Written Clips

Written Clips

Selected articles published in STAT, a national life science and medical science publication

My top 6 stories:

Reporting from Burkina Faso
"In a remote West African village, a revolutionary genetic experiment is on its way — if residents agree to it" - March 14, 2017
I traveled to Burkina Faso to learn how an international team of scientists was going to get the permission of locals to release genetically engineered mosquitoes that, once set free, might be unstoppable.

Reporting from New York
"One-on-one with Trump's doctor: Hecklers, house calls, and why Obamacare must be shut down" - December 21, 2016
I sat down with Dr. Harold Bornstein for three hours in his Manhattan office to learn about his life and his most famous patient. This was the only extended interview to date with the man who was then the President-elect's physician.

Reporting from Boston
"IBM pitched its Watson supercomputer as a revolution in cancer care. It’s nowhere close" - September 5, 2017 - with Casey Ross
We revealed that IBM's claims about its artificial intelligence cancer treatment software were wildly inflated and overblown. Doctors around the world complained that the product was biased to favor American preferences. Nearly a year later, we revealed that IBM knew about some of these problems all along. 

"How Trump was named 'Grand Benefactor' for a Dana-Farber gala without donating a penny" - September 29, 2016
Trump's Florida home hosted a Boston hospital's annual galas, and the hospital bestowed honors on Trump when he did not give them any money. I scoured old hospital newsletters and shined a light on the President's supposed philanthropy. 

Reporting from Israel
"In Israel, Teva has become more than just a drug company. But its future is now in question" - January 3, 2018
As news broke that one-quarter of the employees at the world's largest generic drug company would be laid off, I traveled to a northern Israeli border town, where the Teva plant is one of the only things that keeps the economy running and the city safe. (Find a PDF of the story here.)

Reporting from Minneapolis
"Teaching medical students to challenge ‘unscientific’ racial categories" - March 10, 2016
Dr. Brooke Cunningham is trying to overturn racial stereotypes that are baked into medical education by teaching students that race is a social construct, not a biological category. I take you inside the classroom.

On artificial intelligence:

For over a year, I worked with Casey Ross to tell the story of IBM’s efforts to use artificial intelligence to improve health care. We showed that IBM deceived the public about the capabilities of its cancer treatment software, and was marketing the software around the world when the company knew the computer program might give unsafe advice. Our reporting was honored by the Society for Advancing Business Writing and Editing in 2017.

Here are three landmark stories from the investigation:

"IBM pitched its Watson supercomputer as a revolution in cancer care. It’s nowhere close" - September 5, 2017
Over the course of six months, we spoke with doctors across three continents to learn the true story of IBM's attempts to use artificial intelligence to improve cancer care. We found that Watson was biased to favor American treatments, and wasn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM set.

"IBM’s Watson supercomputer recommended ‘unsafe and incorrect’ cancer treatments, internal documents show" - July 25, 2018 (find a PDF here)
According to internal documents, IBM knew that its flagship cancer treatment software might give unsafe and incorrect advice. But the company kept selling it around the world anyway. This story also revealed that IBM was deceiving the public about how the software worked.

“IBM Watson’s bet on China, a lucrative market for health business, starts to look shaky” - December 19, 2018 (find a PDF here)
After our July 2018 story, hospital clients in China got cold feet, and IBM mounted a public relations offensive to burnish its image. This story further documents the growing skepticism about IBM’s cancer treatment software.

On EpiPens:

"Mylan offered EpiPen discounts to states in exchange for privileged status, documents show" - June 22, 2017
Some of Mylan's rebates to state Medicaid programs were conditioned on the states making it more difficult for patients to get competing products. That's normal in cutthroat world of pharmaceutical negotiation, but may run afoul of antitrust law if the company in question has a large market share. 

"As a competitor encroached, Mylan took one state to court to push EpiPen sales, documents show" - April 24, 2017
West Virginia wanted to save money for taxpayers by encouraging doctors to prescribe an alternative to the pricey EpiPen. But Mylan, which sells the EpiPen in the US, would have none of that, so they sued the state to stop the policy change. (Find a PDF of the story here.)

"Mylan may have violated antitrust law in its EpiPen sales to schools, legal experts say" - August 25, 2016 - with Ed Silverman
A clause in an order form that some schools used to purchase discounted EpiPens required the schools not to buy competitive products. Is that allowed? STAT found the form, and Congressional scrutiny followed.

"High price of EpiPens spurs consumers, EMTs to resort to syringes for allergic reactions" - July 6, 2016
EpiPen prices increased by over 450 percent since 2004, encouraging patients and emergency medical responders to opt for regular needles instead of the expensive auto-injectors. This was one of the first stories to focus public attention on Mylan.

On Donald Trump:

"How Trump was named 'Grand Benefactor' for a Dana-Farber gala without donating a penny" - September 29, 2016
Trump's Florida home hosted a Boston hospital's annual galas, and the hospital bestowed honors on Trump when he did not give them any money.

"Donald Trump and the vitamin company that went bust" - November 4, 2015
An investigation into The Trump Network, which sold customized vitamins and scientific testing kits, claiming they would yield health benefits, all under Donald Trump's name. But according to many outside experts, the network was selling bad science.

On genetic engineering:

"College students try to hack a gene drive - and set a science fair abuzz" - December 14, 2016
Gene drives have the potential to quickly cause massive changes in entire populations of organisms, and college students came close to building one for a science competition. How did that happen?

"To halt the spread of Lyme, Nantucket residents consider genetically engineered mice" - June 7, 2016
An MIT professor has an idea that might get rid of Lyme disease on an island - and he needs the informed consent of the islanders before he starts the science.

"Top scientists hold closed meeting to discuss building a human genome from scratch" - May 13, 2016
At a closed-door Harvard meeting, scientists and entrepreneurs from all over the world met to discuss a new human genome project - to build the entire genome from the ground-up.

On football:

"Hospital exec Nabel, criticized for her work with NFL, defends her neutrality" - May 25, 2016 - with Bob Tedeschi
The president of a major Boston hospital is also the NFL's chief health and medical advisor. What was her role in a funding kerfuffle that drew Congressional scrutiny?

"After a public fall, the face of NFL concussion denial resurfaces" - April 28, 2016 - with Bob Tedeschi
Dr. Ira Casson became known as "Dr. No" for asserting that there is no evidence linking repetitive head trauma to long-term neurological problems. But he kept publishing research, which influenced the scientific literature - and scientists didn't want to publicly criticize it for fear that criticism would legitimize it.

"Can chocolate milk speed concussion recovery? Experts cringe" - January 11, 2016
University research supports the conclusion that a company's chocolate milk product can help student athletes recover from concussions. Is the science sound?

Selected articles published in the New Haven Independent, a news website and non-profit organization

"Coach Steers Young Men Toward New Goal Line" - May 8, 2015
Gearing up for the preseason opener, the coach launched into a pep talk. "If you want money, if you want success, you gotta work for it," Booker McJunkin told his charges. "All that other stuff you're doing - smoking, drinking - put it off until the end of the season. Put it off for the rest of your fucking lives!"

"'Perception' Task Force Targets City's Rep" - November 10, 2014
A little-known “perception” committee has dispatched the mayor’s press office to plant feel-good stories in the media as part of a broader new effort to counter suburbanites’ negative images of crime-ridden New Haven.

"Homeless Man Knocks on Mayor's Door" - June 20, 2014
After a city homeless shelter evicted him Thursday night, Flor Rico Jones traveled to Westville to knock on Mayor Toni Harp’s front door. He had company.