Shannon Charlebois is the 2020/21 CMAJ Editorial Fellow and a family physician.
We depend on medical knowledge to care for our patients and each other. But how is this knowledge created? How do we curate and translate that knowledge for readers who have limited time to wade through an information onslaught? Who decides which information is important and verifies it? We need to train more physicians to take on this challenge. These skills can be acquired through the CMAJ Editorial Fellowship.
As a GP, I represent a big part of CMAJ‘s target audience. I had to remind myself of this repeatedly, working as the 2020-2021 CMAJ editorial fellow alongside some of the brightest people in the country. A trip to epidemiology boot camp at the University of Ottawa was sorely needed in my case as I fought through flashbacks to traumatic journal clubs long ago. Critical appraisal has always intimidated me, initially made worse by realizing how much I didn’t know I didn’t know. While the position favours applicants strong in this skill, it is not the sole basis for consideration. I found myself thrown into the deep end but, with the help of teaching and impressive patience from CMAJ‘s editorial team, stats is no longer my secret shame (it continues to be a public shame when dissecting a new paper in this esteemed company, but I consider my statistical understanding to be a work in progress).
Other fellows have brought incredible skill sets to this post, and then gone on to accomplish great things in the medical community and beyond. They are celebrated leaders, teachers, academics, researchers, and published authors. As I was told by a colleague when I won the position, based on past company this would be a definite feather in my Ottawa Senator’s cap.
The editorial fellowship experience has many perks of residency with relatively few of the horrors. I essentially went back to school, and my job was to learn again. Host a podcast? I figured it out (in my first month on the job). Produce a video? Sure. Write? I had done that in undergrad, hadn’t I? Contribute thoughtful opinions on nuanced and controversial issues? Another work in progress.
This is not a proofreading job; expect to be intellectually challenged in every direction. Originally, the fellowship was designed for someone mid-residency who would take a leave or as a year before starting clinical training, but it has attracted several mid-career physicians. For those feeling drained in clinical practice, this fellowship could be your miracle.
Personally, I came to this after nearly three years of child-creation and upkeep (I think there are three of them, but they move around a lot), and I was looking for a way to balance my work life away from taking on a full-time family practice. Although the position is full time, the fellow is given time to pursue some clinical work, which I have used to re-build a small patient roster. The editorial and clinical roles complement each other beautifully; it is not surprising that a year of immersion in the medical literature has improved my medical knowledge and ability to find evidence-based answers for my patients.
The chance to spend time working with this wonderful group of people cannot be oversold. It is inspiring to work alongside CMAJ‘s brilliant editorial team, but even better to enjoy it because they are friendly, passionate about the work, and often hilarious.