Author Archives: Tara Haelle

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.

Some do’s and don’ts when interviewing people with disabilities

NPS Graphics via

As I write this blog post, I’m scheduled to interview two individuals for a story based on a study about autism and its link to an increased risk of certain comorbidities. One person is an autistic adult, and the other is the parent of an adolescent diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

At this point in my career, I have spoken with many autistic individuals and count several among my friends, but before I had known anyone on the autism spectrum, I likely would have felt a bit of initial uneasiness: Is there anything I should or shouldn’t say or do? Will they communicate in ways I am familiar with? Will they understand how I am trying to communicate? Continue reading

Resource page a trove of tips on medical research reporting

Time to take a deeper dive into the other resources available at the AHCJ website. On the resources page of the medical studies core topic area, for example, we just posted a link and synopsis of a great tip sheet blog from Denise-Marie Ordway of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Continue reading

Be wary of using these psych terms in medical research reporting

Photo by Ethan.frain, via Wikimedia Commons

During a recent AHCJ webinar, a guest speaker discussed problems he sees in media reporting on addiction, including terminology that promotes stigma, misunderstanding and misconceptions about the disease. Language can be powerful and potentially damaging in many areas of medicine, but particularly in mental health. Journalists need to be wary of more than negative or stigmatizing language. They may be better off avoiding certain frequently misunderstood terms and more carefully choose words that are more precise and accurate. Continue reading

How often do drugs obtaining accelerated approval fulfill their potential?

Image: Seattle Genetics

If a new drug appears to show remarkable success in curing patients with a specific, aggressive cancer type that has few or no other effective treatments, there can be a compelling reason to get it on the market as soon as possible.

However, evidence requirements for drugs to receive accelerated FDA approval often rely on surrogate endpoints. That’s particularly true for conditions such as cancer where the ideal primary endpoint — survival — isn’t possible to assess in a short period. Continue reading

Study suggests FDA medical device approvals ripe for investigative dives

Photo: A.M.D. via Flickr

Medical devices — and the unrecognized or undisclosed risks some of them have — have been in the news quite a bit over the past few years, especially in the area of women’s health. The death of physician and activist Amy Reed last spring (and the push back she experienced from her advocacy) again drew attention to the dangers of power morcellation during gynecologic laparoscopies. Power morcellation during surgery has been used for two decades, but the research showing that they risk spreading an undetected cancer took much longer to appear, and controversy continues over the technique. Continue reading