An Editor Among Urologists: Insights from AUA

aua-logoDragonfly’s senior medical editor, Jeni Crockett-Holme, isn’t a doctor, and she doesn’t play one on TV. But she manages copyediting for European Urology, one of the most prestigious urology journals in the field. And she represented Dragonfly Editorial at the American Urological Association (AUA) Annual Meeting last summer. What’s one editor to do among thousands of urologists?
First off, tell us what the AUA annual meeting is.
The AUA annual meeting is the primary professional meeting for the urology community in the United States. Urology practitioners attend the meeting to share information, learn about new research, network, and meet continuing medical education (CME) requirements for licensure. Despite its American base, the meeting is international and is attended by urologists from all over the world. The meeting I went to in 2011 had about 17,000 attendees, making it a large meeting for any industry. General information about the 2011 meeting is available on the AUA’s website (
How did you approach the meeting as someone who edits urology material, rather than as a practicing urologist?
My primary goal was to meet some of the European Urology staff members and authors with whom we work. The meeting was held in Washington, DC, which is about 2 hours from where I’m based in Charlottesville, Virginia. The European Urology team is currently based in Milan, Italy, so this was a rare opportunity!
I’m so glad you got to meet our European Urology clients at the meeting. Do you anticipate that helping your working relationship with them moving forward?
I think it’s always helpful to have personal contact if possible, particularly since our work is almost entirely remote. It’s more comfortable to reach out to someone you’ve met and talked to, even if just for a little while. You have a better sense of who they are and how they communicate, and that translates within a business relationship.
What kind of sessions did you attend? Did you find them useful?

Like most annual meetings, there were two parts: an exhibit floor and a conference program. The exhibit floor displayed goods and services of suppliers to the urology community. The conference program included plenary sessions to highlight recent developments in the field, seminars on different aspects of urology practice, poster sessions to introduce new research, and video sessions to demonstrate surgical techniques.
My gerontology background is community based, not clinical, so I tried to focus on the clinical aspects of practice because those relate to most of what we edit for European Urology. We deal with content from a variety of specialties, so I took a survey approach, attending sessions on prostate cancer, female incontinence, kidney function, and bladder cancer. One of the sessions I found most interesting was a CME seminar on prostate cancer diagnostics that covered specific ways to use techniques like PSA and prostate biopsy to achieve accurate diagnoses. Listening to urologists having that professional discussion helped me gain a deeper understanding of content that we encounter all the time in our editing.
I tried to attend as many video sessions as I had time for (and, honestly, could stomach) because so much of what we edit is about surgical procedures. Although I tend to be a visual learner, the most valuable part for me turned out to be hearing urologists talk about what they do—the words they used to describe various features of their work and what procedures went with what disease processes. Seeing the actual techniques being performed was useful for context in a broad sense. But once a laparoscope was inside a body, a lot of it tended to look the same to my layman’s eye.
Walking around the exhibit floor was great because I could see and touch the equipment and devices being used in practice. I got to try out the da Vinci surgical robot, which was really cool! I attended an exhibitor’s video demonstration of laser enucleation of prostate tissue, and that gave me a very practical sense of what a laser does in the body. I talked with a manufacturer of transvaginal tape about how that device is surgically implanted and then got to manipulate the tools in the display so I could actually perform the steps involved. A significant area of urology deals with erectile dysfunction, and I learned a lot about all the different mechanical devices that exist to help a man get where he wants to go, so to speak! All of the exhibitors I spoke with were really generous with their time and resources, even though they weren’t going to make a sale to me, and I really appreciated their willingness to talk.
What was the most surprising thing you learned?
I was most surprised to find that urology is a very male-dominated field. I hadn’t really thought about that before, but others at the meeting casually confirmed that perception, and as a woman, I was in a noticeable minority. Although there are some female-specific urologic issues and certain urologic conditions that affect both men and women, a sizeable chunk of the field is specific to male reproductive health. Maybe if you’re a guy, you’d rather talk to another guy about that stuff, just like many women would rather see a female gynecologist. Purely speculation, though.

Would you recommend that other journal editors seek out these kinds of “subject matter–specific” learning experiences? These experiences are not teaching us about the craft of editing but rather more about the subject matter that we edit.

The more you know about the content you’re copyediting, presumably the more depth you’ll be able to bring to the work. Our job is specific to the language, but, for example, it wasn’t until I actually worked with the da Vinci robot that I realized why the phrase “robotic assisted radical prostatectomy” is technically correct, despite the incorrect grammatical construction (that is, the surgery utilizes a robot and an assistant). We typically use “robot-assisted,” and that’s OK too, but seeing the actual equipment in use gave me a different perspective, and that’s always helpful.


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