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About AHCJ: General News

Workshop on evidence-based medicine draws more reporters to D.C. Date: 11/03/15

Journalism Workshop on Evidence-Based MedicineWASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 100 journalists from across the United States came to the nation’s capital Oct. 29-30 to hone their evidence-based skills in evaluating and reporting on medical research.

AHCJ’s Journalism Workshop on Evidence-Based Medicine featured a roster of seasoned health journalists, medical research experts and statistical mavens, allowing attendees to leave with story ideas and resources to pursue stories.

Sessions covered how science and policy intertwine, how to use online research tools to explore evidence-based medicine, how to investigate research fraud, understanding the evidence about screening, and how journalists can use anecdotes and narratives in their stories but stick to the relevant evidence.

Doctors Kenneth Lin and Paul K. Whelton gave the audience two views about the connection – and disconnections – of science and policy. Scott Hensley, NPR writer and editor, moderated the session.

Whelton, a clinical professor of epidemiology with Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, recounted a statement illustrating the frustration of using science to steer policy: “People do a wonderful press conference, publish in prestigious journals, present at important meetings – and nothing happens.”


William Lawrence

Lin, an associate professor of family medicine and the director of Georgetown University Department of Family Medicine’s Primary Care Health Policy Fellowship, pointed to different viewpoints in policy decision. “’Experts,’” he pointed out, “and laypersons view new medical evidence through the lens of their own biases.” Lin is also the associate deputy editor of American Family Physician.

A pair of sessions led attendees through better understanding of clinical studies and making sense of the statistics in those studies.

Hilda Bastian of the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health, and Tara Haelle, AHCJ’s core topic leader for medical studies, led the audience through “Getting up to speed on clinical studies.” The two ran through the types of studies, the anatomy of each, and the statistics that might challenge a reporter.

Later in the workshop, William Lawrence, M.D., M.S., the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute senior program officer for Communication and Dissemination Research, dug even deeper into statistics. Don’t fear the numbers, he told the audience, but warned that the numbers aren’t the whole story.

AHCJ members can download speaker presentations.

The workshop – sponsored by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, The Commonwealth Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – ended with a special session featuring longtime AHCJ members who identified workshop highlights and helped the audience members to start fine-tuning story ideas and make the most of the workshop sessions.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With about 1,500 members across the United States and around the globe, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism provide training, resources and a professional home for journalists. Offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.


Kay Dickersin