June 20, 2008

Medical Center news office busy spreading the word

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U.S. News and World Report journalist Sarah Baldauf interviews Paul St. Jacques, M.D., about Vanderbilt’s Vigilance system for monitoring OR patients during the magazine’s visit last week. (photo by Neil Brake)

Medical Center news office busy spreading the word

When U.S. News & World Report rolls out its ranking of “America's Best Hospitals” on July 21, Vanderbilt Medical Center will play a highly visible role in the eagerly anticipated annual issue.

Reporters and a photographer from the magazine spent last week at the Medical Center, talking to patients, staff and faculty for a package of stories. With a working title of “Six days in the life of a hospital,” the story will give readers a taste of what goes on each day here at VMC, and a glimpse into the cutting-edge patient care, education and research going on each day.

The U.S. News team's visit is the latest example of Vanderbilt's growing presence on the national media stage, and was facilitated by the efforts of a department that normally operates behind the scenes — VMC's Office of News and Public Affairs.

The mission of the 25-person Medical Center office — in conjunction with colleagues at the University — is, quite simply, to tell Vanderbilt's story.

This is accomplished primarily through two channels: media relations, which focuses on working with TV, print, broadcast and Web reporters on stories about Vanderbilt and stories featuring Vanderbilt personnel; and award-winning publications, which are geared toward various audiences both inside and outside of Vanderbilt.

“Hardly a day goes by that this Medical Center is not mentioned or featured in some major news journal in this country,” said Bill Hance, director of the Office of News and Public Affairs.

“And we have a friendly but aggressive news staff and cooperative and understanding faculty to thank for that.”

Though individual News and Public Affairs staff members may focus more heavily on either publications or media relations, most contribute to both efforts. And those efforts have been generating significant achievements lately.

In media relations, the growth in the number of times VMC is featured or referenced in a local, national or international media story — dubbed a placement — has been substantial.

Media placements are on pace to surpass 29,000 by the end of this year, a 46 percent increase over the 19,757 recorded in 2007. The Medical Center's overall positive media placements, a measure of the institutions visibility in the news media, have increased 253 percent since tracking began in 2002.

The media relations team, under the direction of John Howser, is tasked with establishing, cultivating and maintaining relationships with reporters, editors, photographers, news directors, producers and other media content managers. The media relations goal is to get VMC's people and programs featured in news stories. This is done by providing information about research, clinical programs or administrative activities to the news media, and by identifying Vanderbilt personnel to serve as expert commentators on health care-related issues of the day.

A notable example of this aspect of media relations is William Schaffner, M.D., chair of Vanderbilt's Department of Preventive Medicine, who, over the past several years, has been interviewed and quoted in thousands of stories regarding all manner of public health issues. A key component of News & Public Affairs' media efforts is VUStar, Vanderbilt's state-of-the-art on-campus satellite broadcast facility operated by the University News Service.

Whether it's a team from U.S. News, The Tennessean, Nashville's TV news stations, or CNN, members of the Medical Center’s media relations team accompany all members of the news media while they are on campus, acting as liaisons with Vanderbilt personnel to ensure that proper information is made available and that patients' privacy rights are protected.

The number of Medical Center publications produced by News and Public Affairs has grown significantly in recent years. With a long history of national awards for content and quality, the publications continue to garner significant honors.

In addition to the VUMC Reporter, which publishes 48 times per year, News & Public Affairs produces a broad family of 11 separate publications targeting very different audiences, including:

• House Organ, the employee-focused monthly magazine

• Lens, a science and research-focused magazine which publishes twice each year

• …on their way, a twice-yearly magazine of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt

• Momentum, which is dedicated to covering the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and is published twice each year

• Vanderbilt Medicine, the twice-yearly alumni magazine targeting graduates of the School of Medicine

• Vanderbilt Nurse, the twice-yearly alumni magazine for the School of Nursing

• Employee Quarterly, which covers employee human resources issue and is published four times each year

• Medical Center annual reports for: Children's Hospital, VUSM, VUSN, VICC and the Vanderbilt Heart & Vascular Institute.

The publications team also writes and produces several e-mail newsletters, including VMG Mail and the elevate e-newsletter, and administers Web sites for each of the publications.

Accolades for writing and the design of VMC's publications continue to grow. Recently, …on their way, edited by Jessica Ennis, won the Gold Award for Excellence in Medical Marketing in the children's hospital category at the 2008 Aster Awards competition. Lens, edited by Bill Snyder, landed the Bronze Award in the special constituency category for research magazines at the annual Circle of Excellence Awards Program of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). A story from House Organ, written by Wayne Wood on School of Nursing faculty member Tom Cook and his son, Alex, won the 2008 Prism Award for writing from the Tennessee Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations.

Medical Center publications have received state and national awards and honors from organizations including: CASE's District III Awards and Circle of Excellence Awards; Population Institutes' Global Media Awards; League of American Communications Professional Spotlight Awards and Vision Awards; Tennessee Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations PRISM Awards; and Aster Medical Marketing Awards, among others.

“Our news team has far exceeded our expectations this year, and the publications team continues to publish high-quality, award-winning work that is continually recognized as some of the best,” said Hance.