Special Interest Magazines: Harvard Medical School - Silver Medal

Category 18B: Special Interest Magazines
Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin

Contact: Paula Byron, editor, 25 Shattuck St., Boston, MA 02115, Phone: (617) 384-8903, e-mail:

Objectives: The Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin aims to provide readers with a lively view of Harvard Medical School: its rich history, its leadership in medicine today, and its legacy of talented physicians past and present. We try to strike a balance between acknowledging venerable traditions and thwarting staid expectations. We strive to enliven forgotten pieces of the school’s lore and to portray what the future of medicine may bring, without getting mired in technical details. And, as part of our efforts to make the magazine a true celebration of the school’s graduates, we continue an 80-year practice of featuring alumni through their own words whenever possible.

In planning the editorial content and design, we always bear in mind that our audience might conceivably include a 90-year-old alumnus and his alumna great-granddaughter. To appeal to the broadest possible range of a diverse readership, in each issue we seek to offer an eclectic mix of stories and a variety of moods.

Our Spring 2006 issue, for example, contained a special report on the seven deadly sins. While crafting that report, we realized early on that we had hit on a topic that resonated with our readership, which is largely composed of physicians. Every one of the 13 graduates we asked to contribute to the special report—either by writing an essay on one of the original seven sins or by submitting a brief nomination for an eighth deadly sin—accepted the assignment with unprecedented zeal. The resulting essays are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant—or even both. The playful essay on lust concludes with the author’s hope in the promise of young physicians to craft a better world, while the lighthearted essay on envy turns reflective at the end, as the author remembers a dying patient’s moments of grace. To complement that special report we added a series of essays by medical students struggling to cope with the heartbreaking aspects of their new profession and a historical piece on the short-lived Harvard School of Veterinary Medicine.

Another special report, Sparks of Inspiration, explores the process of discovery as experienced by seven alumni and faculty members, whether in the arena of the human visual system, the delivery of AIDS treatments to Africa, or a largely ignored culprit in cardiovascular disease. To complement that special report, we included a dramatic essay about the ingenious survival strategies of an alumnus’s father during the Holocaust, a poignant essay by a psychiatrist diagnosed with cancer, a lighthearted account of an anesthesiologist’s experiences as a volunteer at the San Diego Zoo, and a resurrected spoof of a pathology examination from the 1960s.

To help engage our readers, we try to select images that bear relevance to the stories and yet break the mold of visual expectations for a medical alumni publication. In the special report on the seven deadly sins, for example, two dogs—one black, one white—cast envious gazes at a Dalmatian. A physician napping on a gurney with a copy of a medical journal tented over his face depicts sloth, while a toy dragon dressed in a doctor’s white coat portrays a fiery wrath. In another issue, a superhero motif illustrates an article on the plight of primary care doctors. And in a third issue, the account by the zoo volunteer opens with a two-page spread of an aggrieved orangutan whose leathery palms seem to be clutching at the magazine’s keylines.

By including a breadth of topics and imagery, we strive to deliver several elements that our readers have consistently told us they relish in the magazine’s pages: a strong presence of alumni voices, humor, and offbeat perspectives on medicine. It is our hope that such a range helps us to fulfill the Bulletin’s underlying mission: to inform, entertain, inspire, and—whenever possible—surprise readers, and to make them feel connected to the Harvard Medical School community.

Staffing: Bulletin staff members include a full-time editor, a full-time associate editor, and a half-time assistant editor. Our editor in chief, an alumnus with a full-time medical practice, serves as an advisor, for which he receives an honorarium.

Audience: More than half of our readers are Harvard Medical School alumni, who range in age from their mid-twenties to their mid-nineties. Additional members of our audience include faculty members, students, and general readers.

Frequency: The Bulletin is published quarterly.

Average Pages per Issue: Each issue has 64 pages.

Circulation: The Bulletin has a circulation of 16,000.

Total Annual Budget: The total annual budget, excluding salaries and postage, is $181,390.

Average Cost per Issue and Unit Cost: The average cost per issue is $45,348; an individual piece costs approximately $2.83.

Responses: Our readers rave about the magazine in letters, phone calls, emails, and animated conversations. In the past year responses among our alumni readers have included:

One of the good things about being my age is the absence of all the sins that you so graphically outlined in your spring issue. There is still joy, however, in being part of a great profession—and in being able to read about it in the Bulletin.
—An alumnus from the Class of 1937

I love the magazine; it’s just so wonderful. You have my highest praise.
— An alumna from the Class of 1988

Carry on! You do Class A+ work, the New Yorker of alumni magazines.
— An alumnus from the Class of 1963

Another triumph. Thank you for your continued inspiration.
— An alumnus from the Class of 1958

Your Seven Deadly Sins issue arrived in the mail along with a copy of a national magazine we receive. My husband dangled the commercial magazine from two fingers and held your issue up in his other hand. “Look at this!” he said about the Bulletin. “Better production values, more interesting topics, better writers, and free!”
— An alumna from the Class of 1994

The summer issue was just wonderful. It gave the spirit of idealism.
— An alumnus from the Class of 1958

I greatly appreciated the insight and humor of the Spring 2006 issue on the seven deadly sins.
— An alumna from the Class of 1994

Special thanks to the Bulletin for the wonderful report, Sparks of Inspiration, in the Autumn 2006 issue.
— An alumnus from the Class of 1959

Your work continues to be a seed for meaning.
— An alumnus from the Class of 1976

Your issue on the seven deadly sins arrived yesterday. It is beautiful and enticing and I read it cover to cover as soon as I picked it up—something ordinarily restricted to The New Yorker.
—An alumna from the Class of 1983