When HM pioneers identified potential candidates to become editor-in-chief of a new peer-reviewed journal dedicated to their specialty, they found themselves working from a short list. The term “hospitalist” had been part of the American healthcare lexicon for less than a decade, and only a select few in the young field possessed the leadership, management experience, and research credibility to fill the role.
Mark Williams, MD, FACP, FHM, then a professor and director of the hospital medicine unit at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, met the criteria. He also demonstrated two attributes that distinguished him from other finalists. First, he understood the Journal of Hospital Medicine’s mission, having led an SHM task force that created a development plan for the publication. More importantly, he had the personality to sell JHM as a valuable tool for researchers and frontline hospitalists long before the first issue rolled off the press, says Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, professor and associate chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), chief of the division of hospital medicine and chief of medical service at UCSF Medical Center, and one of the HM leaders who advocated for the journal’s launch.
“The early phase is particularly tricky in that you are trying to get an entire specialty interested in something that is conceptual,” Dr. Wachter says. “If you can’t, you don’t ever develop the momentum to build the thing you’re talking about. If you can, you get people excited and jazzed about it before it’s real, so when it becomes real, you have accomplished, talented people truly engaged. The latter was the experience with Mark.”
Dr. Williams did more than generate excitement. He assembled a diverse editorial team and developed a comprehensive content plan that, over the next six years, helped JHM evolve into a frequently cited, well-respected publication.
“It has exceeded my expectations,” Dr. Wachter says, “and my expectations were pretty high.”
Getting Off the Ground
By the turn of the century, HM achieved many of the milestones its leaders believed were necessary to solidify itself as a specialty—it had formed a society, published textbooks, and held regular conferences. The next step, they believed, was the launch of a peer-reviewed journal.
Discussions continued for a few years until proponents believed a sizable readership base existed, and that HM had enough established researchers and authors to sustain a journal. In March 2005, SHM appointed Dr. Williams, who had reviewed and written journal articles but never served as an editor, as JHM ’s editor-in-chief and scheduled a February 2006 launch.
“Off we went, with me not really having any clear idea what I was getting myself into,” says Dr. Williams, a former SHM president who now is a professor and chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
He immediately immersed himself in other top-tier journals he hoped to emulate. He also began formulating strategies to tackle two significant challenges. The first—promoting the publication—meshed perfectly with his persona, says Vineet Arora, MD, FHM, assistant dean for scholarship and discovery at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine.
During HM05 in Chicago, Dr. Williams handed out business cards to annual meeting attendees and encouraged every presenter to submit his or her research to the journal.