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William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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The deadline clock is ticking and suddenly you have to cover a new study on a foreign topic by unknown researchers. What do you do? Check out what PubMed has to offer for starters. The vast repository of peer-reviewed research is an essential reporting tool.

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The health beat is so rich with documents, data and smart people that it can be hard to sort through it all under deadline pressure. But if you look in the right places, you can quickly report intelligent stories that cut through the noise and get noticed.

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Miranda Dyer's young son started suffering from migraines at a young age. Tests would later reveal signs of a genetically inherited heart disorder, passed down by his mother. The discovery forced the family to make a very difficult decision.

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Doctors told Miranda Dyer that her problems were in her head and that she should just proceed as if everything were normal. That was until another doctor told her that she likely had a genetic disorder that could have been passed on to her kids. She needed surgery immediately.

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Proposition 46, the California ballot measure backed by plaintiffs’ attorneys and opposed by physicians, was soundly defeated by a 2-to-1 margin. The fact that Proposition 46 was a bundle trying to be all things to all patient safety advocates was probably its downfall.

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In July 2013, Miranda Dyer was in Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida. She had been there a few months prior for a hysterectomy, and this time she had to be rushed back to the ER because her pulse had slowed to dangerous levels. She was growing tired of searching for answers.

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Miranda Dyer started life as an athlete, so it didn’t make sense when a flight of stairs left her winded. Basic tasks made her feel exhausted. This would last for weeks and then go away. She tried to just not think about it, but it seemed to be getting worse over time.

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To better appreciate some of the legal problems with the way California's medical board oversees the disclosure of doctors’ disciplinary records online, consider the legal case of the late Orange County skin care pioneer James E. Fulton.

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The Medical Board of California has successfully won legislation that will remove a 10-year time limit on the online disclosure of doctors' discipline records. But the board better have its legal team ready, because doctors won't hesitate to challenge the rules in court.

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If a rubber plantation in one of the world’s poorest countries can successfully stop the spread of Ebola, shouldn't one of best-funded hospitals in one the wealthiest cities in the world be able to as well? Here's what reporters should look for in covering the story.

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