"The most vulnerable times of their lives": Medical reporting, experts, and patients

Like most people who go into journalism, I have an insatiable curiosity about our world. The desire to learn how things work is especially satisfying when it comes to health and science reporting.

What a responsibility it is to have some of the nation’s foremost cancer experts  explain the pros and cons of various treatments, as they did with our story Wednesday on Angelina Jolie’s decision to surgically remove her breasts to improve her chances of not getting the disease.

Or to listen to a mom, who tried for 20 years to get help for her son when he heard voices, so we can better understand the obstacles faced by parents of all children with mental illness, as Mary Gabel of Mount Greenwood did earlier this month.

Or to chronicle the journey of one physically-disabled patient from Nepal, brought to Chicago by a group of local physicians, hoping for nothing more than to improve the quality of life for just one young woman? The Tribune was honored for that story by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons last week in Washington, D.C. The other recipients are here.

To me, writing about health and medicine is the perfect intersection of head and heart. Yes, you are talking to scientists and have to know the difference between a clavicle and a colon. But you are also frequently with people at some of the most vulnerable times of their lives … and that is a privilege we journalists try to never forget.

-- Bonnie Miller Rubin

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