Four Key Resources to Learn Histology

Osmosis Team
Published on Feb 16, 2015. Updated on Invalid date.

By David Waters, M3
Creighton University School of Medicine

If you ask a medical student to describe histology lectures or labs, he or she will probably sum it up as a “big yawn” or “snooze fest.” As a budding pathologist, I found two reasons to explain the lack of interest in histology. First, I quickly realized that most students do not think they will need to know histology for their future practice. While most practicing physicians will not be looking at slides on a daily basis, knowing what is happening to the tissue is integral to understanding a disease’s pathological process. The second reason is that histology is relatively lower yield for the board exams. However, just a little bit of time studying the subject can lead to a few more correct questions on the exam and help with understanding the highly clinically-relevant pathophysiology of disease.

Here is a great list of resources that you can use as you learn histology during your first two years of medical school, as well as when you study for the boards. This list should be considered supplementary to your basic histology and pathology textbooks, such as Ross & Pawlina, and Robbins. These resources were chosen based on the number of images available, explanations provided, sample questions, and ease of use, and they represent some of what I think are the best resources in their respective categories such as websites, review books, and apps.

1) Website
WebPath: The Internet Pathology Laboratory
Cost: Free

Comments: This resource is extremely useful during your general and boards studying due to its sheer volume. The site has over 2500 microscopic and gross images broken into numerous body systems. All of the pictures have a good explanation and case vignettes to better understand what happened. There are also 11 systems-based exams with about 1,000 questions in total. This site is better used to study pathological histology and pathology in general. The site is current through 2014.

Overall Best For: General Learning and Boards practice questions

2) Book

Review Book High-Yield Histopathology

Author:  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011, 328 pages
ISBN 9781609130152
Listing Price: $35.99

Comments: This resource reviews the relationship between basic histology, pathology, physiology, and even pharmacology of commonly tested conditions. It contains cases, micrographs, and gross photographs. It is very useful in linking histology to many other important concepts to make it easier to learn. It is a great resource to look back on when studying for boards, if more clarification is needed on a particular topic.

Overall Best For: General 1st and 2nd year learning due to length

3) Review/Lecture Series
Author – Sattar
Cost - $84.95 and up

Comments: Pathoma is a lecture series and review book that is widely used by students across the country to learn and study pathology focused on Step 1. The program includes a 218 page text book with high yield pathology information and has over 300 commonly tested images. With the book comes a 35 hour lecture series that explains the pathogenesis of disease as well as shows pictures of histology and gross pathological samples. It is not solely focused on histology but histopathology is incorporated throughout the series. Additionally this resource has tons of positive reviews from medical students. In fact I have yet to hear anyone say anything negative about it.

Overall Best For – Boards review for pathology all around

4) Apps

Michigan Histology App by the University of Michigan
Cost: Free download on the app store with a 1-section preview. Remaining sections can be purchased for $0.99 each or all the slide decks can be purchased for $24.99.

What you get: Contains 27 sections of different body systems, glands and tracts.

After a review of histology apps in the Apple app store there is a clear lack of good histology applications. Most apps cost money and many that do have poor reviews and limited pictures or pictures that are not in color. This above listed app, which is the best I could identify for basic histology learning, is still lacking in many areas. However, it does present multiple slide sets broken into specific topics with questions on each slide. It does not provide explanations for most of the slides and does not describe how to identify the highlighted section on most of the slides. Until a better app is created, I would probably pass on this app for now, but if you are a fan of apps and don’t mind the low volume of explanations then this app could work for you.

Overall Best For: Quick system based histology study

Osmosis Symbol

Cost: Variable depending on which pack you choose to utilize. However, it is available to download for free for a small set of free practice questions.

Comments: For now I would personally stick to Osmosis. The team at Osmosis has been working hard to continually expand its content, which includes histology slides in its videos and High Yield Notes. There is also a Histology video series in the works, with new videos being released often. The Histology series is scheduled to be completed by mid-2020. Osmosis also has an extensive question bank that features histology in many of the questions. Each question choice has a thorough explanation and often times there is an associated YouTube video to explain the topic even further. Another bonus of the Osmosis app is that the images presented are IN COLOR, unlike most other apps. The only downside to studying Histology or Histopathology on this app is that you cannot specifically select these specific categories of questions to study within each body system.

Overall Best For: Boards studying and general learning

These are the resources I’ve found most useful for studying histology. Best of luck moving forward…whether or not you want to be a pathologist!