Finding Our Voice

I just started reading “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. Maybe you’re familiar with this book,too. Time Magazine featured it as the cover story in February and Amazon rated it one of the best books for the month of January. Having a bit of an introverted side myself (I admit that I love to be alone), the topic really intrigued me. Plus I thought that this book might even be useful in my role as president of the ASC this year since there are probably lots of other ASC members with introverted tendencies, too. After all, who else other than us introverts would truly enjoy the solitary, patient, and detail-oriented work of screening and interpreting Pap tests and other cytology specimens?!

According to the research shared in this book, introverts often make concerted efforts to overcome their natural quiet tendencies and be more “out there”, if the purpose or cause is worthy. Perhaps you notice this yourself if, like me, you consider yourself to be somewhat introverted, yet you find yourself forcing your extroverted side because of your passion for your work, your activities with the ASC or other professional groups, or in your personal life. Though leadership is often associated with extroversion, introverts have highly valued leadership qualities since they are usually good listeners, take time to gather information, and are thoughtful and careful about their comments and decisions. Yet these excellent qualities and contributions may not get noticed if introverts don’t speak up and make their voices heard.

Writing can help introverts find their voice so that they can get noticed as leaders. As the voice of the ASC this year, I want to enhance our Society’s communication internally and externally so that we can be the leaders we need to be. Leading the future of our profession is an important goal of our Society, especially during our 60th anniversary year. Our facebook page and this blog are methods to help our members stay better connected to the ASC and to share our voice with other stakeholders who care – or need to care — about cytology and what we do.

Establishing the new ASC journals also an unprecedented opportunity for our Society to have a greater voice and to ensure that we are heard. We can be better positioned for leadership if we reach a wider audience, share our values and opinions through editorials, and if we can focus journal content on areas that fit the society’s priorities. Needless to say, beginning a new journal is not a quick and easy task– there is lots of work to be done before the first issue comes out. Consensus-building and garnering support is one of the tasks. Though there is tremendous enthusiasm by many members, the decision to start a journal is also a bit controversial for many reasons. Change is never universally embraced, and in particular some members question if the cytology community really needs another journal, and others wonder if this will increase financial risk for the ASC. And introverts tend to less inclined toward risk, especially financial risk, since they are constitutionally programmed to downplay immediate reward.

I’m pleased to say that we are making excellent progress toward our journal, thanks to the push of our extrovert members and the natural tendency of introverts to thoughtfully explore issues and weigh choices which has worked to our advantage. The journal committee, led by Eva Wojcik, last year did an excellent job in researching the pros and cons of starting a journal, and their background work demonstrated how successful journals can be for small societies like ours. Importantly, they also vetted publishers which facilitated our choice of Elsevier. The strong work of this committee has now allowed me, the other officers, and Executive Board to move forward with other foundational tasks. Syed Ali has created several key documents for the Executive Board’s review that are important to his success as editor-in-chief, including the editor-in-chief’s job description, review criteria, and memorandum of understanding with the ASC. These documents were modeled very closely on guidelines from the World Association of Medical Editors (considered to be “the Bible” in the field), in addition to similar editorial documents from the Journal Veterinary Clinical Pathology. Additionally, Executive Director, Beth Jenkins, the other officers and I have been working with Elsevier to be sure that the excellent contract they provided fully meets the ASC’s needs. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to turn for advice to outstanding colleagues who are experienced in editorial and business aspects of medical journal publishing. This includes pathologist George Lundberg, the former editor-in-chief of JAMA and founder of Medscape; veterinary cytopathologist Mary Christopher who is a founder and former editor-in-chief of Veterinary Clinical Pathology; Priscilla Markwood of American Society of Investigative Pathology who oversees publishing of ASIP’s journals American Journal of Pathology and Journal of Molecular Diagnostics (both of which are Elsevier publications); and internist Richard Kravitz who is the editor-in-chief of Journal of General Internal Medicine, the official journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine. Syed Ali and EB members have also been able to consult colleagues with journal experience as well. These friends to our Society have all generously shared their experience and provided context, pitfalls, successes and comparators against which we can create and evaluate our own contract, editorial documents, and other plans, and we are very grateful. We are now in the final stages of tweaking the contract, and once this is signed, the next task will be for the Executive Board to appoint an editorial board and associate editors so that the journal can move forward with developing content. Syed Ali, as our journal’s editor-in-chief, will be participating in the Executive Board’s strategic planning session in May to ensure that the journal’s vision and themes are well-aligned with the ASC’s vision and priorities and so that implementation of strategic goals can actively include the journal.

So in our own quiet, careful and powerful way, the ASC is finding and growing its voice. If you’ve been wondering about our journal, the work to make this happen is well-underway. Stay tuned and listen carefully – in a world that never stops talking, the ASC will be leading the conversation in new directions and in different ways.

Lydia Pleotis Howell MD; ASC President