I submitted my first paper to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) in 1997. I was a first-year faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, fresh out of training in infectious diseases epidemiology and clinical research. The paper was a single-authored, rather lengthy, thought piece that proposed an alternative model program for chlamydia screening in publicly funded settings. The first response from Dr Schachter, the Editor, and the journal was a puzzled one—“Is this a research study, a review, or… what exactly is this manuscript?” Somehow, I convinced him to give the paper a chance, and it went out for review. When the paper came back to me, it had 5 reviews…yes, 5. I don’t remember for sure at this point, but I think the response to the reviews was longer than the paper itself. In the end, the paper was published, and I know that at least a few people read it.
Since that first paper, STD has been an integral part of my career. I have gone on to publish 30 articles or editorials/commentaries in the journal. I am a teacher at heart, and I have particularly appreciated the invitations to write editorials, as these have given me an opportunity to convey methodological concerns and alternative interpretations of articles published in the journal. I believe that this kind of discourse is essential for advancing our field. The journal also gave me my first editorial board position in 2003, a tremendous opportunity for a junior faculty member about to go through the promotion process.
With this edition of the journal, I assume the role of editor. I am honored to have been chosen. Dr Schachter has led this journal from the brink of extinction 25 years ago to its current position as a leading journal in the field. His shoes are impossible to fill. So, I don’t intend to try to fill them. Instead, I will try to lead the journal in my own way.
What can you expect from STD in the coming years? We have 3 key goals as I begin my term as editor: (1) we will work to maintain and improve the quality of the science and manuscripts in the journal; (2) we will assist junior investigators interested in STD in their professional growth and development; and (3) we will seek to bring STD to the forefront as a societal issue, important in their own right, beyond HIV infection. To achieve these objectives, I will work closely with our 6 associate editors, the 83-member editorial board, and the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association, the journal’s principal sponsor. Working together, we hope to ensure that STD is the preeminent journal in the field.
But to achieve these goals, we need the help the readers and contributors to the journal. What can you do? First, send us your very best STD papers, including those about HIV infection. Let our review and editorial process help you make your great paper even better. Second, send us your big idea papers, theories or hypotheses, or commentaries on the state of STD research or practice. Those thought pieces are interesting, are provocative, and sometimes have a greater impact on the field than a well-controlled trial. Third, when you are asked, please provide us with the best possible manuscript reviews you can give. Strong manuscript reviews underlie the journal’s success, improve the science, and help the authors communicate their research. Weak reviews make for a weak journal. Fourth, if you are a senior investigator, take junior people with a fledgling interest in STD under your wing. Help them commit to the field. If you are a junior person, seek out the guidance of those senior people, even across institutions, so that your work can be as strong as it possibly can be. One of the great strengths of the STD research community is that it is welcoming and supportive. Finally, make some noise in your communities about the importance of STD. If we, collectively, are louder, the field and the populations experiencing high rates of STDs can only benefit.
I am excited to begin my tenure as the Editor. It is a tremendous opportunity—and a great responsibility. That responsibility comes with some trepidation. But I think of STD as our journal, a journal that will grow stronger through our collective efforts. That growth will require us all to work together. If you have ideas, comments, or criticisms, let me know. If you see me at a conference, stop me and tell me what you do and how the journal could serve your needs and the needs of the STD community. Together, we can build the best possible journal and, more importantly, reduce the burden of STDs in our communities and globally.