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TB Notes Newsletter
No. 4, 2005
Knight Public Health Journalism Fellowship
As a journalist selected for a Knight Journalism fellowship, Rachel
Cohen worked this summer alongside scientists in a project designed
to raise the quality of health reporting. She was based with CDC
in Atlanta, in the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination (DTBE).
This fellowship is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
in partnership with the CDC Foundation. The goals of the Knight
Journalism fellowships at CDC are to raise the quality of medical
and public health reporting in the United States
and abroad and to fill critical gaps in training for journalists
by helping them develop the skills needed to analyze and report
on public health problems, policies, and practices. The need for
journalists to understand public health has increased with the advent
of outbreaks of illnesses such as SARS, avian flu, and mad
cow disease. These subjects require not just the ability to write
about complex ideas in an understandable format, but the ability
to interpret complex scientific data. That is exactly what the Knight
Journalism Program at CDC provides—training, coursework, and field
experiences in public health that help journalists better understand
and translate these complex issues for the public.
This year’s fellows all worked in different focus areas, including
malaria, air pollution, HIV prevention, and breast cancer screening.
The group members had diverse journalistic backgrounds, and two
were from overseas.
Prior to starting the fellowship, this year’s five Knight fellows
and a dozen other journalists with health reporting careers convened
for a week-long public health “boot camp” in Decatur, close to Atlanta.
They learned from daily epidemiology and biostatistics lectures
and met experts from several CDC divisions, including DTBE’s Dolly
Katz, an epidemiologist. She presented the history of TB, discussed
today’s affected populations, and distributed tuberculin skin test
(TST) rulers to demonstrate the challenges in reading and interpreting
test results. Inspired, Rachel chose to work in DTBE.
Rachel is an award-winning magazine news writer, and she has also
worked in broadcast journalism. In the course of her career, she
has reported for the biweekly newspaper of the American Speech-Language-Hearing
Association and has held positions at the Discovery Networks and
the Travel Channel. She currently resides in San Francisco.
Funding from the California Wellness Foundation supported her participation
in the 5-day boot camp and the ensuing 3-month fellowship.
As an introduction to the unit, DTBE’s scientific and program administration
staff invited Rachel to attend two conferences in Atlanta to immerse
her in current scientific knowledge and practices surrounding tuberculosis. She
attended the 2005 National TB Controllers Workshop in June and the
QuantiFERON-TB Gold conference in July. In August, Rachel traveled
to South Georgia to work with a local clinic that was testing new
research and outreach efforts for Hispanic persons under the auspices
of the CDC. She shadowed DOT workers at Atlanta’s Fulton County
TB clinic. She also chose to focus on and study the development
of TB prevention programs and new diagnostic tools. In September,
she was able to spend 9 days in Botswana,
in southern Africa, where TB clinics are testing a TB therapy and
new diagnostic tool.
Visiting Botswana enabled
Rachel to observe the clinical trial process with the team of nurses,
data managers, lab technicians, and study supervisors. These experts
generously explained established models for running clinical trials
as well as common systematic and behavioral obstacles to the success
of clinical trials, such as data management, patient confidentiality,
recruitment, and adherence. Having the time to study these issues
in depth increased Rachel’s understanding of the scientific facts
and practicalities involved. She also came to realize how factors
such as drought, HIV infection, Botswana’s
high unemployment rate, and the unstable leadership in neighboring
countries can affect daily life and health.
Rachel seized the opportunity to absorb these facts and details
that will allow her as a journalist to educate and inform the nonscientific
community. She has learned from this fellowship how to prepare in
order to understand and write about science issues, such as where
and of whom in the CDC community to ask questions, and she has a
team of supportive co-fellows to call on for advice. Rachel ended
the program in September with several ideas for stories and with
support from DTBE to write them. She greatly appreciates the support
of DTBE in providing this eye-opening experience that allowed her
to further develop her reporting skills and learn to better engage
the public in health matters.
—Reported by Rachel Cohen
Knight Public Health Journalism Fellow
Released October 2008
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Division of Tuberculosis Elimination - http://www.cdc.gov/tb
Please send comments/suggestions/requests
CDC/Division of Tuberculosis Elimination
Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies Branch
1600 Clifton Rd., NE - Mailstop E-10, Atlanta, GA 30333