Health in the Headlines: An introduction

by Lorien E. Menhennett

The journalist in me is coming out. And so is the future physician. “How can this be?” you might ask. Well, read on.

My love of news and my understanding of the news business have come together with my passion for medicine to inspire an idea: a weekly column, written by me and presented here on this blog, about current events in medicine and related subject areas (such as medicine and politics, etc.). I call it “Health in the Headlines,” as indicated by this blog post’s title. This feature may be, in part, what we referred to at my old newspaper job as a “news roundup.” As in, it may contain summaries of news stories that I have found throughout the week from various sources. Another possibility is my choosing a controversial issue that has been in the headlines steadily and drawing from several weeks, even months, of stories for information. This feature may also contain aspects of an editorial. Or if time is short, perhaps I’ll just post links to a handful of really great stories or podcasts and leave it at that. Oh, yes–pictures are great too. And they fill a lot of space. (This is one thing you learn very early as a journalist.)

The point is, I am going into this “feature” with flexibility. I do not want to hem myself in by saying I will ALWAYS do this, or I will NEVER do that. Nope, I want to do what I feel like doing, when I feel like it. Because after all, I want to have fun with this. But I promise that it I will try my best (as I do will all my blog posts) to make it interesting.

One more thing. You might be wondering why I’m trying to keep track of current events in health, medicine, research, etc. One reason is that when I’m interested in something (in this case, medicine), I want to learn more about it. Obviously, I will learn a great deal in school. But what you learn from the New York Times is very different. First of all, you hear from real people–not academic textbooks that are dry and technical. From those “real” voices, you get a sense of what other physicians are doing and how medicine is moving forward (or not). You get a sense of what interests you and what doesn’t. You start to develop passions and opinions and your own sense of morals and ethics.

Another reason I am doing this is to form good habits for the future. When I am a doctor, it will be necessary to keep up with this type of information (especially that pertinent to my specialty). If I start now to keep myself in the loop, it will be but a small step when I have to keep up with medical journals.

Furthermore, it’s simply good–no, necessary–to be prepared with both background and contemporary knowledge of your field. Not only will it come in handy when I am a physician (knowing the most recent treatments for X, Y, and Z), but it is also useful now. For example, when I shadow a physician, knowing something about his or her specialty allows me to ask intelligent questions (which you should do not for the brownie points but so you can actually learn something). This in turn yields specific answers. And at the dreaded medical school interview, there will also be current events questions. Cramming for that interview–which is what most people do–is a horrible idea, just as cramming for anything is a horrible idea. But if you’ve followed what’s been happening in medicine all along, those questions will be cake. (And I very much like cake.)

So this is the idea. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll try it and it’ll fizzle out, who knows. For the time being, consider yourselves journalistic guinea pigs. Hope you enjoy the ride.

Note: I will post the first in this series later today (Friday, June 25).

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