Issue 3 / 31 January 2011

IT is an honour to take on the role of Editor of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Part of my role is to oversee MJA InSight, our new and exciting email newsletter.

While it is easy to have online chats within special interest groups or as part of our specialist colleges, until now there have been few opportunities to converse with our colleagues in all branches of medicine.

MJA InSight fills that void by providing a forum for interaction within our profession. It is open, free of formal peer review, published weekly and responsive.

It aims to bridge the divide between the clinical, research and political worlds that we inhabit.

Dr Martin Van Der Weyden, who retired last week after 16 years as MJA Editor, has been a kind and supportive teacher.

He has stressed that “being a good editor is living dangerously” and endorses the wisdom of an early editor of the BMJ, Ernest Hart, who believed that an editor must have enemies.

While generating enemies is not my aim, I do want to encourage debate beyond the realm of the usual medical agenda.

Debate in InSight is not limited by eminence or convention and I am happy to foster debate that may seem controversial.

You can start the conversation.

A recent external audit has shown that this newsletter is Australia’s fastest growing email newsletter for doctors and already reaches more doctors than any other newsletter in the country.

Not bad for a newsletter that is only 6 months old.

I hope you will contact InSight to let us know about issues that are relevant to your community.

We need you to be our eyes and ears at the coalface, particularly about the unforeseen impacts of changes, both medical and political.

If something is bothering you, it is probably troubling many of your colleagues.

Unlike other medical e-newsletters, InSight has at its disposal the extensive medical knowledge and resources of the MJA to make it relevant and challenging.

We aim to be informative as well as providing a forum for comment, and leaders in medicine and politics are already following and participating in the conversations on InSight.

I am delighted that Martin will continue to be a regular commentator for InSight.

He will, no doubt, continue to stir the pot and provoke discussion.

Martin has been tidying up his shelves and has asked me to be the guardian of a wonderful book from the MJA library full of medical quotations.

The following seems particularly relevant:

The true dignity of [the profession] is to be maintained by the superior learning and abilities of those who profess it, by the liberal manners of gentlemen, and by that openness and candour, which disdain all artifice, which invite to a free inquiry, and thus boldly bid defiance to all that illiberal ridicule and abuse to which medicine has been so much and so long exposed.” (John Gregory, 1772: Lectures on the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician)

Dr Annette Katelaris is the Editor of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Posted 31 January 2011

6 thoughts on “Annette Katelaris: Living dangerously

  1. Peter Arnold says:

    In wishing you every success in your new role, and broad acceptance by the profession of your invitation to use Insight, I cannot help but note, in the quotation above, the words: “openness and candour” – “boldly bid defiance”.
    In accord with those noble sentiments, may I ask that you review your policy of accepting anonymous posts? Candid, bold doctors should not be scared to put their name to their comments.
    You might consider, at rarely exercised editorial discretion, a comment outlining a personal medical experience or a serious whistleblowing comment.
    There is no place for anonymous articles or letters in the MJA – why should these be tolerated in Insight?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I look forward to new leadership at MJA InSight. I hope you continue your policy of accepting anonymous posts. It allows junior doctors (and others) who may have important contributions to share without fear of retribution. Comments can be judged on their merit, not the reputation of their author.
    Old media (like the print MJA) doesn’t publish anonymous letters. MJA InSight isn’t a print journal, and can benefit from many of the wonders of new media. One of which is the ability to remain anonymous. Concerned folks from last century can take comfort – you need to subscribe and be registered to post here, and anything slanderous can still be dealt with appropriately.
    Looking forward to a truly ‘open and candid’ dialogue.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wishing the best in your new role. Thank you for maintaining the ability to post anonymously, as I believe there is a place for this in this forum Opinion is not usually purported to be science, so the need for identification is not the same. Also, not every one is blessed with an inconspicuous name.

  4. Kevin ORR says:

    I am a retired teaching hospitsl surgeon,aged 83, physically crippled but, I hope, mentally alert. There is a problem which concerns me. In much US literature there is reference to the finding of living cancer cells in the blood stream, something that was once discounted. I can find no reference in Australian literature on this. From what I have read this should be used as a diagnostic and prognostic tool, esp. in breast cancer. There should be no need for further research. What can be done to stimulate interest?

  5. Sue Ieraci says:

    Yes, anonymous posters, anonymity does seem to be part of the culture of posting on blogs. Unfortunately, the other feature that often accompanies it is a condescending and disrespectful style (see any comments list of any daily newspaper). Not only “concerned folks from last century” but all participants should welcome an “open and candid dialogue” but simultaneously maintain courtesy and respect. It would be great to keep this site a little above the level of the tabloids…

  6. Delphi says:

    There is a paradox in the debate about whether posts should remain anonymous; it is the implicit acknowledgment that non anonymous “open and candid dialogue” within the profession of medicine is inherently dangerous to the writer. The systemic causes within the profession of the underlying fear of identification for commenting “outside the frame” of acceptable opinion that should be addressed.

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