Getting serious about the nitty gritty of medical research reporting

Tara Haelle

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.

It’s tough to choose between the field trips and the multiple workshops on Thursday, the first day of Health Journalism 2018 in Phoenix. And while I’m certainly biased, I strongly encourage those not registered for field trips to attend “Pulling back the curtain on medical studies” Thursday morning. We’re diving deeper into coverage of medical research than ever before with the help of a fresh face, Perry Wilson, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, contributor to MedPageToday and funny and informative YouTuber.

For years, AHCJ has offered a Thursday morning medical studies workshop, pioneered by Ivan Oransky, M.D., president of AHCJ, and Gary Schwitzer, founder of HealthNewsReview.org, at the conference. Based on feedback from those sessions, this year’s panel has been revamped to focus even more on the nitty-gritty aspects of medical studies that so often trip journalists up and to emphasize an interactive element for attendees to practice what they learn right away.

Whether you’ve never attended or you’ve been before, whether you’ve never covered a medical study or covered them for years, this year’s workshop is a fantastic introduction and refresher on making sense of p values, odds ratios, confidence intervals, relative risk and more. Also learn about concepts we’ve never covered before, such as Bonferroni correction, dose response curves, and p-hacking.

Wilson, a newcomer to the conference, said he’s looking forward to a crowd whose enthusiasm and commitment to the scientific method are so evident in their work.

F. Perry Wilson, M.D.

“It’s so refreshing to see people excited about our work,” he said. “Our colleagues rarely are (or don’t show it)!” He’s also always been impressed with how well health journalists can contextualize really complicated information and topics.

To help health journalists do their job even more effectively, he hopes to help journalists better understand the statistics underlying study conclusions, understand the misaligned incentives that go into medical research and learn the red flags that should steer them away from certain stories. For example, some journalists may not discuss a study’s generalizability, accurately interpret clinical significance and statistical significance or contextualize the latest study without discussing the evidence base overall. How else can journalists make medical research coverage even stronger? Come find out on Thursday, April 12!

Check out Perry Wilson’s presence online:

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