The MHA is named for Harvey Kurtzman (no relation) the  founder and first editor of Mad magazine. This award is not to be confused with the Harvey Awards for achievements in comic books. It (the MHA) is given to the authors of any paper in the scientific literature (not including the Journal of Irreproducible Results) that surpasses the blindingly obvious or which presents a titanic tautology. The reason for the exclusion of the JIR is that its papers are intentionally meant not to be taken seriously. The MHA only can be awarded to serious research meant to be so taken. For example the JIR’s study that poverty is inversely correlated with income is not eligible for the MHA, but if the same study were published in the JAMA or similar journal it would be eligible.

The inaugural award goes to The Association of Firearm Caliber With Likelihood of Death From Gunshot Injury in Criminal Assaults published by the JAMA. The purpose of the study was “To determine whether the likelihood of death from gunshot wounds inflicted in criminal assaults is associated with the power of the assailant’s firearm as indicated by its caliber.” The authors after examining cases obtained from the Boston Police Department concluded all other variables being equal that: “Shootings with larger-caliber handguns were more deadly.” I must note that the prize winning paper was by two PhDs. Two MDs would neither have conceived nor answered this important question thus would  have missed the prize. I must add, that had the authors asked their question to Dirty Harry they would have received a definitive answer without any need for further study.

Looking through my vast piles of unpublished and rejected manuscripts I found numerous observations that support the JAMA paper. For example, people falling from a 5th story window were more likely to die than those dropping from the first floor. Similarly, being shot with a bb gun was less likely to be lethal than the injury sustained by a direct hit from a cannon. Arsenic was worse for your health than creamed corn, while being struck by a Mack truck was considerably more likely to produce fatal injury than a collision with a Schwinn. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

The JAMA article was thought important enough to merit an accompanying commentary. How do studies like this one find their way into the serious medical press? The answer is that the elite of the profession as opposed to its rank and file inhabits a different universe, one where every problem, and many nonproblems, are felt to be medical – such as the caliber of a gun. The resulting alternative view of the universe is similar to that of Dalí or Magritte. The chasm between the practicing doc and the editors of the country’s important medical publications is continental. Embarrassment is an embarrassment so our elite is immune to it.

The paper that is the recipient of this award is open source and not behind a paywall. Accordingly I have appended it to the bottom of this article. I also welcome nominations for future MHAs. The competition is fierce, there being so many eligible studies in the medical press, so only a cleverly constructed study will garner nomination, much less the award itself.


The Association of Firearm Caliber With Likelihood of Death From Gunshot Injury in Criminal Assaults JAMA 2018