A Michigan State University College of Human Medicine research journal, run by students, is attracting worldwide attention.
Often times, a mark of prestige for authors of medical studies is how many times their work is cited in other research articles. So, recently, it was particularly gratifying when an article about Alzheimer’s disease in the college’s Medical Student Research Journal was cited 71 times.
Another article titled “A comprehensive stroke center patient registry: advantages, limitations, and lessons learned” drew 31 citations.
“Our hard work does have this useful, tangible value,” said Kathleen Louis, a fourth-year College of Human Medicine student and the journal’s newly installed executive editor in chief. “I think it’s important for people to see it.”
In fact, since its founding in 2007 as the country’s longest-running academic journal that is authored, reviewed and edited by medical students, the journal has attracted a following from across the globe.
“We know there are people from all over the world who are reading it,” said Mark Trottier, the college’s student research director and faculty advisor for the journal. While he offers professional guidance, “the students do all the work,” he said.
“Publication of results is a critical component of being a researcher,” Trottier said. “The students get to experience the operational side of a research journal. They participate in the solicitation and review of articles and preparing articles for publication, of course. But they also run a highly complex organization. They have to take care of advertising, funding, work flow, team building and recruiting new MSRJ members every year. It’s an incredible task, especially when you consider everything is done by full-time medical students.”
Two College of Human Medicine students – Steven Plato, now a thoracic surgeon in California, and Andrew Wyman, now an emergency medicine physician in North Carolina – founded the journal in 2007, giving medical students the same kind of outlet for their research that physicians and scientists have through professional medical journals.
The journal, published twice a year, accepts research papers written by medical students from all over the world and is available for anyone to read online. The first of two issues for the 2018-19 academic year included articles and studies by students at medical schools in California, West Virginia, Georgia, Texas, the Caribbean islands, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and China, as well as by College of Human Medicine students. The next issue is expected to publish in the coming weeks.
“I think it’s a great way for medical students to learn what it’s really like to write articles, do their own original research and go through the editing process,” said Angelyn Thayer, who served as the journal’s executive editor in chief during the 2018-19 academic year. “I know it’s made me a better reader of medical literature.”
It’s also a valuable entry on a student’s curriculum vitae, particularly when applying for residency programs. Thayer, who graduates in May and is starting a vascular surgery residency in Florida, said interviewers considering her for their residency programs often asked about her work on the journal.
Louis credited Thayer with enforcing deadlines and organizing the journal’s staff of senior and junior editors and reviewers, who volunteer their time. First-year students interested in working on the journal can take an elective course on how to write, read and review scientific papers.
“Our group is really dedicated,” Louis said. “There’s always somebody who’s willing to do these reviews. That’s what makes it happen: all of us working together.”