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Understanding Medical Research: The Studies That Shaped Medicine

ISBN: 978-1-119-96373-8
352 pages
January 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Understanding Medical Research: The Studies That Shaped Medicine (1119963737) cover image


Medical students and junior and senior doctors are frequently called upon to give research presentations, write reports, and answer exam questions on specific areas of medical research.

Understanding Medical Research: The Studies That Shaped Medicine is an exciting new title that offers a unique and valuable approach to understanding historically influential studies in important areas of medicine.

Featuring chapters from Sir Liam Donaldson and Sir David Weatherall, amongst others, world leading researchers identify ten primary research papers that have shaped the direction of research in their given topic, examining why they were carried out, key findings, and how they changed the field.

Each chapter also contains short sections on ‘Key Questions Remaining’ which outline outstanding areas where further research is needed, and a link to ‘Key Laboratories/Clinics’ which point the reader to major research groups of international standing.

Covering the seminal research in core areas of medicine, Understanding Medical Research provides an authoritative framework on each topic for medical students and healthcare professionals.

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Table of Contents




by Sir Liam Donaldson


1 Population Health

Douglas Noble, Felix Greaves and Sir Liam Donaldson

2 Patient Safety

Felix Greaves, Douglas Noble and Sir Liam Donaldson

3 Heart Failure

Martin R Cowie and Kaushik Guha

4 Acute Coronary Syndrome (NSTEMI)

Wei Yao Lim and Colin Berry

5 Lipids, Dyslipidaemia and Cardiovascular Disease

Gilbert R Thompson

6 Atrial Fibrillation

Kunihiro Nishida and Stanley Nattel

7 Asthma

Tak H Lee and Leonard Siew

8 Cystic Fibrosis

Andrew Bush

9 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Paul A Ford and Peter   J Barnes

10 Pneumonia

John M Wrightson, Eleanor K Mishra and Robert J O Davies

11. Stroke

Philip M W Bath and Nikola Sprigg

12 Parkinson’s Disease

Edward J Newman and Donald G Grosset

13 Epilepsy

Fergus J Rugg-Gunn

14 Motor Neuron Disease

Martin R Turner and Kevin Talbot

15 Migraine

Mark W Weatherall

16 Multiple Sclerosis

Alasdair Coles and Alastair Compston

17 The Autoimmune Basis for Guillain-Barré Syndrome

John A Goodfellow and Hugh J Willison

18 Helicobacter pylori, Peptic Ulcers and Gastric Cancer

Anahita Dua and Emad M El-Omar

19 Acute Liver Failure

James O’Beirne and Andrew Burroughs

20 Haemostasis and Thrombosis

Charles Percy and Razi Alikhan

21 Inherited Disorders of Haemoglobin

Sir David Weatherall

22 Diabetes Therapy and Prevention of Vascular Damage

Philip Home

23 Rheumatoid Arthritis

Jonathan CW Edwards and Maria J Leandro

24 Osteoarthritis

Kirsten White, Alexander S Nicholls, Anushka Soni and Nigel Arden

25 Systemic Vasculitidies

Joanna Robson, Ravi Suppiah and Raashid Luqmani

26 Polycystic Kidney Disease

Qi Quan

27 Glomerulopathies

Jenny Papakrivopoulo and Robert Unwin


Tica Pichulik and Alison Simmons

29 Transplantation

Dame Elizabeth Simpson

30 Autoimmune Disease

Jonathan CW Edwards and Geraldine Cambridge

31 The Biochemistry of Depression

Philip J Cowen

32 Schizophrenia and the Dopamine Hypothesis

Mandy Johnstone and Dame Eve C. Johnstone

33 Alzheimer’s Disease

Gordon Wilcock and Alistair Burns


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Author Information

John A. Goodfellow, BM BCh, PhD, is Honorary Clinical Academic Fellow at the University of Glasgow
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Featured in The Times Higher Education Supplement - 23 February 2012

Times Higher Education review:
Medical knowledge is advancing unbelievably quickly, and medical practice has been revolutionised by scientific research that is not only groundbreaking, but well considered and based on sound scientific principles. Not surprisingly, many medical schools now expect students to participate in research projects, and evidence of such work is de rigueur for job applications post-qualification. By examining key developments in medicine we can see the complexities of the theoretical approaches and methodologies used. I find it essential to cultivate this understanding in the medical students I supervise; moreover, it allows them to experience the sheer excitement of medical research.

Understanding Medical Research, aimed at the young medical researcher of the future, should therefore be timely, especially given the focus made explicit in its subtitle, The Studies that Shaped Medicine. It is ambitious and covers a wide range of clinical disorders, and the authors of each chapter have chosen publications that contribute most to progress in their medical specialty. Each chapter ends with key questions, which are useful in pointing to further exploration, perhaps through involvement in research projects. This text avoids being a classic review of the literature, but seeks instead to provide a glimpse into the "unique blend of science and pragmatism", to quote the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson's admirable foreword, which can have a profound impact on medical practice.

I found the opening chapter on the epidemiological aspect of medicine particularly effective in accomplishing that aim, with its historical context and deft glimpses of the complex interactions between medicine, sociology and political change, and broad-brushstroke sketches of those involved. Likewise, "Patient safety" begins with Florence Nightingale, who was not renowned for "medical research" but who is shown here to have used a meticulous, evidence-based approach in collecting and analysing data; a fine example for anyone starting out in population-based research. I appreciated the inclusion of James Reason's work on accident causation, originally conceived for non-medical problems but which is now an approach that profoundly influences modern medical practice.

Other chapters juxtapose different research methods, for example computer modelling and in vivo studies, or describe the revolutionising impact of modern genetics. Research papers often tell a good story, and I was particularly engaged by the chapter "Helicobacter pylori, peptic ulcers and gastric cancer". Understanding normal biology is essential in comprehending disease pathology, as is clearly shown in the chapter "Inherited diseases of haemoglobin", and also in "Transplantation", which focuses on monoclonal antibodies, now routinely used in basic research and chemical pathology.

Although there are many other equally fine examples, not all the chapters reach this high level. Overall, I am unsure whether this volume completely addresses the challenge of understanding medical research, which requires appreciation of the researcher's thought process, hypotheses and methodologies employed. Certainly I had a glimpse of the studies that shaped modern medicine. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if the subtitle were the main title. - Isobel Braidman, Senior Lecturer in Medicine, University of Manchester Medical School, and a Higher Education Academy national teaching fellow

Pre-publication reviews:
“Round the edge of one two pound coin design is engraved the words: 'standing on the shoulders of giants', the famous quote from Isaac Newton; this great book provides the foothold that young and old require.” -  Sir Muir Gray, Kt, CBE, DSc, MD, FRCPSGlas, FCLIP, Director of the National Knowledge Service and Chief Knowledge Officer to the NHS

“Medical research is at the core of all we do in healthcare. Understanding where we’ve come from is critical to planning future research, promoting innovation and developing leadership. ‘Understanding Medical Research’ provides a firm foundation of knowledge in medical research that will be essential reading for academics and health service professionals alike.” - Prof the Lord Darzi of Denham, PC, KBE, Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery, Imperial College London, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lords) at the Department of Health

“It covers the topic in depth from its definition, pathology and each paragraph that has come from a different source is referenced at the top. It gives a great and in depth view of a topic and cites the sources used. Excellent.” - Foundation Year Doctor, Ulster Hospital

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