ERG Testimonials

We recently asked some of our most productive ERG Chairs some questions about the time commitment they have to make to fulfill their responsibilities as ERG Chair, whether they personally review books and what that experience is like, and what they most enjoy about being an Editorial Review Group Chair. The comments below are attributed to the following individuals:

Marvin Bittner, MD, MSc, Creighton University Medical Center, ERG Specialty: Infectious Diseases

David Dries, MD,  University of Minnesota Medical School, ERG Specialties: Critical Care Medicine; Trauma Surgery

Leonard Gomella, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, ERG Specialty: Urology

Joseph Hageman, MD, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, ERG Specialty: Pediatrics

Mark Hutchinson, MD, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, ERG Specialty: Orthopaedics

Patrick McDonnell, PharmD, Temple University School of Pharmacy, ERG Specialty: Pharmacy

Valerie Ng, MD, PhD, Alameda County Medical Center, ERG Specialty: Laboratory Medicine, Laboratory Technology

Elliot Roth, MD, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, ERG Specialty: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Carol Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, ERG Specialties: General Surgery, Gastrointestinal Surgery, Oncologic Surgery, Endocrine Surgery

Patricia Wong, MD, Private Practice, ERG Specialty: Dermatology

Martin Yorath, DPM, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, ERG Specialty: Podiatry

ERG Chairs have a variety of reasons why they enjoy this work. Here are reflections on what they value most from this work from members of our panel:

Dr. Yorath: “I enjoy being an Editorial Chair for two main reasons. First, I get to see and review (and make comparisons to) current publications relevant to my field. Second, I am able to provide an excellent reference library for our residents and students.”

Dr. Roth: “I enjoy engaging colleagues in the experience of reviewing, especially giving trainees and junior faculty the opportunity to write reviews. These reviews can be effective professional development activities that many find rewarding.”

Dr. Hageman: “I really enjoy my role as the Pediatrics Editorial Chair for a number of reasons. First, I have always enjoyed reading and collecting books, and I receive a significant number of books in all areas of pediatrics. Second, I have a lot of fun either reviewing the books myself or recruiting reviewers from the different sections.

The reviewers include medical students with an interest in pediatrics, residents, fellows, and junior and senior faculty, depending on the topic and the objectives of the book. Once reviewed, the books I get are donated to section libraries for student, trainee, and faculty use. The response of the faculty members has been really positive. I also donate books to the chief resident libraries for medical students and residents to use and to the hospital medical libraries.”

Dr. Dries: “In the years I have been an ERG chair I feel I have gotten to know the editors and contributors in the subject areas I examine.  Carefully reviewing books which my colleagues produce becomes a form of personal relationship.  As one who writes books as well, I fully appreciate the energy required to bring a labor of love, such as a book, to press.  It is an honor to be part of the medical publishing process.  Despite the explosion of technologies in other fields, I believe that healthcare is still driven by high quality books.  My job is to identify the best sources and provide feedback which improves them.”

Dr. Gomella: “I enjoy two things about being the ERG Chair:  Getting to see the latest publications in the field. I would not be aware of most of these books if it was not for the Doody’s opportunity.  And as Chair of an academic Department the service as Chair has allowed me to develop one of the most comprehensive reference libraries for our residents, students and faculty.”

Dr. McDonnell:

  • “Keeping up to date on current texts in my discipline
  • Networking with my colleagues who I interact with to become reviewers
  • Knowing that an extra copy of the text is reserved for myself as ERG, that creates a great library that I share with my colleagues and our students”

Dr. Hutchinson: “I love keeping current with my field.  Second, I love being able to share the books with the department library and residents.  Third, I love the potential of influencing and impacting others/libraries regarding the best offerings available in the literature.”

Dr. Scott-Conner: “I love books, and it is wonderful to have books come every month in my specialty field. I enjoy looking through them and I take pride in seeing the extra copies in our departmental library.”

Dr. Bittner: “[What I enjoy most is] connecting reviewers with books that delight them. The reviewers are generally my colleagues, people I’ve known for years. So sending someone a book that’s appreciated is like sending a friend a gift they like.”

ERG Chairs approach their duties in a very personal way, depending on their situation (e.g., are the reviewers they depend on all local or have they developed a more nationwide network of reviewers), office support, and the involvement they want with the review. Here are the comments of some of the members of our panel when asked about their monthly commitment of time to ERG Chair duties.

Dr. Yorath: “Typically, it is about 1 to 2 hours maximum per review. Rarely is it more, but that depends upon the complexity of the subject matter and the text under review.”

Dr. Roth who commissions 1-2 reviews/month: “Doing the reviews and recruiting others to do the reviews typically takes me about 1-2 hours per month.”

Dr. Gomella who on average commissions 2 reviews/month: “[My monthly ERG Chair duties take] about 30 minutes. Not a big burden.”

Dr. McDonnell:  “2-4 hours per month [to assign 3 reviews on average]”

Dr. Hutchinson who commissions 4-5 reviews/month: “[The amount of time I spend finding reviewers is] very minimal.  When the new books come in, I will briefly look [at the] content and quality of the offerings.  Some books don’t need a review and for those one copy goes to department library and one to a prize box for residents.  For those that require review, I will assess the availability and previous timeliness/quality of content experts [from the department] who have done reviews in the past and distribute accordingly.”

Dr. Scott-Conner who on average commissions 4 reviews/month: “Probably two to four hours. I am ERG for four topics; so finding reviewers takes a bit of time, and I read and edit all the reviews. Some of the reviews need to be ‘fleshed out’ as I euphemistically put it.”

Dr. Bittner who on average commissions 2 reviews/month:  “[The monthly time commitment  averages] about two hours.”

And some of our ERG Chairs enjoy personally reviewing some or most of the books they receive each month. Those that do discuss some of the benefits of reviewing the books themselves:


Dr. Dries:  “I try to review all books that I receive from [Doody’s]…Besides writing reviews, I examine the secondary and primary literature to see how they merge in the books which I receive.  Working with you has taught me a lot about how to identify quality in both the primary and secondary sources.”

Dr. Hutchinson: “I usually will review a book or two but will refer [titles] to my content experts whenever possible.”

Dr. Scott-Conner: “I do it for one of three reasons – 1. I really find the book interesting and want to read it; 2. It is a new edition (or a new) major textbook and deserves a careful thoughtful – but timely – review; 3. The assigned reviewer fails to deliver despite significant time and personal hectoring.”

Dr Ng: “I love staying current in my profession by reviewing the latest submissions/textbooks.  [And] I love being able to use constructive criticism in my reviews to influence future contributions.”

Dr. Wong: “I always write the reviews, of course… I enjoy reading the books because I am a bookworm and this is a wonderful way to stay up to date on the latest information in the field and learn about new treatments and discoveries in dermatology. I will spend 4-6 hours doing anywhere from 2-4 reviews, depending on the length of the book and the subject material. (If I am familiar  with the topic I am able to review the book more quickly.) If I find the book fascinating it may take me weeks to finish the review because I will stay up late at night reading most if not all of it.”

Dr. Yorath: “I review all the books myself. What do I find the most rewarding? Reviewing subsequent editions to see if they really are a worthwhile contribution and, always, the commentary on competing texts — this requires one to delve into one’s memory and personal library to see what else there is, something that I always enjoy.”