More interactivity, tips for veterans and newcomers in #AHCJ15 medical research workshop


Ivan Oransky, M.D.

One of the most popular and longest-running workshop sessions will return to AHCJ’s annual conference in Silicon Valley with an updated presentation that will benefit research reporting veterans as well as those new to – and possibly intimidated by – reporting on medical studies.

In Thursday morning’s session, “How to accurately report on medical research findings,” presenters Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today and co-founder of Retraction Watch, and Gary Schwitzer, publisher of, will offer a boot camp on medical study coverage. Instruction will range from evaluating the quality of study findings and discussing benefits and harms to responsibly framing findings in news articles and finding appropriate outside commentary on tight deadlines.

Gary Schwitzer
Gary Schwitzer

“There are never enough opportunities to be trained in or to get a refresher course in how to evaluate studies and evidence,” said Schwitzer, now in his ninth year of presenting this type of workshop at the conference. “I can almost guarantee you’ll get some new, practical, hands-on tools, tips and resources to help you do a better job reporting studies – and some healthy skepticism,” he said.

Although the workshop will be most helpful for those inexperienced in reporting on medical studies, Schwitzer said attendees who have covered the beat for decades inevitably tell him they learned something new. For those uneasy about jumping into research reportage, the duo hopes to instill newcomers with confidence, skills and ideas on where to turn for help.

Oransky, who is vice president of AHCJ’s board of directors, and Schwitzer have always offered a dynamic presentation with their energy and characteristic senses of humor, but this year they promise less lecture and more interactivity.

“In a series of case studies based on real-life examples, we’ll guide AHCJ members on how to suss out how solid a research finding is,” Oransky said. “What has been the response to other papers by the same group? Is ‘no conflicts declared’ an accurate description of financial and other ties that may color the conclusions? Are big-name researchers immune from making mistakes?”

Schwitzer will introduce’s systematic, criteria-driven reviews of health care-related news releases issued by government agencies, medical journals, academic medical centers, industry and other organizations. It’s never wise to rely solely on a press release – as Schwitzer and Oransky will discuss – but this new feature at will help journalists critically evaluate those press releases and perhaps learn which institutions are more reliable than others in accurately representing a study. As always, Schwitzer will reflect on the lessons learned – now up to 2,000 – from’s history of reviewing health news stories.

Online registration for the conference ends Wednesday, April 8. The conference hotel’s rooms are sold out, but the AHCJ conference website provides information on nearby hotel options.

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Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle is AHCJ’s health beat leader on infectious disease and formerly led the medical studies health beat. She’s the author of “Vaccination Investigation” and “The Informed Parent.”