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Share Your Expertise with Readers of CDC’s MMWR

Posted By Sonja Rasmussen, MD, MS, Friday, May 20, 2016
Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2016
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A month from now many of you will be in Anchorage, gathered for the CSTE Annual Conference, sharing your expertise and building collaborations.

Those are the very reasons it was important to me as the Editor-in-Chief of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that we be there, too.

On Monday, June 20 (2:00-3:30 p.m.), Jeff Sokolow, Technical Writer/Editor for MMWR, and I will be presenting on “Publishing in Today’s MMWR: Widely Read, Widely Respected.” MMWR is often considered “the voice of CDC,” but that doesn’t mean the reports are only from CDC authors. We want to be publishing your scientific work and we welcome your submissions.

Tim Jones will be moderating our session. Since 2015, he has served as chair of the MMWR Editorial Board, but his history with the publication goes back many years including during his time as a part of CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. He’s now the State Epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health and of course is a past president of CSTE.

When outbreaks are first identified, we don’t always know what they will become. This 1976 MMWR report on a “Respiratory Infection -- Pennsylvania” was the first report on what became known as Legionnaires’ disease.

CDC discovered that two cases of febrile respiratory illness in children from Southern California were caused by a new H1N1 influenza virus of swine origin. These two cases – the first of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic – were reported as an MMWR Early Release.

Maybe you know the history of MMWR, the first journal to publish descriptions of cases of Legionnaires’ disease, AIDS, and 2009 H1N1 influenza. I’ll talk about how MMWR has informed and shaped public health for many decades and I’ll introduce you to our broad readership that runs the gamut from physicians to epidemiologists and educators. And we’ll talk about how MMWR reports are widely highlighted in news reports and redistributed by other journals and medical associations.

After being alerted by a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer assigned to the Los Angeles County Department of Health, MMWR published a report in 1981 on five cases of a rare type of pneumonia in otherwise healthy young men – the first indication of the AIDS epidemic.

Jeff Sokolow will outline the structure of an MMWR Weekly Report, highlighting how the first paragraph serves as an abstract containing background, methods, main results, discussion, and a SOCO (single overriding communications objective) that states the public health action recommended. He will also discuss the MMWR editorial review process, give clear writing tips and note errors to avoid.

It will also be our pleasure to introduce you to two MMWR authors from state health departments. We will be joined by Joan M. Duwve of the Indiana State Department of Health. Joan and her department colleagues used an MMWR template to develop their report on a community outbreak of HIV infection and in three weeks’ time went from inception to publication. Her description of the process and the impact of the publication will put you in the shoes of an MMWR author.

Ali Hamade of the Alaska Section of Epidemiology will talk about publishing on what might have seemed to be a very esoteric topic - suspected palytoxin inhalation exposures – that ended up garnering widespread attention. In his words, “Publishing in MMWR with its wide reach and open access has helped serve global public health by spreading the message. We saw evidence of this from the many technical assistance requests from the public and public health agencies, to national and international media inquiries and postings on multiple hobbyist and professional blogs.”

As Ali notes, he and his co-authors chose MMWR because it reaches a broad audience including state and federal public health officials, is open access and therefore freely available to all, and is easily retrieved in internet searches.

Please come hear their stories and learn how publishing in MMWR can further your own public health impact.

Our goal is to help you share what you’ve learned. We’re coming to the conference hoping to build many collaborations. We look forward to meeting you in June.

Sonja Rasmussen, MD, MS is editor-in-chief of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and director of the Division of Public Health Information Dissemination at the CDC Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services. Visit the publication on the web at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/.

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