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MUSCMedical LinksCharleston LinksArchivesCatalyst AdvertisersSeminars and EventsResearch StudiesPublic RelationsResearch GrantsMUSC home pageCommunity HappeningsCampus NewsApplause


Catalyst is valuable communication tool

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
Despite the floods, storms and holidays, Kim Draughn makes certain The Catalyst is distributed to racks across campus so patients, visitors, staff and students can catch up on the latest developments at MUSC.
As editor of the weekly tabloid, Draughn works from dawn to dusk assigning stories, covering events and laying out the paper all while her phone rings nonstop. Callers include MUSC officials and individuals who request coverage of an event or a feature about an employee or patient; or they are readers wanting more information on a doctor or treatment they learned about in The Catalyst.
Draughn has been with the 26-year-old paper for more than 13 years, and often pulls from her experience and recollection to supply historical context of issues and people at MUSC.
Supported solely by advertising sold by its publisher, Island Publications, The Catalyst newspaper is free and costs MUSC nothing to publish or distribute. “We work for this institution and hospital, and it is our job to get the information out and share the news and pertinent information, especially now,” Draughn said.
“We have shared a long history of working well together to produce a newspaper for the MUSC’s staff, students, patients and visitors. MUSC has such a visible way to get the message out about the events, programs and happenings concerning the MUSC family,” said Island Publications publisher Vickey Boyd. “The Catalyst staff provides the copy and pictures. Our staff sells the ads, publishes the paper and helps distribute it. This allows MUSC to have the paper at no cost. In addition, employees are entitled to free classified ads, with few exceptions.”
The Catalyst’s Internet version, launched in 1997, currently averages 440,000 Web visits a month, according to Draughn. “We get calls all the time from people who’ve read about something in The Catalyst wanting more information,” Draughn added. “So, in that sense, it helps bring more people to MUSC.
The Currents newsletter was printed and distributed separately. “To help the hospital save money, we agreed to run Currents as hospital administrators wanted it. So we run Currents in The Catalyst as a cost-saver,” said Draughn.
The Catalyst helps MUSC scientists and departments fulfill publicity requirements stipulated in research grants or accreditation efforts. It also generates publicity by the mainstream news media and serves as a tool in the university’s philanthropic endeavors.
In more personal instances, it has helped improve the quality of life for children.
“A couple of years ago, (Catalyst staff writer) Cindy (Abole) wrote a story about a little girl who needed a seizure assist dog,” Draughn recalled. “The problem was that the medical service dog would cost the child’s parents $16,000, and they didn’t have that kind of money.”
The child, she explained, had epilepsy and was prone to frequent seizures. Abole had written a story and taken a photo of the child with the visiting seizure assist dog, which appeared on the front page of The Catalyst in March 2006.
“We received a call from a visitor in the hospital who read the story and wanted to know how he could help,” Draughn said. “That reader arranged to pay for that therapy dog for the child.”
“The size and complexity of the MUSC campus—with our students, faculty, staff, patients and their families—demand efficient communication tools, and The Catalyst is certainly efficient, because it costs the university nothing to publish,” said MUSC Public Relations director Sarah King, DHA, who oversees the paper’s production. “We have learned in this country that during good times, open channels of communication are essential to continued success. During tough times, sustaining and even increasing effective communication becomes a matter of corporate life and death. You would be hard-pressed to find an organization affecting the lives of untold thousands of people that did not have a communications tool like The Catalyst.”
Three Public Relations staff members handle most of The Catalyst’s production.
A former NASA public affairs liaison, Abole has worked for 10 years with The Catalyst and also serves as the MUSC Excellence program liaison for the hospital and university. She also reports on weekly hospital communications meetings with administrators, managers and supervisors through the  Currents column in The Catalyst.
For information, call 792-4107 or e-mail For advertising, call 849-1778, ext. 201.

Editor’s note: Mary Helen Yarborough has 25 years of experience working in mainstream media covering national and global issues. She joined The Catalyst staff in 2006.
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Friday, Nov. 21, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.