An Aha Media Group writer remains starstruck after interviewing and writing about the 2023 Nobel Prize laureates in physiology or medicine.
On Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, I texted my family’s group chat, “MY PENN MEDICINE SCIENTISTS WON THE NOBEL PRIZE! YAAAAASSSSSSSSS!”
Two years earlier, I wrote about Katalin Karikó, Ph.D., and Drew Weissman, MD, Ph.D., and how their groundbreaking mRNA technology saved the world from COVID-19 lockdowns. I’m their biggest fan (that I know of).
Writing Healthcare Profiles for mRNA Trailblazers: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity
Penn Medicine approached Aha Media Group Account Executive Mike Gedmin in 2021 about featuring two researchers who harnessed mRNA’s life-changing capabilities while at Penn. Drs. Karikó and Weissman were collecting numerous global awards for their work, and Penn Medicine wanted a concise, Penn-owned vehicle for sharing their amazing story.
Penn Medicine is a longtime Aha Media Group client and trusts our team’s expertise in distilling complex topics into digestible, actionable information. Penn challenged us to develop a one-page microsite to:
- Introduce Drs. Kariko and Weissman
- Explain how the scientists created a blueprint for developing the historic COVID-19 mRNA vaccines
- Showcase mRNA’s versatility in fighting other diseases
- Position Penn Medicine as a research leader and worldwide hub for mRNA research
When Mike asked me to write the microsite, he didn’t get a chance to finish his request before I agreed. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I texted Aha Media Group Senior Editor Geri Clark. My job was to write the microsite, hers to perfect it. “Can you believe this? We won the lottery!”
Research Leads to Fandom
I launched this writing project like all others—with extensive research. I inhaled everything I could find about the two scientists and mRNA. Articles. Websites. Research papers. Videos. Podcasts. Press releases. I felt like I knew Drs. Karikó and Weissman personally—my new role models for pure awesomeness.
As a girl mom, I blathered nonstop to my daughters about Dr. Karikó, a Hungarian-born biochemist. She was convinced of mRNA’s potential to heal and prevent disease but couldn’t attract the attention of fellow researchers or funders—for decades. Yet, her perseverance and accidental meeting-turned-partnership with immunologist Dr. Weissman at Penn enabled the COVID-19 vaccine that saved humanity.
Interviewing Drew Weissman, a Real-Life Superhero
Mike said Penn wanted me to interview Dr. Weissman, one-on-one via Zoom. Oh, Sweet Mother of Everything Right in the World. I could talk face-to-face with one of the scientists who made it possible for families to reunite. For workers to earn a paycheck. For schools to reopen. For Earth to release and reacquaint.
I was interviewing a real-life superhero.
I carefully crafted questions to glean the necessary information while respecting the interviewee’s time. I emailed the questions to Dr. Weissman the day before. (I had Drew Weissman’s email address!)
I’ve interviewed scores of brilliant doctors but never queried someone whose name was floated as a future Nobel Prize winner. My daughters curated my waist-up outfit.
The next hour was a writer’s dream. Dr. Weissman was the ideal interviewee, providing exquisite information. He emailed follow-up details and signed his message, “Drew.” Can you believe that? A potential Nobel Prize winner and I were on a first-name basis.
I proposed a content outline for Penn Medicine’s marketing team, and we worked together to refine the details. I wrote the microsite, and Geri ensured it adhered to website best practices. After some tweaks and approval from Penn marketing and subject matter experts, Penn launched the microsite. My family and close friends grew weary of my excitement.
The Karikó-Weissman Fan Club Expands, but the Lead Groupie Remains
After school drop-off on Oct. 2, 2023, I listened to NPR as usual. “Two scientists whose basic research played a crucial role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, this morning, were named the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.” I’m glad I was alone in the car; my cheers were deafening.
While the Nobel Prize surely increased the Karikó-Weissman Fan Club membership, I’m still the innovators’ biggest fan.
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