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Absite Smackdown! · Episode 48: Top 5 General Surgery Books


Jessica: Hey guys. Welcome back. It's me your host, Jessica of Absite Smackdown podcast. And with me is Dr. David Kashmer. Hi, Dr. David!


Dr. Kashmer: Hey, Jessica, I'm excited to talk about this one today.


Jessica: Are you excited maybe because it's your five favorite books!


Dr. Kashmer: You know, a favorite I don't know, but these are the five I sure did use a lot. So, I think it was a great idea to say, “Hey, why don't you share what you used and see what the community thinks, see what they use nowadays. Talk about what was good and bad for you.” So I really liked the idea and I think it's going to be a fun thing to share today.


Jessica: Well, I mean, when we talk a lot about your book and how great it is, but there's so many people now that don't even know what it was like for you and the people that came before you before Absite Smackdown, what you guys had to do to study, to get everything done. And so this is going to be a glimpse into the old school.


Dr. Kashmer: Do they even make books anymore? Is that a thing? I don't, I don't even know. First it’s really nice to say that the book is awesome. I really appreciate it. You know, really it's a work in progress and it's thanks to you guys, but we don't want to get too self-congratulatory.  But I do want to say it's getting better all the time and wherever it started, it's so much more now and it's getting to be better and better with each iteration. I can't wait to see the third one released, which is coming out eventually. And I know we're right in the process, so I don't want to give away too much, but it's great. And allowing it to be combined with a video course that you can watch anywhere, anytime on almost any device out there has been super useful. Basically you guys helped me make what I wish I had when I was a resident. And I really appreciate it.


Jessica: Yeah, that's pretty awesome. Actually, speaking of anytime, any platform, one of the posts on the Insta daily.absite.fact the other day for #AbsiteAnywhere I noticed that someone had taken a picture and submitted it because they were listening to our podcast as they drove in on the commute for work. And I just was like, “Oh yay, awesome!  People actually taking advantage of, you know, how easy it is to use Absite Smackdown.”


Dr. Kashmer: Yeah. I think half the battle is having that core group of facts and all the stuff you need and then making it accessible from anywhere. But obviously we can talk about that all day. Why don't we get to the books?


Jessica: All right. Count them down for us.


Dr. Kashmer: Well, Jessica, a number five on the list, and really they really are in no particular order, but number five on the list is a book called Greenfield. And you said, we're going to go old school, really old school here. This one is 1984, Lazar Greenfield of Michigan of Greenfield filter fame.


Say that five times fast:  “Greenfield filter fame, Greenfield filter fame….”.  He edited this fantastic book. It's very plain language about what can happen. It's called Complications In Surgery and Trauma. And although it's old and it's even out of print, I have a PDF copy. I use it all the time. It's again, like it says on the slide here, olddddddddd with like 10 d’S, but it's a clear, frank discussion of what can go wrong. Or even if it's not wrong, just what can happen after surgical procedures. And it's interesting because of course, some things just didn't exist back then. So you're not going to find everything in it. But what you find is remarkably applicable to modern practice, and remarkably clear discussion of all the things you need to know when you operate on a human being or at least many of the things you should know.  It still has plenty of good lessons.


Jessica: Oldie, but goodie, right? It's an oldie, but goodie. Yeah. All right. Number four!


Dr. Kashmer: Yeah. Number four on the list is Top Knife, by Hirshberg and Maddox. And so many people know this one. It is a clear, simple, direct description of operative and decision-making factors for Trauma and often Acute Care Surgery. It's got plain language in it, Jessica.  Things like, the section in the neck as a quote “Safari in tiger country” and other quotes like “sometimes sterility, making sure everything is betadyned off perfectly (and the betadyne is dry) that's often a luxury.” So this book is great about the facts and the attitude and philosophy that go along with Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. And even the diagrams only have, what's sort of absolutely required. And what's very clear to get the job done. It's just a great book.


Jessica: So this would probably be really good for, you know, people in the field like war time or something like that. Because it's just the basics like down and dirty, right?


Dr. Kashmer: Yes. You know, so many of the things we do in Trauma and Acute Care Surgery came from war. Things that were tough lessons learned in battle and not all of them, but many and really what's so interesting is that, like you said, this book makes it very clear. It transmits the attitude around doing what you have to do. It's just a fantastic book. I can't say enough. And it's one I used all the time.


Speaker 4: Awesome. All right. Number three.


