Reviewer of the Month (2020-21)

Posted On 2021-04-06 15:19:00

Over the years, many JGO reviewers have made outstanding contributions to the peer review process. They demonstrated professional effort and enthusiasm in their reviews and provided comments that genuinely help the authors to enhance their work.

Hereby, we would like to highlight some of our outstanding reviewers, with a brief interview of their thoughts and insights as a reviewer. Allow us to express our heartfelt gratitude for their tremendous effort and valuable contributions to the scientific process. 

December, 2020
Samuel M Miller, Yale University, United States
Erin L. Van Blarigan, University of California, United States

January, 2021
Travis E Grotz, Mayo Clinic, United States
Lois A. Daamen, UMC Utrecht Cancer Center, the Netherlands

February, 2021
Yuichi Shimodate, Kurashiki Central Hospital, Japan


December, 2020

Samuel M Miller

Samuel Miller, MD is a general surgery resident at Yale University and currently a fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program, also at Yale, New Haven, the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree in Psychology from Brown University, and his Doctor of Medicine from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Dr. Miller’s current work focuses on the informed consent process in older surgical patients as well as preoperative assessment tools that can help predict surgical outcomes in older adults.

Dr. Miller plans to pursue a career that includes an academic surgical practice as well as advocacy for geriatric surgical patients through both qualitative and quantitative outcomes research as well as health policy. His research interests include geriatric surgical outcomes, informed consent, and preoperative assessment. You can check out more about Dr. Miller’s research here.

Dr. Miller shares his views on the role of peer review in science, “Peer review allows for the exchange of ideas between people who otherwise might not collaborate. With the incorporation of feedback from those with different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences, research quality improves. The peer review process also motivates researchers to pursue ethical and informed study designs in the hopes of producing relevant and evidence-based results.”

He also believes that being a reviewer is a privilege as reviewers are given the opportunity to guide the advancement of research and science. By providing detailed and constructive feedback, reviewers can offer researchers a framework to improve scientific methods, study designs, and statistical analysis.

To Dr. Miller, a constructive review is one that provides critical feedback with recommendations for improvement while maintaining respect for the effort put forth by the authors. On the other hand, a destructive review offers criticism without direction and leaves the authors discouraged without actionable items.

In Dr. Miller’s opinion, it is crucial for authors to complete Conflict of Interest (COI) Forms recommended by International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), “COI declaration is important. Whether we like it or not, bias is present in our everyday lives. It is important to recognize all potential biases when we can, and to acknowledge that unconscious bias may exist in all of us.”


Erin L. Van Blarigan

Erin Van Blarigan, ScD is an Associate Professor at Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, California, the United States. Currently, she works as a nutritional epidemiologist and her research focuses on the relation between lifestyle factors, including diet and physical activity, and cancer morbidity and mortality. Her goal is to provide evidence for lifestyle guidelines and interventions to improve cancer survivorship care.

Dr. Van Blarigan earned her doctor of science in Epidemiology and Nutrition from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her doctoral dissertation was titled “Diet and physical activity in relation to prostate cancer progression and survival” and her thesis committee included: Drs. Meir Stampfer, Edward Giovannucci, and June Chan. Dr. Van Blarigan also completed a postdoctoral scholarship at UCSF where she participated in the NIH Training Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology of Cancer.

Dr. Van Blarigan chooses to review for the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology because she is interested in colorectal cancer epidemiology and survivorship. However, there are still some challenges that a reviewer might face during the review process.

One challenge with the existing review system is that it can take a long time from when a researcher submits their work to publication. Delays can occur for a number of reasons. To overcome this challenge, she thinks that the peer review system would be improved by identifying what the most common causes of delays are and troubleshooting the issues as much as possible. Nonetheless, peer review is important for improving the quality of the published literature and advancing science.

From a reviewer’s point of view, Dr. Van Blarigan points out that it is necessary for retrospective studies to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval, “Each investigator needs to work with an IRB to determine if IRB approval is needed for their study and how to obtain it. Ethical approval is important to make sure that the research participants are protected, and any risks of participation do not outweigh potential benefits.”


January, 2021

Travis E Grotz

Travis E. Grotz, MD, is a surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA. Dr. Grotz’s clinical and research interests mainly focus on minimally invasive approaches to gastrointestinal malignancies, as well as the complex multidisciplinary and extended resection of advanced gastrointestinal cancers, peritoneal metastasis and soft tissue sarcomas. His clinical research focuses on clinical studies and trials optimizing outcomes for patients with peritoneal metastasis as well as improving our understanding of risk factors for gastric cancer, earlier detection of peritoneal metastasis from gastric cancer and long-term gastrointestinal function after gastrectomy.

Dr. Grotz performs clinical and translational research in sarcoma and peritoneal and gastrointestinal cancers with a focus on clinical trials utilizing regional therapies for advanced malignancies. He also serves as an institutional principal investigator on multidisciplinary clinical trials. His clinical research work currently focuses on evaluating diagnostic and treatment strategies to improve perioperative outcomes for patients undergoing sarcoma, peritoneal and gastrointestinal surgeries. Specifically, he is looking at treatment sequencing strategies that maximize clinical response while minimizing patient complications.

Dr. Grotz's clinical and translational interests are in utilizing regional therapeutic approaches to obtain direct surgical access to the tumor and deliver high concentrations of chemotherapy or radiation. This approach allows more directed and targeted treatment while minimizing systemic toxicities. For more information, please feel free to visit Dr. Grotz’s profile here.

