Launched decades ago as a printed newsletter for clinicians and others served by pathologists and labs, today’s retooled “NewsPath” is online and targeted to clinicians more broadly—and gives CAP Junior Members an opportunity to write and speak. It also gives them an opportunity to be mentored at the earliest stage of their careers.
“It’s growing into a dynamic online publication that is a great opportunity for Junior Members and a wonderful tool that the College provides for pathologists and other clinicians,” says C. Leilani Valdes, MD, chair of “NewsPath” and its editorial board. “For pathologists to transform, communicating with clinical colleagues is essential.”
The 300- to 500-word articles, posted alongside five-minute audio podcasts, cover topical issues like West Nile virus, KRAS, and MRSA. All articles are reviewed for content by senior experts in the related lab discipline, which provides a mentoring opportunity for the younger writers.
“The College is looking for more ways for Junior Members to be involved. ‘NewsPath’ is an ideal vehicle,” Dr. Valdes says. “It opens up a writing experience immediately available to all Junior Members of the College.” A “strong team” of Junior Member writers is coming together, she says, adding, “This year we have 14 new writers to date.” For Junior Members, it’s more than writing an article. “It’s also an opportunity for them to improve their communication skills,” she says.
The five-person editorial board develops topic areas and story lists, and those who wish to participate can choose an idea from that list or suggest a topic of their own. “We’re working toward building a large enough pool of approved articles [on a topic area] so that we can drive the editorial calendar and find out what else is going on in the College, what else is going on in the [pathology] universe,” Dr. Valdes says.
The editorial board works to zero in on nuggets of newsworthy information, which can require an adjustment for those used to writing journal-style—and journal-length—pieces, she says. “We work with writers to convey what’s newsworthy about each topic,” she says. “We’re not going to make an opinion. We want to report facts that clinicians need to know.”
The senior scientific advisor, who is a member of one of the CAP’s scientific committees, reviews the facts and ensures the science is represented correctly. That also provides the writer with an occasion to interact with a CAP member he or she may not know. “We’ve been very fortunate to have the Fellows in the College step up,” Dr. Valdes says.
Once an article is approved for publication, the accompanying audio podcasts are the next step. “We have identified several spokespersons, through the CAP Spokespersons Network and the public affairs area, who have a strong voice amenable to podcasting,” she says.
The editorial board meets monthly and has been developing strategic partnerships with other committees. “NewsPath” is working closely with the CAP Technology Assessment Committee, whose members write the Perspectives on Emerging Technologies, or POET, reports. After the POET reports are published, “NewsPath” authors write concise articles about the POET report targeted to clinicians and produce an audio podcast on the topic. Response has been good. “Our audience to cap.org/newspath has almost doubled in 2009,” Dr. Valdes says.
Jennifer Pryor, MD, a fourth-year resident at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says she has published several papers in pathology journals and saw “NewsPath” as a different opportunity. Her “NewsPath” article was on the significance of microscopic metastases to regional lymph nodes in patients with melanoma.
“I chose that topic because I had developed an academic interest in melanoma,” Dr. Pryor says. “It seemed that for my very first ‘NewsPath’ article, I should write an article that I had a little more knowledge about. ... I took data from pathology journals and presented it in a succinct format to answer a clinical question.”
John Irlam, DO, of the University of Toledo Medical Center, chose the West Nile virus update from a list of suggested topics after seeing a flyer about “NewsPath” at CAP ’08 in San Diego.
“I decided to take advantage of it, not only to help with the resume but also because it helps me to keep up with the current literature, cutting-edge trends in our field,” he says.
The experience has been low pressure and is helping him grow professionally, Dr. Irlam says. “They [senior advisors] really helped me mature in my writing skills,” he explains. “I’m more confident in writing future articles. It’s also good for developing professional networking because I tend to work with faculty who are closely associated with the College.”
Ed Finkel is a writer in Evanston, Ill. If you’re a Junior Member and interested in contributing to “NewsPath,” please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. A list of suggested topics for 2009 is at www.cap.org/newspath.