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2016 GIA Awards for Excellence

Robert G. Fenley Writing: General Staff Writing

"The Butterfly Effect"
By Krista Conger
Stanford Medicine
Stanford School of Medicine

What was the subject of this piece?
The quest for a treatment for what might be the most painful skin disease of all — the blistering disease epidermolysis bullosa.

Judges said:
This article brought a rare skin disease to life. The personal stories were difficult to read, but a much-appreciated glimpse into these patient's painful lives. The story had a logical progression and provided a lot of useful information and insight without being overdone or daunting.

Where did it appear?
It was published in the summer 2015 issue of Stanford Medicine magazine.

What was the biggest challenge in writing about this topic?
It was a delicate balance between conveying the true horror of this devastating disease without letting the story devolve into a maudlin tale that failed to show the courage and optimism of patients, physicians and researchers.

An excerpt:
The skin is the largest organ in the body. In an adult human, the skin totals about 1.5 to 2 square meters, or roughly the area of a nice-sized throw blanket. It serves as an essential barrier between the messy gloop and rippling red cords of our innards and muscles and a world teeming with dangers — infectious microbes, toxic substances and even the hot and cold air around us that would quickly desiccate us into shriveled husks if we were left unprotected. It allows us to feel changes in temperature and pressure, and, yes, even pain. One square centimeter of human skin contains 200 pain receptors, all primed to transmit pain signals in the most efficient, speedy way possible to encourage us to lift our hand off that burner, or to recoil from the knife that has only begun to break the skin. In EB patients, those receptors are firing almost nonstop.

“We don’t know what it is like to not be in pain,” says Paul Martinez, a 32-year-old man with EB from Stockton, California. Martinez is a participant in Stanford’s current clinical trial. “It’s just normal for us.”


Honorable Mention — General Staff Writing

"On Speaking Terms"
By David Cameron
Harvard Medicine Magazine
Harvard Medical School

Interested in Submitting Your Work?

You’ve spent the entire year creating innovative campaigns, writing articles, organizing alumni and community events, revamping your digital presence, and most importantly, demonstrating the value of your institution to your community.  Now is the time to show off your work and be recognized!

Learn more about the competition with the resources below: