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Stanford Report, April 15, 1998

Altman to give commecement address: 4/98

NY Times reporter Altman to deliver convocation speech


Dr. Lawrence K. Altman, renowned medical reporter for The New York Times, will speak at the School of Medicine's convocation ceremony on Sunday, June 14.

The ceremony, to be held on Alumni Green after a morning graduation on the university's main campus, will honor 91 new MDs as well as an undetermined number of PhD and MS graduates, said Crystal Stahl, registrar.

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Convocation follows a traditional noon luncheon in the Dean's Courtyard. A woodwind quartet will entertain guests before the formal ceremony begins at 2 p.m.

Altman, one of the nation's few practicing physicians working as a newspaper reporter, said he will address several themes, including the need for doctors to fulfill their public responsibilities by becoming involved in the political process ­ an arena that generations of physicians have been advised to avoid. Clinical care and medical education are ultimately funded, subsidized or regulated by government, which fuels the obligation and even the self-interest of physicians to become more political, Altman said.

Altman, who has written for scholarly publications as well as newspapers and magazines, began his journalistic and medical careers in tandem. As an undergraduate at Harvard and then as a medical student at Tufts, where he received his MD in 1962, Altman covered sports, wrote feature stories and helped out on the city desk at The Quincy Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass.

After completing a medical internship at San Francisco's Mount Zion Hospital in 1963, Altman worked at the U.S. Public Health Service's Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, as editor of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Before leaving the Public Health Service in 1966, he headed its Epidemiology and Immunization Section, in Washington, D.C.

Altman served a residency in internal medicine at the University of Washington Affiliated Hospitals from 1966 to 1968 and then became a senior fellow in medicine there.

Since joining the news staff of The Times in 1969, he has practiced medicine and served as a visiting scientist periodically in U.S. and Swedish hospitals. In 1970 he became a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American College of Epidemiology and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Altman has won numerous writing awards, including the 1974 Claude Bernard Science Journalism Award for a story in The Times titled "Baboon Experiment Shows Alcohol Damages Liver, Even with Good Diet," and a 1986 George Polk Award for his series on AIDS in Africa.

His books include "Who Goes First?" The Story of Self-Experimentation in Medicine (Random House 1987, paperback edition from the UC Berkeley Press due out this year). SR