When I started on my path in medicine, I was an optimistic, wide-eyed, enthusiastic medical student. I had fond memories of rounding on Sundays with my vascular surgeon father as a child, and I remembered the appreciation his patients would express when we would run into them at our local grocery store. My dad never complained about taking call or not having enough time to spend with his patients. The ...

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As all researchers know, science is a grinding parade of failure and dead ends. But as we’ve often written, news release writers sometimes seem hell-bent on making the public believe otherwise. Like expert makeup artists, they can add sparkle to lackluster findings, mask blemishes in study designs, and smooth over unimpressive data. One thing I won’t miss much about my job at HealthNewsReview.org is reading the daily churn of PR ...

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Last summer, I published a post called "Alternative Medicine is Kicking Our Ass." In it, I focused on one particularly slick alt-thyroid site that has done a masterful job of sowing doubt regarding the advice mainstream physicians give to our patients about the thyroid. Not only that, but the site has called into question our competency as doctors, citing "evidence" that supposedly proves (it doesn't) we ...

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A rapidly escalating measles outbreak near Portland, OR has led local health officials to declare a public health emergency, with 44 confirmed cases, almost all in unimmunized children. Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey have been facing a similar crisis over the past few months, with over 200 confirmed cases of the measles tearing through the ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in the area, where individuals ...

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Are you a media whore? Or do you worry you might be labeled one by your colleagues – if not to your face, then behind your back? In the process of delivering hundreds of media engagement workshops, I’ve heard dozens and dozens of you express this fear, using precisely this language. You've made it clear that the mild put-down of "microphone hog" I was familiar with has now been replaced with ...

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An opinion piece published in JAMA suggests the latter: "Protecting the Value of Medical Science in the Age of Social Media and 'Fake News'" The authors argue social media poses a threat to science in several ways:

  • Unfettered publication of unvetted information by sources of unknown reliability.
  • An emerging tactic of decrying disagreeable content as “fake” or part of a “conspiracy.”
  • Opponents of evidence-based research who perpetuate ...

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For several years now, I’ve been the social media curmudgeon in medicine. In a 2011 New York Times op-ed titled “Don’t Quit This Day Job,” I argued that working part-time or leaving medicine goes against our obligation to patients and to the American taxpayers who subsidize graduate medical education to the tune of $15 billion per year. But today, eight years after the passage of the Affordable Care ...

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Effective clickbait doesn’t just happen. It’s carefully crafted. Take this wildly misleading article from CNN: Not exercising worse for your health than smoking, diabetes, and heart disease, study reveals. It’s one example — among many generated daily by various news outlets — of how a mundane observational study can be transformed into viral internet gold. In the days after it was published, this story was liked and shared hundreds ...

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Sanjay Gupta. John Locke. Jill Stein. Charles Krauthammer. What do they all have in common? If you guessed that they are all physicians, then you’re right. Less salient, however, is the fact that all of them pursued passions outside of medicine. (Dr. Gupta is an Emmy Award-winning medical reporter. John Locke was a physician-philosopher. Stein and Krauthammer both made their mark in politics.) In doing so, they avoided an existential trap that ...

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Fifty years ago, in a golden moment of television comedy shows, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In program regularly featured “The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” award.  Wikipedia says it “recognized actual dubious achievements by public individuals or institutions.” Do a Google search.  You’ll quickly see how popular this award became. Yes, I’m dating myself by going back 50 years.  But mine is the generation that often becomes obsessed with being given “the ...

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