JBJS is pleased once again to highlight our Elite Reviewers. The Elite Reviewers Program recognizes our best reviewers for their outstanding efforts. All JBJS reviewers help us maintain the highest standards for quality orthopaedic publishing.


Thomas Vail, MD


University of California, San Francisco.  San Francisco, CA, USA

Years in practice: 29 years

How did you begin reviewing for other journals and for JBJS in particular?

I started reviewing articles as a resident assisting the attending staff.  I enjoyed the process, as it exposed me to nuances of scientific writing and research methodology.

What is your top piece of advice for those reviewers who aspire to reach Elite status?

Look at the manuscript right away, even if briefly.  Taking a quick look will prompt you to start thinking about the research question and the methodology.  This will make the more detailed review process easier.  I have a template for reviewing that I always follow.  Using a template allows me to organize my thoughts efficiently.

Aside from orthopaedic manuscripts, what have you been reading lately?

I like reading biographies of interesting people.  This includes musicians, politicians, military, business entrepreneurs, and civil rights figures.  Understanding how successful people think and act provides very useful perspective as I consider my own life.

Learn more about the JBJS Elite Reviewers program.

One thought on “Elite Reviewer Spotlight: Thomas Vail

  1. Thanks Tad!
    Can you share your template?
    I like doing these with my residents and fellows as another way to teach. Occasionally I will “hook” a few who have potential and they will continue on doing this very valuable service and skill for our profession.

    From Dr. Thomas Vail:
    My template is very simple. In addition to the approach that I outlined in the profile of reading through the article quickly ASAP, I use the template that follows the structure of most scientific papers to break down the comments by section for a more detailed review, leading with some general comments for the authors. The section comments are noted by line and page.

    General comments. Here I try to give an overview of the context, strengths and weaknesses, and suggestions for improvement.
    Materials and methods.

    From Dr. Chris Harner:
    Thanks for sharing. I think your “approach” to read through the article ASAP is “spot on.” It helps to cut what is often the number one deterrent to getting these reviews done….procrastination!!
    I would add to your “template” the “Title” as find that it is often misleading and flawed and simple edits can refocus a potentially salvageable study.

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