Gastroenterology/hepatology fellowship is eye-opening in many ways. During these three years you will 1) acquire robust clinical and procedural skills to prepare for practice, 2) delineate career and life goals, and, for some, 3) cultivate an expertise in research. Most importantly, fellowship is a time to be true to yourself and carve out a meaningful path. Although we generally associate “publishing” with academics and investigation, publishing is a key element during fellowship for all trainees, regardless of whether you pursue a clinical vs. research or academic vs. community practice path.
Publishing helps with the “process of elimination” required to determine the depth and breadth of research interests. For some, doing research as a fellow unexpectedly reveals a passion and strength for investigation, while for others, it confirms that their time is best spent in clinical care. In addition, publishing equips us with important skills that are not routinely taught in our prior 20 years of education and training. Transforming tables and p-values into a well-written manuscript, struggling through multiple draft revisions, and receiving peer-review feedback strengthens our methodologic, writing and communication skills. Additionally, it prepares us to critically interpret the literature—an essential skill for all physicians, as evidence-based medicine is the backbone of practice.
Furthermore, publishing is a gateway to the scientific community. Linking your name to a body of work identifies you with a particular field. This facilitates collaboration with others who share common interests, recognition by leaders in the field, and is a conduit to further opportunities. Similarly, publishing is a critical component of your academic portfolio at all phases of your career. This is important to always consider since most employers are seeking individuals who offer unique expertise or skills. Performing just one literature review can distinguish you as an expert in a certain field. In essence, publishing is a unique mechanism for fellows to disseminate their work, increase their visibility, and put their stamp on a clinical niche.
Publishing as a fellow can be a struggle or a catapult. Every fellow should consider two essential factors in order to successfully publish:
1. Identify the right mentor. An outstanding mentor is not necessarily an individual who shares the same research interest or comes from the same field as you, but rather is someone who has qualities that you aspire to. It is worthwhile to dedicate time and thought when choosing your mentor. Understand from senior fellows and faculty which mentors are accessible, productive, and equitable. Prior to committing, trainees should gauge mentee-mentor chemistry through an in-person meeting. Developing healthy and productive relationships with mentors can be career defining and life altering. And, remember that you can (and should) have multiple mentors.
2. Balance quality and quantity. As with most things in life, we must understand how much we can feasibly accomplish and set goals accordingly. Beware of the exciting opportunity to be part of the research team of a ground-breaking randomized controlled trial—chances are that you will not lead the project, be a first author, or even complete the study during your tenure as a fellow. Alternatively, case reports are low-hanging fruit for trainees, and you should consider submitting a few during your training. Writing a case report provides experience with manuscript preparation and communication with editorial offices, without requiring an exhaustive amount of time. However, don't just rely on case reports in your publication history, and always strive to diversify your portfolio.
All fellows should consider this checklist when preparing a manuscript:
1. Set expectations from the beginning. Once you've identified a project and a team, it is imperative to have a team meeting and set expectations. Dedicating time from the get-go helps to streamline your study-design and overall plan.
- Delegate responsibilities.
- Determine a general timeline for task completion.
- Discuss authorship. It may be awkward, but it is always better to sort out authorship issues from the beginning, rather than after team members have invested a significant amount of time or have self-determined authorship expectations.
2. Draft your manuscript early. Consider drafting your manuscript even before starting the study. You can draft the background and methods, and create dummy figures or tables. This serves as a useful guide for the study process.
3. Transform abstracts into manuscripts. While all trainees should submit their study results as abstracts to conferences, it is even more important to transform the abstract into a manuscript to gain the full benefits of scientific inquiry, both for the trainee and the scientific community. Don't fall victim to having multiple abstracts but no publications!
4. Pay attention to formatting. The entire manuscript should be consistent in format and style. Number every page and include a header with your running title and first author name. Every journal provides a detailed author guide for word count, image files, title page information, and reference format—read and follow it.
Finally, keep in mind that there is more to publishing than submitting a manuscript! All fellows should peer-review, either independently or co-review with mentors. If interested, seek out opportunities on editorial boards and publications committees. We encourage all trainees to peer review for ACG Case Reports Journal and to apply for yearly openings on the editorial board. These are invaluable experiences!
Rena Yadlapati MD
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine Chicago, IL
ACG Case Reports Journal
Publish your work in ACG Case Reports Journal
ACG Case Reports Journal is a peer-reviewed, open-access publication that provides GI fellows, private practice clinicians, and other members of the health care team an opportunity to share interesting case reports with their peers and with leaders in the field. Visit http://acgcasereports.gi.org for submission guidelines. Submit your manuscript online at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/acgcr.