Public Health Matters: JAMA editor speaks after art showcase

The Northwestern Public Health Review hosted a “Public Health Matters” event on October 7 for members of the Northwestern and University of Illinois at Chicago communities. The event focused on how to communicate public health messages from two angles: pictures and scientific writing.

A photo gallery in the Lurie Research Center showcased photographs from Northwestern students and faculty around the world, from Ethiopia to Chile. With only short descriptors, the messages in public health were conveyed primarily through the images. Students in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Master of Science in Biomedical Visualization program also displayed some of their work in the gallery. The goal of this program is to educate “artist scientists” to go on to be illustrators, medical animators, web and media specialists, and anaplastologists (specialists in the creation of custom aesthetic prosthetics for absent, disfigured, or malformed parts of the body or face). The full gallery of works is available online.

Members of the community gathered to view the works in the art reception.

Members of the community gathered to view the works in the art reception.

Following the art reception, Phil Fontanarosa, an editor at the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) gave a talk describing how to communicate public health messages through scientific writing, all while maintaining a lighthearted tone.

“The number one obstacle to scientific writing is procrastination,” Fontanarosa said. “When people ask me why I procrastinate, I say, ‘Let me get back to you on that one.’”

Fontanarosa addresses the audience on scientific writing for public health.

Fontanarosa addresses the audience on scientific writing for public health.

In his opinion, it is the researcher’s duty and responsibility to the research participants to report the findings and get the public health message out to the public. Collaboration is necessary for successful research and developments, although working with multiple authors may at times be challenging.

“Science is a team sport- public health is a team sport,” he said.

Following these general messages, Fontanarosa delved into the specifics of getting a scientific paper published in a journals, such as writing a personalized cover letter, responding promptly to feedback, and following the guidelines for authors for each specific journal.

The Northwestern Public Health Review is a student journal at the Feinberg School of Medicine’s Program in Public Health.

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