Dr. Sam Li, current third-year internal medicine resident, and alumnus of McGovern Medical School just returned from New York City where he is completed a medical journalism elective at ABC News. Scoop conducted an interview by email with Li to get the story.
Q: When did you start this elective? How long is it?
A: This is my second time doing this elective, last December and this December, each for a month
Q: What are your goals for this elective?
A: To learn about the field of medical journalism, to become a physician who can understand literature, converse with scientists who conduct and publish literature, and translate that in a way to educate and inform the public about scientific discoveries
Q: What are you doing as part of this training?
A: Each day we review medical studies that are set to be published in the near future. I review the validity of their study by analyzing study design, fact check their statistics, and determine if they are important or interesting enough for the general public. If so, I contact the primary author and other experts in the field to interview them on the topic and subsequently write an article on the topic for ABC News. Here is a recent article I wrote: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/12/12/drug-halves-breast-cancer-occurrence-in-women-at-high-risk/
Each morning the different ABC news platforms: Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer, and local ABC News discuss the topics of the day of interest to be featured. If any of them are medical, I provide background research on the topic.
Q: Do you ever get starstruck?
A: All the time! I met Katy Perry, John Mayer, and Will Ferrell today on Good Morning America. I was too excited to speak and profess my love to Katy Perry!
Q: Is this a competitive program? How many other residents are in the program?
A: It is not necessarily competitive but very limited. They are looking for people with an interest in writing. You submit your CV, and ABC reviews them to find the best candidate, there are only 4-5 positions each month, and it is open to all residents in the country.
Q: Did you have a prior journalism background/interest?
A: I have always had an interest in journalism. As an undergraduate at UT Austin, I was a reporter for The Daily Texan. Now as a physician, it was an incredible and unparalleled opportunity to practice journalism at the highest level.
Q: Why is it beneficial to have doctors in the media?
A: The one major observation I have had in my limited experience, is that there is a lot of bad science being published, i.e. small sample size, misinterpretation of results, over-reaching conclusions, etc., etc. The worst part about this in media is that oftentimes it is made even worse by un-responsible reporting, leading to misinterpretation by the general public causing unwarranted anxiety, spread of false information, resulting in a lack of trust of the medical community. It is thus important for physicians to be at the front line of medical journalism to directly interpret scientific studies which we are the most qualified to understand and translate into clinical practice. It is also helpful because we know how to converse with primary investigators and ask them the relevant questions.
Q: What are your plans following residency?
A: I am hopeful to become a hospital medicine doctor in Houston, and continue my work in medical journalism as my career allows.
Q: And, anything else you want to add?
A: I would encourage everyone in the scientific community to increase communication with the public. It is better for us to educate them rather than relying on media outlets, which often have the pressure of creating sensational news.
-Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School