Jessie Colquhoun: Standfirsts and softball

Last Tuesday I would have been starting my first term as a fourth year medical student.  Instead I started my 11th week in the BMJ office as Student BMJ editor.  The position is a year long, and then I’ll go back to Manchester medical school to join a new year.  So it has taken eleven weeks to write this blog.  I’ve only just had the time and the confidence.

Office life and medical journalism are not what I expected.  Perks include being able to wear jeans to work and the caramel slices that appear on the grey filing cabinets at the back of the office on Friday afternoons.  I also like our approach to sporting events as I learned last week that an annual softball championship is held with our friendly rivals the Lancet.  But mostly I like the excitement of the job: Listening in on discussions about the latest NICE guidelines and WHO recommendations; understanding what Open Access is and seeing the BMJ go ‘POP‘ (publishing oblivious of print) on the web.

My job is to be a ‘sieve’ as one of my editors told me- reading submitted articles and picking out the good ones.  Submissions are diverse, and from those I’ve read today I’ve learned that children get hydrocephalus after meningitis (from Thomas Jaconelli, 5th year medical student York Hull)), that a GCS <8 indicates a severe head injury (from Andrew Baldwin 5th yr medical student Brighton and Sussex) and how to spell ‘Hirschsprung’s’ of (Hirschsprung’s disease) (from Dr Ian Coulter FY1 Paediatric Surgery, Edinburgh).

Since Hugh, the last student editor, left in July, I have been the youngest person in the office.  This is rather daunting and I’ve made a few mistakes.  I still feel like a student during meetings, and I definitely don’t feel like a journalist, although I’m starting to get the hang of the jargon: ’embargoes’ and ‘standfirsts’ are the latest additions to my journalist vocabulary.  My first job ‘event’ was the ‘Student in a tent protest‘ press conference in June and I got very confused when I was welcomed at the entrance with ‘Medical student or press?’.  I mumbled ‘both’, a comment that received puzzled looks.

My first issue as editor is out.  Tell me what you think.