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Dr. Chip Schooley on infectious diseases & journal publishing

As infectious diseases around the world continue to evolve, so does the research surrounding the discipline. To find out more about the progress and future challenges in this field, we’ve caught up with Robert T. “Chip” Schooley, editor-in-chief of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID), who began his term in January after serving as an associate editor for the past decade. We recently asked Dr. Schooley about the role he sees the journal playing as the field of infectious diseases continues to change and grow.

 The pace of scientific progress and discovery is accelerating rapidly. What role do you see CID playing in novel, evolving areas of science with potential implications for the field of infectious diseases?

Infectious disease and microbiology research are, indeed, among the most rapidly changing areas in all of science and medicine. Novel (often multiplexed) technologies are capable of producing data on a scale that is unparalleled. The interpretation of this data has been facilitated by (and is dependent on) co-evolution of more sophisticated and more varied statistical approaches. We are committed to positioning CID as the destination for as much of this novel science as we can accommodate, and we see our role as a public repository for the progress in this area, a facilitator of more rapid progress through cross fertilization, as an advocate for discovery in our discipline, and, ultimately, as a catalyst for the application of research findings to clinical medicine in the United States and the world more broadly.

In an increasingly interconnected world, how do you hope to position CID in the context of global health and emerging infectious diseases, such as the Zika and Ebola viruses?

One could argue that the Infectious Diseases Society “of America” has, in many ways outgrown its name, and that we could be called the “Infectious Diseases Society that has its Headquarters in America.” Although the Society has always embraced international work, at the time of our founding much of our focus and virtually all of our membership was from the United States. Driven by both the increasing engagement of our membership in global health issues and by the increasing realization that the geographic segregation of the global microbiome is an outmoded concept, the Society has developed an increasing focus on global health and on emerging infectious diseases. CID sees itself as a journal that reflects the interests of members of our Society – and, we hope, as a vehicle for constructive change. The importance of the active engagement of the United States in global health issues and our critical role in combating emerging infectious diseases both domestically and abroad cannot be overstated. Sten Vermund has contributed an outstanding Invited Commentary in which he lays this out in great detail.

“The importance of the active engagement of the United States in global health issues and our critical role in combating emerging infectious diseases both domestically and abroad cannot be overstated.”

CID recently launched a redesigned website. How will the journal continue to embrace new technologies and novel forms of media to better serve readers and authors moving forward?

This is one of our works in progress. With the launch of the new website we have much more versatility in terms of what is possible with respect to the timely – and interesting – presentation of contemporary science. We hope to have more opportunities for authors to put their own work into context in the form of podcasts and, as the technology advances, to try to develop more interactive ways of presenting complex data.

How do you envision CID supporting infectious diseases as a sub-specialty, which, despite its importance in clinical medicine and public health, is often undervalued by traditional measures in the health care system?

One of the day jobs I’ve held for the past 26 years is to serve as a Division Head of Infectious Diseases – first at the University of Colorado and more, recently, at the University of California, San Diego. I’ve seen firsthand the failure of hospital leadership to understand the critical role that infectious diseases plays in the fabric of an acute care hospital. By choosing to monetize primarily our services through relative value unit (rVU) metrics rather than to connect the true value of our expertise by connecting the dots among the multiple components of our health care system, they neither compensate infectious disease specialists for our expertise nor align incentives in such a way that we bring maximal value to the health care system. “Traditional values” in our health care system are giving way to newer ways of thinking about how to restructure behavior by restructuring financial incentives for physicians and health care systems – both public and private. As patients and payers have increasingly (and very appropriately) demanded that acute care hospitals take responsibility for the impact of what goes on in hospitals, on patients after they leave, and on the community more broadly, it is clear that those in the Executive Suite who have not traditionally understood what we do can be brought (perhaps kicking and screaming) to the table. To that end we welcome scholarly and quantitative original work in this area. We are already soliciting invited material in this area and would welcome insights and suggestions from our readers in this area. The vitality of infectious diseases as a sub-specialty is critical to our patients, our communities, and the globe.

Featured image credit: health/medicine journals by Maarten van den Heuvel. CC0 Public Domain via Unsplash.

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