Almost from AACC’s first days as an organization its founders set their sites on establishing a scientific journal that would publish key research and practice-related findings in the then nascent field of clinical chemistry. While these early leaders kept their eyes on this long-term goal, they got a solid, early start on publishing news of the association and practice concerns of its members. The first issue of a bimonthly newsletter, The Clinical Chemist, rolled out of a mimeograph and into members’ mailboxes in May, 1949, less than 6 months after AACC’s founding.
In his opening message, chairman Max Friedman made a case not only for AACC but also for the association to publish science and practice advances relevant to its members. “The clinical chemist is already a member of one or several scientific groups in which, without exception, he is in a minority. His professional and scientific problems have been handled either as an individual, or through the medium of some parent group,” he wrote. “A glance through the chemical literature will convince anyone that the clinical chemist has come of age and is ready to act in his own behalf. To that end we contemplate professional and scientific forums, newsletters, and other media for mutual contacts among individuals in the practice of a science that is playing an important role in the public interest.”
Early issues of The Clinical Chemist covered not only the business of the association but also its national and local section meetings. Editor Andre Kibrick stepped down after 1 year, succeeded by associate editor, Harold Appleton as chair of the editorial board. Within 1 year a typeset edition with photos had replaced mimeographed copies. Appleton’s tenure ultimately lasted 20 years, covering not only the lifespan of The Clinical Chemist as a separate publication but also the birth and professional blossoming of AACC’s peer-reviewed journal, Clinical Chemistry.
Through the early 1950s, the association’s leaders nurtured their interest in establishing a journal but kept hitting a financial barrier to realizing this dream. A fateful meeting between Hugh McDonald, AACC’s 1953-54 president, and Paul Hoeber, head of the medical book department at Harper and Row, knocked down this hurdle.
The first issue of Clinical Chemistry came to life in February, 1955, with AACC overseeing its content and Harper and Row serving as publisher. “Our objectives are clear,” wrote Appleton in his first editorial. “[T]o help provide answers to the many problems facing those engaged in clinical chemistry; to create and maintain standards of scientific research and writing that will reflect honorably upon our profession; and to provide a continuing forum for discussion of the scientific, technical, and professional problems of all members of our profession.”
Published bimonthly with The Clinical Chemist continuing as a special section, Clinical Chemistry stepped up to a monthly production cycle in 1964. At this time, Appleton was named managing editor, a role in which he served until 1969. Starting with the January 1970 issue, AACC itself became publisher of Clinical Chemistry and J. Stanton King started his 19-year tenure as executive editor. (King also served concurrently as AACC’s last part-time executive director, from 1971-74.) In his first editorial King, joined by Friedman, noted that they wanted to expand the journal’s scope and would be accepting manuscripts that described applications of clinical chemistry, in addition to methods papers, “the mainstay of the journal in the past.”
Along with a broader editorial focus, King’s term as executive editor coincided with a redesign for the publication, with its cover changing from green to red, and size increasing from 6 ½ x 9 to today’s 8 ¼ x 11.
In King’s last essay for Clinical Chemistry, published in The Clinical Chemist column, he noted the sweeping advances that had taken place during his editorship. “You are … continually making your part of health care more cost-efficient, reliable, and effective,” he wrote. “It has been a long time now since the physician could validly choose to believe only those results that fit his or her preconceptions, if these results emanate from a good laboratory.”
Clinical Chemistry turned a page in 1990 with the appointment of David Bruns as editor, who served in this role while also continuing his research, teaching and clinical responsibilities at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville. During his tenure, the journal again branched out of traditional clinical chemistry to subjects such as molecular diagnostics and genetics. Bruns also oversaw the journal’s digital birth, with its inaugural online issue in 1998, one of the first scientific journals to make this leap.
In an authoritative 50th anniversary review noting advances in the field that had been published in Clinical Chemistry, board of editors member Robert Rej acknowledged this inexorable advance to all things digital. “I take a fair degree of gratification in imagining that I may well be the last person to have browsed through all 50 years of Clinical Chemistry in its 200-kg paper incarnation,” he observed. “This project has more than reinforced my leanings toward the obsolescence of a very inefficient vehicle for communicating data, ideas, and information. The hundreds of decaying, amber-colored pages that I reviewed also challenge the idea that electronic is ephemeral and that paper is permanent.”
Clinical Chemistry’s latest chapter started in January 2008, with the appointment of Nader Rifai as editor-in-chief, joined by deputy editors Thomas Annesley and James Boyd. In his opening editorial Rifai noted that during Bruns’ tenure “the journal was transformed into the world’s leading publication in laboratory medicine, with the highest impact factor and citation index.” In the ensuing 10 years, Rifai and his colleagues have advanced the journal’s stature and editorial interests even further. In 2018 Clinical Chemistry had an impact factor of 8.636, placing it in the top 2.5% of 12,271 ranked academic journals based on the frequency with which the journal’s articles had been cited in the scientific literature.
Though completely satisfied with Clinical Chemistry’s well-deserved reputation and contributions to the field, AACC’s leaders also recognized the need for a peer-reviewed journal with a raison d’etre involving applied research. With this in mind, the association in 2016 launched The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine: An AACC Publication, naming Robert Christenson as its editor-in-chief. Published bimonthly and exclusively online after its first year, JALM highlights particularly research and applications that are either currently available or expected to be available in the clinical setting within 7 years. Notably, JALM has a special interest in publishing findings involving laboratory-developed tests.
In his inaugural editorial, Measurements Matter, Christenson explained that JALM content would be focused on timeliness, pragmatism, relevance, and quality. “The path forward for laboratory medicine will involve strategies for collaborating, communicating, and integrating with all healthcare stakeholders. There are many ongoing efforts and activities throughout the world toward this end,” he wrote. “JALM endeavors to play an active role in disseminating innovation, enhancing the value of laboratory medicine and its professionals and fulfilling unmet needs. All those involved with JALM are looking forward to enthusiastically engaging users and contributors of this resource and playing an active role in the evolution of laboratory medicine.”
While AACC from its founding valued research that advanced science and practice in clinical laboratory medicine, the association also understood the necessity of keeping its members and the broader clinical laboratory community abreast of not only scientific findings but also emerging regulatory and practice developments in the field. So began AACC’s monthly news publication, Clinical Chemistry News―later renamed Clinical Laboratory News―in 1975. CLN, together since 2014 with CLN Stat, a semi-monthly online publication, remain the authoritative news sources in the field. Multiple award-winning, both publications remain committed to the highest standards of journalistic excellence.