Free online courses from CDC, WHO and NIH can enhance 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.

By Dr.Farouk via Wikimedia Commons

In a previous post, I discussed how journalists can use MOOCs — Massive Online Open Courses — to broaden or deepen their knowledge of topics they cover. There also is a lengthy list of MOOCs specific to individual beats available on the AHCJ website.

But those aren’t the only options for gaining more knowledge and skills about topics you cover or want to begin covering. Several governmental and nonprofit agencies as well as medical societies have their own courses available. Several of these are incredibly valuable, depending on what you cover.

I’ve highlighted below some of the best ones I’ve found online, but there are undoubtedly others I’ve missed. If there’s a topic where you feel you need to learn more to report as thoroughly as you want to, or there’s a new area you want to begin reporting on, do a few online searches, and there’s a decent chance you may find a free course that will at least give you an overview.

    • Cancer Registration
    • Cancer Registry Operations and Procedures
    • Cancer as a Disease
    • Cancer and Medical Terminology
    • Anatomy and Physiology
    • Diagnostic Tests (labs, tumor markers, ultrasound, endoscopies, pathology, etc.)
    • Staging a Cancer Case
    • Cancer Treatment
    • A long list of modules on site-specific cancers (breast cancer, leukemia, melanoma, colorectal cancer, etc.)
  • ToxTutor from the National Institutes of Health is a “self-paced tutorial covering key principles of toxicology for users of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) chemical and toxicology databases.” It begins with an introduction to toxicology and include topics such as dose/dose response, testing methods, risk assessment, biotransformation and cellular toxicology.
  • Want to bone up on vaccine schedules or specific vaccines? The CDC offers a number of modules on vaccination, again aimed at healthcare providers (hence they have a “follow this recommendation” bent) but nevertheless potentially valuable for reporters who cover vaccines.
  • The CDC actually has a lot of online training and continuing education opportunities for public health workers and providers, some of which may hold value for journalists too.
  • Risk communication essentials from the World Health Organization is just one of many open, self-paced courses offered by the WHO. A non-exhaustive list of other courses (in several different languages) available from the WHO is below. Keep in mind these courses are aimed at epidemiologists, first responders and other health care workers, so journalists are not their audience. However, journalists can learn a lot by taking or even skimming the courses aimed at providers and public health officials.

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