Fellowships on medical research can take your reporting further

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

One of the best ways to become skilled in reporting on medical research is to immerse yourself in the experience of learning from the experts. That is precisely what two different fellowships offered by AHCJ will provide to applicants selected to participate in early fall.

The AHCJ-National Library of Medicine Health Journalism Fellowship and the AHCJ Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness, supported by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, both provide travel expenses (within the U.S.), lodging and a food stipend for a full week of specialized learning. A membership (or renewal) to AHCJ is included as well.

These fellowships – basically immersive, hands-on workshops – are ideal for greenhorns and veterans. If you have never used a medical study to report a story, or if you read a half dozen of them each week, each of these provide an opportunity for you to take your reporting a step further.

The first opportunity, supported by the National Library of Medicine, brings four journalists to the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The fellows will explore the latest research at the NIH, demystify biomedical statistics, and receive hands-on training in PubMed, MedlinePlus, ClinicalTrials.gov, ToxNet and Household Products Database. With all of the data, programs and resources that the NLM has to offer, journalists can dig in with the guidance provided on site by this fellowship.

Previous AHCJ-NLM fellowships included sessions and tutorials on genetics, imaging, minority health, U.S. health disparities, Native Americans’ concept of health and communicating cancer research.

“I came away from the fellowship with a robust list of new tools that will improve my reporting and help me do a better job at understanding the latest medical research,” said Matthew Glasser of NBC News Southern California. “I have no doubt that the tools will make me a better health journalist and I am encouraging my colleagues to use the tools as well.”

Both affiliated and freelance journalists are welcome to apply. Cheryl Weinstock, a freelance journalist, said she found the fellowship energizing. “I am thrilled to have learned such valuable research skills,” she said. “I appreciated being able to share experiences with colleagues and specialists. These new resources will be indispensable to me.”

The second fellowship, a new opportunity targeting comparative effectiveness research, covers both medical research generally as well as medical decision-making based on such research.

During one week in Washington, D.C., fellows will learn about different types of research methodology and what makes a methodology reliable. With a focus on comparing treatments for conditions, fellows will learn how treatments are compared and evaluated, how medical decisions are made, what gaps exist in the evidence for common conditions, how researchers are using patient health care data, how health literacy affects patient outcomes and how clinical trials will change moving forward.

The applications require a brief cover letter (submit in PDF only) introducing yourself and why you are applying for the fellowship, a current résumé and a letter of recommendation from a current supervisor or assigning editor.

Application deadlines are Aug. 3 at 5 p.m. CDT for the AHCJ-NLM fellowship, and Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. CDT for the Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

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