A few years ago, in some of my early discussions with members of our community about this journal, it became apparent that there was a need for readers to get a quick sense of the content of new issues of the journal—something more than an electronic table of contents, but something less than a collection of abstracts. That prompted me to ask the journal's professional editorial staff whether they could summarize each article published in a new issue of the journal in 25 words or fewer. Within a short period of time, they produced brief, highly informative summaries of every article in the January 2008 issue of Academic Medicine—and AM Express was born.
Every month since then, AM Express has been distributed as an e-mail announcement to all those who have signed up to receive it. (It is free, and a subscription to the journal is not required—to sign up, just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive one e-mailed message per month soon after a new issue of the journal becomes available online. Links are embedded with the summaries, allowing easy access to the associated articles.) The archives of AM Express are available at http://www.aamc.org/academicmedicine/archive.htm.
Currently, AM Express is delivered to over 13,000 individuals around the globe who have an interest in medical schools and teaching hospitals and who represent the full spectrum of academic medicine. Some of them have told me that reading AM Express is a great way to decide which articles in an issue to skim, which to read in-depth, and which to cite in a manuscript or presentation. Others have commented that it makes it much easier for them to stay abreast of what's happening at medical schools and teaching hospitals. One person noted that scanning the archives of AM Express helped him jog his memory and locate an article that he had read earlier.
In addition, I have begun to hear stories about AM Express. One associate dean for curriculum told me that the dean of her school, upon receiving AM Express, immediately read the 25-word summaries of each article in that issue. Then, he walked down the hall to her office and said, “Are you aware that one of our peer medical schools has such-and-such an initiative?” The associate dean said, “No.” The dean rejoined, “You really should keep up with the literature in medical education!”
Of course, ideally, “keeping up with the literature” means reading that literature, not just summaries of it. Nonetheless, this story does reinforce the value of how AM Express can help you be “in the know” in this high-tech age of immediate access to information.
AM Express is not the only initiative that the journal has taken to help readers keep up with its rich content. Tweets about journal articles and journal announcements are peppered throughout the month via the AAMC's Twitter account, known as AAMC Today, http://twitter.com/aamctoday. We are also tapping into the AAMC's Facebook presence (http://www.facebook.com/aamctoday) by posting journal news on the AAMC's Facebook page.
By using AM Express and social media, we are harnessing current communication trends and, hopefully, bringing more readers into the fold. We hope it's working. Our 13,000 subscribers to AM Express seem to think it is, and, as always, we welcome your feedback through Letters to the Editor, Facebook, Twitter, and any place we might show up in the future!
Steven L. Kanter, MD