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October 2010 Issue

Henry Nasrallah, MD
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Editing Journals a Labor of Love for Psychiatry's Nasrallah

Published October 2010

The advice rings true, whether it comes from your Uncle Ned or an internationally known psychiatrist: In order to really excel at your job, you need to love what you do.

That’s exactly the case with Henry Nasrallah, MD, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience since 2003. As the editor-in-chief of two prominent journals—Schizophrenia Research and Current Psychiatry—he’s able to combine his love for the English word with his love of medicine.

Nasrallah recently received news that Schizophrenia Research has the highest Impact Factor among all of the psychiatric journals produced by Elsevier, the international science and health information publisher. (Impact Factor is a measurement of how frequently the average article in a journal is cited in a given period.)

Current Psychiatry, aimed at clinicians, functions as a forum for general psychiatry and is highly ranked in readers’ metrics by the A.C. Nielsen Co.

Nasrallah has had a lifelong love of writing and editing, going back to high school and college, where he worked on school magazines, and medical school at the American University of Beirut, where he edited the medical school journal.

"In high school, I took one of those aptitude tests that predict which vocation would be good for you,” he recalls. "I just filled it out, and the results came in as ’scientist/editor.’ And that’s exactly what I became.”

Nasrallah established Schizophrenia Research in 1988 after approaching Elsevier and pointing out that no journal devoted exclusively to schizophrenia existed at the time. Elsevier conducted marketing research that confirmed the need for such a journal, and Nasrallah was given the go-ahead to start one from scratch.

"It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy doing it like nothing else because I get to interact with all my colleagues around the world,” he says. "They send me their latest work, and I get to see it first and edit it, then send it to reviewers and accept the best articles for publication.”

The interaction with colleagues led to another benefit: formation of the Schizophrenia International Research Society in 2003, with Nasrallah as its co-founder and Schizophrenia Research as its official journal. The society has held two well-attended international meetings, with a third scheduled for 2012 in Italy.

Nasrallah’s editing duties grew when he was asked to take over Current Psychiatry in 2006, after editor-in-chief and then-chair of the psychiatry department Randy Hillard, MD, stepped down.  Hillard had founded the journal in 2001 to meet the need for a practical review journal in psychiatry. It is published jointly by Quadrant HealthCom and the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience.

"When I lecture around the country, I feel gratified that so many people come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate Current Psychiatry because it’s so relevant to their work,” Nasrallah says.

The two journals, Nasrallah notes, give the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience a high degree of editorial visibility, which gives UC visibility as well. But how does he find the time to juggle both of them?

"I don’t stop working,” he says. "I come into the office on Saturdays and Sundays and get a lot of my work done. When people tell me I lead an unbalanced life, I say, ‘Absolutely—and I’m proud of it!’”

Nasrallah is also quick to give credit to his staff, including his wife, Amelia Nasrallah, a research assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience who serves as senior managing editor for Schizophrenia Research as well as director of clinical research management for the department.

In Nasrallah’s view, his editing duties fit in perfectly with academic medicine’s mission of teaching, healing and research.

"Being an editor helps me become a better teacher because lifelong learning is the key to being a good physician,” he says. "If you don’t stay up on the literature, you will become obsolete in 10 years.”

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