The Canadian Medical Association has named an Ottawa doctor and researcher as the new editor-in-chief of its almost century-old scientific journal, a job that will require not only leading the publication into the future but also healing the wounds of the past.
Paul Hebert, a critical-care physician at The Ottawa Hospital, assumes his new post in early January. One of his first tasks will be trying to restore the journal's battered reputation among the research community at home and abroad.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal's status as one of the top five medical journals in the world took a beating after editor-in-chief John Hoey and senior deputy editor Anne Marie Todkill were fired for "undisclosed reasons" in February.
The CMA and its publishing arm were severely criticized for the dismissals, which were widely believed to have resulted from wrangling between the two editors and the medical association over editorial independence.
Calling the new position "the job of a lifetime," Dr. Hebert said the process of healing rifts and restoring the CMAJ's reputation has already begun under acting editor-in-chief Dr. Noni MacDonald, whom he credits with doing the "heavy lifting" through a difficult time.
"My sense is, let's just move on from here," Dr. Hebert said yesterday from Ottawa.
Dr. Hebert, whose research on blood transfusions and other critical-care issues has been widely published in international medical journals, said he has "negotiated a wonderful package" that will infuse the journal with increased financial resources to improve the quantity and quality of research it publishes.
The CMA has also adopted all the recommendations of an expert panel chaired by Dick Pound, which drafted a new governance structure for the journal. In July, a report by the panel concluded that the CMAJ should be free of editorial interference from its owners and that its editor should be protected from dismissal without cause.