Dr. Kashmer: Number three is a book that we all know well in the people who have among the people who have written books to review for the ABSITE and this one's called the Absite Review. It's probably the original of them. it's written by a really good surgeon named Steve Fiser, who I had some overlap with when was at the University of Virginia.  It's got a great outline format. It's got good facts. No review book has every single fact, but this one has really many of them. It's got a clarity to it because it's in this short, bulleted review. It's one I used and it's pretty much the only one we had. We didn't have any kind of other serious contenders, at least not many. but it made me wonder…because when I was at the University of Virginia, I thought to myself, “Boy, you know, there should be a book for this ABSITE thing we do every year and sure enough, shortly thereafter (and I never spoke with Steve about this) the Absite review came out and I was like “Wow, man, that's amazing!”


Dr. Kashmer: So I kind of had some overlap with the doing of it. Many people had the same idea. That's kind of how old I am. And then later on in my career, I had overlap with another surgeon and one day we were talking and I said, “You know, I've always wanted to write this ABSITE book. I, I think I'm going to do it. I know it takes a long time, but here's how I would do it.”


And sure enough, the guy published an ABSITE book!  Another person that I was working with at an institution where I worked. Again I didn't talk to Steven about my idea of doing it, but I definitely talked to this other guy about it!  Now, I want to be clear, he didn't steal my idea.  Lots of people have had this idea.


Really, it's all in the execution. It's in how you do what you do. But it's so weird that I've almost been trolled by ABSITE books for my whole career while waiting until I got the chance to write one and kind of try to improve on and add to all this work that had been done with my own unique book.


And again, I'm just so fortunate that Absite Smackdown! did that and helped me kind of improve on what I thought would have made things much more useful when I was a resident. So, the  made me wonder what else Absite Review made me wonder how can we make something new that is more useful?  How can we make a book factually strong (these facts are pretty much the same across all these books) and how can we make it that we better to interact with these facts, and work them into our daily routine?  And really that's a lot of how Absite Smackdown! was born.


Jessica: Right I mean, because everyone learns differently. And so it's, you know, this book is great, but you seem to cater to a whole different way to learn. You know, that's just very convenient, especially for today, the way people are on the go.


Dr. Kashmer: You guys do. And by that, I mean, getting the course up there like that, where there's an audio version that you can listen to and you know, the video stuff. So you have visual learners, you have audio learners, you have people who are readers, and you have kinesthetic, the people who need motion. That's probably coming one day somehow, but really what's nice about Absite Smackdown! is it hits it in multiple formats and makes it really therefore a lot easier to remember. And now with the coloring book, I mean, it's clearly not every fact in the book, but it lets people do things and move around certain key facts. So maybe that's the kinesthetic part, but whatever it is, you guys have really been great about pushing things out there for different learners in different ways. It's really been nice to see.


Jessica: Definitely think that was the goal with the coloring book. You know, also it's just relaxing and awesome. I don't know who doesn't like to color. It's, you know, a new way to meditate. You can just get into it and relax and follow the lines and you'll learn too. It's amazing. I'm super excited about that one.


Dr. Kashmer: Yeah. I can't wait to see where it goes. It's really neat.


Jessica: All right. The next book,


Dr. Kashmer: The next book up is the textbook that I used so much and that's ACS Surgery.  Now, years ago, it was Scientific American Surgery. And I was around for like the first edition of this thing. Again, man, I just dated myself. We're on the seventh now!  And that means this one's been around for awhile.


What's great about it? It has flow diagrams for many things. It's sort of the standard book from the standard group, The American College of Surgeons.  One book, one source, one group.  I thought that was very useful when I was a surgical resident and I still do as an attending. There are a lot of other textbooks. There's Schwatz, there's Cameron, there's Lawrence. There are many others and I haven't even named them all. But this one is again, sort of the standard from the standard and it's in a great format. It aligns with so many other things. So I can't say enough about ACS Surgery as sort of the book that I use.  But again, Cameron, Greenfield, Schwartz Lawrence…there are so many that are really wonderful.  But this was kind of my go-to when I was a resident.


Jessica: Yeah. We can only have five on the list. It's okay. Right. And the next?


