Journal Notes: Spotlight on Rip Outs--Unique Articles for Busy Educators

December 14, 2021
JGME Deputy Editor Dr. Deb Simpson
JGME Deputy Editor Deborah Simpson, PhD

The December issue of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education (JGME) continues its section of practical, how-to guides known as Rip Outs. The first comes from the Visual Media in Education Rip Out series: Making Your Educational Data Visual, and the second from the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice series: Words as Windows: Using Language to Move Toward an Inclusive Environment. These educational articles, quite unique to JGME, are the latest articles designed to help GME educators implement real-world solutions to daily challenges and ever-changing clinical and educational landscapes.

So why “Rip Out”? And where did the idea for these special articles originate? We spoke to Dr. Deb Simpson, one of JGME’s Deputy Editors and co-originator of the series, to find out more.

Along with Dr. Monica Lypson (now Vice-Dean for Education at Columbia University), Dr. Simpson co-authored the very first Rip Out in 2011, “It All Starts and Ends With the Program Director,” which aimed to provide published professional development support for educators and clinicians with not a lot of time to spare. As Dr. Simpson says, “Program directors and faculty members are swamped and busy. Some may not be in the traditional university setting, and they’re always running—providing clinical care, teaching, and managing. So it’s got to be a fast, actionable read.” Thus the format for Rip Outs, from the beginning, has always contained a standard layout with five sections: The Challenge; What is Known; How You Can Start TODAY; What You Can Do LONG TERM; and a Rip Out Action Items box. The goal, Dr. Simpson says, is that “once you’re done reading, you should be able to do something to take the first step.”

And what about that name? In 2011, JGME was primarily a paper journal. So, as Dr. Simpson recalls, “Literally, we wanted people to be able to rip it out of the journal and to copy and share it on one page, front to back.” Even though JGME content has since moved online and could easily accommodate longer Rip Outs, the spirit of the original two-sided page remains intact with short, crisp articles containing clear ways to start taking action.

Since that first article 10 years ago, Rip Outs have covered a variety of topics in response to changes in medical education. As the collection has grown, series have developed focusing on special topics, such as Assessment, Program Evaluation, Qualitative Research, and Supervision, as well as those dedicated to aiding career development, such as Career Transitions, Leadership, and Scholarly Activity. The first Rip Out in the Social Media series about using Twitter in clinical education was published in 2014. And, like the popular Visual Media in Education and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice series, content will only continue to expand and evolve.

If there has been a single challenge in developing the Rip Out series, it certainly hasn’t been a lack of ideas. Rather, the difficulty sometimes lies in distilling the authors’ knowledge and expertise into the two-page format. Dr. Simpson’s advice to authors who are experts in these topics is this: “Think of a cookbook. What’s the recipe?” She also advises, “Just write as if we were sitting in a bar at the [ACGME] Annual Educational Conference and you were coaching me about what you would recommend I start to do.” It’s not always easy, but the formula has worked, according to Dr. Simpson. “Some of the best responses I’ve gotten have been at the Annual Educational Conference. Someone will say, ‘Oh you’re the Rip Out person! These are so great. I shared it, I used it, and we’re now applying it.’ That’s the best feedback we can get.”

What can you expect to see from Rip Outs in the future? While Dr. Simpson feels they currently have a winning formula, she is looking forward to incorporating more visuals and infographics. As for ideas for future topics,  the editors have a growing list, but if there is something you would like to see as a Rip Out, please email and peruse the Rip Out collection here, where all articles are open access.

Guest blogger Kevin Gladish is an editorial associate on the staff of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. He’s been at the ACGME since 2016, and is also a performer, writer, and storyteller.