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February 14, 2003


Emory University Physician Is Editor of Office Practice of Medicine, One of the Largest Medical Textbooks of Its Kind In the Country

ATLANTA -- William T. Branch, MD, Carter Smith, Sr. Professor of Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Division of General Medicine for the Emory School of Medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital, is editor of the newly published Office Practice of Medicine, one of the largest, nationally recognized medical textbooks of its kind. The book, published by the W. B. Saunders Company, is now in its fourth edition and is bigger and more comprehensive and includes chapters written by several Emory School of Medicine physicians.

There are 160 authors and 99 detailed chapters in the book, covering diseases and disorders of every major body system and medical topics from gynecology to neurology. The book is designed to help practitioners address the challenges of primary care by enhancing their efficiency and clinical skills.

"Many people consider this book to be the standard for outpatient medicine," said Dr. Branch, who also serves as vice chairman for primary care at Emory, and wrote nine chapters himself. "When I started this book I had a vision for it filling a void, because there was no book on outpatient medicine at the time. All of the textbooks in medicine up until then had been books that focused on diseases and mostly from the perspective of hospitalized patients, books that would cover infectious diseases, for example, from the point of view of the different organisms. This book fills the void of dealing with problems that are commonly encountered by the physician in practice."

The textbook specifically focuses on clinical epidemiology and medical conditions that are not covered in general medicine texts. Rather than focus on diseases, the textbook focuses on symptoms with which a patient presents. Problem-oriented chapters dealing with everything from headache to low back pain help clinicians better analyze a patient’s condition and other pertinent details, including questions to ask, assessing common disease symptoms, and ordering and interpreting tests.

The expert contributors, many of whom are from the Emory School of Medicine, Emory University Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and Boston University School of Medicine, offer evidence-based approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and management of the most important adult conditions seen in the primary care setting.

The textbook includes 16 new chapters and the inclusion of an expanded nationwide group of experts as chapter authors. Some of the new chapters include Management of Ischemic Heart Disease; Coronary Artherosclerosis: Effects of Aspirin, Oxidative Stress, Alcohol, and Psychosocial Factors; Cough; Medical Disorders of Pregnancy; Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy; Preoperative Assessment and Care of the Surgical Patient; and Medical Care for Adolescents and Young Adults. There also is a reorganized section on women’s health that includes chapters on Intimate Partner Violence and Benign Breast Disease.

Dr. Branch said the book serves a very important purpose.

"We’re not so interested in explaining a disease process," he said. "For the practicing doctor, what’s more important is how to diagnose and treat the disease once it is encountered in the clinical setting. We also emphasize preventive care, which is often not emphasized in textbooks."

Dr. Branch said that when the book was first published in 1982, it was "quite radical" in its approach. And while there are textbooks on the market that follow a similar approach, Dr. Branch notes that his book is the most detailed and makes the effort to provide substantial approaches to medical problems.

"Someone who once reviewed the book told me he thought my book provided more information and belonged on the doctor’s desk, as a book a doctor would use when he or she had a patient and wasn’t sure what to do and wanted to spend more time researching the problem," he said.

The book has sold 50,000 to 60,000 copies since it was first published.

"The book is designed to explain how the experts approach a problem," Dr. Branch said. "If we’re looking at headache, we’re trying to find out what does a true, world known expert in headache do, in terms of diagnosing and treating a patient? We’re looking for a way of understanding that and getting it out to the practicing doctors, so they too will have that information. If we’re looking at chest pain, we’re going to the world’s experts, cardiologists, on how to evaluate a patient with chest pain. We’re looking for evidence and things that people know that are truly helpful to the experts, which the average practicing doctors may not know about."

Copies of the books are available at Majors Bookstore in Atlanta, as well as online at,, and from Elsevier Science, a publisher of scientific, technical and health information, at

Dr. Branch hopes that medical students, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants will also buy the book for the useful information it contains.

"I think it’s the best edition we’ve done," he said.

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