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Scholarly Publishing in Early CareerLinda Werling, Ph.D. who currently teaches in GW’s MD and PA curricula, has a distinguished record writing scientific articles and advising students who are writing up their own work for publication.

Linda WerlingDr. Werling is the author of 61 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals.  She has also authored 10 invited chapter and reviews, as well as 75 abstracts for presentations at national and international meetings.  She has served as a reviewer for 13 journals, and was on the editorial board of Synapse for 13 years.

Dr. Werling taught scientific writing for 10 years to graduate students at GWU.  She encouraged her own PhD students to publish their work, resulting in solid predoctoral publication records for all of them.  She has served on many PhD dissertation committees, and enjoyed assisting them in preparing clear and concise accounts of their research projects.

Given her impressive background as both an author and as a mentor, we asked her what advice she would give to young researchers as they think about publishing their own work.

Here’s what she had to say:

1.  Choose the right journal for submission

    • Make sure your work fits with the type of article the journal publishes.  What kind of journal do you and your labmates read?  You want your work to have the best exposure to the right audience.
    • Choose a high quality journal, and have backup journals in mind in case your paper is not accepted by your first choice.

 

2.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Make sure you organize and format your submission in strict compliance with journal specifications.  Journals receive a lot of submissions.  There is no reason to have your work rejected because you did not carefully follow guidelines.
  • Provide figures as specified by the guide to authors.
  • Be sure to organize your reference list according to journal specifications.  There are lots of programs that can store all your references and tailor their format for you for various journals’ requirements.
  • Construct a cover letter that tells why you believe your work is suitable for that particular journal, and (very briefly) what your major findings are.

 

3.  Tell a story

  • Give sufficient background for the reader to understand why you did the work. This usually goes into the section called Introduction.
  • Make figures and illustrations you plan to include, and lay them out in order
  • Use the figures as a roadmap to describe what you found.  In this way, the results section of the paper can almost write itself.
  • Use the Discussion to place your findings in the broader context of the field.  Do not use this section to simply reiterate your results; explain what they mean in advancing knowledge in the area of research.
  • Cite original sources for literature referenced.  Do not assume that the authors of a paper you have read have cited the source work correctly.

 

4.  Proofread for content, spelling, grammar and syntax

  • Also ask your colleagues to read the paper.  It is advisable to choose readers both directly involved in your field, as well as scientists who are in a different field.  What may seem very clear to you or your advisor may not be as clear to another researcher.  Considering the critiques of others will ensure your work can be understood by a more general scientific audience
  • Have a thick skin.  If you ask for critiques, understand that your colleagues are doing you a favor.  (You can return the favor by reading their drafts.)

 

5.  When you receive an editorial decision, revise accordingly

  • Again, have a thick skin.  Your response should not be argumentative.  This rarely will be received favorably by the reviewers or the editor.  Thank the reviewers for their helpful comments, even when you may not feel they were all that helpful. You may need to rewrite to be more clear, or you may need to do additional experiments.  If you disagree with the reviewers’ advice, you may certainly rebut, but go gently.
  • If you cannot meet the reviewers’ expectations, or your submission is rejected outright, revise for submission to another journal.  Don’t give up.  Writing and publishing is a learning experience.

 

During the first two weeks of August, librarian instructors gathered data to learn what fuels the class of 2024. In a thoroughly unscientific and unsystematic poll, we asked our first-year medical students about their favorite non-alcoholic beverage preferences. This was not intended to be a formal data-gathering exercise. Rather, we hoped to use it as an icebreaker, a way to get to know each other as the library orientation was moved online. 

 

While the most popular response appears to be coffee, iced coffee, and espresso drinks, aligning perhaps with the stereotype of medical students, I ask you to pause and ask how the question was framed - perhaps we librarian instructors influenced responses by how we asked the question or by offering our own preferences.

Any time there is data, there is room to question. How was the data collected and who collected it? How is it presented and how might we visualize it?

Librarian instructors collected the data via email or Google Forms. Each librarian sent individual emails to students in their small groups and might have presented the question differently, according to their individual personalities. Some librarians offered set response options whereas others allowed free text. Data points were grouped into categories for ease of analysis and presentation. 

