February 1999 Bulletin

Essentials editor retires to a busy life

Dr. Snider completes a novel, starts work on second edition of textbook

By Cynthia Oertel

To say that Robert Snider, MD, is active is an understatement. As former chairman of the Academy's Committee on Publications for three years and member of seven task forces, Dr. Snider is beyond active; he is one very busy individual.

And, his activities do not stop with Academy-related projects. Dr. Snider just finished his first novel. "It's a novel about the future, the year 2040, and about the power that computers will have in our lives," he said. "I like to call it an informational conspiracy story."

Dr. Snider, who retired in 1997, has devoted a lot of his time to learning more about writing. "I started writing four years ago by enrolling in a program sponsored by the YMCA," he said. "The program, National Writer's Voice, conducts workshops where established writers talk to aspiring writers about the craft and provide encouragement to them."

One has to wonder how many of the participants in Dr. Snider's workshop group knew he already had been involved in the development of a best-selling book. In fact, Dr. Snider had devoted more than two years serving as editor of the Academy's Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care.

Since celebrating its one-year anniversary in October 1998, more than 24,000 copies of Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care have been sold generating more than $1.7 million in revenue. It is a resource guide for 300 of the most commonly seen musculoskeletal conditions.

The book has attracted the interest of internists and family practice practitioners and is being sold in the catalogs of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Physician Assistants, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physicians and American Medical Association.

Much of the success of Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care can be credited to Dr. Snider, whose commitment to the book began in 1984 when he approached the Committee on Publications about his idea for a textbook that would assist primary care physicians in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions.

"My practice held an annual one-day musculoskeletal education program for primary care physicians in the area," Dr. Snider said. "We developed a manual for the program and the early beginnings of the book were derived from that manual."

After one failed attempt at convincing members of the committee about the importance of producing Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, Dr. Snider eventually won their support in 1995. "It was during the time that James Strickland, MD, made his first vice presidential speech about 'building bridges,'" he said. "The idea of publishing a book that would provide coordinated care for patients with musculoskeletal problems that would be used by all types of medical specialties intrigued the committee, especially because it reiterated the 'building bridges' theme."

Dr. Snider estimates that he spent more than 1,500 hours on the development of the publication. "It was a lot of weekends and long nights," he said. "I also look back at how I went about suggesting the structure of the book-it is so much different than my writing style today.

"When I was involved with Essentials, I was very interested in computer programming, so I came into the project with a very structured frame of mind," Dr. Snider said.

As a result, Dr. Snider and his section editors devised the very popular, two- to four-page diagnosis and treatment summaries for each condition included in the book.

"Nowadays, I have gotten away from that mindset," he said. "I rather be writing a fictional story."

Dr. Snider and his editorial team also worked hard at developing ideas for the book's layout. "We kept saying to one another that we did not want Essentials to be intimidating, instead it had to be very user-friendly," Dr. Snider said.

Readers will notice lots of illustrations and plenty of white space-all designed to help guide them through each section of the book.

"I am very proud of the book," Dr. Snider said. "Its sales success and acceptance in the medical community has not amazed me. With such an unbelievable group of people involved with the project, you just knew it would be successful."

Now with Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care finished, you might think Dr. Snider will be able to finally enjoy his retirement. Not exactly. He has been named a section editor on spine for the second edition of the book, and he recently accepted a position on the Academy's Committee on Outcomes. One wonders if Dr. Snider will ever have some spare time to start his second novel.


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