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Based in Wichita, Kansas Journal of Medicine draws interest from around the world

Managed at KU School of Medicine-Wichita and indexed on PubMed, the Kansas Journal of Medicine has been advancing medicine and careers for 16 years.

Kansas Journal of Medicine editors sit together looking at laptops and talking
From left to right, Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., Jon Schrage, M.D., K. James Kallail, Ph.D., Samuel Ofei-Dodoo, Ph.D., and Christina Frank work together on the Kansas Journal of Medicine at KU School of Medicine-WIchita.

Launched 16 years ago in response to one resident physician asking how to get a manuscript published — a dive into “Tetanus: The Forgotten Disease” — the Kansas Journal of Medicine received 117 submissions last year of original research, reviews, commentaries and case studies.

There, too, in that first issue were two articles by K. James Kallail, Ph.D., managing editor. Kallail, now associate dean of research, has been aboard for every issue since, as has editor Jon Schrage, M.D., retired holder of many roles at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, including chair of Internal Medicine. They’ve shepherded the journal as it’s grown and reached milestones including:

  • Going live on PubMed Central, the place to be for research, in 2018, bringing a wider audience and more submissions.
  • Receiving 117 submissions in 2022, compared with 99 in 2021.
  • Shifting from a quarterly to monthly publication — always online, never in print, with downloadable PDFs available — in 2020 in response to increased submissions and a backlog of articles.
  • Drawing interest from countries around the world. The Kansas Journal of Medicine had 27,506 downloads of its issues in 2022 vs. 45,312 in 2021 when, quite possibly, pandemic-limited readers had plenty of time on their hands. And those numbers don’t include what doctors and other researchers pull from PubMed.

The year-long effort to be indexed on PubMed, Kallail said, is a milestone “because most people looking at the medical literature will go there to see what's out there.”

That’s a long way for a publication based at a medical school campus where training occurs in community practices and hospitals instead of in an academic medical center like Kansas City’s. Those differences were initially so pronounced in fact, that the legislation creating the Wichita campus five decades ago actively discouraged research.

Like the Wichita campus itself, the journal and much of its research are Kansas-focused, designed to provide an outlet for research that, despite being relevant and informative, might have difficulty getting published in larger national journals because it involves smaller studies across limited geography.

A journal of intention

The journal fulfills three objectives. First, it helps medical students build resumes for residency. Second, it helps resident physicians build resumes for fellowships or to move into faculty positions. And third, it helps faculty demonstrate the scholarly activity their positions — or promotions — require.

Dr. Schwasinger-Schmidt and Dr. Jon Schrage listen to Dr. Ofei-Dodoo talk“When I came here, the campus did not have a great deal of ongoing research,” said Schrage, who joined KU School of Medicine-Wichita two decades ago, mentioning clinical trials by Sheldon Preskorn, M.D., and Donna Sweet, M.D., as notable exceptions.

“With about half of internal medicine residents going on to fellowships, we were looking for ways to enhance residents’ ability to publish research,” he said.

Boutros El Haddad, M.D., a co-writer of that first edition tetanus article, had similar aspirations.

“As a chief resident, I felt the need to educate my fellow residents in different topics of medicine and that researching and writing different topics and case reports would help me grow personally and advance my career,” said El Haddad, a nephrologist practicing in the Louisville, Kentucky, area.

Seeking publication was “tedious and time-consuming,” El Haddad said, so he approached Kallail about a local journal and found him receptive. Looking back, he credits his journal and Wichita experiences with improving him as an educator and learner.

“I cannot say enough about Dr. Kallail and his impact on my career. He was a mentor, role model and friend," El Haddad said.

Resident research was an impetus, but medical students’ scholarly activity appears regularly. For some students, like those seeking honors designation, research is required, and accreditation bodies for schools and programs expect research as well. With the PubMed listing came an increase in faculty submissions from other KU campuses, recognition of the publication’s wider reach.

“Our objectives benefit the school, faculty and learners, and to me that’s the real benefit of having a school-based journal,” Kallail said. “You can literally get international attention for your research and make the next step in your education or career.”

One of the associate editors is Samuel Ofei-Dodoo, Ph.D., MPA, M.A., CPH, director of research administration and assistant professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine.

“Our research activities mainly focus on medical education,” Ofei-Dodoo said.

“The journal has been a significant resource for both students and faculty on our campus to be able to publish in a PubMed-indexed journal,” said the other associate editor, Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., director of KU Wichita Center for Clinical Research.

The overwhelming majority of submissions are from Kansas, with the common factor of the research occurring in the state or being by someone with Kansas ties past or present. It has on occasion published a study from overseas. The research, of course, is usually intended for practitioners to grow their knowledge and skills, but Kallail recalls an article on overall school deaths reaching a wider audience after a shooting.

“We did an interview for a TV station in Kansas City, and their story was shown in several places across the U.S.,” he said. “It wasn't necessarily about the journal, but basically it started from the research report that was published in our journal. That was kind of interesting.”

Small but scrappy

With a small team, the journal is a busy but not big operation, published online with the help of KU Libraries.

Schrage credits Kallail with the heavy lifting for each issue, while Kallail describes Schrage as providing essential medical expertise when assessing submissions.

Manuscripts arrive and are screened by Kallail and Ofei-Dodoo. Schrage gives final approval on publication, while Kallail is the one who must deliver the occasional rejection.

Every article is peer-reviewed, examined by a pool of doctors or others with expertise. So an orthopaedist would review an article on knee surgery, for example, or could refer it on to a subspecialist focusing on particular knee injuries. The editors sometimes review as well, as Ofei-Dodoo has on burnout and wellness topics.

Funded by the Office of Research, the journal doesn’t charge subscriptions or accept advertising (way too complicated under state rules). Everyone involved has other jobs, too.

“When I became an associate dean, I had my own staff,” Kallail said. “In the early years, it was basically me.”

Christina Frank, office manager for the Office of Research and publication manager for the journal, designs the publication as well as handles submissions to PubMed.

“We are a small team, and we all have other responsibilities that we’re trying to do. It’s definitely a team effort,” she said.

Eventually, the journal would like to move to just-in-time publishing — meaning once an article is approved, it goes up on PubMed. The challenges are logistical — keeping up with submissions — as well as financial, since submissions go to PubMed in blocks and increasing the instances of submission raises the cost. But for now, the journal has accomplished its objectives.

“We do the best we can with the funds we have,” said Kallail, who will retire in June. “We are reaching our target submitters and a wide target audience.”

Read the journal

Visit the Kansas Journal of Medicine’s website and see the latest and past issues of the publication.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita