The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, a Reliable Resource for 20 Years

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| By Jacqueline Longe, Sr. Content Developer, Gale |

When Y2K was on everyone’s mind, so was health information for Gale Content Developers. Twenty years ago, the first edition of The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (GEM) was published. Conceived after the success of The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, GEM was cutting edge for the time because it contained medical information that was either presented as highly technical publications for the professional medical community or scattered across smaller resources that weren’t comprehensive for the consumer market. GEM provided comprehensive medical and health information to library patrons and students in language that was accessible but also educational. Medical jargon was explained or reworded so complex health and medical topics could be covered thoroughly without oversimplification.

It was a laborious production cycle with input from experts, medical writers, and Content Developers chiming in on each topic. Topics covered all medical disciplines and categories of diseases and conditions; tests, treatments, and therapies; and drugs. Entries were presented alphabetically, with every entry presented using standardized headings so users would know exactly what information was covered and where to find it within an entry. Entries were accompanied by commissioned illustrations and graphics that further explained the topics visually. At the end of the 20th century, this was a new kind of reference product that customers were looking for and it was, by design, easy to use.

The Content Developers creating GEM and the experts working with them pushed to meet deadlines. It was a huge undertaking to compile the first edition, and initially the task of finding writers and experts and commissioning the work seemed an insurmountable task. Slowly, milestones were met and, entry by entry, GEM was born. The trickle of assignments completed by freelancers gave way to a flood of entries on a daily basis; so much so, the enormity of the project took on physical proportions. At the time, hardcopy was still the standard, and GEM took up its own wall of file cabinets. Collaboration within Gale and with medical experts forged relationships that have strengthened for 20 years. People were committed not just by contracts but by the wish to see the project through its fruition.

The first edition of The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine won a RUSA award in 2000 for outstanding reference source. It was a five-volume print set containing 1,500 alphabetically arranged entries accompanied by black and white photos.

Twenty years and six editions later, The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine has not only endured but become a viable virtual learning resource that provides quality health information to public, academic, and school markets. It has doubled in size since its first iteration, with the sixth edition covering over 2,000 topics. It’s available in eBook and print format, as well as in the Gale Health and Wellness database.

While the first edition was indeed a great accomplishment, the subsequent editions have seen Content Developers update content on a continual basis. With every new edition, entries are reviewed and revised. A timeline of key historical medical milestones has been added as well as anecdotal sidebars highlighting pioneers in medicine. GEM remains the foundation of the Gale Encyclopedia of . . . series of health, wellness, and medical information. Notable titles include The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, The Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery and Medical Tests, The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health, The Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer, and The Gale Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, to name a few.

Back in 2000, the first edition of GEM didn’t contain entries on topics like SARS or COVID-19. Chronic lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes were becoming global medical issues at the time. GEM didn’t document many of the emerging diseases that today have become newsworthy topics worldwide. 

Looking back at the first edition, it is easy to see how quickly medical information changes with the discovery of a new treatment, the development of a new vaccine, or the outbreak of an emerging disease. Like its content, GEM has evolved and will continue to do so—to help users make sense of the health and medical information they need. And with virtual learning a new reality for many these days, The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine is there for those seeking knowledge in the ever-changing fields of health and medicine. Learn more about this comprehensive resource >>

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