Periodical Special Issues: Harvard Medical School - Grand Gold Medal

Category 25: Periodical Special Issues
Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin

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

Objectives of Our Special Issue: Doctors seem to love the seven deadly sins. Much of their work, after all, touches on the health implications of gluttony, sloth, and lust. Psychiatrists are always helping patients struggle with envy, pride, and wrath. And with health care costs spiraling out of the control, questions of physician greed are often in the news.

In crafting a special report on the seven deadly sins for the Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin, we realized early on that we had hit on a topic that resonated with our physician audience. Every one of the thirteen 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 seven essayists seemed to savor the opportunity to choose their sin; pride and lust proved more popular than sloth and gluttony. Our essayist on pride, in fact, opened her piece with, “Tell physicians you’re writing an essay about doctors and pride, and they immediately start to snicker.”

The resulting essays were sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant—or even both. The playful essay on lust concludes with the author’s belief 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.

The final page of the magazine, “The Eighth Deadly Sin,” takes a more serious look at some alumni’s perceptions of sins in medicine, particularly those touching on doctors’ failure to connect fully with their patients.

To help our readers revel in the more lighthearted sin essays, we tried to choose playful images. Two dogs—one black, one white—cast envious gazes at a Dalmatian. A physician napping on a gurney with a medical journal tented over his face depicts sloth, while a toy dragon dressed in a doctor’s white coat portrays a fiery wrath.

The special report provided several elements that our readers have consistently told us they relish in the magazine’s pages: offbeat perspectives on medicine, humor, and a strong presence of alumni voices. With these elements, the special report helped fulfill the underlying mission of the Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin: to make readers feel connected to the Harvard Medical School community by informing, entertaining, inspiring, and—whenever possible—surprising them.

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.

Frequency of Periodical: Quarterly.

Average Pages per Issue: 64 pages.

Circulation: 16,000.

Total Annual Budget: $181,390.

Average Cost per Issue: $45,348/Unit cost: $2.83.

Responses: Our readers raved about the Seven Deadly Sins issue in letters, phone calls, emails, and animated conversations. Responses among our alumni readers 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 Seven Deadly Sins issue, as I’m sure everyone does. You have my highest praise.
— An alumna from the Class of 1988

I read the Spring 2006 issue of the Bulletin cover to cover and enjoyed it, as I do every issue.
—An alumnus from the Class of 1977

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

A great issue! Many thanks.
—An alumnus from the Class of 1973

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