Science and art

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 46, No. 9, November 2004, Pages 432-434 Editorials

The BCMJ publishes 10 issues per year and three or four of those are so-called theme issues. We know from readership surveys that a substantial majority of readers appreciate them. We have always tried to maintain a healthy balance between regular issues and theme issues as an integral component of our commitment to CME. Although theme issues take a lot of extra work to get them to the print-on-paper stage, we actually like doing them. The process of identifying a theme that is in need of a current, thorough review is relatively easy, and we often have a list of potential themes a year or more in advance. We also have facilities, groups, and individuals who regularly contact us with a proposal for a theme issue and for the most part we welcome these solicitations. However, this is the easy part; the next step is finding someone who will agree to be the guest editor and commit to doing all of the initial work of finding and hog-tying authors, provide initial review editing, persistently pursue busy clinicians for their revisions, and then send a lot of the papers back for further revisions after the formal review process by the BCMJ Editorial Board. The collection of articles eventually ends up on these pages a year or more later

Surprisingly, there seems to be an inordinate number of masochistic (but in my opinion saintly) clinical scientists out there who continue to agree to do all this work in order to provide you, our readers, with the articulate, intellectually valuable information that we continue to get so much good feedback about.

Approximately 3 years ago, when it became clear that the UBC Medical School was finally going to expand with the blessing and financial support of the provincial government (thank you Barer and Stoddart), I thought a theme issue dedicated to medical education purely from a clinician’s point on the education compass was appropriate, topical, and—given the somewhat shaky relationship between the university and the clinical faculty—necessary. At that point I identified a guest editor who graciously agreed to perform the task, and I discussed with him the basic form we felt the theme should take. We discussed a group of potential authors and he went to work. It is now several years later and we have both become frustrated with what appears to be a disconnect between what we originally conceived and the line-up of papers we now have. It became apparent in the past year after reviewing a number of papers by various authors (including the guest editor’s own editorial) that irrespective of the topic the various authors were asked to write about, they all ended up writing about mentorship.

After several years of baby-sitting this thing we have now come to the realization (I know, neither of us is a quick learner) that in every author’s opinion (including ours) the most important part of every clinicians’ educational process is the quality of the clinical teachers they are exposed to, not the quality of the information technology learning modules.

I will be speaking with the guest editor in the next week or so and the BCMJ will likely publish this theme, but it will be called Mentorship, not Medical Education. It is crystal clear to me at this point that the Medical School should be investing money in high-quality clinical teachers who are recognized mentors and who can train others how to emulate them before deciding on what color paint to put on the walls in the lecture halls. I know this sounds like a plug for the University Clinical Faculty Association, but guess what? It is.


James A. Wilson, MD. Science and art. BCMJ, Vol. 46, No. 9, November, 2004, Page(s) 432-434 - Editorials.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

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