Journalism Workshop on Evidence-Based Medicine: Program

Click red arrows to read descriptions of the sessions.

Thursday, Oct. 29

2-2:15 p.m.


  • Karl Stark, assistant managing editor, business, health and science, The Philadelphia Inquirer

2:15-3:30 p.m.

Getting up to speed on clinical studies

What’s the anatomy of a clinical study, and which parts should you pay the most attention to? What questions should you ask about the results? Which limitations are most important to consider? Digging into medical studies can seem intimidating, but developing a structured plan for approaching the study can help. This session will introduce you to the major sections of a clinical study and what you should be looking for in each one for your reporting. The session will also offer tips on what questions to ask the authors and other independent sources about a study’s findings.
  • Hilda Bastian, editor for clinical effectiveness resources, PubMed Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine

  • Tara Haelle, AHCJ medical studies topic leader and independent journalist, Dunlap, Ill.


3:30-3:45 p.m.



3:45-5 p.m.

The connections and disconnections of science and policy

Science is supposed to guide policymaking when it comes to medicine and health. But the evidence can be equivocal. And even when the science is clear, policies sometimes aren’t. This session is designed to help journalists explore for their audiences the sometimes-tenuous links between science and the policy decisions that impact lives.
  • Scott Hensley, writer and editor, NPR

  • Kenneth Lin, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of family medicine and director, Primary Care Health Policy Fellowship, Georgetown University Department of Family Medicine; associate deputy editor, American Family Physician

  • Paul K. Whelton, M.D., clinical professor of epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine


5-6:30 p.m.



Friday, Oct. 30

7:15-8:15 a.m.

Breakfast available


8:30-10:30 a.m.

Research tools for evidence-based stories

This panel of experts offers guidance for health journalists to use some of the most comprehensive and evidence-based resources available. While initially these resources might seem overwhelming, our speakers will help you navigate and put these tools to work for you. For the just-initiated or experienced users, you can leave this session with improved resources and skills.
  • Kay Dickersin, Ph.D., director, U.S. Cochrane Center, John Wiley and Sons; director, Center for Clinical Trials, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

  • Rob Logan, Ph.D., communication scientist, National Library of Medicine

  • David Rind, M.D., vice president of editorial and evidence-based medicine, UpToDate, Wolters Kluwer Health


10:30-10:45 a.m.






10:45 a.m. - Noon


How to report on scientific fraud

Retractions of scientific papers are on the rise. Findings in many fields, including cancer research, don't seem to hold up. Is fraud increasing? In a session led by a professor of journalism and the co-founder of Retraction Watch, learn how to find and report on cases of misconduct – some of which are hiding in plain sight – and how to analyze data to find important evidence.
  • Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president and global editorial director, MedPage Today; co-founder, Retraction Watch

  • Charles Seife, journalism professor, New York University


Understanding and reporting on screening evidence

Screening tests, and the risk-benefit calculations associated with them, are among the most important areas of medical research for journalists to understand. This session promises to deliver evidence-based perspectives on screening tests from a longtime health care journalist and from a physician-researcher. The speakers will dissect examples of stories and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to reporting on screening tests, and give health reporters what they need to know to avoid the trap of emphasizing or exaggerating potential benefits of screening tests while minimizing or ignoring potential harms.
  • Jennifer M. Croswell, M.D., M.P.H., medical officer, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Program, Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

  • Gary Schwitzer, publisher,


1:15 p.m.

Networking lunch





1:30-3 p.m.


Digging into statistics

Have you stared down the graphs, tables and numbers in medical papers and wished you could better decipher the statistical methods and language? And, in turn, give audience members a better grasp of your story? In this session, you’ll hear from an expert about finding key statistics to watch out for and key questions to ask during interviews. The session will focus on questions to ask in reading medical research papers, such as whether the results are believable, whether the results are due to chance and whether the results are meaningful.
  • William Lawrence, M.D., M.S., senior program officer, Communication and Dissemination Research, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute


How to use anecdotes and narratives while sticking to evidence

Colorful characters. A sense of place. Suspense. These are essential elements of narrative journalism that make stories sing. While a well-chosen anecdote or quote helps readers understand difficult scientific concepts, an inappropriate one creates a false picture of reality and even can lead readers to make harmful medical decisions. This session will look at ways to find real people and examples on deadline, with some suggestions for writing stories that stick to the evidence without boring readers to tears.
  • Sarah Kliff, senior editor, Vox

  • Liz Szabo, medical reporter, USA Today


3-3:15 p.m.



3:15-4:15 p.m.

Taking it home

Now it’s your turn to speak. Bring your questions and start fine-tuning story ideas with a panel of veteran health journalists. This final discussion will help you make the most of the workshop sessions. The speakers will share their own highlights of the workshop and will be ready to field your questions.
  • Jeanne Erdmann, independent journalist, Wentzville, Mo.

  • Scott Hensley, writer and editor, NPR

  • Maryn McKenna, independent journalist, Atlanta

  • Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president and global editorial director, MedPage Today; co-founder, Retraction Watch


4:15 p.m.