Tag Archives: boston

#ahcj13 speakers featured in news about Boston Marathon bombings

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

If you attended Health Journalism 2013, you heard from plenty of Boston-based medical professionals, some of whom are in the news now talking about the Boston Marathon bombings. You might remember hearing from:

Ron Medzon, M.D., led AHCJ members through the SIM lab part of one of the field trips and talked with attendees about doctors and nurses communicating with patients and families about medical errors. Medzon, emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center, was on duty when victims of the bombing began arriving. He talked about the experience with Robin Young of WBUR-Boston.

Paul Summergrad, M.D., chair of psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center, spoke about mental disorders at the conference, offers advice on how to care for the emotional wounds of the bombing in several articles:

And John Halamka, M.D., the chief information officer at, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, talked about communication and technology in the wake of the bombings in “Social media key in enabling quick provider response to Boston bombings,” by  Dan Bowman for FieceHealthIT. At the conference, he spoke about electronic health records.

Have you seen other panel speakers quoted in the news? If so, please let us know by posting links to the stories in the comments section.

Update: AHCJ member Naseem S. Miller, of Internal Medicine News Digital Network, interviewed Medzon and a doctor who was in the medical tent at the finish line about their experiences.

Update: AHCJ member Leana Wen writes on NPR’s Shots blog about treating patients in the aftermath of the bombing while wondering if the next patient she saw was going to be her husband.

Transplanted journalist offers tips on getting around Boston, things to see #ahcj13

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health, working to help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or @rojasburke.

A look at some of the issues, sessions and ideas to keep in mind for those planning to attend Health Journalism 2013, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

When I moved to Boston in September, I quickly learned how easy it is to get lost in the city’s crazy tangle of streets. The shortest path between points seldom takes a straight line. A “square” is any place where five or six roads collide. Streets just change names without warning.

But it wasn’t so intimidating once I realized that the dense packing of 18th and 19th Century buildings and paths makes it easy to get around Boston on foot. The T, Boston’s subway and light rail system, runs pretty smoothly most of the time, zipping people between neighborhoods.

So if your brain needs a break from sponging up health policy expertise at the AHCJ meeting, Boston shouldn’t disappoint.  I found tons of interesting stuff going on within walking distance of the conference hotel.  Much more is just a short T ride away.  Below is my short list, in order of distance from the Seaport Boston Hotel: Continue reading

Boston a great place for medical sightseeing #ahcj13

Chelsea Conaboy

About Chelsea Conaboy

Chelsea Conaboy is a health reporter for The Boston Globe and White Coat Notes, a Boston.com blog. She is a member of the local planning committee for Health Journalism 2013.

The conference schedule is packed with great speakers. But if you’re looking for some time away from the hotel, there are plenty of fascinating places to visit, from the Institute of Contemporary Art, a short walk from the hotel, to the beloved Fenway Park. Consider adding these stops to your sightseeing list and learn a bit about Boston’s rich medical history:

A look at some of the issues, sessions and ideas to keep in mind for those planning to attend Health Journalism 2013, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Longwood Medical Area

If you have any doubt about why Boston is considered a national hub of medical care, just take a stroll down Longwood Avenue. The street is lined with leading health care institutions, most affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and there’s more in the surrounding blocks:  Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and lots of research labs.

The sidewalks teem during the day with patients and doctors, researchers and administrators – a busy hive of medical care and invention. If you can handle the Boston weather, grab a cup of coffee and find a bench along the grassy Quad at the center of the Harvard Medical School buildings. Follow Longwood Avenue away from the medical school until you hit the Riverway, part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace. Continue reading

Doctor: News coverage of face transplants has helped donors’ families to consent

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

This is a guest post from AHCJ member Chelsea Conaboy that first appeared in “White Coat Notes” at Boston.com.

By Chelsea Conaboy

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac and others at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston grappled with lots of variables as they prepared to perform some of the first-ever face transplants. One they had little control over: Would the families of potential donors support the idea?

Overwhelmingly, families have been willing to have their loved ones’ face donated for transplant, Pomahac said Wednesday night, speaking at the inaugural event of the Boston chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Pomahac credited the media in part for the response, saying journalists’ eagerness to tell the stories of patients and what the transplant has meant for them has affected public opinion.

“People have really embraced it as something important,” he said.

Pomahac and a team of plastic and transplant surgeons at the hospital performed the first full face transplant in the United States in March 2011, about two years after doing a partial transplant on James Maki. Two other full transplants have been completed since.

Pomahac said he was “scared” of the media attention early on, having heard stories of tabloid reporters and photographers trying to sneak into hospitals in Europe where the earliest procedures were done.

Body guards were posted at the doors of patient rooms, and only those surgeons and support staff on a list were allowed near the operating room, he said. But the hospital staff also worked in advance of the surgeries to create a media plan that allowed for the stories to be told, something all four patients wanted. Each posed different challenges.

During Maki’s procedure, ABC was filming Boston Med at the hospital, so Pomahac was fitted with a microphone through parts of the preparation, a stressful period. At points, he said, he “just couldn’t stand it,”

“It added another level of intensity in this very, very tight period of time,” he said.

When Dallas Wiens was in surgery for the first full transplant in the United States, a crew from a British tabloid descended on the hospital with a document alleging it had exclusive rights to his story, he said. Wiens, who is blind, thought he had signed a form allowing the newspaper to take his photo, said Brigham spokeswoman Erin McDonough, who also attended the Wednesday event at Boston University, and the hospital worked with Wiens’ attorney to call off the crew.

