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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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President Barack Obama is searching for a new surgeon general. He might consider screening the resumes of doctors a little lower in the federal ranks.

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State, local and national agencies were supposed to be prepared for this swine flu outbreak. After September 11th, money started flowing to law enforcement agencies and public health departments to help them gear up specifically for a chemical or biological threat.

So how was that money spent?

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, my colleague here at Center for Health Journalism Digital, Barbara Feder Ostrov, wrote a great piece for the San Jose Mercury News that detailed how money in the San Jose area was being spent.

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The swine flu scare in the United States may have started with just two Southern California children, but it intensified with the discovery ofmore than two dozeninfected students at a New York City school. St. Francis Preparatory Schoolreported that 100 students had gone on a trip to Mexico recently and that, since the trip, 28 students at the school had come down with symptoms of swine flu.

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I wrote a few weeks ago about the coverage of Nadya Suleman, the unemployed woman with six kids who, with the help of a fertility doctor, ended up with eight more.

I talked about how you can use CDC data as a jumping-off point for stories about fertility practices in your area.

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John Carey, a 20-year veteran at BusinessWeek, wrote a story that set the pharmaceutical world on its ear in January 2008. Titled "Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?," the article systematically broke down the many myths behind the so-called "miracle cure" for heart disease: statins. Carey's story won an award from the Association of Health Care Journalists at its conference in Seattle.

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Those of us lucky enough to attend New York Medicaid Inspector General Jim Sheehan's talk Saturday at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Seattle heard him make reference to Dr. Jayam Krishna-Iyer. I was curious about the back story. Here it is:

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A doctor who can't prescribe drugs is like a fish that can't swim. It's usually a sign that something is wrong.

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I wrote a post earlier this week about a Nieman Reports article by Dr. John Abramson, a clinical instructor at Harvard and outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical industry. After serving in the National Health Service Corps, Abramson worked as a family physician for 20 years in Massachusetts.

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Doctors see a lot of naked people.

It starts in medical school when they see a lot of dead naked people, and one would think that after cutting into a cadaver and examining body parts in great detail a naked body would lose a little of its allure.

Not so for Dr. Kamal F. Aboulhosn of Yakima, Wash.

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The decision by Astra Zeneca to stop the so-called JUPITER trial of its Crestor cholesterol medication last year garnered a ton of press attention. The New York Times captured the general tone of the coverage with this lead on a front-page story.

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