Published continuously since 1903, the Wisconsin Medical Journal (WMJ) is one of the longest-standing medical journals in the world.

In 2020, the Wisconsin Medical Society transferred ownership of the journal to the state’s two medical schools: the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) and the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).

After publishing the journal for 117 years, the society felt it was time for a change.

“As the society looked to focus our efforts while continuing to offer members tools and resources to improve their personal and professional lives, we felt the journal could have broader impact through the medical schools while continuing to be a resource for the physicians of Wisconsin,” says the society’s CEO, Bud Chumbley, MD, MBA.

Wisconsin’s medical schools welcomed the opportunity to partner as the journal’s new stewards. WMJ operations are overseen by a publication board that includes representatives from each school, as well as an ex-officio member from the society. The editor-in-chief and deputy editor responsibilities will alternate between the schools.

“We are excited to bring the WMJ forward into its second century of publication. In supporting this peer-reviewed journal, our aim is to provide a forum for thought leadership and an outlet for our faculty, residents and students that showcases high-quality, ‘home-grown’ research and discussion of the most pressing health issues in Wisconsin and beyond,” says Robert N. Golden, MD, dean, SMPH, and vice chancellor for medical affairs, UW-Madison.

Serving as publishers of the journal is a complement to each school’s mission to train future generations of physicians, as well as an opportunity to engage practicing clinicians from the Midwest and far beyond.

“This collaboration offers an opportunity for each of our institutions to come together and advance some of our common scholarly goals: fostering professional communication, nurturing emerging research, broadening the dissemination of public health science, and encouraging continuing education for medical and public health professionals,” notes Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, dean of the MCW, provost and executive vice president.

More than 100 volunteers were peer reviewers in 2019, and anyone with an interest is encouraged to register (see https://go.wisc.edu/wmj-reviewer). Some reviewers have expertise in a specialty area, but generalists also are needed to review content to ascertain each article’s relevance to practicing physicians.

“For faculty members at Wisconsin’s medical schools and for practicing physicians around the state, being a peer reviewer can have many benefits,” says Sarina Schrager, MD, MS, WMJ interim editor-in-chief and a professor in the SMPH Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH). “Reviewers have the opportunity to learn about new topics or read updates on old topics. Serving as a reviewer is an opportunity to start thinking about your own writing as well. What worked well in this article? What didn’t work well?”

The WMJ also welcomes submissions and subscribers. E-mail subscriptions to the journal are free, and the publication board hopes to attract authors from other health professions, including nursing and pharmacy—something which fits well with its mission to cover a broad range of topics from public health to specialty care.

The former chair of the DFMCH, upon retiring as the WMJ editor-in-chief in late 2019, John Frey, III, MD, reflected, “The journal creates a forum for the profession. It’s a place to come together, where people can actually exchange ideas in ways that help them understand each other better. I believe that the WMJ has a really important place in the history of the profession, not just in the state, but in the country.”

Journals dating back to the first volume in 1903—archived at the UW-Madison Ebling Library in the same building as the SMPH—reflect how the dialogue in the field of medicine has changed.

The early journals were essentially transcriptions of meetings at which physicians gathered to present lengthy papers, and the format has evolved over time. Ads throughout the years reflected cultural norms of the day; for instance, it was common to see a 1950s ad proclaim, “My doctor recommends Marlboros©!” Journals also included articles about the socioeconomic impact of medicine and updates from county medical societies that provided a snapshot of the patient population at the time.

The WMJ web site—which augments content published in the journal—features a section called “The COVID-19 Collection” to share knowledge about research and care.

With the strength of this new medical school partnership, the WMJ will continue to thrive as a peer-reviewed, indexed, scientific journal. Information about subscribing or becoming a peer reviewer is available at wmjonline.org.