Edmund Pellegrino, MD was one of my shining mentors as a young physician. He was widely recognized as an exemplar of what it means to be a healer. What was less well known, or at least acknowledged, was that he was not particularly “tech savvy.” Pellegrino never used email to communicate and rarely, if ever, bothered with personal computing devices that most of us cannot seem to live without. Tweeting and other social media exchanges would almost certainly have been anathema to him. During his many years at Georgetown University, he relied on his longtime assistant to translate his academic work in bioethics for dissemination in the digital world. Therefore, it seems ironic that he would not have been a reader of the online ethics journal that I cofounded nearly 20 years ago.
This month’s issue marks the official launch of a completely redesigned AMA Journal of Ethics. From an aesthetic standpoint, regular readers will notice a dramatic increase in the use of visual assets. In line with the journal’s editorial mission of “illuminating the art of medicine,” the clean, uncluttered layout provides a canvas where visuals complement insights and guidance proffered in the text of numerous and cross-disciplinary articles. A concerted effort is underway to publish a wider spectrum of “art of medicine” content in response to the Call for Artwork and Conley Art of Medicine contest. Future articles will be authored by curators from and highlight collections of one of the world’s leading art institutions—the Art Institute of Chicago. This exciting partnership with the Art Institute reflects our mutual appreciation of the provocative power of the arts to inform and inspire ethical inquiry and the practice of healing.
The journal design is now more user friendly and functional; navigation is more straightforward and intuitive. Content, whether included as a continuing medical education offering, podcast, or part of the ethics case library, for example, is readily searchable and easily accessible. Educators of medical students or resident physicians are able to filter and download content based on the core competencies established by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education1-3 or by specialty area. Articles are also identified according to a set of core topics (eg, disparities in health and health care/social determinants, end-of-life care/spirituality, patient safety/error disclosure, conflicts of interest/dual role as clinicians and researchers) that are relevant to the substance of a specific article.
Issues of the AMA Journal of Ethics are a blend of manuscripts solicited from experts and those submitted (unsolicited) for peer-review consideration. Each monthly issue focuses on a specific theme selected by the editorial staff among those submitted by medical students, resident physicians, or fellows who are chosen in response to a call for theme issue editors. Additionally, we are also planning to publish 1 or 2 issues per year in collaboration with leading centers of bioethics. The October 2018 issue, for example, on health and food ethics, expresses our work with faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
Regardless of theme issue, the AMA Journal of Ethics, as an editorially independent journal, has always been freely available to all learners and educators interested in ethically important and complex matters in patient care and health policy. Fostering careful deliberation, thoughtful decision making, and ethical behavior among those caring for sick and injured patients by publishing high-quality ethics and humanities content is considered a public good by the journal’s editors and publisher.
Lastly, it has been more than 5 years since Pellegrino passed away at the age of 92. I can only hope that he, as a learned man of strong Catholic faith, is smiling down on us and sending some illumination (or illustratio in Latin) our way as the AMA Journal of Ethics embarks on the next chapter of its editorial life.
- Epstein RM. Assessment in medical education. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(4):387-396.
- Potts JR III. Assessment of competence: the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education/Residency Review Committee perspective. Surg Clin North Am. 2016;96(1):15-24.
Vanderbilt AA, Perkins SQ, Muscaro MK, Papadimos TJ, Baugh RF. Creating physicians of the 21st century: assessment of the clinical years. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2017;8:395-398.