Examining Medicine through New Eyes

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It’s incredible to me that time in New York just flies by. I feel like I just got here yesterday and that I’m still figuring out the subway system and the different New York neighborhoods. I’ve never lived in a real city before, but I’m finding that I really like it. I love walking everywhere too, which is a big change from California where we all drive. Rockefeller Center is only 11 blocks away from my apartment, making for a brisk 10-12 minute walk in the mornings and after work.

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Working at NBC has been a real learning experience where I hit the ground running on day one of the job. As the medical research fellow, my job is to first and foremost provide medical research for potential stories or story segments we are preparing for “The Today Show”, “Nightly News”, or “Rock Center”. This means pitches or assignments get forwarded to me, and then I scour the internet, the Wires, and pubmed and other medical databases to answer questions like “Is this new?”, “Is this legitimate?”, and “How much of an impact will this make?”. I’m learning as I go along to not only compile medical research but also to start thinking about potential graphics we can display or characters we can interview for the show. I have also been doing more pre-interviews lately, where I screen potential doctors, patients, entrepreneurs, you name it, for their stories and whether they’re likely to be a good fit for TV. At the end of the day, though, I am here to support Kerri (Today Show producer), Ami (Nightly News producer), and Dr. Snyderman in whatever they need.

I’m getting more assignments to work on stories, which is great. I enjoy a fast pace at work (medicine and journalism both fulfill that criteria!) and in the world of news, many segments are started and finished the day or the week of the initial idea. I’m really learning a lot from doing research into medical topics from all over, ranging from ethics to new technology, cutting edge surgery techniques to drug shortages. It’s a whole new way to learn about medicine, and even more than that, I feel like I am critically examining medical knowledge as I learn about it. I need to think about who is affected by certain health news, is it applicable to everyone or just a small subset? Are mouse studies going to be as easily understood as clinical trials in humans? Also, is this knowledge really new and groundbreaking? Would it only interest the science community? Now I’m asking different questions about medicine and evaluating the field very differently from when I was in medical school. I think this is what physician journalists must learn to do though; you have to learn to temporarily suspend “thinking like a doctor” to “think like the public” and weed through all the medical information and jargon to deliver a simple and concise message that gets the point across to your audience.

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