About AHCJ: General News

President’s Corner: Training mission takes center stage through variety of fellowship programs Date: 02/05/18

By Ivan Oransky, M.D.

This past fall was a busy one for AHCJ, as it always is. In the space of three months, we held four intensive fellowship programs. In Washington, D.C., we held training programs on using online resources effectively, on covering comparative effectiveness research (CER), and on the latest in cancer research and treatment. In Atlanta, we held a program on public health while visiting two campuses of the CDC.

We also organized and produced the global health track at the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco. AHCJ is a member organiza­tion of the World Federation of Science Journalists, which met for the first time in the United States.

I had the pleasure of leading sessions at most of these workshops, and watching as fellows – chosen through a competitive application process – engaged with com­plex material, questioning top experts who have taken time out of their hectic schedules to help our members learn and hopefully walk away with story ideas.

Training is a key element of AHCJ’s mission. I’ve been a full-time health care reporter for nearly two decades, but with­out fail, I gained insights and knowledge in every session, along with the fellows. (Don’t tell Executive Director Len Bruzz­ese – he might make me apply next time, instead of serving as a session leader.)

At any given time, there are dozens of AHCJ fellows working around the coun­try, thanks to the six annual programs generously funded by our supporters. These are journalists who benefit not only from the intensive week-long workshops of the sort we held in the fall or the two year-long programs we provide, but from a network of colleagues, and from men­torship. I feel the pride they feel whenever they share stories, or news of a new proj­ect or job, with one another.

The benefits last. “Two years after my CER fellowship, I remain grateful for the opportunity,” Joe Carlson of the Minne­apolis Star-Tribune told us when we asked him for some examples of work informed by the fellowship. “It didn’t just inform my reporting, it transformed it. I now pay close attention to p values and statistical significance in clinical trial reports, and phrases like ‘noninferior’ and ‘prespecified endpoint’ jump out as meaningful.”

Want your reporting to be trans­formed? Keep an eye out for application deadlines for our next fellowships.

This is my inaugural President’s Cor­ner. I have big shoes to fill, as I’m taking over from the irrepressible Karl Stark. Karl’s board presidency left the associa­tion even stronger than when it was when he took office. That includes everything from background on reading hospital fi­nancial statements to helping keep very strong AHCJ’s own financial statement. A big thank you to Karl, who remains on our board, and to whom I’ll be turning for advice – not to mention recommenda­tions for literature and jazz.

Having been a member of AHCJ since 2001, when the organization was just three years old, it’s my privilege to be president during our 20th anniversary year. Please join us to help commemorate this milestone by attending Health Jour­nalism 2018 planned for April 12-15 in Phoenix. Our first conference in Arizona will feature all the elements you’ve come to love at these annual meetings: panels with topic experts of note, field trips, workshops, roundtables and the Freelance PitchFest.

I hope to see you in Phoenix!

Ivan Oransky, M.D., serves as Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute. He blogs at Re­traction Watch, which he co-founded.