May 2004


The New York Times


Lawrence K. Altman – Reporter, Science Times


Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., is one of the few full-fledged medical doctors working as a full-time daily newspaper reporter.  He has been a member of The New York Times science news staff since 1969.  In addition to reporting, he writes the “Doctor’s World” column in Science Times.


Born on June 19, 1937, in Quincy, Mass., Dr. Altman went from Milton Academy to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1958 with a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in government.  He received his medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1962.


In college and medical school, Dr. Altman covered sports, did feature writing and helped out on the city desk at The Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger.  At Harvard, he was advertising manager and treasurer of The Lampoon.


Dr. Altman’s medical internship was at Mt. Zion Hospital, San Francisco, in 1962 and 1963.  He then served for three years with the U.S. Public Health Service’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as editor of its “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”, a journal dealing with reported cases of communicable diseases in the world.  He then helped set up a measles immunization program for eight West African countries, which later was merged with the World Health Organization’s program that eradicated smallpox from the world.  Dr. Altman then became chief of the U.S. Public Health Service’s Division of Epidemiology and Immunization in Washington.


From 1966 to 1968, Dr. Altman was a resident in internal medicine at the University of Washington Affiliated Hospitals in Seattle, and later became a senior fellow there in medical genetics.


Dr. Altman has written articles for various scholarly publications on such subjects as viral encephalitis, canine cadaver blood and self experimentation.  In 1974, he won the Claude Bernard Science Journalism Award for a story in The Times entitled: “Baboon Experiment Shows Alcohol Damages Liver, Even With Good Diet.”  He also won the award in 1971 for an article on how dogs that had been taught to smoke developed cancer.





In 1982, 1983, and 1995, Dr. Altman won the Howard W. Blakeslee Award of the American Heart Association.  He is the only science writer to win the award in two successive years.  In 2001, Dr. Altman won the Howard Lewis Career Award from the American Heart Association.


In 1986, Dr. Altman won a George Polk award for his series on AIDS in Africa.  In 2000, he won the first Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. 


His book, “Who Goes First? The Story of Self-Experimentation in Medicine,” is published by the University of California at Berkeley Press.


In 2004, Dr. Altman received the University of California at San Francisco’s medal and the Walsh McDermott award from the Associated Medical Schools of New York.


Dr. Altman, who holds medical licenses in the states of Washington, California and New York, is a clinical professor at the New York University Medical School.  He is a Master of the American College of Physicians, a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and the New York Academy of Medicine and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.


# # #