have come
up to her on the East Baltimore campus to tell her "your
book is great."
The internal medicine certification exam is taken in
August and the recertification test in November, making
June and July the peak time for review-book sales. The
editors are confident the book will rocket up the sales
rank, but Miller says the group has no plans for any
immediate milestone parties.
"We'll celebrate when we beat Mayo," Miller says with
a laugh. "They have 12 years on us, publishingwise, but