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  • Writer's pictureBruce Campbell MD

So, You Want to Publish Your MedEd Paper in Academic Medicine - The Editors Share Their Tips

(Originally published in the Kern Institute MedEd Blog - 1/3/2023)

Bruce H. Campbell, MD FACS

Dr. Campbell shares highlights of a recent podcast moderated by Toni Gallo, the Academic Medicine staff editor, with practical tips that will smooth your way into publishing in the journal ... Happy New Year! Maybe one of your resolutions this year is to publish a MedEd article in a top-tier journal. You can do it!

To make it more likely, the editors of Academic Medicine created an Academic Medicine Podcast (12/19/2022) where the people who help decide what will get into print offer a peak behind the curtain. The episode is entitled “Writing Effectively and Navigating the Publication Process." First of all, here are links to online medical writing resources:

Below are tips and suggestions that each editor offers. As you prepare your manuscript, remember that folks like these editors will eventually be reading it.

Colin West, MD, PhD (Deputy Editor, Professor of Medicine, Medical Education, and Biostatistics, Mayo Clinic)

Three things to think about when preparing a manuscript:

  • Be clear on how a practical application of your work bridges the gap from theory to practice without overstating your findings

  • Be clear about the paper’s place in the field of study

  • Be honest and thoughtful about the paper’s limitation

Jonathan Michael Amiel, MD (Assistant Editor, Professor of Psychiatry and Senior Associate Dean for Innovation in Health Professions Education, Columbia University)

Things he hopes to see when reviewing a submission:

  • A clear demonstration of how the work helps make medical education better

  • The paper doesn’t overreach; rather it takes a “small bite” and rigorously addresses the problem

Laura E. Hirschfield, PhD (Assistant Editor, Associate Professor of Medical Education and Sociology, University of Illinois-Chicago)

Things she looks for when reviewing a submission:

  • A clear demonstration that the authors have engaged with the foundational papers and authors in relevant fields, even if outside the traditional MedEd disciplines.

  • A well-demonstrated link between the research question or topic and the research design

Gustavo Patino, MD, PhD (Assistant Editor, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine)

Questions he asks as a reviewer:

  • Do the authors clearly articulate the research question?

  • Have they described the knowledge gap?

  • What was the genesis of the idea?

  • Why is it important that this question be answered?

  • Are the research methods and study design appropriate to answer the question?

  • In the Discussion, are the claims and takeaway points consistent with the Methods and Results?

Dan Schumacher, MD, PhD, Med (Assistant Editor, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati) His advice to authors:

  • Pay attention to Lorelei Lingard’s idea of “It’s a Story, Not a Study.” Tell the reader why it’s important, what you found, and why what you found is important.

  • Rely on well-crafted research questions and matching methodologies.

  • Write with clarity.

John H. Coverdale, MD (Associate Editor, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine) His advice to authors:

  • For both qualitative and quantitative research, make the Methods section crystal clear. Explain how the design relates to the research question or hypothesis, including how it is appropriate to the question.

Mary Beth DeVilbiss (Managing editor) What she likes to see in the visuals:

  • Exhibits, tables, figures, charts should have a clear purpose and add value.

  • Visuals that enhance and illuminate the text, but never repeat it.

Teresa Chan, MD, MHPE (Associate editor) How she describes the Academic Medicine "Innovation Reports":

  • They are a first stab at a new way of doing things that builds on previous literature but then tweaks it in a novel way. Outline the problem, outline the approach, and always provide a reflective component.

Bridget O’Brien, PhD (Deputy editor, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, UCSF) Things she suggests to authors before they submit a manuscript:

  • Read through the manuscript three times before submitting.

    • Read as an author. Make certain arguments flow and that essential details are covered.

    • Read as a reviewer. Try to apply the manuscript review criteria you use to your own work.

    • Read as a reader. Is it interesting? Do you skip sections? Does it make sense?

  • Then ask others to read your manuscript from these perspectives, as well.

Tony Artino, PhD (Assistant Editor for Last Pages, Professor at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences)

Reactions he suggests you have if you are asked to “revise and resubmit”:

  • A revision request is a win, right? Don’t be discouraged! It is better to get it right before publication than after.

  • Revisions always result in a better paper.

  • (Tongue-in-cheek) Editors and reviewers are always right. Realize that arguing only delays getting your manuscript into print.

  • Remember that medical and health professions education is a very small world. Your work might end up in the hands of the same reviewers if you re-submit to another journal. So, be gracious.

That should get you started. Happy writing!

Bruce H. Campbell, MD, FACS, is a Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences and in the Institute for Health and Equity (Bioethics and Medical Humanities) at MCW. He is on the editorial board of the Transformational Times and a member of the Faculty Pillar of the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education. He has published two Innovation Reports in Academic Medicine and still learned some stuff listening to and summarizing this podcast.

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