If living through the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me anything, it has been to embrace change and the unknown. With great enthusiasm and promise, I now find myself in a new position as Editor in Chief at the American Journal of Endocannabinoid Medicine. Over the past few years, the journal has been a reputable place to learn valuable endocannabinoid science and connect with peers in the field. Admittedly, I am not a bench scientist, but a patient-facing board-certified OB/GYN physician who had the bright idea, along with my best friend, to open a medical cannabis dispensary in Maryland in 2017, an experience that has changed my life profoundly. I have finally found the missing piece to practicing medicine within the restrictive framework of big pharma encouraging a pill for every ailment. I can now help patients find balance, wean themselves off many pharmaceuticals, ease their suffering from chronic conditions, and, more importantly, educate them on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and teach them different strategies to live a more harmonious life.
I am thirsty for knowledge, have developed serious admiration for many of the great scientific pioneers in this industry, and am relentless in my passion for educating the masses, especially my medical peers. Until physicians are taught the basics of the ECS, we will be hard-pressed to move forward intelligently and effectively with a meaningful impact on our patients. It is hard to fathom that even today, the basics of the ECS, with all its implications on health, well-being, and disease, are ignored in most medical schools. As I often say, the horses are out of the barn on this one, and although we may not be cognizant of this science, our patients are undoubtedly aware of cannabis as medicine and are asking their providers for answers. We owe it to these patients to become as knowledgeable as possible in this area to support them in their quest for health.
As an entrepreneur, I have learned to negotiate challenging business situations, broker deals, create win–win relationships, and, most importantly, to think outside the box. I enjoy puzzles, as my kids can attest, and working within this complicated and restrictive industry fraught with regulations and pitfalls has helped hone my problem-solving skills. My role at AJEM provides me the newest opportunity to do things differently, reinvent how information is conveyed, and make a real impact where needed—on the front lines of medicine.
I would be remiss if I did not give due credit to the outstanding team who built AJEM from nothing but a dream in the days before the pandemic hit. I am eternally grateful for the work of my predecessor, Jahan Marcu, PhD, and am delighted for the continued opportunity to learn and grow with him at the journal. Meg Block Roloff, MPH, AJEM’s Senior Managing Editor, can do the work of 10 people with ease and a smile, and Kenny Watkins, AJEM’s Brand Director, is the wizard behind the curtain. His passion project is contagious to all who enter his sphere of influence, and I am so lucky to have been infected by his energy. Collectively, our primary mission at AJEM is to educate. We want to bring meaningful peer-reviewed data to the physicians and providers who need it the most. We want to be the thought leaders, the champions of the patients, and the source for networking, collaboration, and innovation. With Haymarket Media’s acquisition, we can drop right into physician inboxes and have a mainstream effect that will expand and grow rapidly.
We look forward to growing and learning from our readers as well. I expect to be pushed, challenged, and honestly, well outside my comfort zone. If my hair isn’t a little on fire, I probably am not doing it right, so I eagerly anticipate the unknown and what will come next. Thanks, COVID! Let’s all infect each other with the thirst for knowledge and answers and raise each other a little while doing so. Thank you also to Haymarket Media for bringing endocannabinoid medicine mainstream. And now, we ride!!
Leslie Apgar, MD
Editor in Chief, AJEM
Medical Director, Greenhouse Wellness
Ellicott City, Maryland