Dr. John V. Cox Reflects on 10 Years as Editor in Chief of Journal of Oncology Practice

Apr 24, 2018

By Caroline Hopkins, ASCO Publishing

John V. Cox, DO, FASCO, of the Parkland Hospital and Health System/University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, has served as the editor in chief of the Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP) since 2008. As a member of the journal’s inaugural editorial board, he has seen the publication evolve into the practicing oncologist’s authoritative resource for information and insights needed to deliver quality oncology care.

Dr. Cox will step down as JOP’s editor in chief after this year. In the following interview, Dr. Cox discusses his experience overseeing JOP for nearly a decade—and his predictions for what’s to come.

What was JOP like when you first began your role as editor in chief?

JC: In this job—and this field—I find that I’m seldom looking backward. It’s always the challenges of the new month, quarter, or year as we try to better serve our authors and readers. But reflecting on where JOP was when it first began, I’d have to say it was a wonderful journal from the start. I had the pleasure of picking up a journal given very firm footing by its inaugural editor, Douglas W. Blayney, MD, FASCO.

Does the evolution of JOP reflect changes in the field of oncology and its practice? How so?

JC: Absolutely. Our mission demands it. The mission of the journal is to present original research to inform the delivery of oncology care—work that informs how we define the multiple components of care delivery and how to measure the valued, efficient, quality oncology care we deliver. I’m sure every oncologist marvels at the remarkable change that’s occurred in our profession over the last decade. But the change isn’t just in drugs and science; there have also been remarkable changes in practice. Reimbursement mechanisms and regulatory policies have dramatically changed, as have the ways we deliver care to segments of our society that struggle with access or disparities. The research in JOP provides insights into these challenges and pressures. I could go on and on about how dramatically oncology is changing—I encourage readers to track JOP for insights into those changes in our practice.

What have you learned through your years serving as JOP’s editor in chief?

JC: By the very nature of the job, I’m always learning. Every day I’ve been provided new reading material—it’s like going to school at a level I never knew was possible. The process of challenging authors and trying to provide good critiques of their work is another layer of learning, as is seeing those papers evolve as they undergo peer review. I am grateful to ASCO Publishing leadership for teaching me a great deal about the evolution of publishing—particularly about the online world and how it impacts the ways we take in information.

And importantly, I’ll add that I’ve learned that a journal editor doesn’t do this alone. I am in great debt to the associate editors that have walked this journey with me, the ASCO Publishing staff, and those we’ve partnered with at Harborside Press. All my colleagues have been the ones to bring this journal to life.

JOP launched a podcast series during your tenure. Why did you turn to this medium to engage readers?

JC: As a journal, we’re always trying to do more to engage our readers—and I don’t think it’s going to end at podcasts by any means. We want our journal to be more than the monthly print document; we want our readers to know that the real vital journal is the online journal. And we want to see that grow.

The podcasts were really our first foray into this. Our host, Nathan Pennell, MD, PhD, does such a wonderful job. It’s an interview format, not a scripted format, and Dr. Pennell engages authors to draw insights that tell us much more about an article. I hope folks find them as engaging as I do.

In the same realm, we hope to be launching a JOP blog series in the future, which will be a way of engaging readers with a moderate- to long-form content that puts what we publish into perspective.

Why is it important to have a journal dedicated to the practice of oncology, separate from scientific research?

JC: I think it’s extremely important to focus on care delivery—and I don’t think I say that just because I sit in this chair. We have seen a remarkable evolution of science, but what I would humbly admit to our readers is this: we do not yet know how to deliver this marvelous science. I live in Dallas County, where 560,000 people do not have health insurance. In Harris County (Houston, TX) it’s over 1 million. How are we going to deliver the current oncologic revolution to these patients? Such questions of care delivery are the Gordian knot of our time. That’s where a practice journal like JOP is critical.

Unfortunately, research focused on health services doesn’t always receive the same funding or recognition as other areas of scientific research does. My prayer is that care delivery research will get more visibility. I do think we’ll get there; in 2017, a health services research paper was a part of the Plenary Session at the ASCO Annual Meeting for the first time.

Do you have any advice for your successor, Dr. Linda D. Bosserman?

JC: I don’t think I would be so presumptuous to give her any advice! The nice thing about new blood is that it brings a fresh perspective and new ideas that will drive the journal to be even better than it is today. But I will say that what I’ve learned in the editor in chief’s chair is that you can’t change everything, but you can certainly bring your personal viewpoints. Enjoy the privilege of having a front row seat in the arena of oncology care delivery.

What do you think the future will hold for JOP?

JC: I think our number of original submissions will continue to climb, and I think the articles will continue to become more complex—which is a good thing. JOP will grow to be an ever-friendlier place for authors to submit their best work. The journal will evolve, the bench of research we present will get stronger, and I pray that this type of research will be recognized for helping oncologists tackle the Gordian knot of care delivery.

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