126 students answered the question, providing a range of responses. As noted, responses were grouped into larger categories for analysis. The librarian responsible for data analysis (this post’s author) acknowledges others may have grouped the responses differently. Personally, I enjoy seltzer and sparkling water and maintain that as a separate category. Another analyst may group these with soda. Consider: When life gives you lemonade, do you group it with fruit juices?

We are excited to work with the class of 2024 and wish them the best throughout their careers here at GW and beyond. 

Cheers! 

Yes, Chef Comfort Me with Apples The Perfect PieI loved wandering the shelves of my library growing up, looking for titles that caught my eye. All lined up, the books had their own poetry, the occasional pair, trio, or quartet of titles that seemed perfect next to one another (and not just because of the order enforced by the Dewey Decimal System).

We may not be able to wander the library shelves right now, but we do have the opportunity to make poetry.

Stack some books from your collection, snap a photo, and share an image on Instagram. Be sure to tag @himmelfarbgw and #gwspinepoetry for your chance to win a $25 gift card to Politics and Prose. Images must be posted between June 1 and June 30, 2020, to be considered eligible. Only GWU SMHS, SON, and SPH affiliates are eligible to win. Entries will be evaluated for originality and creativity. Winner will be announced July 7, 2020.

 

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Librarian Reserve Corps

Stacy Brody is a Master of Information. Literally. That’s what it says on her degree from Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, at least. And she is using her skills to contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 infodemic.

 

Stacy was warmly welcomed to the Himmelfarb Library team three months ago. Like many of you, she isn’t sure whether those are short or long months - her perception of time seems to have been affected by the pandemic.

As a member of the Himmelfarb team, she supports the work of clinicians and researchers by conducting literature searches, compiling resources for the weekly Intelligence Reports, and maintaining the COVID-19 Research Guide.

Keeping up-to-date with, and searching for, COVID-19 literature requires some creativity. The research is coming out in torrents. New publications are posted on preprint servers and publisher websites, then picked up on Twitter and by the news media before the research community has had the opportunity to evaluate them. The quality of research described in scholarly articles is variable. Original research is showing up in Commentaries and Editorials for rapid dissemination. The delay between publication and appearance on PubMed and other databases is becoming more apparent and more critical.  The norms of scholarly communication and publishing are being challenged in a big way.

Finding and evaluating the evidence to support evidence-based medicine is more difficult when it comes to COVID.

Which is why, when Stacy saw the call on the Medical Library Association’s listserv to support the global response by indexing COVID-19 research publications, she signed up. She hoped that, by applying topic tags to articles, she, in her small way, could make the evidence more findable and usable to the global audience of responders, clinicians, and researchers.

As she hit the Reply button, she didn’t know that she would become co-lead of the Librarian Reserve Corps. She hadn’t yet met her Librarian Reserve Corps co-lead Sara Loree, a medical librarian at St. Luke’s Health System in Idaho, or the visionary Librarian Reserve Corps founder Elaine Hicks, Research, Education and Public Health Librarian at Tulane University. Hicks, reflecting on her own professional experience in public health and emergency preparedness, recognized that the need of Tulane University epidemiologist and GOARN (Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network)-Research lead Dr. Lina Moses, was one no librarian could meet alone. Members of GOARN, a WHO network of 250-plus agencies, institutes, and universities organized to respond to outbreaks, need the literature to support evidence-based public health response efforts. As described above, that evidence is hard to find in an infodemic. For evidence-finding at a global scale, you need an international army of librarians. Hicks, seeing this and dreaming of just such an army, put out a call to the Medical Library Association listserv. The newly formed Librarian Reserve Corps, modeled after the Medical Reserve Corps, supports evidence-based response efforts by providing resources for evidence-based public health.

The initial efforts to tag articles quickly grew - not only because the number of COVID-19 research articles has grown but also because we have learned more about the skills and expertise of our volunteers and the needs of GOARN-Research! Librarian Reserve Corps volunteers continue to index articles on a daily basis and have since expanded their services. Volunteers now conduct literature searches and monitor the media. They work to connect groups working on systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Librarians have the skills needed to fight the infodemic and help our public health and medical professionals fight the pandemic.

