Author Archives: Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Precision Medicine Initiative: Some quick resources

The White House has announced its anticipated “Precision Medicine Initiative,” which it describes as an “emerging field of medicine that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, microbiomes, environments, and lifestyles – making possible more effective, targeted treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes. ”

Health Journalism 2014 featured a panel about personalized medicine and the presentations from “Getting personal: The medical and ethical challenges of using genetic information” may offer some story ideas and considerations for reporters who are explaining President Barack Obama’s proposal.  Continue reading

Panels, key speakers announced for Health Journalism 2015

California’s Silicon Valley – an intersection of health and technology – will be home to Health Journalism 2015, AHCJ’s annual conference scheduled for April 23-26.

Abraham Verghese

Abraham Verghese

Convening at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, hundreds of journalists will visit area sites during field trips, hear from world-class speakers during panels, take part in skill-building workshops and more.

The  conference will help reporters, editors and producers cover the latest in medical research, health technology, public health  issues, the business of health care, health policy matters and journalism. Freelance members can meet face-to-face with editors during the popular PitchFest.

Deane Marchbein

Deane Marchbein

Conference spotlight speakers will include Stanford University physician and author Abraham Verghese, M.D.,  M.A.C.P.; Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald; and Deane Marchbein, M.D., the president of the United States’ board of directors for Doctors Without Borders.

Verghese, a bestselling author and medical school professor, will be the  conference kickoff speaker on the evening of April 23 .

His work includes advocacy for the value of bedside skills and physical diagnosis, skills he sees as waning in an era of increasingly sophisticated medical technology, diverting  physicians’  attention from patients. At Stanford, he was instrumental in development of the “The Stanford 25” initiative, which is designed to showcase and teach 25 fundamental physical exam skills and their diagnostic benefits to interns. Continue reading

Shared wisdom: Shooting video of older adults

Sue Scheible

Sue Scheible

Sometimes all we need is a quick suggestion from our peers to zero in on a good story. In the “Shared Wisdom” section of our core topic areas, we turn to front-line journalists for advice, some simple insight to add to our repository.

Today’s addition is from Sue Scheible of the Patriot Ledger in Massachusetts. Scheible (@sues_ledger) has been a staff reporter at the paper for 46 years and has a weekly column on aging. She offers some tips on filming video of older adults and why video can be so powerful. In one recent video that Scheible shot, an 85-year-old woman explained what she’s learned about talking to doctors.

See what wisdom Scheible offers fellow journalists.

Posts about Ebola, oral health, ethics and data among year’s top reads

As we close out 2014, take a look back at the most popular Covering Health posts of the year:

Thanks for reading and contributing ideas and comments this year!

Grant will allow comprehensive tracking of journal retractions

Adam Marcus

Adam Marcus

Ivan Oransky

Ivan Oransky

A $400,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation will be used to create a database of retractions from scientific journals, extending the work done by  Adam Marcus and AHCJ Vice President Ivan Oransky on their Retraction Watch blog.

The grant was awarded to the Center for Scientific Integrity, a nonprofit organization set up by Marcus and Oransky. Continue reading

Contest entries provide insights, education into reporting

One of the most inspiring parts of my job comes every spring: That’s when I get to see the winning entries in the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

Often they are pieces I’ve seen over the previous year – many of which I’ve blogged or tweeted about or we’ve had the reporters write about their work for us. But there are always a few surprises that I had missed when they were published or aired.

Andrew Holtz, a health news veteran and longtime contest judge, has had the same experience. “Like most AHCJ members, I follow health news closely. Still, several of the entries surprised me. Not only were they delightful pieces of journalism, they revealed stories I hadn’t known,” Holtz said in an email. Continue reading

New funding will allow to resume, expand

Gary Schwitzer

Gary Schwitzer

AHCJ member Gary Schwitzer has announced that the website he publishes,, has received a two-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The site, known for its systematic reviews and ratings of news stories about health care, had been funded since 2005 by the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation but lost its funding July 1, 2013. Continue reading

On the move: Latest news about AHCJ members

The latest report on AHCJ members’ awards, fellowships, job changes and other news includes Christie Aschwanden, Jennifer Boen, Karen Brown, Pieter Droppert, Ellen Durckel Vestewig, Pamela Fayerman, Nancy Finn, Kristin Gourlay, Tara Haelle, Harriet Hodgson, Naseem Miller, Crissinda Ponder, Maria Ortiz Briones, Joe Rojas-Burke, Liz Seegert and Emily Willingham. Continue reading

Lindberg, NLM’s health informatics pioneer, to retire


National Library of MedicineNLM Director Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, with artwork inspired by NLM’s Visible Human Project.

Don Lindberg, M.D., who has served as director of the National Library of Medicine for more than 30 years, will retire at the end of March 2015.

In a statement, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, described Lindberg as “an expert and groundbreaking innovator in the world of information technology, artificial intelligence, computer-aided medical diagnosis, and electronic health records.”

Lindberg, under whose tenure the AHCJ-NLM Health Journalism Fellowships were developed, was the first president of the American Medical Informatics Association. The organization says that many of its members “have benefitted from his strong leadership in training programs, research activities, and educational programs.” The AMIA recognizes his contributions to the field with its annual Donald A.B. Lindberg Award for Innovations in Informatics.

Collins described many of Lindberg’s contributions, many of which are tools regularly used by health journalists, with some historical perspective:

Don has created programs that changed fundamentally the way biomedical information is collected, shared, and analyzed. Think about it-when Don began, NLM had no electronic journals in its collection, few people owned personal computers, and even fewer had access to the Internet. He introduced numerous landmark projects such as free Internet access to MEDLINE via PubMed, MedlinePlus for the general public, the Visible Human Project,, the Unified Medical Language System, and more. Don also created the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). NCBI has been a focal point for “Big Data” in biomedicine for decades, providing rapid access to the data generated by the Human Genome Project and now to massive amounts of genetic sequence data generated from evolving high-throughput sequencing technologies. GenBank, PubMed Central, and dbGaP are just some of the many NCBI databases that support and enable access to the results of research funded by NIH and many other organizations.

According to the NLM website, Lindberg is the author of three books, several book chapters and more than 200 articles and reports. He has served as editor and editorial board member of nine publications, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Journalist offered money to cover Alzheimer’s briefing

A representative of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, which treats and researches Alzheimer’s disease, has issued invitations to cover an hour-long briefing hosted by its principal scientist.

Image by Logan Campbell via flickr.

Image by Logan Campbell via flickr.

The lure?

“Participants will receive $100 for their commitment to write about the impact of Alzheimer’s and what readers can do to help combat the disease.”

Continue reading