JAMA crushes dissent and calls a critic a “nobody and a nothing”

Is the cover-up becoming worse than the proverbial crime?

According to the WSJ Health Blog, Jonathan Leo, a professor of neuro-anatomy from a small university in Tennessee, critiqued a study published in JAMA, and pointed out an association between the study’s author and a pharmaceutical company. He posted his thoughts on the website of the British Medical Journal.

None too happy, Leo then received calls from JAMA’s executive deputy editor Phil Fontanarosa, and surprisingly, editor-in-chief Catherine DeAngelis got involved by asking Leo’s superiors to retract his post from the BMJ’s site.

The WSJ called Dr. DeAngelis for comment, and this is how the interview went:

“This guy is a nobody and a nothing” she said of Leo. “He is trying to make a name for himself. Please call me about something important.” She added that Leo “should be spending time with his students instead of doing this.”

When asked if she called his superiors and what she said to them, DeAngelis said “it is none of your business.”

From this corner, this is a PR disaster for JAMA, and especially Dr. DeAngelis, who must have known she was on the record with a national newspaper.

Resorting to personal attacks is somewhat unbecoming of an editor-in-chief of a prestigious medical journal, and reflects poorly on JAMA.

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  • Chuck Brooks

    Secular institutional Inquisition. More than a PR disaster, reveals the politics and zero-sum mentality of an ostensible dispassionate and scientific, evidence based keeper of the flame.
    Chuck Brooks
    FutureWare SCG

  • Anonymous

    Just one more reason that the AMA doesn’t speak for me.

  • Dr. Mary Johnson

    Or me, Anon 2:21.

    Does this really surprise you, Kevin?

  • Michael Rack, MD

    I’m another doctor who is proud not to be a member of the AMA.

  • Anonymous

    Kev .. here’s the WSJ story ..

    http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/03/13/jama-editor-calls-critic-a-nobody-and-a-nothing/

    Pretty dang nuts, Kev. Appalling and unbelievable. Whom the gods destroy ..

  • Anonymous

    The advancement of medicine has always depended on genuine free scientific inquiry and has struggled against a tendency towards excessive respect for the proclamation of prestigious authorities who deride the voices of “nobodies” instead of dealing strictly in facts.

    There has been a tendency towards more of the latter in medicine of late, which is the cultural context in which the arrogance is revealed so nakedly. The American Psychiatric Association is now writing a new diagnostic manual but, for the first time, is doing so behind a veil of secrecy from which it will be handed down to us “nobodies” and told that it is authoritative.

  • Anonymous

    “You are banned from JAMA for live. You will be sorry. Your school will be sorry. Your students will be sorry.”

    Jonathan Leo should be a “hero” for pointing out how unprofessional and “threatening” JAMA really is.

  • Supremacy Claus

    Formal charges and demands for immediate resignations have been sent to the proper authorities at the AMA and to respective licensing boards.

  • Anonymous

    I am a board-certified pediatrian, who cut my clinical teeth reading widely respected peds textbooks co-edited by DeAngelis during residency. I always looked up to her academic prowess, and today find I am dismayed, disillusioned, and yes, disgusted at the behavior of my fellow pediatric colleague. Especially in the name of professional ethics and integrity.

    Most pediatricians have no use for the AMA. We have the AAP and don’t need it. After my first year in practice, I discontinued my membership. I was surprised when DeAngelis made the career move to edit JAMA(although the reported $500,000 salary may have a little to do with it!) I am even more surprised to see her display such an elitist attitude in such a public forum as the WSJ. I never thought someone I looked up to as a true academic professional could be so painfully ignorant.

    Dr. DeAngelis needs to do two things.

    First, she needs to make a very public apology to Dr. Leo, and to her professional colleagues everywhere for her condescending and unprofessional remarks. Any one of us could have been the ‘nobody’ of Dr. Leo, in correclty questioning the integrity of the study in question.

    Second, then she absolutely needs to resign her ivory tower position at JAMA and regain some apparently much-needed humility.

    Finally: Thank you, Dr. Leo, for being a ‘somebody’. Your students should be very proud to have you as a teacher and mentor.

  • Dr. Leo friend and fan

    “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth”

    Albert Einstein

    “He who establishes his arguement by noise and command shows that his reason is weak”

    Michel de Montaigne

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