Jason S. Slakter, MD
About two months ago, my wife asked me to clean out one of the closets in our spare room. Upon moving a box on the first shelf, I was nearly crushed by a seemingly unending flow of yellow, red, blue and gray objects cascading to the floor. Upon recovering from the shock, I suddenly realized that these strangely colored items were, in fact, the many journals that I had been “meaning to read” and had so judiciously stored over the last year (OK, so maybe it's nearly two years).
That is not to say that your editor does not read the journals. In fact, I do skim through the titles as they arrive on my desk, take a quick look at what I consider to be the highlights, and then neatly pack them away in my briefcase for what would eventually be a “careful review of all of the relevant ophthalmic literature” at home. It appears, however, that I have become somewhat remiss in completing this task.
So, with all good intent, I have spent the last several weeks working my way through all of these past issues, with the objective of fully educating myself on the latest in diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for retinal disease. Of course, I use the term “latest” with a bit of caution, since some of the journals do, in fact, date back to 2009. In our field, that is ancient history. In addition, I always try to at least read the abstracts of the articles that are nonretinal in nature, so when a patient asks me about some corneal disease, I do not hesitate and ask, “Did you say cornea? Where's that?”
One thing that you notice when you go through a series of journals in a short span of time is that each of the major publications has its own manner of sorting the articles. Some journals tend to group them together by topic, so you can start out with articles on anterior-segment disease, progress through glaucoma, reach the retinal section, and finally conclude with tumors and pediatrics. Others tend to group the articles by stage of research; that is, basic science, clinical research, epidemiology and clinicopathologic correlations. Others seem to just throw all of the articles together haphazardly. I am not certain which method I prefer; certainly from a retinal specialist's point of view, it is easy to go with the first approach, where you can quickly work your way through until you reach the retina section, and then, with a large cup of coffee in hand, read the entire articles in depth. Then there is the “red journal” (you know I am referring to Retina, of course), for which you need a pot of coffee and many hours of undistracted attention.
Since I began this little project, I must say that I have had the TV turned off more than usual and the radio turned down, and I have spent more time by myself. I guess that shows my age, in that I am not able to multitask like my kids, who somehow seem to be able to study, write, watch television, listen to music and engage in an unending series of social interactions on the computer while absorbing everything in detail. I simply cannot do that and I guess I never will. At the end of this endeavor, I am certain to have more knowledge and hope to be a better doctor. But, as my wife has reminded me, my job will not be finished. There is still the rest of that closet to clean out.