UCLA doctor writes guide to 50 key medical studies

UCLA Health article

Medical journals publish studies at an almost dizzying pace, with each new finding leading to others that expand and enlarge on a wide range of scientific topics. Medical students and doctors often find it difficult to keep up with this avalanche and as a result, are not always up-to-speed on the latest literature, which frequently builds on findings from earlier publications.

To help medical students find their bearings, Dr. Michael Hochman, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar in the division of general internal medicine and health services research, department of medicine, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has self-published "50 Studies Every Doctor Should Know: The Key Studies that Form the Foundation of Evidence Based Medicine."

The book, available in paperback and as an e-book (www.50studies.com), is intended as a handy guide to help medical professionals - and anyone interested in the medical literature - slash their way through the thicket by honing in on the key studies in all branches of medicine: preventive and internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, radiology, neurology and psychiatry, and systems-based practice such as palliative care and care coordination.

"It's basically the CliffsNotes of the 50 key studies that doctors should know," said Hochman, who cares for patients at the Veterans Administration of Greater Los Angeles. "It's written at a level for medical students, nurses, and other medical professionals, but it would also be appropriate for a scientifically minded lay person who's interested in the science behind medicine."

According to Hochman, the book provides summaries and analysis of studies that have defined key concepts in medicine.  "For example, I picked one of the pivotal trials showing that medications and psychotherapy are equally effective for treating most cases of depression," he said.  "And I included the landmark study demonstrating the harms of post-menopausal hormone therapy."

Hochman, who has written on medical topics for the Boston Globe and other lay publications, writes in the preface that as a medical student he himself had difficulty picking up on the key studies, and was sometimes scolded for these knowledge gaps-and those gaps in turn had an adverse effect on his decision-making.  

 Once he became familiar with the studies, he made it a point to summarize them for his own students so that they, too, could be well versed in the literature. In fact, he put the summaries between covers at their prompting.

"The medical students and residents I worked with said, 'Gee, we really like the way you do this and we don't get this anywhere else," Hochman said. "Can you put it in a manual for us?'"

And so he did, and his new book has gotten thumbs ups from top researchers, including some whose studies Hochman summarizes.

Some examples:

"With thousands of research papers published each year, it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Dr. Hochman's book is a big help. He expertly and clearly summarized the top 50 studies that influenced medicine. These summaries are balanced, scholarly and helpful. A must read." 
- Dr. Peter J. Pronovost, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an elected member of the Institute of Medicine
"A perfect introduction to the understanding of valuable lessons learned from clinical trials."
-Debra S. Echt, , chief medical officer, EBR Systems, Inc.
"Dr. Hochman's book provides an excellent foundation for emerging medical professionals. The studies included in this book are proving to be durable and definitive works in health care."
- C. Patrick Chaulk, , assistant commissioner for HIV/STD services, Baltimore City Health Department
"The summary [of our study] was perceptive and accurate. I hope this and the other studies included in this work are inspirational to a new generation of clinical investigators."
-Jeremy Fairbank, professor of spine surgery, University of Oxford
"We need a similar book for the most important recent studies in Neurology."
-Dr. Werner Hacke, professor and chair, department of neurology, University of Heidelberg, Germany

General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research is a division within the Department of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. It provides a unique interactive environment for collaborative efforts between health services researchers and clinical experts with experience in evidence-based work. The division's 100-plus clinicians and researchers are engaged in a wide variety of projects that examine issues related to access to care, quality of care, health measurement, physician education, clinical ethics and doctor/patient communication. The division's researchers have close working relationships with economists, statisticians, social scientists and other specialists throughout UCLA and frequently collaborate with their counterparts at the RAND Corp and Charles Drew University.

The Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program has for more than three decades fostered the development of physicians who are leading the transformation of health care in the United States through positions in academic medicine, public health and other leadership roles. Through the program, future leaders learn to conduct innovative research and work with communities, organizations, practitioners and policy-makers on issues important to the health and well-being of all Americans. 

Media Contact:
Enrique Rivero
(310) 794-2273
[email protected]

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Media Contact

Enrique Rivero
(310) 794-2273
[email protected]