Journal Notes: A Conversation with Dr. Caroline Coleman, JGME Associate and Lead Visual Media Editor

May 22, 2024
JGME Associate and Lead Visual Media Editor Caroline Coleman, MD.

In 2022, the Journal of Graduate Medical Education (JGME) added three new resident editors to its Editorial Board. Residents and fellows have long served in such positions along with faculty members, but these newest members brought unique skills and perspectives as visual media editors, joining to help authors create and refine visual abstracts and infographics. Timothy Daugherty, MD from Washington University in St. Louis, Dan Wong, MD from the University of Chicago, and Caroline Coleman, MD from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta have since helped JGME empower authors to present their work with the kind of eye-catching visuals that have proven to attract greater attention on social media. Drs. Daugherty and Coleman have also presented as part of JGME’s popular workshops on visual media at the 2023 and 2024 ACGME Annual Educational Conferences, as well as at the 2023 International Conference on Residency Education.

This year, Dr. Coleman moved into the role of associate editor, taking on more responsibilities with manuscript editing, as well as a leadership role in JGME’s visual media efforts. Reflecting on what she has learned over the past two years, Dr. Coleman notes, “I had experience in creating and editing visual abstracts before working with JGME, but this position taught me how to create a stylistic ‘brand’ of visual materials for an organization, as well as important managerial skills of how to create a sustainable infrastructure for inviting, creating, editing, and publishing several visual abstracts per issue of a journal.” JGME has been learning about this process along with Dr. Coleman and looks forward to the leadership she will bring in her role. Authors will also benefit from her guidance. Each year, competition for attention becomes more challenging in an increasingly crowded publishing and social media space. As articles with visual abstracts are shared and cited more often, authors who are new to the process or without a background in visual media will be seeking JGME’s assistance.

So how did Dr. Coleman get started? The combination of medical expertise and artistic skill in visual media is not always common, but her artistic experience goes back to her teenage years. She recalls, “My high school yearbook advisor taught me how to use the Adobe suite for photo editing and graphic design (shoutout to Renee Burke with Orange County Public Schools!), and I’ve loved creating digital media ever since. I started out by making logos, graphics, posters, and t-shirt designs. Then, in medical school, I started dabbling in medical illustration as a way to organize my notes and learning. I ended up becoming a medical illustration author for First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, which is the go-to study book for medical students.” From there came opportunities, as she became involved in other forms of digital media like visual abstracts, which is how she ended up contributing to JGME.

JGME editors are now in the final stages of reviewing a new group of resident editor applicants who will join the Editorial Board this next year. These positions will include residents and fellows with more traditional editing experience, as well as those with visual media expertise. This year, a special call for applications from international residents/fellows and medical graduates aims to bring further diversity to the journal’s Editorial Board.

As for the future of JGME’s visual media efforts, Dr. Coleman hopes to make visual abstracts even more accessible and applicable to every article type published in the journal, and to help all authors feel comfortable with creating their own. She says, “It’s common to feel intimidated, but hopefully our tools help walk authors step-by-step through the process and give them the resources to learn more on their own, too. Just as writing a manuscript is an essential skill for clinician scholars, I believe that communication of key findings visually is also essential, and we hope to make this skillset ubiquitous among authors in our journal.”

JGME visual abstracts are collected on a page of the JGME website for authors to review and find templates for their own work. The website also includes guidance along with a wealth of visual media resources for authors and anyone interested in learning more. Even so, the process can still seem daunting, which is why JGME will continue guiding, teaching, and developing new authors with the skills they need to succeed.

Journal Notes blogger Kevin Gladish is a staff editor for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. He’s been at the ACGME since 2016, and is also a performer, writer, and storyteller.