Have you spoken to Ray Gambino?

April 1, 2009

he place — my office at Englewood Hospital, Englewood, NJ. The time — 41 years ago. The scene — the arrival of two unexpected visitors from the Medical Economics Company in nearby Oradell, NJ, publishers of controlled circulation journals and
Physicians' Desk Reference

Frank Nixon, publisher of PDR, and Ed
Friedman, editorial staffer, were exploring how, if, and when Medical
could create a controlled-circulation magazine for
laboratorians. Frank and Ed had just returned from a cross-country tour
during which they met with leaders in laboratory medicine. At each stop,
Frank and Ed asked for advice on what was needed and how best to do it.
And each stop, they often heard, “Have you spoken to Ray Gambino?”

That is how they ended up knocking on my door. Frank and
Ed sat down and told me what they had learned — namely, that they should
meet with me. I was only 10 miles from their office, but I was off their
radar screen when they started their journey. My immediate response was
positive. Yes, we needed such a magazine, but their options were limited.
They could either emulate Scientific American or emulate Medical
. Personally, I favored emulating Medical Economics. I
told them they should never try to compete directly against scientific
journals, but rather cover laboratory-related topics that scientific
journals never do.

Medical technologists lacked any forum for discussing
basic job issues such as what do you do when you have a bad boss? Or, how do
you get better pay? Or what is the future for me as a laboratory
technologist? Medical technologists were the intellectual slaves of
pathologists. For example, it was common at the time for pathologists to
refer to medical technologists on the hospital's payroll as “my girls.”

Few pathologists were aware of the unexpressed but
smoldering resentments among their mostly female staff. I said, “If you
create a forum for exploring these frustrations, along with advice on how to
address them constructively, you might have a winner.” I was not sanguine
about the success of any other approach.

It was clear to me that they already had the proper model
in their highly successful controlled-circulation journal Medical
. I said, “Why not just create for laboratorians what you are
now doing for practicing physicians?” And that was the end of our visit. We
shook hands, and they said, “We will get back to you.”

They did! Soon thereafter, I was asked if I would be
willing join them as an editorial consultant for a new bi-monthly
publication to be called Medical Laboratory Observer. I said,
“Yes!” Ed lived only one town away, so we were able to meet frequently
at his apartment to work on features, columns, and articles. That is
where Ed and I created “Tips on Technology,” a column designed to be in
each issue, and where we agreed that I would write an editorial for each
issue, which we would call “Viewpoint.”

I also met with three experienced writers from
Medical Economics
who were assigned to the new magazine. They were
skilled at interviewing people and using the interview to co-author an
informative article on any subject. Thus, right from the start, we were
able to create well-written, highly informative, high-impact articles on
topics that were rarely, if ever, discussed in laboratory journals or
technical society newsletters.

The rest is history. MLO was hugely successful because it was
the first to address an unmet need and do it in a high-class way.