The founding editor of Contemporary OB/GYN looks back at the journal's early years.
Dr. Queenan is Founding Editor of Contemporary OB/GYN and Professor and Chair Emeritus in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.
Contemporary OB/GYN begins publication at a time when the specialty faces complex problems, not the least of which involves the very nature of the discipline itself. As we know, there is increasing discussion of the obstetrician-gynecologist’s role: Are patients best served by specialists managing every healthy woman from conception through delivery? Or should board-certified obstetrician-gynecologists re-allocate their efforts, directing them largely to the high-risk pregnancy and to the patient with gynecologic dysfunction or disease? In short, how can the discipline best serve its patients?
Letter from the Editor
Volume 1, Number 1
When I was 36 years old and a Clinical Associate Professor at The New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center, Dale Bauer, publisher of Medical World News at McGraw-Hill, invited me to start an annual roundup of the key advances in obstetrics and gynecology for Medical World News. After that became widely read and successful, Dale asked me to develop a monthly obstetrics and gynecology journal for all practitioners of the specialty called Contemporary OB/GYN.
It was 1972 and I had just moved to the University of Louisville, where I was Professor and Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology while also serving as chair of the Fetal Monitoring Committee for the FDA. Following an FDA meeting in Washington, DC, I went to the airport and was told my flight to Louisville had been cancelled and there would be a 5-hour wait until the next flight. I found a quiet place, took out a yellow legal pad, and started to outline how Contemporary OB/GYN would be formatted.
At the time, many medical journals were reporting significant and not-so-significant research. But there was no publication that put scientific knowledge into a format for clinicians. Contemporary OB/GYN would steer clear of animal studies and new esoteric reports. Our responsibility would be to look at what was known and proven and translate it into guidance for clinicians. The concept was to publish a journal that was clear, concise, and practical. We would have two targets: clinicians and their charge, the patients.
I set out to recruit a working editorial board of outstanding research physicians who also had backgrounds in practice. To my surprise, all but one physician who was invited accepted the challenge to venture into a new world of medical publishing.
Among the first editorial board members were Drs. Hervy Averette, Ron Chez, Roger Freeman, Paula Hillard, John Lewis, Phil Mead, Jennifer Niebyl, Ralph Richart, Joe Leigh Simpson, Leon Speroff, and Ed Wallach, all leaders in their respective disciplines. (Drs. Hillard and Simpson are still on the board.)
Our efforts were aided by a succession of superb editors over the next 4 decades, including Don Rubin, Evelyn Gross, Jim Swan, Judy Orvos, and Paul Cerrato.
Early on we realized that in some clinical areas-such as ovarian cancer-a large body of evidence–based studies was lacking. Our solution was to assemble a roundtable of four experts who would address key questions and answer them using their best clinical judgment, based on their own research and practice. The roundtables were valuable opinion pieces with outstanding experts making their best attempt to provide clinical perspective on emerging science. The discussions usually were scheduled at subspecialty meetings with one of the managing editors present.
I remember Jim Swan and subsequently Judy Orvos assembling the group, posing the questions, recording the proceedings, taking photographs of the participants in action, and then editing the transcripts. In an era before meta-analyses, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and U.S. Public Health Service Task Force reports, these roundtables were very popular.
In 1973, when Contemporary OB/GYN made its debut, medical journals were published in a 6 1/2 x 10-inch format. Contemporary OB/GYN, in contrast, was 8 x 10 1/2 inches, a format that advertisers, the lifeblood of the publication, preferred. Soon pressure was on the other journals in the market to change their size to match Contemporary OB/GYN. Although our editorial board was pleased that the journal had this impact, we still didn’t believe we had achieved the gravitas that we had hoped for. Then an event occurred that changed our perception.
Dr. Richard Mattingly, Editor-in-Chief of Obstetrics & Gynecology, agreed to chair a roundtable on cancer for Contemporary OB/GYN in Key Biscayne, Florida, at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology annual meeting. Just before the roundtable, Dr. Mattingly emerged from an Obstetrics & Gynecology board meeting with a very long face and told me that the board had ruled that he should not participate in a roundtable for a competing publication. Dr. Mattingly was chagrined and I was very disappointed because we had to make a quick substitution. But as the day wore on, I became elated because I recognized the first concrete sign that Contemporary OB/GYN had “arrived.”
During the journal’s early years, we witnessed many exciting and revolutionary advances that are now taken for granted, including electronic fetal monitoring, sonography, laser surgery, colposcopy, microsurgery, new forms of contraception, hormone replacement therapy, ovulation induction, and in vitro fertilization, to name a just a few. Thus the reporting and debates in the pages of Contemporary OB/GYN were interesting and spirited.
Over the years we added new features and changed formats, but always with the objective of how the information in the journal would help the practicing physician. Syndicated industry readership surveys were the best indicator of our effectiveness. Contemporary OB/GYN was ranked number one in readership on these studies for 18 years. Based on that success, Contemporary Pediatrics, Contemporary Urology, and Contemporary Oncology were created.
Twenty-eight years as Editor-in-Chief went by in a flash. Well, not exactly. I did have to write more than 300 editorials, which I loved doing. I occasionally experienced writer’s cramp yet was able to come up with an editorial by the deadline.
One day out of the blue I received a call from Jim Scott asking me to be the Deputy Editor of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Although I had recently signed a 5-year contract with Contemporary OB/GYN, the publisher agreed to release me. I promptly headed straight to the office of Dr. Charles Lockwood, then at New York University, and asked if he would like to be the Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary OB/GYN. Charly agreed and in July 2001, we began a new and exciting era with him in command. He is a superb teacher, researcher and clinician, and so was the perfect person to run Contemporary OB/GYN.
(He also writes better editorials than I do.)
By continuing its dedication to helping clinicians practice, continually choosing practical subjects, and keeping up its custom of excellent artwork and graphics, Charly has brought the journal through difficult times of low advertising revenue.
As a sign of its success, Contemporary OB/GYN is now entering its 41st year in continuous publication and is still the most highly read ob/gyn publication from a number of industry perspectives. Equally important, it is still highly respected.
Bravo, Charly. Bravo to all who have helped along the way.