Dr. Kashmer: This one, Jessica is great for oral boards, AKA the certifying exam. Really each issue has one diagram with a flow diagram and then key points explained. Each thing is in like a box and it sort of describes the facts around that box. It is great at organizing your knowledge base into a way that you can discuss it and understand the direction that a scenario is going for flow. It was fantastic. One of the vascular attendings when I was a trainee mentioned it and there was only one version at that time. It never had a second edition for a long time. And he would loan his out, or we would do the best we could to somehow access this book. And it was fantastic when the second edition came out.  I was so happy because there was new life in the book. You could share it more easily with junior residents. But the fact is, MacIntyre is a great book for organizing your knowledge base and even working backward. Meaning you kind of know where a scenario is going and you can kind of work backward to all the parts that you need to make decisions about. Well, once you see where it's going, or you can say to yourself, “Oh, no matter what we do here, I see where this scenario's going.” And it's very useful to get to that level of reasoning. Just a great book.


Jessica: Right. Organizing your thoughts. All right. So of all these though, which one do you really think is your favorite?  What did you get the most use out of?


Dr. Kashmer: It's the one we're on.  The other ones were all necessary for different things. Yes, but not sufficient. Meaning they all brought something. The depth from the ACS textbook, the quick bullet facts for the ABSITE from Fiser…all of these different books were really good at something.  Greenfield to know what happens when the wheels come off the bus, or even if nothing goes wrong, just what the sequelae are of surgical procedures. They all brought something, but Surgical Decision Making took everything and put it into a format that let you make decisions. You knew where the key points were in each scenario, or you could know, or it gave you a shot at figuring it out. because it organized it so well for oral boards. So of all of these, I found Surgical Decision Making to be the most useful to me. And I was so glad when it came out with additional editions to share with residents.


Jessica: Hard to improve on, I guess.


Dr. Kashmer: Yeah.  Fo my top five?  I would say:  Complications, Top Knife, which was super fun and really gave you the right attitude for Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. In addition to those, the Absite Review that kind of sparked me to thinking, well, what else can a book do and be?  How can we work this stuff into our everyday life?  ACS Surgery, which is sort of the depth…the book that brings depth to everything and then Surgical Decision Making, which helped organize everything into a way that was fluid and clear enough to make decisions. Those are my top five.


Jessica: Yeah. You said no particular order, but I kind of think they were in order, you know, for you.


Dr. Kashmer: You got me. It's true. Yes.  They were in order, not intentionally.  When you guys asked me ahead of time what my favorite was and that was Surgical Decision Making, and then we kind of went backward from there. And so you're right. Not intentionally in a particular order. But for me, in terms of how useful they are. Yeah. You're exactly right. It, it came out.


Jessica: Yep. I still find it so interesting. It's almost like, do you remember that game (again I'm probably going to be dating myself) on VH1?  It was Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. And like everything related back, like within six degrees of Kevin bacon.  I feel like that's kind of how it was with you and the Absite. Like all these stops in life where you were surrounded or met people that later on when to do the same, these things, and then you were able to build and make what you have now. And it's just so interesting to me.


Dr. Kashmer: Well, you know, they say there are six degrees of separation or less between everybody on the planet.  Between me and ABSITE books there was like almost none. And now there is none!  But it's like, you're following me ABSITE books?  It's almost like:  I think I'm going to do an ABSITE book. Oh, so-and-so just did one damn, you know, it just, it kept happening. So, yeah, there's that.


And you know, Kevin bacon did a TED talk. He actually has embraced the six degrees of Kevin bacon thing. He has a website about it apparently, and he uses it as kind of a non-profit now. So it's a thing.  From, you know, college drinking game to now nonprofit that he's involved with.


Jessica: Now, if they just bring back Pop-up Video, then we'd be good,


Dr. Kashmer: Fantastic.  Popup videos. Fantastic. Well, thanks for having me on today. I really appreciate it. You know, we spend so much time with these books in surgical residency and it's rare that we can talk about them and which ones we liked and why. So I hope people find this one useful, Jessica. I sure had an interesting time thinking back on it. So again, I hope I hope they find it useful.


Jessica: I'm sure they will. Dr. David.  Again, thanks for being on. It's always a pleasure having you in here. What a wealth of knowledge.  All right, guys. So again, just for a little more info, if you want to follow us, our Instagram is daily.absite.fact. You can find us on Facebook @AbsiteSmackdown.  Twitter @Absite Smackdown, LinkedIn @Absite Smackdown, and we have a YouTube channel Absite Smackdown Channel. Also you can find this podcast and more on You can find it on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. We're in so many places. Just follow us for more and don't forget, #AbsiteSmackdown!

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