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New England Journal of Medicine
Volume 336:885-886 March 20, 1997 Number 12

McGill Journal of Medicine (MJM): An international forum for the advancement of medical science by students

Whenever you might think that the world as you perceive it will soon disappear, always remember that the actual situation is better than you think. A reminder of that comforting principle recently crossed my desk in the form of the McGill Journal of Medicine (MJM), a student journal that made its debut in the spring of 1995. Jonathan Lim, a second-year medical student, was instrumental in founding the MJM and served as its first editor-in-chief. A new editor-in-chief takes over annually and is either a second- or third-year medical student. The rest of the editorial staff consists entirely of students, and students at McGill or elsewhere write most of the articles. The MJM has been widely circulated at no cost to medical schools in Canada, the United States, and other countries, a tactic that has elicited articles from students around the world.

A student-run MJM was launched at McGill in 1947 but ceased publication in 1951. This reincarnation is outstanding in many ways. The journal itself is a handsome, beautifully produced product, with glossy covers and high-grade paper stock. The advertisements do not interrupt the text, and the illustrations, many in color, are excellent. The original articles that have appeared thus far cover numerous aspects of medicine. Articles on Wilms' tumor, spondylolysis, a survey of health in southwestern Ethiopia, apoptosis in mammary cancer cells, and atrial pacing indicate the breadth of topics. There are good reviews (including contributions from faculty members at McGill), case reports, and miscellaneous commentaries, the last under the rubric "Crossroads." These articles, reviews, and commentaries are well written — some would easily find a place in mainstream journals. The spring 1997 issue features a forum on tumor markers, with reviews of carcinoembryonic antigen and CA-125 by senior faculty members.

As far as I could determine, the MJM is the only regularly published and widely distributed student-run medical journal in the world. It even has its own home page on the World Wide Web. McGill's students deserve high praise for a thoroughly professional entry into the world of medical publishing. If they decide to take aim at 10 Shattuck Street, watch out, Dr. Kassirer!

Robert S. Schwartz, M.D.

Journal of the American Medical Association
November 5, 1997

The McGill Journal of Medicine (MJM) serves as an international, peer reviewed journal comprised totally of student contributions. An independent organization run by students at McGill University in Montreal manages this unique medical journal. MJM clearly lists its commercial, academic, and private financial supporters. The journal strives to address the need for a publication that features work solely from students to "serve notice that they can make a difference in the research community." The intended readership consists of students, residents, scientists, and physicians around the world.

Original research and review articles relevant to medicine form the major sections of MJM. Two unique features are "Crossroad" and "MJM Focus." "Crossroads" consists of articles addressing the interrelationships of the humanities and medicine. In "MJM Focus" a series of articles explores the clinical, scientific, and pathological features of a medical specialty.

The manuscript review process has two distinct stages. Appointed student editors, whose names are published in the journal, conduct the initial review. These editors are chosen based on aptitude, interest, and research experience. A faculty member who has expertise in the paper's subject matter conducts the second phase of the manuscript review. Comments to the authors compiled from these two review stages are combined with the evaluations from the editor-in-chief and the executive and senior editors. The MJM editorial board then makes the final decision to accept, reject, or defer publication of each manuscript.

The instructions for authors begin with a statement of the intended MJM subject content. Articles are requested in the humanities (history of medicine, health policy, ethics, and similar topics), clinical medicine (epidemiology, surgery, case reports, clinical trials), and basic sciences (physiology, cell biology, biochemistry, and other areas). MJM focuses on student work, so the first author must be a student. All other authors should be sufficiently involved in the work to take public responsibility for the article's content. Each article begins with an abstract (maximum 240 words) and a key word list. The text follows the standard format of introduction, methodology, results, and discussion, and it may not exceed 5,000 words. The acknowledgement section credits contributions that did not justify authorship such as technical, financial, or material support. References are cited numerically and listed in full at the end. Only four tables or figures may accompany an article. A brief biography of the first author appears at the end of the article. Corrections and retractions are published under "errata" at the end of each issue.

MJM appears to be managed in a very professional manner and seems to be adhering to its initial goals. The original articles have maintained a high level of scientific merit and quality. The review articles have focussed on topical discussions on a wide range of disease processes with some introduction of new pharmacologic agents. Both the editorial section and "Letters to MJM" have addressed the inevitable problems and differences that arise in the development of a new journal. The students who assemble the journal also seem to be gaining immeasurable experience as they strive to continue this excellent effort.

The two most impressive sections are "Crossroads" and "MJM Focus." The timely "Crossroads" retrospectives illuminate the value of a broad look at scientific developments and ethical issues. It seems remarkable that students can develop this perspective at such an early stage in their careers. The unique "MJM Focus" provides a profile of the specialty, a clinical review pertinent to that specialty, and a case report to solidify the concepts elucidated in these previous two sections. This portion of the journal should prove particularly useful to students, not only in highlighting their interests and talents, but in providing a solid, contained discussion of the focus topic.

As this journal continues to grow and evolve, it should endeavor to maintain this level of excellence and to offer bright, gifted students a venue to express their creativity. We recommend MJM for libraries in schools of medicine and for those academic medical centers where students engage in research. Full-text back issues are available via the World Wide Web.

In the end, MJM's greatest accomplishments may be its introduction of novel ideas and interpretations of scientific research. It may help young, unknown scientists who are developing new approaches to disease processes to overcome some of the obstacles they frequently face. MJM may prove to be an important forum for those who will be the leaders in medical science during the 21st century.

Gale Hansen Starich, PhD
Joan S. Zenan, MLS
University of Nevada
School of Medicine

Annals of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Dear MJM:

I don't recall ever seeing a more professional-looking student-produced medical journal. I was equally impressed by the quality of the contents and by the rigorous editorial policies you have established.

I would like to bring to your attention a review of the MJM in the October 1996 issue of the Annals of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada [Annals RCPSC 29(7):424-5]. The review appears below:

"MJM (McGill Journal of Medicine), An international forum for the advancement of medical science by students, Volume 1, Numbers 1 & 2, Spring and Fall/Winter 1995, Volume 2 Number 1, Spring 1996.

This splendidly produced journal, Perfect bound with glossy red covers and printed on heavy stock glossy paper, ran to 180 pages plus end matter in its first year and seems set to be about the same size in 1996. Its editorial board and staff in its first year were almost all students in the classes of 1997 and 1998; this year they have been replenished with students from the class of 1999. The Faculty Advisor is Dr. Phil Gold. It has a rigorous editorial policy that includes formal peer review, and sets out the requirements for authors in a professional manner that some journals run by experienced physicians could adopt with benefit. Almost all the contributing authors are students, from far afield in Canada and elsewhere, as well as from McGill. They mostly write with real professionalism. Their articles cover a wide range, including scholarly clinical and basic science papers, case reports, review articles, epidemiological surveys, clinicopathological reports and medico-legal papers. Some articles, for instance very interesting reports on aspects of community health in Ethiopia and Brazil, are illustrated in colour. No expense has been spared, yet the journal carries very little advertising so it must be extremely well subsidized financially. It is entirely in English.

As one of my former-student friends once remarked, the only problem with medical students is that we self-destruct, or as another former-student friend put it, we have a very sharply defined "Use by..." date. I hope the editorial staff can ensure continuity because this journal deserves to survive. As for self-destructing, editors like me who are approaching or have entered their dotage can take comfort from this demonstration that able and talented future recruits to the editorial craft are ready and waiting.

John Last

All of you who have worked on this deserve high praise for your efforts.

John Last, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), F.R.A.C.P.
Editor, Annals RCPSC


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