Freshen your skills with online course on reading medical studies

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.

F. Perry Wilson

F. Perry Wilson

When it comes to feeling competent about understanding, interpreting and reporting on medical studies, one under-appreciated fact is that this is a long-term learning process. I first began to really understand how to make sense of medical studies at an AHCJ annual conference workshop.

Still, it wasn’t until I attended that same workshop two more times — and attended a Medicine in the Media workshop at the NIH and did some studying on my own — that I reached a point where I felt I knew what I was doing.

Even now, I’m always learning more about different study designs, what to look for on tables, how to understand various data visualizations, what potential biases, red flags and study flaws I should watch for and similar skills. I recommend that even people who have attended AHCJ workshops on reading medical studies should continue to look for additional opportunities to review or learn something new.

One such opportunity is a free Coursera Yale MOOC course offered by F. Perry Wilson, M.D., an associate professor at Yale School of Medicine. Wilson has co-presented with me at an AHCJ conference workshop on medical studies. His course, Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend is Wrong, so far has been taken or started by more than 35,000 people and has a 4.9/5 rating.

Like all MOOCs, it’s all online and requires approximately 16 hours. It’s aimed at beginners, so even those who may feel frustrated and aren’t sure where to start can feel confident diving in. It may also be worth mentioning to, well, all those folks on Facebook who probably could use a bit more education on how to understand medical research.

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