Inside AFP

AFP Over 20 Years



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Am Fam Physician. 2004 Dec 15;70(12):2251.

In the previous issue of AFP, I referred to my 20th anniversary of employment at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), occurring in December. Somewhat sheepishly, though, I’ve realized that I’ve been writing this page for seven years without properly introducing myself. So, more than 160 columns after I assumed the pen for the publisher’s page, let me tell you who I am—I’m the managing editor of American Family Physician and the successor to others who have written this page, including Mac Cahill, Walter Kemp, and Clayton Raker Hasser, previous publishers; and Sharon Scott Morey, previous managing editor.

Like many of the other professional editing staff here, my background is primarily in English, and I have learned about the field of family medicine along the way. However, while I was growing up, I thought publications such as American Chemical Society journal, Pharmacy Times, and Pediatrics were typical reading for families, as my father was a research chemist, my mother a pharmacist, and my brother a pediatrician. While I was in grade school, my mother occasionally took me out of school to volunteer at the hospital pharmacy where she worked, and the Sisters who ran the pharmacy had me doing tasks such as filling boxes of Valium, separating invoices, counting IV bottles, and, for fun, pronouncing names of drugs in the stockroom. It was there that I gained an appreciation for the humanity of healing as a profession. One of my high-school writing projects included exploration of my brother’s anatomy class cadaver, and that’s when I first chanced to write about medicine. So influenced as a child it’s little wonder my path led to the doors of the AAFP.

Before becoming managing editor, I held the positions of senior editor and manuscript editor at AFP, and earlier I worked for the Home-Study Self-Assessment program. When I first began working on the Home-Study program, the editor, James Price, M.D., was on staff at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KU), Kansas City. I made occasional trips to KU to pick up manuscripts and go to the library to verify accuracy of references in manuscripts using Index Medicus, whose volumes used to fit across the top of a single counter. If authors supplied grossly inaccurate information in their references, I searched the journal archives in the library basement. Some of my time was also spent verifying drug information in the Physician’s Desk Reference, which was a mere shadow of today’s book. The tools of my trade included an electric typewriter without a correction key, so typing jobs had to be done letter perfect.

When I became a manuscript editor for AFP, John C. Rose, M.D., was the medical editor, the staff comprised six medical editors and six professional staff editors, and AFP was published 12 times per year. The first manuscript I edited was one of the earliest articles in the “Radiographic Highlights” series. Editing was done in pencil, hard copy was supplied to a typesetter, and galleys arrived containing many errors that were incurred during hand typesetting. Final type was printed on slick paper that was passed through wax machines, pasted onto art boards, and dressed with many layers of acetate sheets with the hand-cut screens required for color separations. Text was painstakingly proofread using transparent tissue reproductions of galleys laid over the art boards.

After Jay Siwek, M.D., became editor in the mid-80s, the journal commenced a revolutionary growth period, increasing incrementally to 24 issues from 1993 to 2000. Within the past decade, AFP entered the electronic publishing age and began reaching into CD-ROM and Web formats. The publication evolved into a referenced journal with an increasingly academic approach to making sense of the rapidly expanding medical literature. Now AFP staff comprises 13 medical editors and 13 professional staff editors. The journal is almost totally produced electronically, from the authors’ electronic documents to computer-to-plate printing.

Twenty years of change in AFP have reflected evolution of the specialty of family medicine, development of analytical tools in response to the medical information explosion, revolutionary advances in publishing processes, and the comings and goings of many people whose collective passion has involved keeping people healthy—and I’m glad to have been a part of it all.



Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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