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Medical World News Photograph Collection

Detail of contact sheets from IC 077 Medical World News Photograph Collection. Image shows Dr. DeBakey at the Lasker Awards, 1966.

by Sandra Yates, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian

The Texas Medical Center Library, McGovern Historical Center is excited to announce the completion of the IC 077 Medical World News Photograph Collection. A complete finding aid and inventory is now online and available for researchers.

The Medical World News Photograph Collection is one of the largest and most interesting in the McGovern Historical Center. Comprised of an estimated 500,000 photographic prints, negatives, and transparencies, it offers an expansive visual tour of medical advances from 1960-1988. Through biographical files, subject files, article files, raw negative footage, color transparencies, and source materials for feature stories, this collection documents the production of a premiere medical news magazine, and it contains most of the images published in the magazine from 1967-1985.

The collection consists of 22,003 folders within 424 document boxes and 8 oversize boxes, which includes images for 8,198 articles, 3,017 medical personalities, and 2,141 subjects! The collection was processed by our dedicated Archives Assistant, Gina Leonard, who painstakingly inventoried every folder. It was a project that lasted over five years, two and a half of which was focused on rehousing every roll of 35mm negative into PAT (Photographic Activity Test) negative preserver sleeves. Gina’s work has enabled us to provided a very detailed folder-level inventory that is easily text searchable. Eventually, we hope to use the inventory as a foundation to create a more interactive search experience that will allow researchers to filter by year, subject, and photographer.
I won’t bore you with the spreadsheet formulas that made this massive task manageable, but… Who am I kidding! We could not have created such a detailed finding aid without (1) entering the inventory data into an Excel spreadsheet and (2) using SUBSTITUTE formulas to clean-up and standardize dates and CONCATENATE formulas to combine everything into encoded, valid XML component tags.

A Little Background

Medical World News 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 and Morris Fishbein as editor, the first issue of Medical World News hit the newsstand on April 22, 1960. From the beginning Medical World News aspired to be more than just another medical journal. 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 made for easy reading.

Fishbein emphasized 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) This output explains the size and breadth of the collection! Medical World News used freelance photographers for assignments all over the world. Notable photographers who contributed to issues are George Tames, Art Shay, Joe Baker, Ivan Massar, Jerry Miller, Al Geise, and Bob Phillips. Some photographers were associated with photo agencies, like Black Star and Magnum Photos.

Accessing the Materials

The collection is open for research. You can search the finding aid and contact the mcgovern staff ( for images that suit your research needs. We can provide reference images of folder contents and high-resolution scans of prints, negatives, and color transparencies. Through the years, researchers have found the partial inventory that we had online and requested images from the collection for documentaries and journal articles. Some materials have been digitized and are available upon request.

Below are some images from the Medical World News Photograph Collection that we’ve featured previously on the blog: