Publish Or Perish: The Importance Of Sharing Our Knowledge

Christopher F. Hyer DPM FACFAS

I attend a lot of foot and ankle specialty meetings throughout the year. I enjoy the academic stimulation and continuing to learn as well as the camaraderie with other professionals. What continues to puzzle me, however, is that we have many talented and experienced physicians who never publish or share their knowledge.

I can recall several instances as a speaker panel moderator fielding questions from a colleague who emphatically supports another technique or method that was not discussed or was underrepresented. Many times, a colleague may have extensive personal experience and anecdotal evidence for his or her technique although with limited peer-reviewed literature support.

By no means are research and medical writing easy endeavors. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and funding. It takes personal and professional dedication and determination to see the research idea make it through to fruition as a published study. Nevertheless, the effort is worth it both for your own sense of satisfaction but more importantly to advance the body of medical knowledge.

In my example above, I find myself briefly stepping up on my soapbox in order to plead to the audience and the colleagues in question to publish their work so that we may all learn and benefit from the acquired knowledge. There are techniques under discussion for years at conferences that have limited or no literature support to validate their merit. This is not to say such techniques are without merit but we just don’t know because there is insufficient evidence. We need to take it upon ourselves to publish our experience and encourage our colleagues to do the same.

Just as important as sharing the knowledge is the means we use to share it. We can disseminate our experience and research at academic meeting and conferences, which allows one-on-one discussion. This is valuable because of the personal interaction and sharing of ideas. We also need to share the knowledge by publishing the experience in professional journals. This is where I will argue for the need for cross-pollination.

The foot and ankle specialty does not exist in a vacuum. We have medical professionals from several different backgrounds who treat foot and ankle pathology and all have much to offer. This crosses medical specialties and geographic boundaries. I would ask everyone to consider this when furthering your foot and ankle education through conference attendance and journal subscriptions as well as when you are publishing. Cross-pollination between various foot and ankle providers only furthers the specialty and enhances the body of knowledge.

The growth of the foot and ankle specialty has also brought an increased body of knowledge and greater access to this knowledge. This also has increased the avenues to have one’s work published in peer reviewed journals. Options abound from surgically focused journals such as The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery (JFAS), Foot and Ankle International, Foot and Ankle Specialist and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery to wound and medicine focused journals like Wound Care, the Journal of Wound Care and the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association (JAPMA).

So my plea to us all is “publish or perish.” Critically evaluate what you do and why you do it, and then share it with the rest of us. The education process is a continuum and we all can learn from one another.

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