12 medical students launched a Perelman School of Medicine magazine, apenndx, after months of publishing delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Apenndx released its inaugural issue in early June, which features content primarily focused on student stories about being displaced or impacted in any way by the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue, last updated on June 22, includes personal essays, opinion columns, poetry, art, and photography curated from dozens of Penn Medicine students.
First-year Penn Medicine students Sonia Wang, Diane Rafizadeh, and Catherine Yang, all of whom received their bachelor's degrees at Yale University, came up with the idea earlier during the academic year after realizing Penn Medicine was lacking in its science journalism offerings for students. While studying at Yale, the trio worked on the Yale Scientific Magazine, and believed that bringing a similar model to Penn would be successful.
After expanding the magazine's staff to a group of 12 Penn Medicine students, the apenndx team began planning its first issue, with the intention to launch it during the end of the spring semester. Although the launch timeline was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced on-campus operations to shut down in mid-March, Rafizadeh said the team viewed the shift from in-person to remote communication as a "blessing in disguise."
“It forced us to really think about what we wanted the messaging of the magazine to be,” Penn Medicine student and apenndx publisher Andrew Ahn said.
Even with the variety of challenges posed by remote working, Ahn said the team remained committed to creating a finished product.
“No one’s getting paid, this is just for fun,” Ahn said. “I think it speaks to how much everybody believes in the product, which is again offering that medium for students to really express their ideas."
As the staff members were all quarantining in different locations across the country, Penn Medicine student and apenndx editor Jackson Bowers said he found the team’s BlueJeans calls to be a calming presence amid a difficult time. Penn Medicine student and apenndx editor Likhitha Kolla said it was positive to "see familiar faces and just to talk to friends."
Not all of the staff members had experience writing for a magazine, which motivated the team to find each staffer's unique skillset in writing, editing, graphic design, publishing, website design, and more.
"We all have our roles, but this was truly a team effort," Rafizadeh said. "If it wasn't for every single person on this team, this couldn't have happened.”
Looking to the future, Kolla said the apenndx team plans to release another issue in August, hoping to reach an even broader community than it did with its first issue. Kolla said apenndx received positive feedback from the Penn community, and the staff hopes to integrate the incoming class of medical students into its next issue.
The apenndx team hopes readers see the qualities of "compassion, openness, and clarity" reflected in the magazine's literature and art, as written in the opening note of the inaugural issue.