Medicine introductory reading list

Medicine at Churchill College


What to expect when you arrive in Cambridge


Typically there will be between 10-12 medical students and 2-3 veterinary students in each year group. Churchill College has an active medical and veterinary student community that provides a supportive and welcoming environment. Throughout the year there will be several Medical and Veterinary Society events providing opportunity to get to know students in all year groups.
You will probably find the first few days in Cambridge the most hectic of your academic life. Since, in this University, the basic rule for survival is to keep your nerve, do not despair: after ten days to a fortnight you will see a pattern emerging from the general chaos. Remember that Tutors and Directors of Studies are here to help you.

In very simple terms, the College can be likened to 'home' and the University to 'school'. The College feeds you and accommodates you. It also provides you with a Tutor, who is responsible for your general welfare, and a Director of Studies who is there to advise and guide you in academic matters. You leave College each morning to attend lectures and practicals in the University Laboratories on Downing Site, but it is the College and not the University which makes sure you are coping adequately with your University work; this it does (through your Director of Studies) by assigning you to a supervisor in each of the various subjects. You meet each supervisor for an hour each week, usually with two or three of your colleagues, and the hour is spent in discussing aspects of the course not directly covered by lectures, or in sorting out any problems or difficulties encountered during the previous week's work. Essays are set from time to time during the Term and many of these provide further topics for discussion.

Things to consider before arriving in Cambridge

  1. A bicycle - preferably not too new and fully equipped with reflectors and lights and a very good lock - is an essential part of Cambridge life. If you have a bicycle, it is therefore well worth bringing it with you, because second hand bicycles here are expensive and in great demand.
  2. Text books – We advise you to postpone book purchases until you have had a chance to listen to advice and sample a few different books. You will likely find students in higher years selling their text books when you arrive also.
  3. Discipline – Medical students have certain privileges and responsibilities different from those of other students. Because of this, different standards of professional behaviour are expected of you. Serious disciplinary matters can have implications for your career. Please look carefully at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/education/undergraduate/achieving_good_medical_practice.asp This reading is MANDATORY for all medical students prior to arrival in Cambridge and they may wish to refer to it on an ongoing basis.

Useful websites
There are many websites providing useful information for you both as future Cambridge medical undergraduates, but also as future doctors:

Directors of Studies
As medical students at Churchill your Directors of Studies will be:

If you have any specific questions about the medical course before you come into residence please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Background reading
Below are some suggestions for background reading before you arrive in Cambridge. For your information, the main subjects you will be studying in your first year are: anatomy, biochemistry and physiology, should you want to start thinking about these topics. As above, we would recommend you waiting until you arrive in Cambridge to purchase any text books.

  1.  Professional values and fitness to practise. General Medical Council. Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/education/undergraduate/achieving_good_medical_practice.asp Guidance on the behaviour expected of medical students. Please prioritise reading this.
  2. Outcomes for graduates. General Medical Council. Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/education/undergraduate/undergrad_outcomes.asp. Guidance on knowledge, skills and behaviours medical students learn at UK medical schools. Please prioritise reading this.
  3. Overview of basic anatomy and physiology. This website can give you a great head start, particularly things like the anatomical terminology under “Intro to the Human Body”: https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/
  4. Please consider reading a book about optimising your study skills, as the Cambridge Medical Course is challenging even for very highly able students. This book is well worth considering: Cottrell, Stella (2013) The Study Skills Handbook ISBN 1137289252 (Palgrave Macmillan)
  5. Consider subscribing to the Student British Medical Journal – (www.student.bmj.com) – an international monthly medical journal aimed at medical students, allowing you to keep up to date with medical research and developments
  6.  If you have not studied A-level biology, we would recommend some background reading around the topics of human physiology and biochemistry.
  7. If you have not studied A-level mathematics, some additional material is available (https://www.vle.cam.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=122471), to which we can give you access, in order to ensure that you have an appropriate level of mathematics. Please contact Gemma Turner (Gemma.Turner@chu.cam.ac.uk) to arrange access to this. This opportunity is open to all students, but those with A-level mathematics should have covered all this material already.


Books of general interest to medicine: