When Milton C. Winternitz, M.D., dean of the medical school from 1920 to 1935, conceived of the Yale system of medical education, a key element was a student-run journal that would serve not only as a place for students to publish their original research, but as a learning tool as well.

The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine (YJBM) made its debut in October 1928. It has been published continuously ever since and remains the longest-running medical journal edited and published by students.

Despite its pedigree, the future of the YJBM in recent years was uncertain. Faced with financial insecurity and the departure of its longtime faculty advisor and the editorial coordinator, publication of the quarterly journal had slowed to a crawl by the summer of 2006.

But thanks to the efforts of student editors determined to turn the journal around, as well as support from faculty, administrators and alumni, the YJBM is back on track and arguably stronger than ever, with a new editorial coordinator, Karen E. Olson, and a new website. As of last summer, the journal was available on PubMed Central, the National Institutes of Health’s digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature.

“The journal is part of the history of the Yale medical school,” said Jeffrey R. Bender, M.D., HS ’83, the Robert I. Levy Professor of Preventive Cardiology and the journal’s faculty advisor. “It’s carved into the fabric of the school, one of the pieces that makes the Yale medical school unique.”

Bender credits the two editors who served during the current academic year, doctoral candidates Janice Friend (molecular, cellular and developmental biology) and Kristin Patrick (microbiology), with putting the journal back on a solid footing. Their immediate predecessors, medical student Adam Licurse and graduate student Richard Wing, also led the journal through a difficult transition. Their efforts have included aggressively soliciting high-quality papers and instituting a well-organized structure for reviewing manuscripts and responding to contributors. Former Deputy Dean for Education Herbert S. Chase, M.D., made the journal’s transition to stability one of his final projects before departing in 2006, and his successor, Richard Belitsky, M.D., has continued to provide financial support.

Bender said the YJBM ties in with the school’s educational mission. “It’s a chance for students to learn about peer review, which is a huge part of science, and about editing and scientific writing. It’s a superb form of early training.”

Patrick, who took over as co-editor in chief in April 2007, said she and an editorial team of roughly 10 have worked to broaden the submission pool and seek out the best work. “Our standards have risen significantly,” she said. “Good quality-controlled experiments and well-written papers are our long-term goal.”

Friend, who is interested in a career in scientific publishing, said her work with YJBM has been invaluable. “I’ve learned a great deal about what makes a good or successful article, how to effectively solicit articles, what does and does not work in delegating tasks, and tactful communication with authors.”

To keep the journal headed in the right direction, board members are exploring ways to promote and advertise it. They’ve also started recruiting new medical and graduate students to staff the journal. “The goal is to become self-perpetuating, so we don’t face the kind of problems we had before,” Patrick said. 

For more information about the YJBM, or for guidelines for authors or article request forms, visit YJBM.yale.edu.