Category Archives: Studies

Study highlights significance of representation in medical school: Why this research matters to reporters

Photo by the University of Nottingham via Flickr.

Throughout my reporting of the pandemic, I’ve made an explicit effort to interview many more women than men, especially women of color. I’ve done that because the popular perception of a “doctor” remains a white male, and I believe that one way I can contribute to changing that mindset is to be more inclusive about who I show doing a job.

That’s why a new research letter in JAMA Surgery on representation in medical school faculty caught my eye. In short, it found low diversity overall among surgery faculty and residents and revealed that having more underrepresented minorities among the faculty was correlated with more students from those groups. Neither of those findings is necessarily surprising, but they have two major implications for journalists reporting on a study that requires an expert source in surgery:

  • Reporters likely need to work a little harder to find more diverse sources when reporting on surgery research since senior faculty in that field isn’t particularly diverse.
  • You must find diverse sources because representation matters. If more faculty from underrepresented groups correlated with more students from those groups, it’s possible that including more diverse sources in your stories will make a difference in who reads your stories and what your readers take away from them. It will also allow you to present perspectives you might not have gotten if you had relied on too many sources who look alike.

Study methodology and key findings

Researchers used data from the American Association of Medical Colleges to assess the race, ethnicity, and sex of medical students and full-time surgical faculty members. (Note: Although the study states that it assessed the sex of faculty members, it seems more likely they were assessing gender, a common conflation that occurs in research.) One interesting aspect of this study is that investigators look specifically at “underrepresented” groups as opposed to “minority” groups. The difference is significant given that certain minority groups are overrepresented in medical subspecialties.

Continue reading

Toolkit offers COVID-19 vaccine story ideas, survey findings on vaccine attitudes

One of the video resources available at the NAB-RJI Vaccine Education Toolkit.

Image & video: NAB-RJI Vaccine Education ToolkitOne of the video resources available at the NAB-RJI Vaccine Education Toolkit.

Journalists reporting on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine have a new tool to guide their coverage: a Vaccine Education Toolkit that includes survey results on audience attitudes and needs, B-roll and multimedia, webinars, recommended experts and tips on reaching specific audiences. This resource may be a helpful complement to the AHCJ’s extensive resources on reporting about the pandemic.

The bilingual website was developed by three groups: the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). RJI is a part of the Missouri School of Journalism and the NACDS is an industry trade group representing traditional drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchants with pharmacies. Continue reading

Year in review: What journalists have been reading

ListIt is perhaps little surprise that the most-read blog posts on Covering Health this year were almost exclusively about the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.

Since we first reported about the “mysterious pneumonia outbreak in China” on Jan. 10 and followed up with a post urging “Use caution when reporting on pandemic potential of Wuhan coronavirus” on Jan. 23, the topic has been top-of-mind for health journalists.

Here is a list of the top-10 blog posts, plus a bonus: Continue reading

Study documents racial differences in hospice use and end-of-life care

Image by Steve Harwood via flickr.

A new analysis of racial disparities in end-of-life care finds that Black patients voluntarily seek substantially more intensive treatment, such as mechanical ventilation, feeding tube insertion, kidney dialysis, CPR and multiple emergency room visits in the last six months of life, while white patients more often choose hospice services.

The study’s researchers say the findings demonstrate the disparities seen in seeking end-of-life care in the U.S., despite an overall increase nationwide toward the use of hospice care regardless of diagnosis, but especially for non-cancer deaths. Continue reading

New PubMed search site will continue to evolve

PubMedIf you’re a frequent user of PubMed, you have likely already noticed the new website layout and have probably noticed some differences in search options or functionality. The new PubMed was first tested in labs at the National Library of Medicine site in March of 2019 and launched officially in fall 2019, but it wasn’t formally rolled out as the default until May 2020. (The old site is still available for a little longer — at least through the end of October — here.) Continue reading