Medical journal celebrates 175th anniversary

America's second oldest medical journal, The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, will celebrate its 175th anniversary this week at the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation's (SSCI) annual meeting in New Orleans, Feb. 2-4.

The journal was originally published in 1820 as the Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences and first appeared under its current title in 1827. The bulk of its articles concern clinical and laboratory investigations and cover all of the subspecialties in internal medicine, pediatrics and surgery. It is the official publication of the SSCI.

"Emory has had an important and long relationship with the SSCI," said Manuel Martinez-Maldonado, editor in chief of the journal, vice chair of the Department of Medicine at Emory and a past president of SSCI. Juha Kokko, chair of the Department of Medicine, also is a past president, and Lawrence Phillips, head of the division of endocrinology, is affiliated with SSCI as well.

The journal serves an important role in academic medicine in the South, which is the largest and most rapidly growing area for academic medicine in America. However, its appeal is not limited. In 1994, 35 percent of submissions came from other regions of the country, and 21 percent came from outside the United States.

Peggy Haefele, managing editor of the publication, said, "The journal used to be one of the top medical publications in the country, but without a sponsoring society, the popularity and quality of the publication decreased." In 1984, the SSCI became the official sponsoring society of the journal, and since then, it has been "on a comeback."

The 175th anniversary publication is slightly different from the usual journal. This issue, available Feb. 1, features a photograph of Volume 1 from 1820. It also includes a brief history of the publication. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this issue, however, is the "critique" section, where three classic articles, originally published in 1908, 1910 and 1939, are reviewed by contemporary scholars.

The articles reviewed are: Leo Buerger's "Thrombo-angiitis Obliterans: A Study of the Vascular Lesions Leading to Presenile Spontaneous Gan-grene," critiqued by David A. Cutler and Marschall S. Runge of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; E. Libman and H. L. Celler's "The Etiology of Subacute Infectious Endocarditis," critiqued by Edward Hook Jr., of the University of Virginia; and Norman M. Keith, Henry P. Wagener and Nelson W Barker's "Some Different Types of Essential Hypertension and the Cause and Prognosis," critiqued by Harriet Dustan of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"These were landmark articles that are known worldwide, because they were the first to address these issues," said Martinez-Maldonado. "It's amazing that there has been little descriptive improvement on these original articles. We know more on the molecular level than they did, but as far as actual description goes, no one has done any better." He also said that despite the constant changes and growth scientific knowledge undergoes, "This shows how clever and precise our ancestors were and their keen powers of observation."

Martinez-Maldonado said that although the 175th anniversary is important to the staff of the journal, the results of the critiques are equally important. He stressed the influence he hoped they would have on medical students and young doctors in America. "We hope this will inspire young people to stay in touch with the clinical side of medicine and show them the impact of the power of observation."

--Mike MacArthur