Finding the human stories in health care

2 years ago
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The first time I spent a significant amount of time in a hospital, a surgeon was operating on my father’s spine.

He had spinal stenosis, which meant the spaces in his spine were narrowing and creating pressure. He had to have three of his discs replaced with cadaver discs and a titanium plate screwed to his spine to hold it in place.

When the surgery went on an hour longer than scheduled, I understood what it meant to associate a hospital waiting room with quiet and steady, yet gripping and unrelenting, fear.

When my mom, sister and I were finally ushered into a room where we found my dad perfectly healthy, I understood what overflowing gratitude for the strangers skilled enough to care for those I love most feels like.

I took over the role of health care reporter with The Times-Dispatch two weeks ago.

In addition to keeping readers updated on the most recent health news, I want my coverage to be rooted in what I learned in that waiting room. It may be a multimillion-dollar industry, but the foundation of health care lies in the pain and joy of the people who sit in hospitals every day, waiting.

I want to write about them.

I’ve been reporting on health, among other things, since I started my journalism career in 2013. First it was with a newspaper in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where one health system dominated, and then it was for an online business journal, where I solely covered the business of health. But even so, I still have a lot to learn.

My new position here means I’ll cover the whole world of health news, including new developments at area hospitals, the local angle of a national story, or a Richmond health-related company progressing through bankruptcy.

I’m interested in talking to people about their experiences. How did research at home help a patient and a physician nail down the best possible treatment? Has a national epidemic impacted area residents? What toll could a business’ Medicare fraud have on local employees?

Beyond that, I’m also curious about coverage disparities and how they play out on the local level as well as public health, women’s health and pediatrics. I’m especially interested in learning more about the differences between the American health care system and those in foreign countries, and I’m always boggled by the fact that we pay more for health care than anyone else but do not always have the best outcomes.

But what I want to write most is what interests readers, so please send your ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.

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