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PATHOLOGY (Pre-clinical)

Pathology is another massive 2nd year subject. I enjoyed it because of my general interest in biochemistry and histology, but to be honest, the course itself did not contribute much to the joy.

In terms of books, recommendations are a bit tricky, because I hardly liked any of the books I worked with. I started working with “Basic Pathology”, which I absolutely did NOT like. Neither did I like Janeway’s Immunobiology, which is the gold standard for Immunology. As a quick and general introduction to Immunology, I did like “Flesh and Bones of Immunology”, and I recommend it to get an initial idea of what’s going on. Even though I haven’t worked with it much, I also suggest using Robin’s “Basic Pathology”, which just came out with a new edition. It will also be very useful for Pathology in the first two clinical years, so it’s a good investment. Since I was waiting for the new edition to come out, I only used Robin’s for the cardiovascular lecture series, but that was pretty good. For virology and parasitology, I read the chapters in Molecular Biology of the Cell, which again I do NOT recommend, but you may already have bought this book last year like I did. For parasitology, I found this resource by the US Department of Health the most useful, more useful than any of the books I tried. For cancer, I went back to my first year notes on the lecture series by Prof. Wiley. I understand he has retired though and the lecture notes may have changed, so check Wikipedia for some useful diagrams on the Wnt pathway and cell cycle. The landmark reviews on the “Hallmarks of Cancer” (initial and revisited) are also something you should not miss. (There are also presentations on the cell cycle and carcinogenesis under Science/Biochemistry on this website, but these were prepared before my time in Cambridge).

In general, since the MCQ’s are TRUE/FALSE format and are usually lifted straight from the handout, my advice is to work with the handout as much as you can. Despite its flaws, knowing it inside out will be the best preparation. Try to get a set of MCQ questions ordered by subject and work through that at the end of each subject, that should do it! 😉

Now follow some notes on Pathology. Again, they are not supposed to reflect the entire course’s content, but may still be useful:

(I’ve also got detailed notes on the Pathology practical which I cannot share here, but please e-mail me if you are a Cambridge student and would like them for your personal use)

1. Immunology

Immunology is the first and most important topic of the pathology course. Every remaining subject of the year connects to immunology and it’s therefore important to get a good grasp of it early on. I hope that these documents will be able to contribute to that.

Because immunology is such a massive and complicated topic, it matters how one approaches it in the first place. Having some kind of logical framework to hold the details in place should help to navigate, avoid confusion and memorise things more easily.

Working with the immunology handouts, I found it hard to discover such a framework and kept getting stuck in terms of my understanding. That's why I've made this keynote presentation containing all immunology info organised in a way that makes more sense to me (although there is still not the perfect final structure I have in mind):

Another thing that I found difficult to keep straight in my mind was the generation and maturation of lymphocytes. That's why I've made this overview:


2. Overview of Pathogens and Parasites

The remaining part of the pathology course (apart from the final topic cancer) deals with all types of pathogens and parasites. Because the order of the different topics is not necessarily logical, I’ve prepared this document to help me organise the knowledge in my mind.

3. Virology

Even though the lecturer specifically mentioned not to learn the whole table of viruses by heart, you absolutely have to. These documents hopefully help with that:

This is an grid of all the different families of viruses that come up:

This is a table that summarises information on different viruses. It helped me put some order to all the information we had to memorise:



4. Popular MCQs

The document below contains summaries of topics that are very popular in the MCQs.

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