Periodical Staff Writing for Internal Audiences: Stanford University School of Medicine - Silver Medal

Category 27: Periodical Staff Writing for Internal Audiences
Stanford University School of Medicine, Medical Center Report

Contact: Susan Ipaktchian, director of print and Web communications, Stanford University School of Medicine, Office of Communication & Public Affairs, 701-A Welch Road #2207, Palo Alto, CA, 94304; phone, (650) 725-5375; e-mail:

Periodical Objectives: Every Wednesday, the new issue of Medical Center Report arrives in the mailboxes and e-mail of thousands of people at Stanford—ranging from the department receptionists to faculty and researchers to the senior deans and the university president. The publication’s primary goal: To provide these readers with compelling stories that offer insights into the accomplishments of and challenges facing the Stanford University School of Medicine. The publication aims not only to present the news about advances and trends in research and education at the medical school, but also to foster a deeper personal connection to the institution, its people and its mission.

In a nutshell, MCR aims to be a must-read for anyone who wants to keep up with the medical school.

Medical Center Report is produced by the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. It is an independent publication that is published within the pages of the university newspaper, Stanford Report. While our stories generally appear in a separate section inside the larger publication, our most significant stories sometimes appear on the front page. MCR’s contents are also posted on both the university and medical school Web sites, and there is a weekly e-mail (“This week in Medical Center Report”) with story summaries and links to the latest articles.

As a publication within a publication, Medical Center Report seeks to establish stronger ties between the university medical center—which includes the medical school with its many research laboratories and institutes, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the Stanford Blood Center and the Stanford Hospital & Clinics—and the rest of the campus. But the publication must also provide information of particular interest and relevance to the medical school community.

To fulfill these missions, MCR presents timely news about medical school faculty, staff and students to their Stanford colleagues. Additionally, the publication identifies significant trends and initiatives at the medical school. It also is responsible for focusing the attention of its Stanford audience on select state, national and global developments that will affect the medical school.

In addition to the publication’s role as a news provider, it fosters a sense of community among those who work and study at the School of Medicine. MCR looks to establish connections by helping its readers to learn more about the different personalities at the school. It reports on annual events and ceremonies so that readers don’t forget that they are part of an ongoing tradition. And it reports on the human side of the school’s achievements with the goal of inspiring pride in the medical school’s effort to achieve its mission: to heal the sick and to attain new understandings of the human body and life itself.

Here’s how our entries in this category demonstrate our editorial philosophy:

  • “So you want to be a rock’n’roll star? Study molecular pharmacology” (March 15, 2006): Sometimes the best stories in the medical school happen outside the lab—way outside the lab. That was the case with this feature story, which explained how a molecular pharmacologist from Stanford came to play guitar with one of China’s top rock bands in Guangzhou. The writer engagingly depicts the journey that led to the performance in China.
  • “Running in the dark, but the path ahead is clear” (April 5, 2006): We planned to do a story marking the five-year anniversary of our dean’s tenure at the medical school, but we also wanted to give our readers insights into his non-dean world. We knew he was an avid runner, as was a member of our staff, so the two of them agreed to take a morning run together. The result was a great first-person piece on what the dean is like as a running companion. Turns out he’s just as gracious—and as committed—as a runner as he is as in leading the medical school.
  • “Family’s genetic death sentence—and genetic escape” (May 24, 2006): The topic of genetic counseling can be a dry one—but not when told through the eyes of a family with an unusual genetic mutation that could have doomed them to early deaths from stomach cancer. Their unusual solution—having their stomachs removed—was a riveting demonstration that genetic testing can give patients the opportunity to make life-changing choices. The story also demonstrated Stanford’s leadership in the increasingly important world of genetic testing and counseling.
  • “Can stem cells rock the vote?” (Aug. 9, 2006): Given Stanford’s expertise in stem cell research, our readers are highly interested in any developments that affect the research. Prior to the 2006 primary elections, we took a look at how Congressional as well as state elections might affect stem cell research. This story is representative of our efforts to go beyond the campus boundaries to report on issues that affect our readers.
  • “Andrew Fire shares Nobel Prize for discovering how RNA can switch off genes” (Oct. 4, 2006): Stanford’s medical school hadn’t had a Nobel Prize winner in 26 years, so we wanted to make sure we did justice to our winner and his science. But we had very little time in which to do it. The prize announcement was made on a Monday, and our deadline for the weekly campus paper was Tuesday afternoon. That gave our writer very little time to pull together a story, but she did a first-rate job of capturing his personality, his early ties to Stanford and the essence of the breakthrough that led to the Nobel Prize. We fleshed out the package with a primer on RNA interference and a sidebar on the state of RNAi research at Stanford.

Audiences: As part of Stanford Report, Medical Center Report is read by faculty, staff and students throughout the Stanford University community. But one of our primary goals is to serve as an information resource for the medical center’s faculty and staff. Through a mixture of science reporting, personality profiles, trend pieces and Q&A features, we try to give our readers a good feel for what’s happening at the medical school and the role our faculty play in national and international issues. The online version of the newspaper is also widely used by reporters and people outside of the university who want to stay abreast of the latest news from Stanford.

Circulation: 14,100

Frequency: The newspaper is published weekly during the school year and every other week during the summer, for a total of 38 issues in 2006.

Staffing: Medical Center Report is largely managed and edited by one full-time member of the Office of Communication & Public Affairs. The editor also has responsibility for assigning and editing news releases, writing for both our internal and external publications, responding to media and public inquiries, supervising three full-time science writers and one part-time science writer, and coordinating with the University News Service, which produces Stanford Report. The office’s director of print and web communications devotes roughly 25 percent of her time to matters related to Medical Center Report, and we have a part-time graphic designer who handles the layout and production duties. All writing is done by members of the office staff. We use both campus photographic services and freelance photographers.

Total Annual Budget (excluding salaries and postage): $50,000