Sidd Finch and the Hillman Fellowship
An experience that exceeds expectations is one worth applying for.
Manhattan, September 2003: My husband and I move into a walk-up apartment above the then-offices of the literary periodical The Paris Review and apartment of editor/"participatory journalist"/actor/NYC Fireworks Commissioner George Plimpton. Mr. Plimpton dies in his sleep one week after we move in. Erased in an instant are unspoken fantasies of a neo-bohemian lifestyle, attending smoke-filled salon soirees two flights down, rubbing elbows with the likes of Philip Roth and other glitterati of creative writing, and raising children steeped in an haute intellectual milieu. I will forever swear that George's proptotic shock upon seeing a heavily-gravid abdomen on my 5'1" frame upon our first (and only) meeting had absolutely nothing to do with his sudden demise at age 76.
Flash forward to 2014: I'm raising two kids in The Middle of Nowhere, New England. I'm in a professional rut. "Academic radiologist" feels like an oxymoron. Three-letter abbreviations like RVU and TAT are insatiable taskmasters. I am Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory episode, where a demonstrated ability to temporarily speed up in the face of a short burst of increased volume is mistakenly seen as proof that one can sustain that brisk tempo for hours on end without negatively impacting the quality of the work or the mentation of the person working.
Then one evening, I see it staring at me on a page in the JACR: The all-new Bruce J. Hillman Fellowship in Scholarly Publishing. I enjoy journal manuscript peer reviewing and once turned down a job in medical writing over a decade earlier. Rummaging through old issues of The Paris Review, recollecting my "week of Plimpton," I decide (almost immediately) to apply. What did I have to lose? Nothing, other than some personal time, what with RVU and TAT unwilling to loosen their talons to less than a sub-lethal chokehold at work. What did I have to gain? Professional development and personal satisfaction. Little did I realize then exactly how much.
Jump ahead to September 2015: Trips to ACR headquarters in Reston, Va., and Elsevier in Manhattan provide a behind-the-scenes look at the nuts and bolts of scholarly journal publishing. But the appeal of this fellowship is that it's not a passive experience. It's immersive and expansive because there is an expectation of output, of contributing to the JACR in an integral way.
After Ruth Carlos, MD, JACR deputy editor, approached me about starting the blog and tweeting about it, I agreed. Though I didn't know the first thing about how to do either. Recalling Dr. Hillman's 2013 editorial about his first tweet chat, I entitled my first blogpost "Something New." Since then, I've been regularly writing and soliciting blogposts about a variety of topics and issues important to the radiology community, participating in monthly tweet chats, and attending JACR editorial board meetings and the annual ACR meeting. I hope I've left an indelible mark (not the black Sharpie kind) that has advanced the mission of the journal.
You may still be wondering about the title of this blogpost. Who's Sidd Finch and what's he got to do with the Hillman Fellowship? Sidd Finch is a fictitious character invented by George Plimpton for what is arguably the most expertly crafted and triumphant April Fools' Day prank ever unleashed on an unwitting public. In cahoots with the New York Mets, Plimpton wrote an elaborate news story introducing a new player who could pitch faster than 160 mph. After scores of readers believed the story, the joke became famous and even spawned an entire book about the fictitious pitcher. Truth be told, Sidd Finch has absolutely nothing to do with the Hillman Fellowship, but the eponymous prank shares a few things in common with the fellowship experience: it was created by a leader in journalism (Dr. Hillman), unexpected, successful, and even slightly audacious. Unleashing this blog on a receptive JACR readership and beyond has been a wonderful surprise. To all JACR blog readers, my sincerest gratitude.
What I've accomplished is only the tip of the iceberg with respect to many possible projects and activities you can devote your energies to as a Hillman Fellow. So join us. Apply here.
Bonus: Become a Hillman Fellow, you not only get to work with Drs. Hillman and Carlos, along with the JACR editorial board, you become part of the bigger ACR family. You get a large extended family of wonderful, hard-working, and dedicated people, especially the ACR Press team, who bring you the ACR Bulletin and JACR every month, like Becky Haines, Makeba Hunter, Brett Hansen, Lyndsee Cordes, Meg Edwards, Jessica Siswick, and Meg Nealis. This fellowship would not have been the same without them. Truly.