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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(2):211

Lara Johnson, M.D., and Laurie MacDonald Crain, M.D., have served as the John C. Rose medical editing fellows for AFP since last July. This fellowship is a unique opportunity to experience a wide range of responsibilities related to medical editing in addition to teaching medical students, precepting family medicine residents, and providing clinical care. They worked with the AFP medical editors based at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C., under the direction of Jay Siwek, M.D., editor of AFP and professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown. As they neared the end of their one-year fellowship, they shared some thoughts on the experience.

A Year Filled with Valuable Experiences

The fellowship gave the physicians an opportunity to learn more about medical publishing and teaching. During weekly meetings with Dr. Siwek, they reviewed topic proposals and questions about manuscripts, algorithms, figures, and editorials. They also enjoyed brainstorming cover art ideas. There were a few surprises along the way. Dr. Crain said she was surprised at the length of the editing process, particularly for articles. Dr. Johnson was pleased that her opinion was valued. If she suggested an editorial on a particular topic, she was given the go-ahead to find an author. Both physicians said they learned how to use many resources to find answers to questions quickly.

The faculty development portion of the fellowship was demanding and rewarding. Portions were very structured, such as teaching case-based learning to third-year medical students, whereas other courses allowed for more creativity. Dr. Johnson taught a small group course to first-year medical students on caring for the terminally ill. “Organizing the curriculum kept me up late many nights,” she said, “but when one of my students told me that skills he picked up in the class would help him be a better physician, it all seemed worthwhile.” Both said they were nervous about teaching their first classes, but ended up thoroughly enjoying the experience.

The fellowship also includes opportunities to provide clinical care. Dr. Johnson treated patients at a community health center that provides care to underserved areas of Washington, D.C. Dr. Crain saw patients of all ages at a medical office in Arlington, Va.

Preparing for the Future

Both agree that serving as medical editing fellows for AFP has helped prepare them for their futures as family physicians. Dr. Crain said, “The fellowship has made me realize how important it is to stay up to date on guidelines and recommendations. Medicine is in constant evolution, and staying on top of developments can be daunting but is imperative.” According to Dr. Johnson, “I feel that I am better able to critically evaluate medical literature and that I have improved my ability to find answers to clinical questions. I also feel more comfortable instructing students and residents.” Both credit Dr. Siwek and the other medical editors and staff members at Georgetown for making this such a valuable experience.

As they move forward with their careers, Dr. Johnson will be working for the Baltimore VA Medical Center, which is affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical Center. She will see patients and teach medical students and residents. She also hopes to work with AFP occasionally. Dr. Crain will see patients at Kaiser Permanente in Kensington, Md. She’s also looking forward to spending more time with her infant daughter.

A Message to Future Fellows

Dr. Johnson said she would encourage others to apply for this fellowship because it’s a “fun way to learn about how a medical journal is produced.” She said, “The fellowship sharpens one’s teaching skills and offers excellent networking opportunities. You get to experience what it is like to be a member of the faculty in a great family medicine department.” Dr. Crain concurred, saying, “If you want to continue to learn medicine and want to get your feet wet teaching, it’s a great year.”

For more information on the medical editing fellowship, visit To download a brochure, go to

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