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History of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Smith, Derek R. PhD; Guidotti, Tee L. MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2016 - Volume 58 - Issue 1 - p 1–2
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000657
EDITORIAL
Free

University of Newcastle, Australia

Washington, DC

Address correspondence to: Professor Derek R. Smith, University of Newcastle, Australia (E-mail: derek.smith@newcastle.edu.au)

The modern day Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) began in January 1959 as the Journal of Occupational Medicine (JOM).1 To give the new periodical gravitas and credibility, the sponsoring organization (later to become the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine [ACOEM]),2 appointed Adolph G. Kammer (1903–1962), a former President of the organization and a distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh, as its first Editor.3 It was important to launch the new journal with undisputed credentials and wide recognition because of its serious mission beyond the dissemination of good science: namely, to help overcome formidable opposition against the recognition of occupational medicine as a distinct medical specialty. The new journal's name also had significance beyond the obvious. When the JOM was established, its sponsoring organization was still known as the Industrial Medical Association, and would remain so for more than a decade thereafter. Although the term “occupational medicine” was already displacing “industrial medicine” in the field, it would take another 20 years for occupational medicine to be widely known by that name in medicine, as a whole.4 Calling the new journal JOM helped establish the field's identity, while at the same time declaring that its emphasis was now shifting away from the needs of production and benefits to “industry”; and moving more toward the care of injured workers and preventive health measures in the workplace. These trends would also be reflected in the steady decline of advertised corporate occupational medical positions over the next few decades.5 A timeline showing the evolution of the journal's name through the years and the terms of editors is shows in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1

FIGURE 1

Kammer died suddenly in 19626 and was later commemorated with an annual award in his name for outstanding contributions published in the journal. He was succeeded for 1 year by the Deputy Editor, Edward V. Henson (1917–1983); and then by Robert B. O’Connor (1914–1990), who served until 1966. Both kept to Kammer's original vision and nurtured the JOM into a respected journal of medical practice and science. In 1967 Henson was succeeded by Carey P. McCord (1886–1979), one of the most colorful characters in the history of the field. McCord had previously edited the journal Industrial Medicine and Surgery between 1951 and 1964.7 This time period was significant for the recognition of occupational medicine as a distinct medical specialty,8 following much effort from the aforementioned Kammer.9 There was also the final split from industrial hygiene, which prior to the 1950s had been considered a single field dominated by physicians; but from the 1960s onward, each went their separate ways.10 McCord, a physician and toxicologist, championed industrial hygiene and had been instrumental in founding the American Industrial Hygiene Association.11 Although he served for only 1 year, McCord was named Editor Emeritus on his departure, an honorific usually given to Editors of long standing.

The next Editor was Irving R. Tabershaw (1908–2008), a well-known former state occupational health officer turned professor at the University of California in Berkeley, and later consultant. Tabershaw helped shape the JOM's agenda into one that we recognize today: emphasizing epidemiology over toxicology and being responsive to public policy as much as clinical practice. He also ran the journal as a personal mission, well aware that it was shaping the contours of the field. Tabershaw was briefly succeeded as Editor by Robert E. Eckardt12 (1916–1995) in 1978. Lloyd B. Tepper began his long editorial reign the following year, in 1979, and the next decade is sometimes remembered as a “Golden Age” for the JOM. Tepper was concerned with not only improving the quality of science, but also improving the quality of writing. He recognized that journals were generally biased against publishing “negative” epidemiological studies and sought to redress this imbalance. Although it resulted in an increasing number of submissions reporting negative findings,13 Tepper's approach has since been vindicated across many fields of scientific publishing.

In 1992 Paul Brandt-Rauf14 became the Editor, and remains so today. The journal benefited greatly from an increased support of occupational medicine research by the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and other agencies; subsequently attracting more submissions from outside the US and becoming one of the dominant periodicals in the field, worldwide.15 This upward trajectory was reflected in publishing metrics, with the journal's impact factor almost doubling, for example, between 1985 and 2006.16 As Editor, Brandt-Rauf particularly emphasized studies of health and productivity; and under his direction the journal became a principal source for studies of health promotion in the workplace, wellness, and population health management; while maintaining its traditional strengths in epidemiology. Brandt-Rauf also dramatically expanded coverage of an old but marginal area of interest for the journal, that of “environmental medicine”.

In 1995, the JOM changed its name to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.17 This expansion of scope to include environmental medicine partly reflected a commitment by the journal's leadership, and was partly in response to the mission of its sponsoring organizations (now amalgamated into one society, ACOEM). Most importantly, this name change recognized the fact that since at least the 1950s scientists and practitioners in occupational medicine had been concerned with the new and emerging environmental health challenges of air pollution and toxic substances (albeit that water quality remained mostly within the scope of “traditional” public health practitioners). Such trends were also reflected in the wider published literature of the field, with the number of articles focusing on environmental pollution being fairly constant between 1975 and 1985, for example; but then climbing rapidly by 1985 and 1986.18

While an Editor's primary task is to fill the space between the journal's covers,19 they are not the only individuals pursuing this goal on a daily basis. As such, it is important to recognize the contributions of other key staff in the editorial office, especially prior to the digital age when all communications were personal and the human touch between editors, authors, and reviewers comprised a major facet of the overall publishing experience. The first individual in this role was Doris L. Flournoy (1922–2011), a 1946 journalism graduate from Northwestern University who had been Managing Editor at Industrial Medicine and Surgery prior to joining the JOM.20 Flournoy's contribution and central role in journal production was significant, as the JOM was published out of her home from 1959 until 1986, when publishing was transferred to the Williams & Wilkins Company (later to become Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins [LWW]). As Managing Editor and publisher, Flournoy handled all transactions with authors, printers, mailers, and advertisers; as well as negotiating production from the receipt of manuscripts, through to copy editing and mailing to subscribers (Personal Communication, Lloyd Tepper, November 7, 2015). Following Flournoy's retirement in 1986, Elizabeth L. Popper (1926–2010) served as Managing Editor until 2001, and one whose personal touch was also highly appreciated by the Editorial Board.21 In 2001, Marjory Spraycar (who was already familiar with the JOEM from her position as LWW's liaison to the editorial office and ACOEM) became the journal's Managing Editor and remains so today.22 She clearly remembers driving to Popper's home in the Philadelphia suburbs to collect the large physical archive of JOEM manuscripts and associated documents, which were numerous in the era prior to electronic publishing (Personal Communication, Marjory Spraycar, November 13, 2015). Times were changing, however, and within a year the JOEM had moved on to electronic article submission and PDF proofing.23

With many historical aspects to ponder as we look toward the future of the journal and the field, it is equally important to reflect on key moments and individuals from the past. Indeed, it has been said that all history becomes subjective, and that there is “properly no history, only biography.”24 When the American Association of Industrial Physicians and Surgeons (the organization that eventually became ACOEM) was founded in 1916, one of its first actions was to create a journal to define the new field25; only to lose control over the periodical in a series of publisher changes during the Depression (that journal still exists today under the name: Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health).26

Being founded during a turbulent era of American medicine, the original journal (JOM) offered our discipline a second chance; not only to regain lost ground, but also to re-establish the field with solid foundations. As occupational and environmental medicine increasingly looks toward a future when new technologies continually pose new hazards and opportunities,27 the journal remains a cornerstone of science and clinical practice in what has become a greatly expanded endeavor. In many ways, the JOEM's history is the recent history of occupational and environmental medicine.

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REFERENCES

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