American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
November 2005 Mentor of the Month Q&A Session: David Bruns
Welcome to SYCL's Mentor of the Month.  Questions and Answers will be displayed below...

Can you recommend a way for young clinical chemists to get involved in editorial work?
Minneapolis, MN

David E. Bruns, MD
Editorial work takes place in several areas:

1. Writing papers is where most people started. My mentors beat my brains out (and probably theirs) trying to make my writing clear. Many seasoned investigators recommend taking every opportunity to write. This seems especially valuable when one can work with colleagues who are demonstrably clear writers and clear thinkers.

2. The next stage is probably as a co-reviewer with a mentor. I was fortunate in having mentors who asked me to look at papers that they were asked to review. (Yes, at Clin Chem we are happy for invited reviewers to get input from their younger colleagues. Studies even suggest that young scientists are the best reviewers. We do ask that all reviewers' names be given to the editorial office.) This is a great opportunity to compare notes with someone who has had enough of a track record to have been asked to review the paper.

3. The next step is to be invited to review. Editors of peer-reviewed journals select reviewers who have published in the area of the manuscript. (Thus the term "PEER-review".) So, to get on their radar screens, the best thing to do is to publish in peer-reviewed journals. Having done that, it will help to get to know the editor. Most editors believe that better reviews come from reviewers whom the editor knows. Knowing the reviewer certainly helps the editor to put the comments in context.

4. Serving on an editorial board can be a great experience for people who have published and reviewed for a while. Selection to the board is usually made by the editor. At Clin Chem, this has never been done in a vacuum, but involves input from colleagues. The editor must find people with expertise that matches the kinds of papers that are coming in or that the editor expects (or even hopes) to see coming in soon. This is especially challenging for new areas. Fifteen years ago, for example, I wanted to see Clin Chem publish papers in molecular diagnostics. Thus clinical chemists who were early adopters of the relevant technology became logical targets for consideration for apointment to the editorial board. Today we have many papers in the area of proteomics and thus a need for board members with expertise in the area. Thus, if you are working in a new area, you may be exactly the kind of person a journal wants for its board. Regardless of your area of interest, let the editor know if you are interested in serving on the board. Once on a board, there are opportunities to get involved Some journals offer opportunities for members to fill specific roles such as handling all book reviews. This can be fun. The meetings of the board are special oportunities to influence the direction of the journal.

5. The job of being an associate editor may be the next step. The AE's are typically experts in a selected area. So, at Clin Chem you see AE's with special expertise in toxicology, molecular diagnostics, etc. These editors often are the ones who select reviewers and who make the decisions about which papers to accept.

6. Being an editor can be the next step. It is demanding but it can be very rewarding. Let me know if you want to learn more.

Can you share any advice on how to get a clinical research program started early in one's career? Do you recommend being a generalist until you find your niche?
New York

David E. Bruns, MD
There are so many successful routes to this end that I hesitate to suggest one. Here is a thought: The NIH has a new "Roadmap" that promises an increased emphasis on translational research and the creation of specialized centers. With this, some new training opportunities may appear along with funding for clinical research that will need to be interdisciplinary. I think I would try to learn about developments in this area at NIH.

Of course a good thing to look for is collaborators who know the ropes when you are starting. In time, however, you will want to be the principal investigator on grants, be they from NIH, industry or other sources, so keep that in mind.

I have read about "nanobacteria" that are about 100 times smaller than the smallest bacteria and have the ability to form calcium phospate shells. The nuclear material is very primitive but electron micrographs have shown them dividing. Some people believe these organisms may be a cause for atherosclerosis, kidney stones and osteoarthritis. Is there any evidence that you know that would support this hypothesis?
Cleveland, OH

David E. Bruns, MD
I do not have any inside information on the concept that these structures are organisms as may be implied by the name nanobacteria.