During my final year as a medical student at ZMU, I was editor of the \'Student\'s Corner\' of the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association. Between March and December 2005, I was responsible for editing articles and manuscripts from around the country and selecting the articles most suitable for publishing. Executing my responsibilities as an editor to improve the quality of the work published was a daunting yet exciting endeavor.
How I got involved in JPMA?
Towards the end of 2001, the potential for an \'Anthrax\' pandemic became a key issue in the global medical community. New words like \'bioterrorism\' and \'emergency preparedness\' were drawing public interest. Unfortunately, the only information readily available on this topic was the news, CDC website, WHO website and the internet. Many of our frontline doctors and our medical board had no guideline or protocol established for a potential emergency situation. Feeling the lack of awareness in the medical community, I decided to conduct extensive research on this topic. Through this I hoped to encourage aspiring doctors like myself to question and reflect how these new diseases and medical threats would impact our practice and readiness to cope with unforeseen circumstances.
These ideas produced two review articles. One was published in the DAWN Newspaper and one in the Student\'s Corner of JPMA. My research commenced in my second year and by the time it was published I was near completion of my third year of medical school.
Henceforth, I was invited by my senior colleague, who was the editor of the Student\'s corner at that time to attend weekly Friday meetings of the journal club where students from different medical colleges would get together and discuss submitted manuscripts while working on their own research papers as well.
Due to my commitment and contribution to this club, I was appointed as editor of the Student\'s Corner.
At JPMA, under the tremendous guidance of Dr. Fatema Jawad and teachers like Dr. Amir Omair and Dr. Qudsia Anjum I learned how to edit manuscripts, cross-check references, recognize plagiarism and correspond with authors and editors of the editorial board regarding manuscript revisions. While it was a demanding task to attend meetings with the editorial board every Friday while managing my final year academic load and clinical clerkship curriculum. I was fortunate to have received the support of my mentors and colleagues during this time.
I would like to share my experience gained at JPMA in the form of things that I learnt about research papers, scientific scrutiny and the art of medical writing.
I believe that opportunities to publish only go to those students who are truly \'self-starters\'. It is upon the student to find the chance to write, participate in research, come across a syndrome, case, controversial therapy or a debatable ethical issue and perceive it as worth writing on and turn it into a compelling piece for the reader.
During the course of medical studies, students get opportunities to publish in formal basic research or clinical research which takes the shape of one of the following: a case report of a classic case, a case report of an interesting case, a case series or a review article.
Learning how to write medical papers starts from reading medical papers. Read articles in your targeted journal. Establish a habit to get a feel for the format, sentence structure and word usage. Move onto articles written in other international medical journals. If possible, review articles written in specialty-specific journals. This type of reading will provide you with the foundation for your medical writing.
There are certain things all editors look for in a quality paper. For instance, if submitting a case report, establish what makes your case unique and compelling to the readers? Think about what is the purpose behind publishing this case? It may be a fascinating syndrome but if there is no noteworthy point to make then is there any need to publish the article? Critically evaluate how your case differs from the last reported similar case 20 years ago? Does this case demonstrate a new association? Did the patient respond to new therapeutic measures? Did you note an interesting and consistent clinical finding that may serve as due to the diagnosis? Your paper should ultimately describe an interesting case and summarize the literature to date, so that your audience is left educated in all aspects of the condition. Learning the appropriate focus and level of detail in a report is a skill that can take years to develop.
However, participation in a research project should be for the right reasons; it can help you become a better doctor.
My volunteer work at JPMA was intellectually satisfying and I envision that it will lead me to a career with a heavy emphasis in research. It has given me the foundation to practice evidence-based medicine. Since research is the foundation of evidence-based medicine, exposure to research and scientific methods have strengthened my critical thinking skills. As a result, I am in a better position to critically analyze and interpret scientific advances and then translate those findings into improved patient care.
Finally, I would like to thank my mentors, senior colleagues, fellow batch-mates and family for their encouragement and support. Life is a learning curve and my experience with JPMA has a special ascent in my graph. Thank you!