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We Must Continuously Tell the Story of Academic Medicine

Kanter, Steven L. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318278c802
From the Editor

For the last five years, I have had the privilege of serving the academic medicine community as editor-in-chief of this journal. If I had to choose a single unifying theme that motivated my efforts to help the journal grow and develop, it would be the critical need to tell the story of academic medicine.

By story, I mean all the ways in which those of us who form the community of academic medicine communicate what we do, why it is relevant and important, how we came to be where we are now, and where we are headed. In peer-reviewed journals, every scholarly article, perspective piece, and review paper tells a part of the story. And so does every related newspaper account, blog entry, or letter to an elected official.

This journal has a unique role to play in telling the story of academic medicine. In contrast to most medical journals, this one has a very broad scope and an even broader readership. To concentrate the journal’s effectiveness, one of my first initiatives as editor-in-chief was to work with the editorial board and professional editorial staff to define for this journal five focus areas: education and training issues, health and science policy, institutional issues, research practice, and clinical practice in academic settings.

Of course, the main vehicle through which this journal tells stories in these focus areas is the peer-reviewed article. This is a vitally important aspect of the way we communicate. Rigorous, in-depth, critical analyses of current issues and programs—in the form of research reports, scholarly articles, and perspective pieces—provide a solid evidence base for making sound decisions, developing rational policy, and revealing the next set of challenges and research questions that will help improve the quality of medical schools and teaching hospitals.

To complement peer-reviewed articles and to elaborate and broaden dialogue around key issues, I have invited commentaries from thought leaders in academic medicine, reinstated letters to the editor, and developed new features, including the Question of the Year, the Point–Counterpoint essay, AM Cover Art, and AM Last Page. Each of these features was designed to help advance the story of medical schools and teaching hospitals, the story of educating the next generation of physicians and scientists, the story of biomedical research, and the story of the resources required to do these things in the most ethical, efficient, and effective ways possible.

I believe that we must tell the story of academic medicine not only to the members of our own community, but also to community leaders, legislators, journalists, and the public at large. To this end, the staff and I have worked diligently to ensure that appropriate articles were made available to journalists and others who could help amplify key messages.

To ensure that the story of academic medicine, as told on the journal’s pages, is available to anyone who needs it, when and where they need it, the staff and I developed AM Express (a monthly e-mail message with brief descriptions of newly published articles), opened the journal’s online archives (everything 12 months and older is available without charge), introduced electronic publication ahead of print for articles and research reports, and worked with the publisher to make the journal’s content available via a mobile view on smartphones and accessible through an app on the iPad. To ensure that the journal’s content is at the forefront of current thinking in publication ethics, the staff and I, in communication with the editorial board, updated the instructions for authors, developed important new policies, and added a structured disclosure section for articles.

Progress with these efforts is reflected by a growing number of submissions to the journal (almost double what it was in 2007), a significantly increasing number of citations to articles published in the journal (greater than 7,500 in 2011), and a steadily increasing h-index (now over 80) and ISI Journal Impact Factor (now 3.524). The depth of quality of the journal’s articles and their enduring value also are reflected by the number of AM Classics (articles published in the journal that have been cited 50 or more times), which now number over 200.

These successes were possible only through close collaboration with a highly capable team. The dedication and commitment of the journal’s professional editorial staff are unrivalled. Their collective expertise and experience in every aspect of the journal production process have enabled us to improve existing practices, upgrade policies and procedures, and introduce new features at a remarkable pace. The work of these individuals—Anne Farmakidis, Al Bradford, Mary Beth DeVilbiss, Liza Karlin, Jennifer Campi, Toni Gallo, Kate Mays, and Jennifer McDonald—ensures that Academic Medicine is a contemporary, competitive, scholarly journal for the academic medicine community. I am also grateful for the strong commitment to the journal by associate editors David Sklar and Jan Carline and assistant editor Steven Durning.

The members of the journal’s oversight committee and editorial board have been generous with their time and have provided valuable guidance on a number of challenging issues. In particular, I wish to express my appreciation to Dr. Mike Johns, the committee chair, who always was accessible and willing to share his considerable wisdom and insight.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the journal’s owner, the AAMC, and to its president and CEO, Dr. Darrell Kirch. Darrell’s concern for the integrity of the journal as a scholarly publication and his unwavering support of editorial independence enable the healthiest of relationships between the AAMC and its journal. Every member of the AAMC’s leadership team gave generously of his or her time, even at a moment’s notice, to provide sage advice, to answer questions, or just to “bat around” an issue. For that, I am grateful.

Of course, the journal could not be a journal without the contributions of time, effort, and talent of authors, reviewers, and readers. I extend my sincere appreciation to all those who submitted manuscripts to Academic Medicine, to those who critiqued the manuscripts, and to those who ultimately read and cited the published articles in their own work.

To continue to be successful, this journal must be on a never-ending quest to tell the story of academic medicine in ever more compelling ways. And it must tell these stories again and again, each time reflecting the improvements in knowledge and skill that we work so hard to achieve. After all, much is at stake. There are many competing interests, and if the stories of academic medicine are not convincing and are not told and retold often enough, there will not be sufficient resources to advance knowledge and practice at medical schools and teaching hospitals.

And so, it has been a busy but most enjoyable five years. I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve the academic medicine community as editor-in-chief of this journal. There is no question that I will miss the work and that I step down from this post with mixed emotions, but I look forward to contributing to our community in new ways.

Steven L. Kanter, MD

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges