A guide to top medical journals

A primer for healthcare journalists

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Charles Ornstein is an award-winning healthcare journalist who recently wrote an article in the Boston Globe about an ongoing controversy regarding a top medical publication.  Yet Ornstein still wonders about the current status of medical journals:

To help answer Mr. Ornstein’s query,  I have asked the editors of top medical journals to submit responses to a simple questionnaire.  Here are their answers.


What would an alternative title to your journal be?  The Journal of Transparent Research

What is your tag line? “Leading the charge against conflicts of interest

What happened at your most recent editorial staff meeting?  We discussed possible strategic partnerships with healthcare journalists to get Freedom-of-Information-Act orders.  Independent observers should be able to get patient-level research data released from the clutches of industry and their puppet scientists and journals.

What else do you read? We’re too busy scrutinizing COI disclosure forms in the NEJM, but when we have time, we read The Guardian.

The New England Journal of Medicine

What would an alternative title to your journal be? There is none.  No alternative title is conceivable.

What is your tag line? “Our impact factor speaks for itself

What happened at your most recent editorial staff meeting?  We discussed overdue changes to the cover design.  We debated what shade of burgundy red and what variant of the Gaillard font will most fittingly reflect the prestige of the publication without traumatizing our faithful readers.

What else do you read?  The New York Times and The Financial Times.  We also receive the Bildeberg Group newsletter.  On occasion, when we are the subject of virulent attacks by envious commoners, we find comfort in reading old issues of the journal dating back to the war of 1812.


What would an alternative title to your journal be? The Journal of Medical Controversies

What is your tag line? “If you don’t like it, we’ll retract it!

What happened at your most recent editorial staff meeting? We celebrated 18 years since the publication of the Wakefield paper.  Frankly, we thought we were toast after that debacle but, as it turns out, the Wakefield paper is so cited that it accounts for nearly fifty percent of our impact factor!  Since then, we decided to make medical controversies our focus.  At the last meeting, we debated whether the standard statement that accompanies our retractions should read that “we deeply, deeply regret” or ” we deeply, deeply, deeply regret” publishing garbage material.

What else do you read? We’re very eclectic.  We read Mother Jones but also listen to Alex Jones.


What would an alternative title to your journal be?  The Journal of the American Medical Association is the only possible alternative title.  Any other title would be a threat to our existence.

What is your tag line? “We define and redefine professionalism

What happened at your most recent editorial staff meeting? We congratulated ourselves over last year’s special issue on professionalism, which was meant to diffuse the threat coming from the MOC discontent.  But the event was ruined when someone wondered out-loud how long the AMA will continue to enjoy its government-granted privilege to speak on behalf of all physicians, given that less than fifteen percent of doctors belong to the organization.  Fortunately, several members of Congress were present to reassure us our position is secure.

What else do you read? The Hill

JAMA Internal Medicine

What would an alternative title to your journal be? The Journal of Less is More

What is your tag line? “Roses are red, violets are blue.  Screening tests and drugs have no benefit for you.

What happened at your most recent editorial staff meeting? We badly needed a retreat this year!! Healthcare costs are out of control!! They are freaking out of control!! Thankfully we were able to find a ray of hope in the Theranos debacle.  We also discussed ways to remind our readers that people were perfectly happy with their healthcare in the 1950s.  We are working on an adaptation of Disney’s Frozen song “Let it go” to inspire medical audiences to give up on their sentimental attachments to innovations and technologies.

What else do you read? The Journal of Slow Medicine is our favorite publication.

7 thoughts on “A guide to top medical journals

  1. Brilliant and too funny(!) Thank you for a hearty laugh! (I just went back to reread the “responses” and started guffawing again!:)

    This is a first visit to your site, definitely inspired to look around!

    • Thank you, Tania, and do look around (or sign-up for the newsletter. It automatically transmits new articles, and on occasion I give updates on other things going on–but definitely no spamming). Michel

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