In my January editorial, I described three major changes that readers could expect to see unfold in the content of the journal in the months to follow. First, I hoped that the journal would be able to publish more papers addressing serious contemporary issues facing the leadership of academic medicine. Second, I indicated that I planned to publish “theme sets” of papers addressing a particular topic from different perspectives as a means of providing readers with a more comprehensive treatment of the topic. And third, I wanted to publish commentaries on selected papers to expose readers to different viewpoints on controversial issues. Fortunately, we have been able to make all of these changes.
I know that some of the journal's readers were concerned that those changes might decrease the number of papers published that focused on medical education topics, particularly medical education research. In fact, this has not occurred. Most of the topics covered in the theme sets that have appeared throughout the year have been mainstream medical education topics. Furthermore, the number of medical education research papers published during the year, excluding research briefs, actually increased compared with the number published in prior years. Thus, we have been successful in achieving our major objectives for enhancing the content of the journal without departing from the journal's traditional focus on medical education.
I would also like to note that we decided as the year progressed to make a concerted effort to eliminate much of the “white space” (i.e., blank space) that appears in the journal. To accomplish this, we began to more regularly publish “From the Archives” pieces, and we created a new feature, “Teaching and Learning Moments.” The topics addressed in each of these features are linked to the degree possible to the thematic content of the issues in which they are published. “Teaching and Learning Moments,” which provides an opportunity for students, residents, and faculty to share meaningful life experiences relevant to medical education, has proven to be particularly popular.
Our commitment to publish articles, research reports, and special features in each issue of the journal, including the theme issues, is particularly evident in this month's issue. As you will note, it contains a collection of papers devoted to gene patenting—a particularly important contemporary topic. Because of the length of the collection, we could not publish the entire set of papers in a single bound copy of the journal while at the same time retaining the articles, research reports, and features that appear each month. Because of the importance of the gene patenting papers, we decided to publish a two-part issue—a first since the journal was revamped and given the name Academic Medicine in 1989. I believe that the high quality of the content of both parts is the best justification for taking this approach.
In addition to the changes in the content of the journal made during the past year, a number of changes also have occurred in the operations of the journal under the leadership of Lisa Dittrich, the journal's managing editor. Although many of these changes are not evident to the journal's readers, I believe that it is important that readers be aware of them, since they enhance the journal's effectiveness. In the piece that follows, Lisa describes the operational changes that have already occurred, and those that are in the process of being implemented.