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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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My fellow contributing editor here at ReportingonHealth, Barbara Feder Ostrov, suggested I might be beating up unnecessarily on Stanford neurosurgeon Dr. Doyle John Borchers III in my post Wednesday.

After all, the poor guy did crash his plane and die. Why go over his alleged drug history?

Here's why. One of my main goals in this blog is to explore all the different places you can find information for health stories.

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When Stanford University neurosurgeon and amateur pilot Doyle John Borchers III (California License No. 64879) crashed his plane near Lake Tahoe last August, investigators wondered what the hell he was doing flying a plane at night in a mountainous area in the first place.

Borchers, who died in the crash, had been flying sporadically for less than a year and had only flown at night once before - the night before the crash.

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Devoted fans of Antidote no doubt read my interview with Mark Katches a few weeks ago. Katches was just named the editorial director for the Center for Investigative Reporting's new reporting project in California.

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Food is packaged with a veneer of sincerity. Contents are dutifully itemized along with tables showing the percentage of recommended nutrients, fat content, etc. But there is much that remains a mystery. You are never going to see a candy wrapper that says, "May contain lead."

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Every doctor is entitled to a bad day, even a bad week.

Dr. Lawrence James Williamson (California License No. 73495), a family doctor in Windsor, Calif., has been having a very bad year.

In May 2008, Williamson was told he was not entitled to what he apparently thought was a free brunch at a Las Vegas hotel. He did something many denied a free meal have considered doing. He threw a fit, according to the Medical Board of California.

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The June 8 edition of Newsweek has a must-read story about the world's most influential celebrity.

Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert meticulously detail how Oprah Winfrey uses her show, her magazine and her Web site as a platform for some completely loony health advice, including needle-and-thread facelifts, avoiding vaccines, daily hormone injections into the vagina to stop aging and thinking positively as an alternative to surgery.

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Gary Schwitzer is the professor that health reporters fear. With the creation of HealthNewsReview, he has brought back nightmares of having your work marked up in red and posted on a corkboard for everyone to see.

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A story today out of Nigeria had me thinking about my interview with Father William Cleary last month.

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When choosing doctors, people like to know the answers to a few basic questions.

"Do they have the right amount of experience?"

"Are they conveniently located?"

"Do they accept my insurance?"

Somewhere above, "Do they stock Popular Mechanics in the lobby?" and below "Did they go to medical school?" might be these questions:

"Do they abuse drugs?"

"Are they honest?"

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Don't you want to help this woman out?

Renata Celona lost both of her parents at a young age, victims of high blood pressure, the second leading preventable cause of death.

She checks her blood pressure at least once a day, avoids salt and tries to squeeze in trips to the gym between working two jobs and raising three kids on her own.

"I tell my kids that I am always going to be there for them," Celona, 47, says. "Even if I can't always pick them up from school, they know I will be tucking them into bed at night."

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