Dr. Grotz thinks a constructive review is one that not only identifies methodological errors, weaknesses, grammatical errors and data discrepancies, but also gives constructive feedback on how these could be improved or resolved, “Constructive reviews make the paper better or give the authors direction if the manuscript is not publishable. I prefer a line by line review rather than a global summative statement as those are less helpful. On the other hand, destructive reviews are the ones that include negative attacks without suggestions for improvement or future direction.”

To be a responsible reviewer, Dr. Grotz tries to always bear in mind that the authors are doing their best and that methodological errors, study weaknesses, grammatical errors and data discrepancies are not malevolent. Most authors if given sufficient constructive feedback can make the paper sufficiently better. However, not all studies advance the science or are of sufficient value for publication, the authors are indeed on the right tract and just need advice on what study design or similar but alternative clinical question could and should be addressed.

What motivates Dr. Grotz to review paper is basically learning, despite how non-profitable it is. He learns a lot from reviewing others’ studies as it forces him to stay current with the literature. Also, reviewing papers can also be beneficial to the reviewers. One main reason is that it helps to improve a reviewer’s own study designs and manuscripts as the reviewer can read it with a bit more of an independent eye and become more aware of the common pitfalls.

When it comes to retrospective studies, Dr. Grotz assures that it is necessary for retrospective studies to apply for Institutional Review Board (IRB)’s approval, “IRB is necessary for all human studies as most IRBs have accelerated review for minimal risk retrospective series. I think this is an important exercise in academia and is an important protective step for participants.”


Lois A. Daamen

Lois Daamen, MD, PhD, is a clinical epidemiologist at Regional Academic Cancer Center Utrecht, UMC Utrecht Cancer Center & St. Antonius Nieuwegein, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Her main research areas include pancreatic surgery and MR-guided radiotherapy. Dr. Daamen has conducted a number of research projects, one of them is about pancreatic anastomosis techniques, which concisely summarizes and visualizes all pancreatic anastomosis techniques. Another one is her PhD thesis on “Detection and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer Recurrence” [successfully defended on the 14th January 2021 (code: 145905)].

In addition, Dr. Daamen initiated two ongoing nationwide randomized controlled trials including the RADAR-PANC trial: ‘Recurrent Disease Detection after Resection of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma using a Standardized Surveillance Strategy – a Nationwide Randomized Controlled Trial’, and The ARCADE trial: ‘A Randomized Controlled Trial on Additional Treatment for Isolated Local Pancreatic Cancer Recurrence using Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy’ (funded by the Dutch Cancer Society). She is also a Postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Multiple Outcome Evaluation of Radiotherapy Using the MR-linac (MOMENTUM)’ study. You may find out more about Dr. Daamen here.

In Dr. Daamen’s opinion, peer review is important to verify the quality and reliability of studies prior to publication. Given that clinical practice guidelines are based on scientific evidence resulting from published articles, it is also very important that the provided results and drawn conclusions are solid and their meaning is well discussed.

Although reviewing papers is often non-profitable, peer review is somehow an essential process before publication. As a medical doctor and clinical epidemiologist, Dr. Daamen reassures that she is happy to contribute to this process and to provide suggestions for improvement if needed. As long as the journal discusses topics that are of research interest to her, like Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology (JGO), she will always gladly accept and do the peer-review as requested by the journal suggestions.

Lastly, Dr. Daamen shares her insights about data sharing statement, “Data sharing among researchers should be highly encouraged as it is very important for researchers to increase knowledge at a much larger scale and provide more generalized results. Besides, data sharing has the potential to provide solutions for logistic challenges which fastens evidence-based implementation of new treatment strategies and knowledge.”


February, 2021

Yuichi Shimodate

Dr. Yuichi Shimodate is a chief doctor in the department of gastroenterology and hepatology, Kurashiki Central Hospital, Okayama, Japan. Kurashiki Central Hospital (KCH) is known as one of the private hospitals established as an incorporated foundation by Magosaburo Ohara, the president of Kurashiki Boseki Ltd. (spinning company) on the 2nd of June 1923. The hospital has 1,172 patient beds and 536 physicians including 58 resident doctors in training.

Dr. Shimodate is a board-certified clinician/gastrointestinal endoscopist of both the Japanese Society of Gastroenterology (JSGE) and Japan Gastroenterological Endoscopy Society (JGES). He obtained the grants from United European Gastroenterology (UEG) in 2015 and 2017. He has published several clinical research mainly about the endoscopic treatment of the lower digestive tract. His most recent projects focused on the efficacy and safety of cold polypectomy for small colorectal polyps or diminutive pharyngeal neoplasms, and the perioperative management of anticoagulants.

When it comes to peer review, Dr. Shimodate points out that reviewers should bear in mind the following three questions while reviewing papers, “First of all, the paper needs to have consistency between hypothesis/aim and conclusion. Second of all, the paper needs to have new and interesting findings for readers. And lastly, the paper needs to have a standard method for analysis of their results. After reviewing the paper, reviewers should do self-evaluation on their reviews if significant inconsistency exists comparing other reviewer’s comments, while significant inconsistency is sometimes welcome especially in unexampled research.”

In Dr. Shimodate’s opinion, reviewing papers is profitable to him academically, “Over 500 physicians including 58 resident doctors in training are working in his hospital. Thus, I always need to educate many young doctors and trainees as a clinician, sometimes as a researcher. I believe that the peer review process motivates me to acquire experience of evaluating if the research scientifically meets the high standards set, which is profitable to my education skill-up for young doctors.”

Additionally, doing peer reviews is always useful for him to write a paper in a standard manner. From both an author’s and a reviewer’s perspective, he also affirms the importance of reporting guidelines (such as STROBE, CONSORT, PRISMA, STARD, CARE, etc.). Those guidelines always help the author, particularly the beginner author to write a paper in a scientifically proper way.