This month on Corner Stitch, Christopher Audu, MD, profiles a new and innovative program offered by the Journal of Vascular Surgery (JVS). It’s called the JVS internship program, and with us this month are Ulka Sachdev-Ost, MD, and Anand Brahmandam, MD. Sachdev is a professor of vascular surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, and the founder of the program, now in its second year, and Brahmandam is the chief integrated vascular surgery resident at Yale and was one of the inaugural JVS interns last year.
VS: What is the JVS internship program? How does it work? How do you apply?
AB: The Journal of Vascular Surgery reviewer internship program is a reviewer training program initiated by the editors of the JVS family of journals and Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS). The goal of this program is to train the next generation of vascular surgeons how to review research papers and be fair, balanced and respectful reviewers in their career. During this year-long internship, trainees are paired with a mentor (senior editor for JVS) and are expected to review around 10–12 manuscripts under the guidance of their mentor. In addition to reviewing papers, there are monthly group sessions and lectures focusing on a variety of topics pertinent to the peer-review and editorial process.
The call for applications is typically through social media, SVS connect and/ or Audible Bleeding, and requires a current CV, a brief statement of interest, and two letters of support (one from a program director, and one from a faculty mentor).
VS: What are you looking for in potential JVS interns?
US: We are looking for an individual who brings a unique perspective based on past experiences and background. We are also looking to create a diverse intern “class” from across the country who have experiences in both urban and rural settings. And of course, we are looking for someone who is interested in contributing to the journal for years to come!
VS: What was the impetus for creating a JVS internship program? It seems pretty neat and unique. Are there similar programs at other journals you’re aware of?
US: There are other journals that have internships but it is definitely not common, particularly in a surgical journal. The impetus to start the program was really to help expand the reviewer pool in a way that has a lasting impact. The program allows the next generation of vascular specialists to get exposure to the role of reviewer in a formalized way so that they can offer unbiased contributions to peer review for our society. It also gives them an exposure to journal leadership which is hugely important. I’d love to see our interns become editors of journals themselves one day!
VS: That’s really neat and a great way to generate a pipeline of qualified reviewers. As an alumnus of the program, Andy, how did the JVS internship help you? Do you review for other journals now because of it?
AB: Excellent question! Prior to this program, I had done some ad hoc reviewing for non-vascular surgical journals. The JVS reviewer internship program gave me formal training in reviewing and the entire editorial process. And who better to learn from than the editors of JVS! Not only did this process help me with reviewing papers, but I think it has helped me formulate stronger clinical research and write better. Moreover, I do review for other vascular surgical journals as well now—thanks to the JVS reviewer internship program!
VS: That’s amazing! Now to your mentor, Dr. Sachdev. How did having an intern shape your style of reviewing? Did you find that it helped you become a better reviewer?
US: Most definitely. Teaching and mentoring makes one accountable and deliberate in a very specific way. I think the experience was really good for all of the mentors involved.
VS: So, this seems like a win-win situation for everyone! Dr. Sachdev, what advice would you give to a new editor taking on an intern?
US: Excellent question. The mentors have already had experiences helping residents and fellows through the clinical spheres of our profession. Thus, they already have the background to be good mentors. I would encourage them to pick articles that will challenge their mentees. Send them articles that are outstanding as well as those that might need some help or are not appropriate for publication. As I told Anand, one of my key criteria for accepting a paper is whether an author did what they said they were going to do. Sometimes the results and conclusions are not congruent with the stated goals of the project. I think each mentor has a similar pearl that they can pass on to their mentees.
VS: That’s sage advice. I’m gonna pocket that one. Dr. Brahmandam, what advice would you give to a new intern?
AB: This process is very much like first year of surgical residency; therefore, it is important to find a workflow system early on. One of the most important tips on reviewing Dr. Sachdev gave me was—are the authors doing what they say they are? And is the methodology appropriate to answer that question? This led me to a very simplified approach of looking at manuscripts. Similarly, I am certain every senior editor/mentor will have their own simplified approach to reviewing. My suggestion to the new interns is to find a simplified system of reviewing—whether it’s from one mentor or multiple mentors—stick to that system, and to make it a habit through repetition. Additionally, while the program is certainly very high-yield, there is a time commitment and especially for those trainees in active clinical years, there is some deliberate planning and time-management is needed.
VS: You both have been amazing at answering these questions. Last question is for both of you. What do you hope for the future of the program—especially since there’s now a new cohort of JVS interns?
US: I’d love to see the program expand if possible, and I am hoping to put together a publication with the results of its efficacy.
AB: The future of this program is clearly bright! I was so fortunate to be part of a star-studded class from across the country and it was great to finally meet them in person at this past VAM! In the short-term, I would love to see this program collaborate with other surgical journals and expand the scope of “reviewer-training” to all surgical specialties. For the long-term, I hope to see graduates of this program on the editorial board or as editors of various journals and mentors for future reviewer interns!
Christopher Audu, MD, is a vascular surgery resident at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Vascular Specialist resident/fellow editor.