Stacy recognizes that many of the Librarian Reserve Corps’s volunteers contribute to the infodemic-pandemic response at this global level and at the local level. They provide search support for clinicians and researchers. They help students and faculty access the library resources they need to continue their work virtually. They help professors transition to online instruction. As librarians, Stacy acknowledges, we are often in behind-the-scenes roles. She is honored to be part of this amazing, talented, dedicated team of volunteers making librarians famous.

Impact of Climate Change on Human HealthI recently finished grading presentations by our first-year medical students in their Clinical Integration Sessions. As you might assume any good librarian might do, I reviewed their references and made sure they correctly formatted their lists. I also looked for other skills built into their curriculum, skills like interactivity and timing.

One of the first skills they learn in CIS, and one that is reinforced in each round of student presentations, is their introduction. As presenters, they need to tell me - their audience - who they are, what they’re talking about, and why I need to listen up.

The “why I need to listen up” piece is critical. It’s how they get my attention and keep it, for the whole five minutes they are presenting.

Neelu TummalaIf they need inspiration on how to do this effectively, they might look to Dr. Neelu Tummala, a clinical physician with GWU’s MFA and a member of the inaugural cohort of Public Voices Fellowship on the Climate Crisis at the Yale Program on Climate Communication. Her class includes political activists, researchers, and consultants. Many of her classmates describe an interest in advancing human health, however, she is the only doctor in the group.

When I asked about the connection she sees between her work in medicine and climate change, Dr. Tummala told me that her medical lens helps her communicate to broader audiences about climate change. “No one,” she says, “is immune from the health effects of climate change.” By relating a grand problem to personal experience, she can hook in an audience that might otherwise not have “listened up”.

Several of my CIS students have started their presentations with case studies. They’ve shown radiographic images, told stories, and introduced scenarios. Dr. Tummala often does the same thing when presenting information - she provides examples of patients seen in Emergency Rooms and clinics, patients who have been affected by climate change and other environmental issues. This concretization of the abstract, this story-telling, captures our interest.

And it is not only the story-telling that is important. It is the basic science behind these stories, the mechanistic reasoning and research that explains why climate change impacts our health. Dr. Tummala keeps up with the latest literature in NEJM and The Lancet and stays abreast of environmental reporting with The Guardian. By following conversations in both scientific research and the news media, Dr. Tummala is able to evaluate sweeping claims and participate in the conversation.

A year-and-a-half in to the GWU community, Dr. Tummala is engaging in these important conversations at the local level. Though she acknowledges it was initially a slow process, she has now found other colleagues interested in addressing climate and health, through whom she has engaged in clinical research and teaching, including Dr. Hana Akselrod, Assistant Professor of Medicine, GW SMHS and Dr. Rachel Harold, Infectious Disease Fellow, GW SMHS.  In addition, she is also planning on working with collaborators across traditional disciplinary boundaries including Dr. Susan Anenberg, Associate Professor, GWSPH. Their grant proposal, “Advancing GW Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration in Climate Change and Public Health Research”, written by Drs. Anenberg and Akselrod, was recently awarded monies from the GWU Cross-Disciplinary Research Fund.

And what is one of the keys to getting a grant? Writing a good proposal, which should tell your potential funders who you are, what you’re going to research, and why they need to listen up.

Interested in Learning more about Climate Change and Medicine? Check out these resources

Staying at home for a month sounds easy. But in real life, it is a very hard thing to do.
By Weimankow, 6 April 2020

As Dr. James Griffiths noted in his recent Grand Rounds presentation, trauma shifts how the brain processes information, and we lose our capacities to reflect and to relate and to maintain our sense of identity. When faced with the fear and uncertainty of a medical illness - or a global pandemic - we lose our ability to concentrate. We cannot sit still to read the books we once loved. We pick up our pens and put them down again. Each time we try to explain what we are going through, it seems like we aren’t being clear enough, like there is no language adequate to encapsulate our experiences. Patients, family members, health care providers, we are, each of us and in our own ways, experiencing these strange times. Providers on the front lines - to whom we extend our sincere gratitude - may not be able to separate themselves from their work. Others of us, working from home for over a month now, may have established a schedule, but we still cannot bring ourselves to concentrate on the novel on our bedside table.

In our virtual meetings and phone calls, there is a tacit understanding that these are not normal times. Where do we start the conversations we need, and do not necessarily want, to have? How can we express ourselves and find the connections necessary to cope?

