Education And Debate

The Bmj and the 77 specialties of medicine

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 20 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1680
  1. Richard Smith, editora
  1. a BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

“The BMJ never publishes anything useful to leechologists. You haven't got a single leechologist on your editorial board. Once in a blue moon you publish a leechology paper, and it's always bloody awful. I don't know who you get to review them. What you don't seem to understand is that leechology is one of the most important specialties in medicine. There aren't enough of us, we're overworked, and general practitioners don't seem to know even the basics. Everyday we're dealing with dreadful cock ups. It's time your journal taught ordinary doctors the rudiments of leechology.”

Sadly, I hear this message regularly from representatives of the 77 different medical specialties. Some of the failures are inevitable. The BMJ is not intended to teach plastic surgery to plastic surgeons: if it did, we would lose contact with the 99.5% of our readers who are not plastic surgeons while we did so. Rather the BMJ attempts to concentrate on what matters to all doctors. Interestingly, medical educators are discovering that the knowledge and skills needed by doctors in different specialties are more similar than dissimilar.

When I meet with disgruntled specialists—as I do often—we usually have an enjoyable meeting and discover that there are many ways in which we can help each other. As it might take me a long time to work through 77 specialties in 122 countries, I thought I should write down answers to some of the questions that come up commonly.

How can we get our messages across?

This is usually the main question that specialists ask me, and I might tell them to employ a public relations specialist. Increasingly, medical specialties do, but they are expensive and I …

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