News Blog

Welcome to the Penn Medicine News Blog

Oliver the animal therapy dog with his owner, Michaela, and a patient.
Welcome to the Penn Medicine News Blog. In a manner of speaking, this blog exists because of puppies. More precisely, puppies have delivered the latest example of how the spread of news and stories is changing -- which is the real reason why this blog exists.

Allow me to explain.

HUP's Pups and the Power of Sharing

The puppies in question are HUP's Pups (and, in the interest of full disclosure, I think they're technically fully grown adult dogs). About a month ago, my colleague Sally Sapega wrote a story for HUPdate, one of Penn Medicine's employee newsletters, about our new animal therapy program. The dogs are adorable, and Sally's writing is delightful, and we hope that many of the hospital's employees enjoyed the story on those merits alone. If they did, our traditional job was done. But my story doesn't end there because, as I've said, the spread of news and stories is changing.

Here's what happened next: The hospital volunteer who was profiled in the story shared the link to the HUPdate article with her friends on Facebook. One friend had a personal connection to a local reporter, and the next thing we knew, the reporter was asking to come in and see HUP's Pups in action. My colleagues in media relations enthusiastically answered the call, finding a patient floor where the dogs would visit, finding patients and staff members willing to be interviewed for the story, executing all the necessary legal documents and consents, and generally pulling all the pieces into place so the reporter, producer, and crew from NBC10 could do what they do best. The result was a heartwarming story about the healing comfort of animals that reached the world far beyond the walls of our hospital.

It all happened because of the internet, and because of the power of stories shared within communities. In years past, that volunteer (Michaela) might have told a handful of her closest friends about her appearance in HUPdate and perhaps even shown the clipping to a few -- but it wouldn't have been possible for her whole social circle to see it easily and instantaneously.

Opening the Door to Share Penn Medicine Stories

For my colleagues whose job is media relations on behalf of Penn Medicine -- each of my co-contributors on this blog -- the fact that a volunteer's act of sharing led to a story about Penn Medicine (and about its patients, pups, volunteers, and staff) in the news was a stroke of luck. But luck isn't all it was: Michaela's example is instructive, and illustrative of why we've been eager to start this blog -- because each one of my co-contributors here is a Michaela in waiting. Historically, we've been doing the equivalent of sharing individual clippings (or, in our case, news and story ideas) with a handful of known peers in the health and science reporting community. This blog is an opportunity to expand that community of peers, and to reach public audiences in expanding circles beyond it.

What is this blog?

The Penn Medicine News Blog is a place where members of Penn Medicine's communications staff will be sharing news story ideas and perspectives on health and science news topics.

As an extension of the traditional public relations role, we are using this blog to provide resources for reporters and bloggers, including:

  • A place where you can scan for story ideas and to get a glimpse of many of the medical experts you might not have known we have available at Penn.
  • A source of quotes from our doctors and researchers that you can self-serve and use in your stories.

Beyond that, we know that good PR is built on strong relationships, and on the professional trust built between individuals on our communications staff and individuals in the news media. By bringing more of our individual perspectives to bear on the topics we discuss here, we hope reporters and bloggers will have the opportunity to get to know us better as professional peers. And, of course, we're doing our best to listen. We invite your comments, and we look forward to opportunities to discuss topics that are of interest to you.

This blog is also an expansion beyond traditional PR. I'm especially excited to use this as a means of shedding light on more of the information flowing through Penn Medicine that traditionally gets lost, like the news clippings that are shared with only a few select friends. I've worked here in the Communications department for nearly three years, and in that time I've been continually impressed (and frequently overwhelmed) by the pace and volume of information flowing through this office -- the breadth, depth, and complexity of issues in health care, innovations in biomedical research, diverse patient stories, and so much more. My role is to transform and transmit that information as appropriate online -- so I know more acutely than anyone that only a tiny fraction of that information ever sees the light of day. For that reason, this blog is an opportunity to open a door, and to build an on-ramp for the public -- patients, families, and the community -- into the wider universe of Penn Medicine.

Getting Started

In preparing to launch this blog, each of my co-contributors has written a first post. I encourage readers to take a look through and see the great work they've produced:

  • Complementary Medicine During Cancer: A Prescription for Hope? Holly Auer describes recent research demonstrating spiritual benefits from complementary and alternative medicine among cancer patients.
  • If water is so great, why don’t we drink it? Kim Menard discusses the hidden health dangers in sweetened beverages.
  • A Unique View from the Head of the Operating Table Jessica Mikulski interviews a Penn anesthesiologist about his recent perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine about surgical decision-making in light of health care costs and reform.
  • The On-Going Saga of a Disease Protein Karen Kreeger traces the route of discoveries about a key protein in neurodegenerative diseases through years of research and several lines of investigation at Penn.
  • Bloodless Medicine: How Do They Do That? Lee-Ann Landis discusses a doctor's innovative approaches to avoiding the need for blood transfusions in surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital.
  • Olivia Fermano's first post is on its way soon.

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    About this Blog

    This blog is written and produced by Penn Medicine’s Department of Communications. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive an e-mail notification when new content goes live!

    Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

    Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of personal medical advice.

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