I just did something I’ve never done before; I was the guest editor for a medical magazine. I was giving a lecture at an annual conference at Emory School of Medicine, and fell into a conversation with Dr. Barry Silverman, one of the other speakers. Barry, an accomplished Cardiologist is also an author (https://www.amazon.com/Manners-Morals-Medical-Care-Effective/dp/3030603431). We had an interesting conversation about our mutual interest in medical writing. He happens to be the editor of Atlanta Medicine, a local medical magazine, and asked me if I’d be interested in being the editor for a pediatric issue. Barry has been the editor for over 25 years and made the guest editor position sound quite interesting. I always like to try new and different things, so I can now tell you he was right!
I went online and reviewed past issues of Atlanta Medicine, the magazine of the Medical Association of Atlanta (https://mdatl.com/past-issues/). Each issue is dedicated to a single topic (Orthopedics, Rheumatology, Women’s Health, etc.) with articles written by specialists in that field. As I investigated, I realized that the members of the Medical Association of Atlanta practice many different specialties, and most of them take care of adult patients.
I had a conversation with John Sawyer, the very experienced publisher (https://sawyerdirect.com/#home), who let me know that my responsibilities were this- to write an editorial about the state of pediatrics, to write another article (topic of my choosing) and arrange for 5 or 6 of my pediatric colleagues to write articles. No problem, I thought. I know lots of doctors and other medical professionals, and plenty of them would be interested in something like this. But, the tricky part, I thought, would be to come up with a set of articles that would spark interest in the many non-pediatric doctors who get the magazine.
What was the one common theme I wanted to convey? Well, I’ve always thought we are spoiled rotten in Atlanta, with three pediatric hospitals, so many specialists and sub-specialists within pediatrics, and impressive technology most towns don’t have for children. That was what I wanted others to appreciate. I also thought a couple of articles of interest to any doctor, pediatric or not, would be appropriate. With these ideas in mind, I made a list of the super-cool super sub-specialties we have in Atlanta, people I knew who might write an article, and my favorite general pediatric topics. Then I reviewed recent Atlanta Medicine issues, finding that some of those topics had been covered. I pruned my list. The good news at this point was that I had a list of 20 ideas for articles and only needed 6.
The first thing was to decide on a cover. Cool! I didn’t know I got to decide that! John, the publisher felt strongly that a child is a compelling cover for a pediatric issue; he should know. I asked a dear pediatric colleague, who is an amateur photographer and appreciates great pictures, and has gorgeous children, if he would oblige. He was delighted. John’s photographer arranged a photo shoot, and we ended up with a lovely cover of the pediatrician, examining his daughter. So cute!
Then I began to call and email colleagues, explaining my task and asking for an article. That’s when things got interesting. Responses varied wildly.
One person was flattered to be asked, but felt her specialty was already understaffed and overwhelmed and was afraid of any publicity an article would bring. She couldn’t stand the idea of more doctors calling to get patients into her special program. I had to respect that. I hope her request for funding for more staff is approved. Those kids need her and her program.
One person runs the national group for his sub-specialty, was in the middle of planning a national meeting, had several deadlines for other articles, and had no time. Totally reasonable.
Several people gently reminded me we are in the middle of an unprecedented pediatric RSV epidemic, with hospitals bursting at the seams, ICUs full, and all doctors overwhelmed. They asked me if I wanted to come out of retirement to help. Ok, OK, I get it! (And, no, I don’t.)
Some people just never responded. Alright, I’ll take that as a no.
And along the way, I found my peeps. The people who were excited by the idea of an article, loved their specialty, and were happy to write about it. It’s always fun to talk with someone who is passionate about what they do and want others to understand it. Especially when I explained that my purpose was to wow other doctors with the coolness that exists in pediatric sub-sub-specialties, and to have people write about topics close to their heart. And so, we were off!
The deadline was firm, and I didn’t want any articles (including my own) to be late. So, I hedged my bets and told everyone the deadline was two weeks before the real deadline. That proved to be the smartest thing I ever did, because a few people used that double-secret extra time! I sweated bullets, sending nice upbeat emails as the deadline approached (“How are things going? Anything I can do to help? So looking forward to seeing your articles! Smiley face”). I read and re-read my own editorial and article, editing and re-editing until I told myself enough was enough.
John Sawyer, the publisher, made it extraordinarily easy. I funneled finished articles, author bios and photos to him, and he and his group magically turned them into a very professional magazine. It was exciting to see the proofs. Then there was the exacting work of having each author re-read their article, looking for any details that needed tweaking. After several rounds of proofs and changes, it was finalized.
I am excited by the finished product! My little baby! And now I love being able to look at a medical magazine and have at least an inkling of what it takes to publish an issue.