Andrew Auerbach, MD, MPH, SFHM, is an associate professor at one of the most highly regarded academic medical centers in the country, and he is a nationally respected researcher whose work has been published in prominent scientific publications.
His peers believe both roles prepared him well for his newest endeavor: editor-in-chief of the Journal of Hospital Medicine. His five-year term begins in January.
Dr. Auerbach’s affiliation with the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where he also serves as director of research for the division of hospital medicine and associate director of the General Medicine Research Fellowship, lends instant legitimacy to the journal, editorial team members say. His research has focused on evaluation of care-delivery models and methods for improving the measurement of quality of care.
That background, medical publishing experts believe, gives Dr. Auerbach a foundation in scientific accuracy and reporting transparency that is integral to a new editor’s effort to expand a journal’s reach and increase the quality of work it publishes.
Dr. Auerbach intends to do both, continuing JHM’s growth and solidifying it as the go-to resource for hospitalists. “It is an incredibly good platform for hospitalists to publish their work,” he adds. “I want people to look back at the journal in five years and say it’s even better than it is now.”
As Dr. Auerbach prepares to take over as editor-in-chief, he is focusing his efforts on how to best build on the success the journal has enjoyed since its 2006 launch.
“JHM’s core values are to reflect the field of hospital medicine broadly, to provide a venue where the field’s current scholarly work can be published, and to provide a point of reference for where future scholarly work might be directed and published,” he says. “JHM has been very successful at the first two. I think there is an opportunity to be somewhat more strategic in providing the reference point for future research directions, largely through the input of the editorial team and by paying close attention to JHM readers.”
The Right Choice
An eight-person committee embarked on a five-month search to identify the ideal candidate to replace JHM ’s founding editor-in-chief, Mark Williams, MD, FACP, FHM. The intense process reflected the search committee’s goal that the new editor strengthen the journal and the society it represents, says committee member Harold C. Sox, MD, MACP, a noted internist and author who served as editor of Annals of Internal Medicine from 2001 to 2009.
“A journal published by a professional organization is far and away the most visible manifestation of the organization and its values and ambitions,” Dr. Sox says. “The appointment was anything but pro forma. It had to be the right choice.”
Committee members wanted to select a physician who had a strong scientific background, the judgment required to be a leader, and a desire to better position the journal as a source for first-rate articles in the competitive landscape of medical publishing, Dr. Sox says. They also searched for a candidate who had considerable experience writing for publication.
Dr. Auerbach, who served as deputy editor of the Journal of General Internal Medicine from 2004 to 2007 and as a JHM reviewer, has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Archives of Internal Medicine.
As editor of Annals, Dr. Sox shared responsibility for publishing two of Dr. Auerbach’s articles.
“I know something about how Dr. Auerbach thinks about science and about his own personal scientific standards—wanting to get it right, writing it in a way that people know exactly what happened, and interpreting the results in a way that will stand up over time, rather than trying to read too much into the results,” Dr. Sox says. “We also talked with some of the candidates about their strategy for trying to make the journal better, and I thought he showed himself to be very analytic and strategic in his thinking. I’m confident he’s going to move the journal forward.”
Dr. Auerbach believes his experience as a deputy editor and his mentoring role at UCSF, which requires him to provide constructive feedback on investigators’ papers, has prepared him for his new role.
“I have a good sense for how to approach the review process with the goal of getting a paper to the point where it can be accepted into a journal and, if not, have it leave the review process much better than it was when it arrived,” he says.
His research background also complements his new role, he says.
“Research is a way to take care of patients I never see and to disseminate things that are broadly applicable … that other people can look at and use to improve their healthcare delivery,” he says. “I see the journal as doing many of the same things.”
Strategies for Success
Dr. Auerbach, who has worked closely with Dr. Williams in recent months to ensure a smooth transition, says he does not intend to make substantial changes to the journal’s focus. But he is formulating strategies to make it more valuable and relevant to the hospitalists it serves.
Increasing the journal’s Impact Factor—currently 1.951, ranking it 40th out of 151 publications in its cohort—is one way to increase JHM ’s value, making it a destination for the highest-quality research, Dr. Auerbach says.
He also intends to solicit as many scholarly works as possible, employing “a marketing strategy and recruitment strategy all in one” to make sure JHM is on researchers’ short list of publications in which they consider submitting their work.
—Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, professor, associate chair, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, chief, division of hospital medicine, chief, medical service, UCSF Medical Center, former SHM president
He wants to take advantage of the growing number of hospitalists who are doing research and expand the journal’s reach beyond its traditional peer groups. “Are there intensive-care doctors, pulmonologists, cardiologists, or infectious-disease doctors who are doing work with hospitalists—or work that would align with hospital medicine—that could be published in JHM?” Dr. Auerbach asks, rhetorically.
He intends to empower members of his editorial team to serve as JHM ambassadors who promote the journal at professional meetings and encourage investigators who are pursuing interesting projects to submit their findings.
Dr. Auerbach expects to devise other content strategies in consultation with members of his editorial team. Certain aspects of content, such as case reports and scholarly reviews of conundrums in HM cases, could be enhanced, he says. Specific sections of the journal could be developed for effectiveness research or implementation research.
He also says he wants the journal to explore new content areas so that it appeals to readers who aren’t interested in randomized controlled trials.
He hopes to put the journal in the position to publish work supported by such new initiatives as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.
That might mean providing editorials or inviting papers that outline the importance of hospitalists’ involvement in those initiatives, then making sure the journal is opportunistic in reviewing and publishing high-quality work, he explains.
Bold New Direction
The JHM team, which partners SHM leaders and the journal’s publisher, Wiley-Blackwell Inc., is revisiting the journal’s press relations and editorial strategy (Wiley-Blackwell also publishes The Hospitalist). Discussions also are under way about whether to increase the journal’s publishing frequency, as well as how the journal can increase its digital footprint and take advantage of social media outlets to increase the usability and visibility of its offerings, Dr. Auerbach says.
“One side effect of JHM ’s growth has been growing constraints on space to publish excellent work,” he says. “Our team will focus a great deal on strategies to increase JHM ’s ability to review and publish the many outstanding papers submitted each year.”
Dr. Williams characterizes Dr. Auerbach’s appointment as “a software upgrade to JHM 2.0.”
Dr. Auerbach’s connection to the top-ranked division of hospital medicine in the country provides instant credibility to the journal, and his diverse contacts should help his efforts to solicit an increasing volume of high-quality submissions, Dr. Williams says.
His appointment also can reinvigorate members of the editorial team, motivating them to step out of their comfort zone and embrace the challenge of adapting to the rapidly changing world of hospital medicine.
“He’ll bring renewed enthusiasm,” says Dr. Williams, a former SHM president who is a professor and chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “I firmly believe that’s essential for any growing enterprise. You need an infusion of new energy and fresh thinking.”
With Dr. Auerbach at the helm, JHM is well-positioned to attract well-done, systematic reviews while appealing to authors who are writing about such relevant topics as change management, collaboration, models of care, and transitional care, says deputy editor Brian Harte, MD, SFHM, chief operating officer of Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, and chairman of hospital medicine at The Cleveland Clinic.
“I hope people say under Dr. Auerbach’s tenure we continued to innovate and do things as an editorial group that other journals hadn’t thought of doing, were not nimble enough to do, or were not creative enough to do,” Dr. Harte says. “And that it was an incubator of novel and innovative and, ultimately, very effective ideas that took the journal into strategic directions that other journals weren’t bold enough to go in.”
Dr. Auerbach is more than capable of steering JHM in those new directions, according to his mentor, Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, professor and associate chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, and chief of the division of hospital medicine and chief of medical service at UCSF Medical Center, former SHM president, and author of the blog Wachter’s World (www.wachtersworld.com).
Dr. Auerbach is a broad thinker who is capable of recognizing what issues are important to his field before they become obvious to others, a trait that will help him to use the journal to help chart the course for HM, Dr. Wachter says.
He also has the perfect personality for the job. “He is the most doggedly persistent person I’ve ever met,” Dr. Wachter says. “I’ve seen him go through setbacks that would have caused lesser mortals to give up their ideas.…He’s like a prizefighter. He sits in the corner for a little bit, has someone dab the wounds, and then comes back out again for the next round and swings a little bit harder.
“I’ve learned never to underestimate him. It’s an amazing characteristic, and it’s one that is very useful doing something like running a journal.”
Mark Leiser is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.