 

Graphic medicine comic creators often grapple with these and other questions. How does one illustrate both the events and the emotions of coping with the pain, fear, and hope that accompany medical crises?
Because so much about what's going to happen next is uncertain, everyone will be caught in a whirlwind of emotions
By Weimankow, 6 April 2020

The New England Graphic Medicine conference was among the many that moved online this spring. The organizers added a COVID-19 comics panel discussion to the agenda. In this discussion, presenter Alice Jaggers described how the comics appearing - online, on social media channels, and via other platforms - provide a sampling of how graphic medicine is used [see: https://www.graphicmedicine.org/covid-19-comics/].  While no comic fits neatly into a single category, they can be generally divided by a main tone or aim. Some provide educational information about diseases and treatment or various medical conditions and can thereby improve health literacy. They can provide historical information or context. Others address difficult ethical questions such as triage or end-of life care. Patients and providers alike draw comics as an outlet for expression, taking the time to reflect and cope during difficult times. These comics can be heartwarming and hopeful, or they can achieve the ironic synergy of humor and sadness unique to the comic medium.

I am not surprised that I find myself turning to COVID-19 comics. Comics “provide companionship through shared experience” (Williams, 2012). When we are socially distancing, physically isolated, reading a comic strip that encapsulates the quarantine experience can make us laugh, make us cry, and remind us that we are not alone (Myers & Goldenberg, 2018).

 

Let's remember to wash our hands frequently and thoroughly, so we can stay safe from virus infections together!
By Weimankow

Even when we cannot focus, especially when we cannot or do not want to focus, this rich medium, with all its layers, accomplishes through the synergy of drawing, words, and dialogue, that feat of connecting us. The space between the comic panes allows us to pause and process as we encounter traumatic events and difficult emotions on the page or screen (Williams, 2012).

Graphic medicine has been accepted and embraced by long-standing institutions and publishers. The Annals Graphic Medicine Channel includes comic strips that bring to the surface struggles healthcare professionals face. In comic format, these stories are human, relatable, and non-threatening. Since 2016, JAMA has issued an annual “Best Of” list for graphic medicine. (remember to access JAMA via the Himmelfarb Library’s website; check out their medical humanities section for articles about graphic medicine and more).

A search for “Graphic medicine” in PubMed returns 155 results, with most appearing within the last 5 years. Recognizing the growth in this area, two MeSH terms were added: in 2016, Graphic Novel as a publication type was introduced and, in 2018, “Graphic Novels as Topic” with the entry term “Graphic Medicine as Topic” was added. This is defined as “Works about book-length narratives told using a combination of words and sequential art, often presented in comic book style.” Graphic medicine is a diverse and growing field, with, as described, a broadly inclusive definition. Graphic medicine is at the intersection of the already blurry spheres of health and medicine and comic style. Graphic medicine can come in the form of an Instagram post or a strip on the Annals Graphic Medicine channel or a 200-page graphic novel. The topics range from anxiety to spanish flu (both pertinent to these times). The perspective may be that of the patient or provider or the family members and friends of those affected.

The National Library of Medicine collects graphic medicine materials for several reasons, including to “record progress in [medical] research, especially from the perspective of the patient patient”, contribute to medical education, describe “policies that affect the delivery of health services” in a straightforward manner, and depict “the public’s perception of medical practice” (Tuohy & Eannarino, 2018) As they go on to state, the perspectives and stories found in graphic medicine are unique from those found in technical and research literature.

According to Dr. Griffiths, to be resilient, we must step into adversity. We can use graphic medicine to reflect, cope, and connect and to ultimately help us step into adversity.

References:

Myers, K. R., & Goldenberg, M. D. F. (2018). Graphic Pathographies and the Ethical Practice of Person-Centered Medicine. AMA Journal of Ethics, 20(2), 158–166. https://doi.org/10.1001/journalofethics.2018.20.2.medu2-1802.

Tuohy, P., & Eannarino, J. (2018). Reading graphic medicine at the National Library of Medicine. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 106(3), 387–390. https://doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2018.449

Williams, I. C. M. (2012). Graphic medicine: comics as medical narrative. Medical Humanities, 38(1), 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1136/medhum-2011-010093

"All comics in the infocomic series about COVID19 are free to use for educational purposes with credit. If you would like to support me through donations, it would be greatly appreciated."

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