Dr. Howard Bauchner sees a bright future for the Journal of the American Medical Association — but it might be one read on a smartphone, or in a foreign language.
Bauchner, an energetic 59-year-old who plays basketball against 20-somethings and shows up for work before 5 a.m., became the 128-year-old medical journal's top editor July 1. He replaces Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, 71, who left the job after 11 years to return to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
"Most practitioners are inundated with information," he said. "How do you get information to them in a usable format?"
With the caveat that he had been on the job only a couple of weeks, he agreed to share some of his ideas with the Tribune. JAMA, published by the Chicago-based American Medical Association, counts its print circulation at more than 300,000 readers, but Bauchner sees great opportunity from the millions of people who visit its website and digital operations every month.
Bauchner said he will pursue a strategy of "intelligent innovation" for the journal, looking at ways to get information to doctors and consumers through several new platforms, such as social media, video and other digital forms.
"If you look at some of the other creative sites like TED or Big Think, they have been experimenting with video clips," Bauchner said. "I could imagine having some of our authors do video clips where they speak about the meaning of their research for eight or 10 minutes, and then that's easily linked into a smartphone."
Bauchner is also considering having the journal experiment with shorter, condensed articles, to better engage busy physicians who can take advantage of a "more CliffNotes version." An original article might remain 2,500 to 3,000 words, but an online version of 500 words, with less background information but still providing "clinical nuggets," would also be available to readers.
"My job is to give them options and choices," Bauchner said.
To that end, he has another thought: "Perhaps we need to provide more content beyond just English," Bauchner said. "I would like to see us experiment with some new languages in terms of our abstracts and electronic tables of content."
And he doesn't limit his thinking about his potential audience just to doctors.
"JAMA is not just for physicians," Bauchner said. "The public is a far greater consumer of health information than ever before."
Bauchner, a noted professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University, is the 16th editor in JAMA's history and will oversee the editorial side of JAMA and the nine Archives specialty medical journals published by the AMA and covering areas such as dermatology, psychiatry and ophthalmology.
There are scores of medical journals, but JAMA is one of the few internationally recognized weeklies, along with the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).
The publication frequently makes broader media headlines with its articles, ranging from medical breakthroughs to editorials criticizing the health care system.
In Bauchner, JAMA will be getting a seasoned editor and author, AMA officials said.
Since 2003, he has been the editor in chief of the Archives of Disease in Childhood, the journal of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the United Kingdom. Bauchner is the first U.S.-based editor of that journal.
At the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Bauchner was never averse to change and embraced technology, working to tailor different editions of the journal to different groups of readers, according to researchers there. He launched a medical education version and a journal for specialists in fetal and neonatal medicine, which focuses on very young infants.
At JAMA, Bauchner said, he is poised to try new things as well. Particularly with his digital media ideas, he might be reading the minds of young doctors-to-be like Jim Wills.
Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor in chief of JAMA