Radiation Oncology’s Rat Pack

Acclaimed physicians come together in an online ACR Journal Club.ratpack

Journal clubs thrive within the halls of medicine and have done so for centuries. The process of coming together with a critical, evidencebased eye to survey important literature is perfected in medical school and residency and is a familiar educational tool for most practicing physicians.

However, the free ACR Journal Advisor™ for radiation oncologists is not a traditional journal club. Each month, 13 ACR Journal Advisor editors, each focused on a disease site or subspecialty, select articles and use their experience to expand and offer guidance on the given topic in a section of the site known as “Editors’ Choice.”

Journal Advisor subscribers receive monthly emails with these Editors’ Choice article selections and commentaries. Karen J. Marcus, MD, chief of radiation oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, subscribes to see the articles relevant to her practice. “I’m curious what the editor thinks,” she says. “I don’t always fully agree, but the editors do an excellent job, and it’s obvious they put a lot of time and effort into their interpretations.”

But with the expansive literature, how does a Journal Advisor editor choose an article on which to offer commentary? “It’s an art, not a science,” says Abram Recht, MD, Journal Advisor breast editor and deputy chief of radiation oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “Sometimes I select an article that is influential but wrong or poorly analyzed — those are perhaps more important because I think that people are often reluctant to criticize other authors. Vigorous debate should be encouraged.”

If new Journal Advisor Radiation Biophysics Editor Bill J. Salter, PhD, hasn’t yet hotly debated an article’s merits, it may be because he has fewer articles from which to choose. The professor and chief of the division of medical physics at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City says, “As a medical physicist, I’m looking through 30–60 articles each month to find the one that has real impact and relevance for radiation oncologists.”

Salter’s dedication and commitment isn’t unusual. Most of the editors have been contributing since the club’s inception in 1994 under its former name, Cogent Medicine. Brian J. Goldsmith, MD, FACR, from Radiological Associates of Sacramento in Sacramento, Calif., created Cogent Medicine (see sidebar) and instilled in its editors a “one step for man, one giant leap for radiation oncology” mentality.

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“The gratification of knowing you are contributing to the education of the next generation of physicians in your own field is untouchable,” says Pediatric Editor Sarah S. Donaldson, MD, FACR, chief of the radiation oncology service at Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford in Stanford, Calif. After Donaldson came on board in 1994, other renowned physicians quickly followed. “It was an honor to be asked to share my thoughts on the subject matter,” says CNS editor Glenn S. Bauman, MD, professor and chair/chief of the department of oncology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry of Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, who’s been an editor for more than 10 years. 

By Raina Keefer

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