There is something going on around us at all times from which we can acquire knowledge if we have alertness.  Too often we get lost in our tunnel vision and we don’t see things that are right in front of us for the taking, for the learning.  ~Coach John Wooden

On Monday, I was a co-facilitator for a break-out session on Working with the Media as part of a continuing education opportunity at Baystate Health.  My co-facilitators were Ben Craft, our interim Director of Public Affairs, and Jade Rivera, current Baystate Health Public Affairs specialist and former reporter for Channel 22 News.  My job was to lead the discussion on how to quickly review an article for “patient-centered” talking points.  Ben and Jade would handle interview techniques.  Our attendees (pediatricians and medical residents) are alert to reviewing journal articles for validity and relevance.  This is what they are trained to do.  When it comes to talking to the news media, getting lost in this tunnel vision might lead to an inability to see the public’s concern.

I selected pairings of journal articles with the ultimate news headline that ran in our local news media.  The idea was to compare the article with what parts got highlighted by the media.  In some cases, local news stories focus on the key points of the study or guidelines.  In other cases, the focus is influenced by an emotional response from a representative of the public (ie. the interviewer).  Ultimately, we focused on one story (early introduction of solid foods).  We discussed preparing yourself for the interview, and then 2 brave medical residents stepped up to do mock interviews with Ben and Jade. 

For me, one of the most patient-centered “alert” comments of the afternoon was a medical resident stating that her patients were more likely to know about Heidi Klum’s dramatic ocean rescue of her son than of a recent release of a medical finding of early introduction of solid foods. 

The framework for preparing for an interview is threefold:

  1. What study/guidelines?  Find out what study/guidelines the interviewer has called about, and READ it.
  2. Three key points.  Identify three key points that you want to make that are relevant to the article.  In some cases, you may want to take it in a different direction, as Baystate Health’s Dr. John Snyder did by talking about allergies and choking hazards (not a part of this journal article).
  3. Make it personal.  Give a personal spin on it by referencing your own family or some other real experience.  Be careful not to reveal any patient information!  The point is to enhance your recommendations with a personal touch. 

Sample Stories/ Journal Articles

  • Can better TV improve kids behavior/ Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Ask the Pediatrician: Ear Infections/  Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media
  • Are doctors prescribing “study drugs” to healthy kids?/  Pediatric neuroenhancement: Ethical, legal, social and neurodevelopmental implications
  • US pediatricians back gay marriage, cite research/  Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian
  • Too-early solid food could lead to problems for babies/  Prevalence and reasons for introducing infants early to solid foods: variations by milk feeding type 

You might want to check out these pediatricians in the media: 


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