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Conversation starter


Incoming JAAD editor wants to spark discussion and views publishing as a way to provide, interpret, show application of new information

In July, Dirk M. Elston, M.D., will take the helm as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD), the official journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. He served as the JAAD’s deputy editor, under dermatologist and JAAD Editor Bruce H. Theirs, M.D., for the last decade.

Dr. Elston says that he’s passionate about patient care, teaching and elevating the specialty.

“The literature is a big part of how we do that,” he says. “Today’s journals are partly about doing your monthly reading to keep up to date, but they’re also about having real, ongoing conversations about medicine, interpretation of new information in patient care and accessibility of information to answer clinical questions.”

Chairman of dermatology and dermatologic surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, Dr. Elston is an experienced leader, having served as president of the American Academy of Dermatology and American Society of Dermatopathology. His curriculum vitae features some 400 published articles and editorial work beyond the JAAD.

Driving publishing’s evolution

In his decade with the JAAD, Dr. Elston says the constant in publishing a peer-reviewed journal is the need to adapt.

“The journal today is not the same journal it was three years ago or five years ago or 10 years ago. It has changed continuously under Dr. Thiers’ editorship,” he says. “Our mission is to improve patient outcomes and serve the needs of the practicing clinical dermatologist. And, in order to do that, as the world changes and technology changes, we’ve changed with it. In recent years, we introduced virtual journal club, online images, video, and virtual dermatopathology slides.” And the trend to innovate will continue, he says.

“One has to keep up with the changing ways in which dermatologists like to access information.”

“I believe the American Academy of Dermatology should be the go-to resource for all educational needs in dermatology, and the journal, with its wealth of past images and articles, should be a big part of that. That should all be easily searchable and usable,” he says.

There are those who still prefer paper journals, while others want to read the journal on an electronic medium, which supports the virtual slides and video now embedded in articles.

Doctors also look to journals to answer questions.

“So, in addition to the monthly journal, we have collections of articles around different topics that make it a one-stop shop to answer clinical questions,” he says. “There are search engines, where you can look for particular topics. We also have articles arranged into collections so that they are more usable for a specific clinical question in addition to reading it every month to keep up to date. We are working on making images more easily accessible and linking them to key articles with recent developments regarding the entity.”

Another innovative focus for Dr. Elston: article commentaries. Traditionally, journals vet information to make sure it’s valid; disseminate, then archive information.

“Now it’s more about access to information and interpretation of information: How do you apply it to your daily practice? What does it mean? Those functions are very important in a modern journal. So, that’s a big part of the direction of where we’ll be going: accessibility of knowledge and application of knowledge,” he says.

Issues with advancing technology and meeting dermatologists’ changing needs for access could be viewed as challenges, but Dr. Elston says he sees them as opportunities to provide more value to our readers.

Message to contributors

“We want to let our authors know that we are author-friendly, and we want their best work. We try to expedite reviews and publication of important data, and increase dialogue around their articles,” he says. “We want to give them the best visibility possible for their important work.”

As for scientific content, there are no boundaries or preferred topics. Rather the intent is to meet readers’ needs. And articles that might not be the best fit for the JAAD could find a home in the academy’s other publications, according to Dr. Elston.

“The AAD has a responsibility to its members to cover all member needs, and it does that through a portfolio of educational resources for its members,” he says. “JAAD is an important part-I like to say it’s the jewel in the crown of that portfolio. JAAD is scientific content, but it pairs with and works with Dermatology World, Dialogues in Dermatology-everything the Academy offers, to include the annual meeting and regional meetings, enduring materials.”

For example, a practice management topic may be more suitable to Dermatology World or to a webinar, he says.

“But, when appropriate, and there’s cross-content and crosstalk. We can cross reference and have commentary in one of those sources that speaks to things people are reading in another; so, that they’re in the appropriate venue, but they’re not in a silo or isolated,” Dr. Elston says.

In this editor’s world, it all filters back to a love of practice.

“I’ll never give up the practice of medicine. That’s what it’s all about. And the journal is all about making the practice of medicine better,” Dr. Elston says.

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