Writing for U.S. News and World Report, Menachem Wecker examines the proliferation of health-focused programs at journalism schools across the country, many of which are affiliated with medical schools and/or medical institutions, and how they may or may not benefit both journalists and health professionals.
This recent influx of programs has raised questions from journalists and doctors about the degree to which the collaborations benefit medical and journalism students. Some say that M.D.’s can help journalists better understand the health beat, while others prescribe a “healthy ignorance,” rather than medical school credentials, to reporters. Others say that aspiring physicians can improve their bedside interactions with and empathy for patients by studying journalism.
Wecker writes that while, according to AHCJ treasurer and Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky, M.D., a medical degree appears to have become almost a requirement for broadcast health journalists, there are big-picture views and tools of the trade that those with an exclusively medical education may struggle with. Here, Wecker quotes former AHCJ board member Andrew Holtz, M.P.H.:
“I often compare asking a doctor about health policy to asking an auto mechanic about transportation policy. Maybe they have something useful to say, but it is generally not from what they learned in their training program,” he says.
Peter Fiske, author of the recent article “Unleash Your Inner Dummy” on the website of the journal Nature, says a reporter with less health expertise may find it easier to connect with readers despite the increasing complexity of the medical field.
And, given the difficulty of explaining health to a lay audience, the exchange goes both ways, Wecker writes. Several of his sources, journalists and medical professionals alike, suggested that it might not hurt physicians to improve their communication skills and media savvy.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed Fiske’s comments to Holtz. We apologize for the error.