When Dr Julius Schachter succeeded Dr Michael Rein as the Editor of Sexually Transmitted Diseases 25 years ago in its July-September 1989 issue, the transfer was quite unceremonious. In fact, Dr Schachter’s first editorial as Editor did not appear until a year and 3 issues later. This turned out to be a testimony to his vision that the journal should serve as the conduit of scientific output of the sexually transmitted infection research community and not as his personal mouthpiece. However, the title of this editorial, “Censorship is Unacceptable,” his first statement on journal policy, hasn’t lost any of its value and firmly let the reader know where he stood as a scientist and how he intended to lead the journal as its Editor.
During the 25 years of Dr Schachter’s stewardship, the journal has undergone many changes. Going back through the journal archives, the most obvious change has been the increase in publication volume. At the time when Dr Schachter took over, the journal was published quarterly, but then steadily increased its publication frequency until 2001 when the journal started appearing every month, a feat that was only surpassed by the fact that the overall quality of published manuscripts increased as well.
Obviously, the growth in volume while maintaining quality could not have occurred without the assistance of expert associate editors, editorial board members, and reviewers. However, it was Dr Schachter who provided the leadership in selecting and mentoring these board members and reviewers and, together with his assistant of most of his tenure, Ms Jeanne Moncada, managing the editorial workload in a consistent manner without sacrificing scientific integrity and excellence.
It is difficult to gauge the influence of a specialty journal like Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The often-used impact factor or citation index has important limitations; it may give an indication about the standing of a journal in academic circles, but not necessarily about the impact on the real world of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) prevention. A better way to measure impact would be to assess the influence a journal has on policy and practice. For example, when examining the 867-item reference list of the upcoming Centers for Disease Control and Prevention STD treatment guidelines, arguably the single most important document guiding STD diagnostic and treatment practice in the United States (currently available for public comment), Sexually Transmitted Diseases is by far the most commonly cited journal, an indication of the journal’s immeasurable value for STD treatment and prevention.1
This is the incredibly rich legacy that Dr Schachter leaves us, and it represents a wonderful starting point for Dr Bill Miller, who is taking over the role as Editor with this issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. As the organization behind the journal, the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association owes Dr Schachter a tremendous amount of gratitude for his 25 years of service and leadership and looks forward to working with Dr Miller in shaping the future of the journal. I am confident that he will assemble a stellar crew of editorial board members that will continue the high level of quality the journal has achieved. In addition, I hope that we all will continue to submit our best work to the journal. This will cement the journal’s role in providing the science base for our clinical and prevention work for the years to come.