Special Interest Magazines: Stanford University School of Medicine - Silver Medal

Category 18B: Special Interest Magazines
Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Medicine

Contact: Rosanne Spector, editor, Office of Communication & Public Affairs, 701-A Welch Road #2207, Palo Alto, CA, 94304; phone, (650) 725-5374; e-mail,

Magazine Objectives: A quick glance at the cover of Stanford Medicine magazine should tell you something about the school and the magazine. Although Stanford is typically included with its Ivy League brethren, it’s definitely not “old school.” We’re a non-traditional, distinctive, West Coast medical school that’s one-half to (in the case of Harvard) one-tenth the size of its peer institutions, yet consistently makes powerful contributions to medical science. That spirit guides our editorial decisions for Stanford Medicine magazine, where we focus on stories that will contribute to the discourse on important biomedical issues while building awareness among the nation's health-care opinion leaders of the innovative research, clinical care, health-care policy and community service initiatives developed here.

Articles are written to appeal to both lay readers and a professional audience. In writing and editing we strive for technical clarity understandable to a well-educated lay reader. For physicians we hope this provides a refreshingly faster, more fun read than a journal, while remaining informative. At the same time, we avoid bogging down our non-physician readers with technical jargon. The magazine is intended to be a pleasurable, engaging reading experience that helps maintain and strengthen readers’ sense of connection to the medical center and builds Stanford’s reputation for medical leadership.

The stories are accompanied by an eye-catching array of illustrations and photographs. Our editor and art director handpick the artists and photographers for each story to ensure that the visual style complements the subject matter.

Staffing: The magazine is largely managed and edited by one full-time member of the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. This staff member also has responsibility for participating in news activities of the office, such as writing for internal publications, responding to media and public inquiries and coordinating the office internship program. The office’s director of print and Web communications devotes roughly 25 percent of her time to matters related to Stanford Medicine.

Other contributors – the director of the Office of Communication & Public Affairs, the Office of Alumni Affairs and an editorial advisory committee – all help provide editorial guidance. Office of Communication & Public Affairs writers often author articles specifically for Stanford Medicine. Several others in Communication & Public Affairs and in Alumni Affairs provide administrative support.

The majority of our stories are written by the members of our staff, who are also responsible for writing news releases as well as stories for our internal publications. We use freelance writers to supplement their efforts.

Freelance photographers and artists contribute photographs and illustrations to the magazine. A freelance art director whose services are purchased on a contract basis provides design.

Audiences: Alumni members are the single largest audience served by the magazine, and receive roughly 9,000 of the 15,000 copies we print. We also distribute the magazine to current faculty and students as well as key thought-leaders throughout the country, members of the local and national media, select donors, patients who have asked to be on our mailing list, the elected officials who represent northern California, affiliated health insurance administrators and local community members.

Frequency: Three-times-a-year publication.

Average Pages Per Issue: 44 plus covers

Circulation: 15,000

Annual Budget: (excluding salaries and postage; including fees for art director and freelancers): $170,000

Average Cost Per Issue: $56,667

Average Cost Per Unit: $3.80

Response: Readers’ comments and requests for copies of the magazine show us that we’re meeting our objectives. Our theme issues have been especially popular with the readers, spurring thoughtful letters and online comments. The Web site is proving effective at extending the magazine’s reach, garnering 98,000 hits in 2006.

We receive e-mails from online readers of the current and past issues voicing their opinions or asking for additional information or referrals. The special issue on evolution and medicine, “The evolutionary war” (Summer 2006), sparked close to 50 letters and online comments. The online comments can be viewed at This issue also generated spirited blog chatter, primarily on

The summer issue was well received by evolution education groups and online science curriculum resources, which notified science teachers and posted links to the online version. A review from the National Center for Science Education can be found here:

The spring 2006 issue, which focused on pediatric medicine, garnered dozens of requests for subscriptions from new readers. This was a result of an outreach effort by Stanford’s affiliated children’s hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, to send the magazine to 60,000 pediatricians nationwide.

The fall 2006 issue, a report on medical technology, spurred interest from a device manufacturer eager to commercialize a student project. The issue also built goodwill among Stanford’s non-faculty supporters in the medical technology sector who contribute time and money to the school’s educational initiatives.

Selected readers’ comments:
Bradley W., high school biology teacher, Minnesota
I am a high school biology teacher. I recently came across a digital link to your alumni magazine themed to evolution. Often I encounter students and parents wondering how evolution applies to them and their lives. Your series of articles is a powerful answer to many of their questions. Is it possible to request a print edition of this magazine to be placed in our department library to be used as reference?

Thomas L., Stanford medical school alum, 1957
This issue on evolution was a joy! Here in Virginia, most cars have fundamentalist bumper stickers, or “Truth” fish eating “Darwin” fish. My favorite bumper sticker: God said it. I believe it. That’s all. It’s nice to hear from the sane world.

Everett M., Stanford MD/PhD student
I am grateful that you ran such in-depth coverage on evolution. I am a medical student and I wrote a piece in the Stanford Medical Student Clinical Journal in which I expressed some frustration at the lack of a “medical word on evolution.” Many of those concerns were addressed in detail in your articles.

Wilson W., nurse anesthetist, Colorado
I work as a CRNA (nurse anesthetist) and I’m an avid follower of all things science. I have been following the recent “controversy” over evolution and saw an overview of your current issue on the Web and was wondering if I could purchase a copy for my personal use? It looks like a terrific overview of the subject. I could send a check or place on Visa.

Jennifer M., general public, Georgia
I also have a child with SMA type 1. She is now 7 years old. May God bless you all and give you all wisdom and strength. We live in southeast Ga. There is not many Dr.’s here that know much about this disease. It is by the grace of the good Lord that we still have Kalei. Thanks for all of your hard work.

Mari-Ann A., registered nurse, Children’s Hospital of Austin
Is it possible to subscribe to this quarterly publication? The contents are excellent!

Additional signs of the publication’s success:

  • Clinicians appreciate the magazine as a way to explain procedures to patients and their families and pay for extra copies. For example, the summer 2003 cover story on Marfan syndrome continues to be a useful tool for explaining the condition and treatment alternatives to patients, according to the Stanford Marfan Center’s director (who ordered an extra 500 copies for the center). In 2006, the online version registered thousands of hits.
  • Basic and clinical scientists tell us the articles serve to explain their activities to colleagues working outside of their fields – sometimes even sparking new collaborations.
  • We receive many requests for extra copies and reprint rights. In 2005 the Graniterock company reprinted the story on health-care reform in its company newsletter. In 2002, a pharmaceutical company obtained the rights to produce 1,000 reprints of an article featuring the company’s founder; in 2001, a medical device company requested 400 copies of an issue with an article describing a device it manufactures. The company reimbursed us for production costs for the 400 copies.
  • Scientists request copies of articles from the magazine to supplement their applications for research grants from foundations and corporations. The articles synopsize their research in clear terms and put basic findings into a human context for grant reviewers.