Peer Pressure

Craig OuthierMarch 2019
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Ta-da, here it is – our annual Top Doctors issue, variously nicknamed the “the crucible,” “baby Vogue” and “no sleep for a week” by the hard-working team that produces it each spring: 400 pages of science features, health care news and peer-selected medical virtuosity for our loyal readers. We hope you didn’t tear a biceps muscle picking it up – but if you did, please contact one of the fine orthopedic surgeons on our list.

I jest, of course. Top Docs is a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too – and among the most edifying, knowledge-expanding duties I have as editor.

The issue is now up to 59 specialties, spanning addiction medicine to wound care, and I’d like to share a few details about how and why we decide to add new categories – a behind-the-scenes look at the Top Docs sausage factory, if you will.

Photo by Steve Craft
Photo by Steve Craft

Most often, PHOENIX relies on the doctors themselves to shape the category list. Every year, after tallying the ballots for Top Docs – an anonymous online vote open only to practicing Valley physicians – we scrutinize the hundreds of comments left for us by the doctors while logging their votes. Many of the comments are technical in nature (e.g. “PLEASE change the way the drop-down menu is organized”) but most concern the addition (and, sometimes, removal) of categories. This year alone, I was lobbied to add nuclear medicine, pediatric hepatology, toxicology, endocrine surgery, interventional pulmonology and literally dozens more.

Most of these potential Top Docs categories are subspecialties of other fields – just as cardiology stems from internal medicine – so the principal question we ask ourselves is: Has this field grown so large it deserves its own category, and are the doctors who practice it getting overlooked by voters?

This year, the answer was a resounding yes for two new Top Docs specialties: interventional radiology, and foot and ankle surgery. Transformed by balloon angioplasty and other minimally invasive procedures that require real-time imagery, the latter was long overdue. So was the former, after we realized that few if any foot specialists made our annual list of the Valley’s best orthopedic surgeons. They were getting overlooked.

Keeping our suite of specialties current and on point is a critical part of making Top Docs useful and important for our readers. Flipping through past Top Docs issues, I’m astounded that we once clumped vascular surgeons with general surgeons, and fertility specialists with rank-and-file OB-GYNs. The shame.

What we publish today, we hope, is the Valley’s definitive and most trusted health care reference source. And just a dang interesting read from start to finish.

Give yourself a couple months to do that. Meanwhile, I’ve got some interventional pulmonologists to check out.

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