Editorials

Celebrating the Past; Looking Forward to the Future

Am Fam Physician. 2010 Apr 1;81(7):842-843.

Most anniversary commentaries look back, noting where we have been, the changes made, and the milestones reached along the way. That was certainly the focus of the last two anniversary editorials I wrote, celebrating American Family Physician's 40th and 50th years of publication.1,2 See “Inside AFP” in this issue (page 816) for more information on AFP's milestones of the past.

Now, let's take a look ahead at the next 10 years. What will the AFP of the future look like? That can be tricky, I know. Twenty years ago, it was hard to imagine how computers and the Internet would change the way we publish this journal, taking us from pen-and-paper editing and mailing paper copies of manuscripts back and forth, to electronic editing and e-mailing manuscripts. And 10 years ago, it was hard to imagine how Google and Facebook would change how people receive and share information.

With that caveat in mind, let's imagine some of the short- and long-term changes ahead for AFP. In the short term, we will see new ways of displaying and conveying AFP's clinical information online. More than 10 years' worth of content will be assembled in key topic collections, called “ AFP by Topic: Editor's choice of best current content.” The collections will include relevant articles, practice guidelines, point-of-care guides, patient handouts, evidence summaries, and related content from other sections of the journal. It will be easy to find related content when answering clinical questions, keeping up with certain fields, or studying for the Board exams. Our search feature will do a better job of selecting and displaying content, allowing readers to hone their search and organize how the results appear. Though most readers currently experience AFP via the print version, in the future I anticipate that more will do so online or via handheld devices, especially when answering clinical questions.

We will soon enter the “social networking” phase of AFP, and develop our Facebook, Twitter, and other interactive communication tools and postings from readers. Stay tuned for further announcements as we get ready to launch. We are considering developing podcasts of selected content that you can take “on the road,” or have broadcast to your handheld device. And we may develop a YouTube library of videos depicting common procedures in family medicine.

We will further enhance the curriculum of topics we cover, and develop additional resources for authors and reviewers so that what they do continually improves what readers ultimately see. AFP will be an essential resource for lifelong learning among family physicians. Strategies for achieving this goal include continuing to partner with key medical organizations, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other sources of high quality clinical information. It also will involve further collaboration with the family medicine community of residency programs and medical school departments.

In the long-term, AFP will join forces with the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP's) effort to make electronic health records an essential resource and tool for patient care. We hope to emulate Microsoft's vision of “A computer on every desk…” with a vision of “AFP Online on every family physician's computer.” I see AFP as a core component of an online family medicine community for learning and practice, and as a contributor to teaching, research, health policy, and practice management. Ten years from now, I hope that vision is as fulfilled as computers and the Internet are today.

And now that AFP and I are both 60, I can't help but look back, in appreciation of all those who have brought AFP to where it is today. As outlined in a short genealogy of AFP,3 Mac Cahal was AAFP's first executive director and founding publisher of GP (AFP's predecessor). It was Mac who came up with our journal's current name, which he said contained “two of the warmest words in the English language—‘family’ and ‘physician.’” We couldn't agree more. And it was John C. Rose, MD, my predecessor and mentor, who served as editor for 27 years and carried AFP through three decades of growth and continued success.

Lastly, the reason I'm a family physician and writing this at all is my Dad, a family physician who practiced longer than this journal has been around—more than 60 years, retiring at age 88 only after a heart attack four years ago. It's partly with him in mind, and all the GPs of the past and the FPs of today, that my fellow editors and I strive to put together a publication worthy of them and the noble work they do. In many ways, this journal reminds me of Dad, a great American Family Physician.

editor's note: Dr. Siwek is editor of American Family Physician.

 

REFERENCES

1. Siwek J. Forty years of AFP [Editorial]. Am Fam Physician. 1990;41(4):1136,1138.

2. Siwek J, Siwek SJ. 50 years of American Family Physician [Editorial]. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(7):1974, 1984. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000401/editorials.html. Accessed March 8, 2010.

3. Wright J. A special issue, a special celebration: AFP reaches its 50th anniversary [Inside AFP]. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(7):1951. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000401/inside.html. Accessed March 8, 2010.


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