Name: Vincenzo Berghella
Institution: Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, USA
Journal: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology MFM (AJOG MFM)
- What inspired your career in research?
I found my calling doing research in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM). I was inspired by early success since I was an ob-gyn resident in NYC: one of my first studies was a randomized study on stripping of membranes which was published in the then premier journal in obstetrics. This got me not only lots of praise from my colleagues, but more importantly the notion that by doing research I could change practice for the care of 145 million women pregnant with their babies every year in the world. As I saw guidelines - both in the US and internationally - change because of clinical research our team did, and saw indices of health at the population level change, that gave me even more incentive to work hard at work worth doing.
- How would you describe a typical working day?
I am fortunate to have lots of variety in my working day. I also have the privilege of doing work with a wonderful team at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), including MFM fellows eager to learn and to discover. I do about 50-60% clinical work, including spending one week in every six in hospital rounding and caring for high-risk pregnant women, and otherwise seeing high-risk pregnant women either for consults and prenatal care, or for fetal ultrasounds. Another part of my work is education, leading the MFM fellowship, which renews my passion by having eager young minds who have thirst for knowledge and for improving health of women and babies not just here directly at TJU, but also around the world by publishing and disseminating research. The research part may actually be the part I enjoy the most, and I am so proud when we help improve medical practice globally.
- How do you measure success in your work?
Success in my work is measured in so many ways, but two stand out the most. First, by changing medical care for pregnant women so that they have healthier outcomes, healthy babies, and less if any complications. Second, success for me is seeing our fellows, our mentees, succeed this same way by themselves in their careers. The impact is exponentially increased, as they also spread the passion for clinical research that makes an impact, and inspire the next generations to do the same.
- Do you have any particular advice for younger researchers?
Find a good mentor. Do research you like to do; decline work you do not like. Finish (publish). Ask for advice right away, do not get bogged down in something that can be done quickly by a collaborator. Work with an already proven and successful team. Work to your strengths.
- What drove you to become an editor?
The passion for research drove me to become editor. Moreover, I love not only writing, but also reading scientific manuscripts. When I read or write science, I get into the "flow", forget where I am, and everyday learn something new. There is a lot of great research out there which needs to be published, and I feel a great calling to help get it in press. I feel just as strongly that repetitive, poor, or plagiarized research should be prevented, as it can do harm.
- What is the most rewarding aspect of editorial work for you?
The most rewarding aspect is certainly seeing it included in new guidelines, changing direct patient-level care. When I go for example to the Philippines, or Malawi, and see they practice according to our evidence-based guidelines, my heart gets even bigger with happiness.
- What is the most important attribute for being an editor?
There are many skills an editor needs to have. Perhaps the most important is a deep knowledge of existing literature, so that distinction can be made between truly novel data that can help improve practice, and research which does not contribute to new knowledge. In addition, the editor needs to be fair: I support triple blinding, where reviewers and editors do not see the names of the authors (and vice versa); and I support better ways to identify fabricated research, and making sure it does not get to print.
- Name one item/tool/resource that you cannot do without in your editorial role?
The software Editorial Manager (EM) used now at AJOG MFM is vital to be able to handle the manuscripts in an efficient and timely manner. Peer review is at the core of best scientific medical journals, and having hundreds of capable reviewers to choose from in EM helps greatly to properly process the submitted studies and improve the ones who eventually get to print.
- What would you be doing now if you were not doing what you are?
I would be a beach bum in my native Pescara, Italy.
- What is the most interesting image/photograph you have come across in your journal?
Images of the placenta with SARS-CoV-2 virus in both the maternal and fetal side proved vertical transmission of this virus responsible for COVID-19 infection from the mother to the baby in-utero. These images got tremendous interest in the scientific literature, as well as social media.
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