Annals of Internal Medicine: 75 years of medical history

July 01, 2002

PHILADELPHIA -- (July 2, 2002) Weakened by illness, a postman entered a famous clinic one day in the summer of 1925. He had lost 14 pounds in four weeks and said his legs were partly paralyzed. But his goiter, or enlarged thyroid gland, had decreased in size. "The cure is working wonders," he told his doctor. That postman's case would become the topic of a lecture published in the first issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, July 1927.

The "cure" was iodized salt, newly added to his diet. The voluntary addition of iodine to salt had been introduced in 1924, presenting a marketing opportunity for manufacturers. But for some patients, excess iodine would shift their thyroids into overdrive, or hyperthyroidism. (The amount of iodine enrichment would later be reduced, with wide public-health success.)

In the doctor's lecture on iodine overdose, he faulted manufacturers for their "widespread advertising" of iodized products as goiter cures, and also "the extreme gullibility of the public." If that physician read Annals of Internal Medicine today, he might be surprised and heartened to see the public has access to the same medical journal as physicians. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Annals of Internal Medicine now includes, as a regular feature, versions of its medical articles written for the public.

The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) publishes Annals of Internal Medicine for adult-medicine specialists worldwide.

Annals of Internal Medicine is a peer-reviewed journal and the only specialty journal among the five most highly cited medical journals in the world. As Annals of Internal Medicine marks its 75th anniversary, it is reviewing its past 25 years, having published a golden issue in 1977. That quarter-century has been impressive: the journal went from once- to twice-monthly, published a controversial call for universal access to care in 1990, and tackled mammography and cholesterol screening. It published the first papers on Lyme disease and many of the early papers on HIV and AIDS.

The article in the July 2, 2002, issue, "Annals of Internal Medicine at Age 75: Reflections on the Past 25 Years," is written by Edward J. Huth, MD, and Kathleen Case as an update of their earlier article, "Annals of Internal Medicine: The First 50 Years." Dr. Huth was editor of Annals from 1971 to 1990 and served in several editorial capacities for more than 30 years. Ms. Case was ACP-ASIM senior vice president for publishing and executive editor of Annals until 2001.

The focus of Annals continues to be internal medicine and its subspecialties. Annals of Internal Medicine publishes 120 original research articles a year, and only eight percent of original research articles submitted to the journal are accepted for publication.

The journal's concept of a "structured abstract" was an innovation that made sure authors included all of the important information in the abstract of an article, a brief summary that appears at the beginning of every article. Other innovations in the past 25 years include the Annals editors and staff providing early and active support of concepts such as the Cochrane Collaboration and "evidence-based medicine." The Cochrane Collaboration is a group of doctors who work to assemble and determine what information is reliable and worthy of application in clinical practice and what is not.

The journal's impact has been felt worldwide. Editors and staff have taken roles of leadership in international efforts to sustain and improve the quality of medical journal publishing. Annals was among the 18 journals that agreed in 1968 to use a standard format for references. The journal participated in the first group that in 1978 set uniform requirement standards for submissions. Today, those standards are accepted by more than 500 journals.

Annals of Internal Medicine has continued to provide a forum for discussion of concerns that affect all medical journals, such as criteria for authorship, identifying the contributions of various authors, authors' and editors' conflicts of financial interest, and examining the peer-review process. Annals editors organized meetings that led to the World Association of Medical Editors and a system for international discussion of editorial issues among members via the Internet.

Annals of Internal Medicine was first published by the American College of Physicians in 1927. It grew from earlier College publications: Annals of Medicine, first published in June of 1920, and Annals of Clinical Medicine, published from 1922 to 1927.

Embargoed copies of the article, "Annals of Internal Medicine at Age 75: Reflections on the Past 25 Years," (p. 34) can be obtained by calling the ACP-ASIM Communications Department at 800-523-1546, ext. 2656, or by e-mail at

To set up an interview with Dr. Huth or Ms. Case, authors of the anniversary article, please call Penelope Fuller at 215-351-2656, or e-mail at the above address.

Susan Anderson, 215-351-2653 or 800-523-1546, ext. 2653

American College of Physicians

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