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Textbook of Clinical Medicine for Asia

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7179.337a (Published 30 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:337
  1. Charles F Gilks, senior lecturer in tropical medicine.
  1. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

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    Eds J Y Sung, P K T Li, J E Sanderson, J Woo

    Chinese University Press, $60, pp 848

    ISBN 962 201 773 8

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    This book reminds me just how advantaged we Western Europeans are in medical education. As students, we can read textbooks of medicine that are predicated on diseases common and relevant in our environment, with epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment based on information gathered from industrialised societies. Such advantages are even greater for those that have English as their first language because most medical literature uses this medium, and clinical medicine is often brought to life by colourful descriptive and vernacular phrases.

    In Latin America, most of the leading US textbooks have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, and there is a growing market in specialist texts written by “local” authors. Having contributed to one textbook on infectious diseases in Brazil, I can testify to how successful such ventures can be in harnessing regional expertise to produce a valuable national resource. In Africa one postgraduate text stands out—Parry's superb Principles of Medicine in Africa—and is the benchmark for any attempts to capture the intricacies, subtleties, and fascination of medicine in that continent.

    Those textbooks that succeed usually take as their standpoint the practice of medicine in that locality first and foremost, and then contrast this with Western (north American and European) experience where this is relevant. The reader should end up with a relevant and appropriate overview and feel for what he or she will be faced with, and which, with further experience, can be contrasted with disease patterns and management issues far away. A physician from outside the region should come away with the sense that either his or her specialist area is surprisingly similar or has intriguing and important differencs.

    Against these benchmarks, how does Textbook of Clinical Medicine for Asia fare? It originates from Hong Kong but rather ambitiously aims to cover Asia. The authors are a mix of expatriate and local consultants. None of the expatriates has the feel, passion, and breadth of vision that, for example, Eldryd Parry had for Africa, and this shows. The local authors are anglocentric, approaching their chapters from a Western standpoint and then trying to contrast this with smatterings of local data and anecdote. No references from Chinese sources are cited, and I get little feel for medicine in Hong Kong, let alone South East Asia. Students may find it useful to pass exams set by their professors, but I fear it will inspire relatively few. Production of such a book is timely and would fill a gap in the literature, but this text is, sadly, quite a disappointment. I hope others will try to improve on this first effort, and learn from its shortcomings.

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