Charla Nash, who had had a lot of media coverage prior to her surgery, came with an agent and attorneys who worked with the hospital communications staff.

Pomahac said he became a bit of a star in the Czech Republic, with most media outlets profiling him. He said journalists there have allowed him to read their stories for fact-checking before publishing.

“That’s something I would love to see here, actually,” he said. “I hear its not going to happen.”

Pomahac compared face transplants to the first kidney transplant, performed at the Brigham in 1954, between identical twins.

People then said, “So what?” What would the procedure mean for patients without a twin?

“It seemed like this bizarre, rare operation that, okay, we’re able to do it, but it’s unlikely to lead anywhere,” he said.

For many years, it didn’t. The development of immunosuppression drugs changed that. Similarly, if the side effects of those drugs used in face transplants can be controlled, and if insurers agree to cover the costly procedure, full or partial face transplants will become more widely used, he said.

One other limiting factor, he said, is the surgeons. Face transplants are long — Mitch Hunter’s surgery, the shortest at the Brigham, ran more than 14 hours, he said. Surgeons will become more efficient as the procedure becomes more common and they develop a better workflow, Pomahac said.

Now, he added, “everyone gets tired at the same time. Everyone works slower. But no one wants to leave” the operating room.

Conference discusses reporting on disasters

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

While everyone’s attention was focused on some conference in Philadelphia, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and Boston University were busy putting on a show of their own, this one focused entirely on reporting on disasters (agenda).

As is the fashion, the highlights of the conference were on Twitter (#disasterstrikes) within seconds (and aggregated in this CoverItLive feed seconds after that), which means it’s time to speed-read through the conference with a little Covering Health roundup. @BUPublicHealth coordinated the live discussion and thus we relied heavily on their work. I edited tweets to add attribution where appropriate.

haiti-aid-workersPhoto by EDV Media Director via Flickr
  • @BUPublicHealth: (John Hammock of Tufts University, former director of Oxfam America) International aid is very helpful but most people survive using their own coping strategies #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Carroll Bogert from the Human Rights Watch): We at Human Rights Watch are reporters who advocate for policy change. (Human Rights Watch is an NGO btw) #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (USA Today reporter Donna Leinwand Leger): Self sufficiency crucial. “You can’t, as a journalist with any ethical compunction, be a burden on these countries.” #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: Dorsinville: Size of conference and attendance dispels myth that Haiti has been forgotten #DisasterStrikes
  • @gonevertigo: #DisasterStrikes (Nancy Dorsinville, senior policy adviser of UN Office to Special Envoy to Haiti): the relationship between stretched-thin government resources and deadline journalists can be tense
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Boston Medical Center physician Thea James): The training we have is not to speak to the media unless given direct permission. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Monica Onyango, BU professor in the department of international health) It’s important to recognize the local responders. They are heroes as well. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Konbit Sante executive director Nate Nickerson) 1. if tell a story, it has to be factually accurate; 2. it needs to be contextualized somehow; (cont) #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: Doing it right: 3. Story sheds light doesn’t just generate sensationalism; 4. Story gives voice to ppl being impacted #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Mass. General physician Larry Ronan): Having a large media presence at these events can influence policy at a large level. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Kerry Sanders, Miami-based NBC correspondent): Journos need to know first aid. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: Sanders: Journos can be obnoxious. After Chilean miners rescued, journos tried to sneak into hospital dressed as drs. #DisasterStrikes

Related

Mass. reform, cost-cutting crush safety net hospital

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Boston Medical Center has been pushed to the financial brink by a mix of politics, economics and expanded health coverage. In Boston Magazine, Eileen McNamara examines the forces that are dragging down the commonwealth’s largest safety net hospital, in the process painting a cautionary tale of what happens when universal health care and cost-cutting collide. If it keeps eating through its financial reserves at the current rate, the hospital will become insolvent next year.

bmc

Photo by Wade Roush via Flickr

BMC is in a unique position, thanks to a legal mandate (not shared by its wealthier, Harvard-affiliated competitors) that it “consistently provide excellent and accessible health care services to all in need of care, regardless of status or ability to pay,” McNamara writes. In return, the state is supposed to compensate for its disproportionate load of low-income patients. Instead, the state’s clamping down on Medicare reimbursement.

BMC is locked in a battle with the Patrick administration over dramatic cuts in how the state pays for treating the poor. Barring a last-minute settlement, a Suffolk Superior Court hearing on September 29 will consider the state’s motion to dismiss a BMC lawsuit that challenges Massachusetts’ reimbursement rate. (The state currently pays the hospital 64 cents for every dollar it spends on patients with Medicaid.)

BMC says the new reimbursement formula violates state and federal law, and will sound the death knell for the state’s largest safety-net hospital. The commonwealth says it has the power to set any rate it wants; if BMC finds the payments inadequate, it can simply stop taking Medicaid patients. The state’s argument might have some merit in the case of doctors being free to choose their patients, but it’s a ludicrous posture to adopt toward an inner-city hospital that is required — by state law — to serve all comers.

On MedpageToday, Kevin “@kevinMD” Pho, who trained at BMC, pulls no punches as he riffs on McNamara’s article.

Universal coverage makes great headlines, helps get politicians elected, and, to be fair, is something that needed happen. But doing so without adequately addressing its cost is going to bankrupt hospitals, especially inner-city ones like BMC. That will hurt the Medicaid and Medicare patients dependent on them.

And that’s a goddamn shame.