Friday, October 5, 2012

NEJM editor visits the MGH

SHARING HISTORY: Ausiello, left, with Drazen

John Collins Warren and James Jackson were busy men in the 1810s. One year after they penned the Circular Letter – the fundraising letter that would lead to the establishment of the MGH – they collaborated to create the first medical journal in the region. With the publication of its first issue in January 1812, the two Boston physicians began what is now the oldest continuously published medical journal in the world: the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Today, more than 600,000 people read the NEJM each week, and it is cited more often in scientific literature than any other medical journal.

To commemorate the bicentennial of the NEJM and the history it shares with the MGH, Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Drazen, MD, presented “Two Hundred Years of Medical Advances” Sept. 20 at the Medical Grand Rounds in the O’Keeffe Auditorium. Drazen began by delving into the early lives of Warren and Jackson. “After visiting London and Paris, which were centers of medicine at the time, Warren realized that Boston was a medical backwater,” said Drazen. “In order to improve care, doctors needed to communicate with others; they needed to talk with one another.” Drazen described the various iterations of the NEJM over the last two centuries.

Originally called the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and the Collateral Branches of Medical Science, the journal began as a quarterly publication. After merging with the Boston Medical Intelligencer 16 years later, it became the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal and was published weekly. The Massachusetts Medical Society purchased the publication for $1 in 1921, and in 1928, it was renamed the New England Journal of Medicine.

Since its establishment, Drazen said, the journal has published more than 150,000 articles. He detailed some of the most noteworthy breakthroughs reported in the NEJM, including the first successful public demonstration of ether at the MGH in 1846.

“In addition to sharing common founders, the MGH and the New England Journal of Medicine share a common mission: advancing care,” says Dennis Ausiello, MD, chief of the Department of Medicine. “Physicians constantly struggle to keep up with the overload of information available. The NEJM has been a consistent, trusted resource for reporting on the most significant discoveries of our time.”

For more information about the history of the NEJM, visit

Read more articles from the 10/5/12 Hotline issue.


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