Medical school news office receives six writing awards

The office received four golds, one silver and one bronze in the annual competition sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

- By Susan Ipaktchian

An award-winning story described how Alfredo Dubra went from a child with crossed eyes to a physicist working to find better ways of examining the retina.
Brian Smale

Writers in the School of Medicine’s Office of Communication and Public Affairs received six awards for their work in the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual competition.

In all, the office received four of the five gold awards in the national contest’s writing categories, along with a silver and a bronze award. The awards were for work published in 2017-18.

Science writer Krista Conger received the gold award in the basic-science writing category for “Eye spy,” a feature that was published in the summer 2017 issue of Stanford Medicine magazine. It describes the journey of Uruguayan-native Alfredo Dubra: As a young boy, Dubra suffered from strabismus, or crossed eyes; today, he is a renowned physicist who is spending his life trying to find better ways of examining the retina. “A perfect piece!” the judges wrote. “Well-written, with clear descriptions, a natural flow and wonderful narrative (excellent story and quote to illustrate how people get into a career because of a personal experience).”

Science writer Bruce Goldman received the silver award in the same category for “Brain balls,” a feature in the winter 2018 issue about researcher Sergiu Pasca’s efforts to develop brain organoids that can be grown and studied in the lab. Judges called it a “superb feature” with “evocative explanations of the science. A very enjoyable long read.”

Contest judges honored a story describing the historic heart transplant surgery that took place at Stanford Hospital in 1968.
Stanford Medical History Center

Magical moment,” which recounted the events surrounding the first U.S. adult heart transplant, earned a gold award in the general staff writing category. Science writer Tracie White brought to life the historic surgery that took place 50 years earlier at Stanford Hospital. The story was published in the winter 2018 issue of the magazine. Judges for the contest called the story “perfect,” and said it was “an astoundingly beautiful and informative piece of writing that takes the reader back in time to an historical medical milestone.”

In the solicited articles category, novelist Joyce Maynard received the gold award for an essay she wrote about life while her husband was being treated for cancer and how the experience changed her. The essay, “In the fog of loss,” was published in Stanford Medicine’s summer 2017 issue. Judges commented, “This was beautiful. A great service — giving space to an excellent writer to tell a medical story in a clear, emotional, personal way.”

The magazine is edited by Rosanne Spector.

Conger also received a gold award in the news release category for her Jan. 31, 2018, release about a potential vaccine therapy for cancer developed by researcher Ronald Levy and his colleagues. The story drew huge amounts of coverage from the news media, resulting in inquiries from cancer patients throughout the world who hoped they could take part in a planned clinical trial of the experimental therapy. To date, the news release has garnered more than 1.5 million views on the school’s website. Judges called it “a model news release for the current age.”

Goldman received the bronze award for his Oct. 27, 2017, news release about researcher Michael Eisenberg’s findings linking the frequency of marijuana use to the frequency of sexual intercourse. Judges said the release was nicely written and that they could easily see why the findings drew such widespread news coverage.

The news releases are edited by John Sanford.

The awards are given by the AAMC’s Group on Institutional Advancement, which includes communications, development and alumni relations staff at academic medical centers. This year’s awards will be presented April 11 in Orlando, Florida, at the group’s annual meeting.

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