Medical World News

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Medical World News

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Medical World News (MWN) was a weekly publication that focused on medical developments, issues, and personalities. It was published for 35 years from 1960 to 1994. Self-described as "The Newsmagazine of Medicine,” Medical World News was the only news magazine devoted solely to medicine during its years of publication.

With Maxwell M. Geffen as the publisher, the first issue of Medical World News hit the newsstand on April 22, 1960. It began as a biweekly publication, but quickly increased its frequency to every week. From the beginning Medical World News aspired to be more than just another medical journal. As Geffen describes in his first Letter from the Publisher, “Medical World News proposes to offer a new, unique and clear channel of communication between the profession and the world around it, and to set new standards of accuracy and disclosure, covering every phase of medical journalism.” (MWN, 1960, 04/22, p.11) It was a unique and independent publication with the freedom to report all aspects on controversial issues in medicine. Its target audience was the physician, and the image-rich content was “designed to facilitate communications and easy reading.” (MWN, 1960, 04/22, p.11) Within the first 2 months, Medical World News covered “the Kefauver investigation, the rapid developments surrounding medical care for the aged, the debate of the ‘polio greats,’ the use of oral contraceptives and the exciting conversation of tumorous cells into normal cells by a Rockefeller Institute scientist.” (MWN, 1960, 06/03, p.9)

Morris Fishbein, previously editor of Journal of the American Medical Association, was the first editor for the Medical World News. He shaped the tone and concepts of the publication, emphasizing photography to differentiate Medical World News from other medical journals. He had a photo staff of six people, including Rick Giacalone as art director and Don Monaco and Martha Roberts as photo editors. The work of the staff and amount of images created, reviewed, and used for each story was a massive undertaking. Geffen describes, “[the picture staff] handles about 30,000 pictures every year. For a single story, they may scrutinize as many as 150 color slides or a dozen rolls of 36-frame black-and-white film--from which they will choose only four or five of the best for publication.” (MWN, 1967, 03/31, p.21) To capture all the footage, Medical World News hired freelance photographers for assignments all over the world. Many were members of the American Society of Magazine Photographers. Notable photographers who contributed to issues are George Tames, Art Shay, Joe Baker, James Pickerell, Ivan Massar, Jerry Miller, Al Geise, Mike Shea, Dennis Galloway, and Bob Phillips. Some photographers were associated with photo agencies, like Black Star and Magnum Photos.

Ownership of the Medical World News changed throughout its 35-year history. The following is a list of publishing companies, their locations, and years of ownership: Medical World News Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1960-1967 McGraw-Hill Publications, New York, NY, 1967-1981 Hospital Equities International (HEI) Publishing Company, Houston, TX, 1981-1985 Miller Freeman Inc., San Francisco, CA, 1985-1992 Axel Springer Publications, New York, NY, 1992-1994

By the 1990s Medical World News had become a monthly magazine. Nicholas K. Zittel was the last editor, and he wrote in his final Editor’s Note, “Over the years, MWN has fought valiantly to fulfill [its] promise. The ‘war on cancer,’ the artificial heart, Medicare, advances in neonatology, the halcyon days of drug discovery, political battles in Congress. With its comprehensive coverage of these and other critical issues MWN has fought tirelessly for and on behalf of the primary-care physician.” (MWN, February 1994, p.2) The last issue of the Medical World News was published in February 1994.

SOURCES: Medical World News, 1960, 1967, 1994; IC 077 Medical World News Photograph Collection


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