As regular readers of Academic Medicine know by now, we (the journal’s staff and I) have been making a concerted effort to focus the journal’s content more fully on the major challenges facing academic medicine. As I have explained previously, our purpose is to make the journal a more valuable resource for those holding leadership positions in medical schools and teaching hospitals, be they clerkship directors, department chairs, residency directors, deans, health sciences vice presidents, or hospital executives. It is those individuals who must determine how to address academic medicine’s challenges in their institutions. And I have also shared my view—one based on past experiences—that the journal’s articles can also be helpful to the staff and faculties of medical schools and teaching hospitals to gain a greater understanding of the nature of the challenges that their leaders face.
One of our strategies to bring about this new focus is to publish in individual issues of the journal collections of articles (including research reports) that address varying aspects of a particular contemporary challenge. The collection in this month’s issue (ably assembled by Nancy S. Searle, EdD, and focusing on medical education fellowships) as well as the collections published in the previous two months (on health policy issues and on how one medical school is addressing major challenges) are good examples of what we are trying to accomplish. The content of the three collections makes clear that the challenges facing the academic medicine community are extraordinarily diverse and numerous. For that reason, the topics covered in collections published in past, present, and future issues of the journal are equally diverse, with no end of topics in sight.
The feedback we have received about the topic-centered approach described above has almost always been highly favorable. We recognize that some readers will be disappointed when they pick up an issue of the journal that features a collection addressing a topic of little interest to them. But on balance, we believe those individuals are better served in the long run by this approach, since an issue featuring a topic of particular interest to them will eventually come their way.
Yet it is not always possible to produce timely collections on certain important topics. We have spent much time trying to solve this problem. Sometimes, the solution is to plan collections in advance and solicit articles for them. At other times, we are lucky: a number of excellent unsolicited articles on the same topic will arrive all at once. But at still other times, we are faced with the choice of delaying publication of accepted articles on a particular challenge until we have a sufficient number to create a collection. If the delay is not long, this is another viable strategy. Otherwise, it is not, since it is unfair to authors to delay indefinitely publication of their accepted articles while we wait for additional ones on the same topic to be submitted. So what to do?
We solved this problem by creating a new publication—the Academic Medicine Management Series. The purpose of the Management Series is to periodically gather in a single publication individual articles from previous issues of the journal that address a common topic. And to provide a context for each collection of articles, we decided to commission a lead-in piece (previously unpublished) that would give a scholarly and comprehensive overview of the topic, thus allowing the collection’s articles to be placed in a larger perspective.
The first Management Series collection was published this April and made available to a select group of readers so that we could get some feedback on the publication’s potential value. The topic was mission-based management and budgeting. The second Management Series publication, which focused on complex affiliations and partnerships involving medical schools and teaching hospitals, was published this September. The third issue will appear next March and will focus on the management of the research enterprise. I want to emphasize that each is more than a collection of articles previously published in the journal, since the overview essay places the topic being addressed in a larger perspective and offers additional information not contained in any of the collection’s articles.
We originally thought that we would publish the Management Series collections only as hard copies and distribute them by request through the association’s publications office. That has been done: individual issues, or a reasonable number of them, are free to those requesting them if they pay shipping costs. But our publishing house has supported the development of the series and has worked with us to make each issue also available without charge on the journal’s Web page. As a result, the two Management Series publications that have appeared to date are now available to all readers online or in print.
It is the journal’s good fortune that William T. Mallon, EdD, director of organization and management studies for the AAMC, has agreed to serve in an official capacity as the editor of the series. Bill was responsible for selecting the articles that appeared in the first two issues, and for writing the overview pieces that appeared along with them. And to support Bill’s efforts, Anne L. Farmakidis, a senior editor of the journal, has agreed to serve as the associate editor for the publication. We are extremely fortunate that Bill and Anne have agreed to take on the responsibility for making the Management Series a reality.
Our hope is that the series will serve as a valuable resource to those holding leadership positions in medical schools and teaching hospitals as they tackle the major challenges facing them. And I am convinced that the members of the academic medicine community at large can benefit also by gaining a greater understanding of the nature of those challenges. We would appreciate receiving your comments about the publications in the series, and welcome any suggestions you might have for future series topics.
Michael E. Whitcomb, MD