Medicine is a forever-evolving profession. To graduate medical school in 2017, for example, and practice medicine using the same information without any updates until 2020 would be foolish, to say the least. For some physicians, the information they graduated with has been completely replaced by new information, which can be acquired through conferences and journals. In a conference, you’ll hear about the findings directly from one of the people who discovered them; it’s easy and convenient. Journals are a different world, though.
There are over one hundred medical journals from all over the globe. Some are specialized while others include almost everything. These journals are a doctor’s method of staying up to date with all that is new in the world of medicine. They contain new research and guidelines that can often be essential to saving someone’s life. Most of them are available online at the click of a button, too. So, apart from finding enough time to read, there aren’t many excuses for doctors to be outdated. Let’s take a look at some of the top medical journals out there today.
One of most prestigious and popular medical journals is, without a doubt, The New England Journal of Medicine. It is also the oldest medical journal to still be continuously published. It all started in 1811, when doctors from Boston submitted a proposal to establish a medical journal. The first issue was published in 1812, with a new issue coming out every three months. It was called the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and Collateral Branches of Science. In 1827, the people at The New England Journal of Medicine purchased another medical journal named the Intelligencer, which ran into financial troubles. Combined, they became known as the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, with issues coming out every week rather than quarterly. This journal was renamed in 1928 to The New England Journal of Medicine after being purchased by the Massachusetts Medical Society.
The NEJM launched their website in 1996. At the start, the website only included abstracts of research articles and the full texts of cases, editorials, and letters to the editor. Since then, many more features have been added to it, such as videos, interactive clinical cases, and an archive containing everything ever published by the journal.
Some of the most important articles published by the NEJM include the discovery of platelets in 1906, that one cerebral hemisphere can control aspects of both sides of the body in 1872, and the discovery of targeted therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2001.
The NEJM has the highest impact factor of all journals, containing articles about internal medicine. This makes it the most influential medical journal out there. A new issue is released every week, and the journal has an open access policy: you can read any article for free on the website as long as it was released over six months ago. So, if an article was to be released today, you’d be able to read it for free in six months. For underdeveloped countries, all content is free and can be accessed at any time. The journal also has a rule that for an article to be published in the NEJM, it should not be published in any other journal.
The American Heart Journal is another major journal, but, unlike the NEJM, the AHJ specializes in the cardiac and cardiovascular systems. The journal was first issued in 1925 and was published bimonthly, and then, in 1977, it became a monthly publication. The journal has an impact factor of 4.33, which makes it 24th out of a total of 123 journals in its category when it comes to impact and influence.
The BMJ is one of the oldest and most prestigious general medical journals out there. It was first published in 1840, making it a little younger than the NEJM. It was originally called the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal. It then became the British Medical Journal, which was officially shortened to BMJ, then to The BMJ most recently in 2014. The main competitors of The BMJ are the NEJM, The Lancet, and the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Despite the NEJM being a little older, The BMJ went online earlier. The journal launched its website in 1995. Early on, the entire journal’s content was available online for free, but in 2006, they started having subscriptions. In 2008, it announced it would become an open access journal, but this only applies to research articles; other kinds of articles still require a subscription.
The journal is released weekly and is ranked fourth among other general medical journals out there according to its impact factor. The BMJ also has an app for the iPad, which contains all the new content published every week in addition to all the features on the website, such as podcasts.
The Journal of the American Medical Association is another major medical journal and, as mentioned before, one of the competitors of the NEJM and The BMJ, despite being established later than the two, in 1883. A notable event in the history of JAMA is it contained the first academic paper published by a sitting United States president, when it published a paper by Barack Obama in 2016. The paper was titled “United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps.”
Up until 2013, the journal would have artwork as its front page in an effort to link humanity with medicine. This art was accompanied by an essay commenting on it. In 2013, this was changed in an effort to standardize all issues of the journal, as the artwork was shifted to an inside page and replaced by the table of contents on the cover page. The journal is published forty-eight times a year and its current editor is Howard Bauchner.
Finally, we have The Lancet. This is the second oldest medical journal mentioned here, as it was established in 1823. Like the other journals discussed, The Lancet is also peer reviewed. It does not specialize in a particular branch of medicine, but is a general medical journal. It was founded by an English surgeon who gave it its name based on the medical tool, the lancet, and also based on the lancet arch, which is a sort of window that lets in light. This is to imply the wisdom of the journal.
The Lancet is published weekly, has editorial offices in New York, London, and Beijing, and its editor is Richard Horton. It is ranked second after the NEJM according to its impact factor. The journal also has publications in specialties such as The Lancet Hematology, The Lancet Neurology, and many more.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to keeping up with the latest in the world of medicine. If you don’t feel like applying for a subscription, you can simply read journals six months after their original publication date on the NEJM and keep up with research articles for free via The BMJ’s website.
There are plenty of other great journals that were not discussed, but you should still check out if you have the time, such as Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Nature Medicine, PLOS ONE, and others. You’ll find more journals that are specialty-specific, of course, and you can at least focus on these if you don’t have the time to read up on the entirety of medicine.
There’s no excuse not to be up to date. It’s understandable if you don’t have the time to contribute to medicine by publishing anything yourself, but inexcusable not to read up on the latest discoveries and guidelines. The things you might read on a weekend in less than an hour could end up saving someone’s life.