The Media Relations Program of the University of Maryland Medical System and University of Maryland School of Medicine has won an Award of Excellence-a first place honor-from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The award recognizes the joint media relations program as a national model that has achieved success at every level.
"Achieving excellence in media relations is a constant challenge. Many health care institutions are vying for news coverage," says Joan Shnipper, the Medical System's corporate vice president of Communications and Public Affairs. "Even though the Medical System and the School of Medicine are separate organizations with different leadership, we knew we could be even more successful at obtaining media coverage if we had a combined, proactive media relations program that could meet the goal of both institutions."
Shnipper adds that many affiliated teaching hospitals and medical schools around the country would like to create a similar joint media program to increase efficiency and eliminate confusion among both external and internal customers, but few have been able to achieve it.
"Our media team is the "news hub" for both organizations, says Ellen Beth Levitt, director of Media Relations who developed the media program and heads the joint media team. Team members are Gwen Newman, Larry Roberts, Barbara Crawford, Tim Parsons, Cindy Rivers and Jennifer McGinley.
"We gather and disseminate information to local, regional and national media. We work together to share resources, story ideas and media contacts, and we balance the workload so that more can be accomplished," says Levitt. In the first year of the combined program, media placements increased by 112 percent.
"Our media relations team has achieved excellent results in raising awareness of the School of Medicine and the Medical System, by developing effective media strategies, working with physicians and other staff to find newsworthy developments and offering story ideas to reporters, editors and producers," says Jennifer Litchman, director of Public Affairs for the School of Medicine.
Shnipper, Litchman and Levitt received the national award at the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Chicago on October 28.
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