In March, STAT reporter Usha Lee McFarling (’93) added yet another prestigious award to her long list of career accomplishments. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist took home a 2021 Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, winning first place in the beat category for her reporting on health disparities and structural racism. McFarling was honored for reporting that examined pervasive systematic racism in health care, from medical school admissions to faculty hiring in orthopedics.
As McFarling described it, the work staked out a new beat that examines what structural racism looks like on the ground, addressing questions like “who is not getting chosen for medical school or elite medical training; who is not getting their work published in top medical journals; who is not getting access to the best care, drugs, and clinical trials; and who is dismissing that racism is a problem within medicine?”
McFarling’s award-winning body of work included stories on why orthopedic surgery remains medicine’s whitest specialty, on why the enrollment of Black medical students has dropped precipitously in recent years despite continued attention to diversity, and on a podcast by the prestigious medical journal JAMA that infamously questioned whether racism exists in medicine.
McFarling and other award winners will be honored at an April awards luncheon at the Health Journalism 2022 conference in Austin.
“Vagina Obscura,” the debut book from award-winning journalist Rachel Gross (’19), has been described as a myth-busting voyage into the female body. Just days after its March 29 release, it is already busting its way to critical acclaim.
In a New York Times Review, Maya Salam wrote that “Gross takes on a herculean task, exploring female anatomy from a medical, social and historical perspective.” And whereas some passages “might be wince-inducing for the squeamish… Gross manages to make palatable the sawing of cadavers and the injecting of silicone into two-pronged snake vaginas, without undercutting the gravity of their resulting revelations.”
At The Open Notebook, current Knight Science Journalism Project Fellow Emily Willingham describes “Vagina Obscura” as “the vessel for a reader’s journey through human anatomy that science and medicine have systematically overlooked, mislabeled, stigmatized, and, yes, obscured,” adding that “Gross herself serves as a guide to the course corrections that are finally getting them right.”
In a review penned for Science News, Erin Garcia de Jesús writes that “Gross doesn’t shy away from confronting the sexism and prejudices behind controversial ideas about female biology,” and “she finds the right spots to deliver a dose of wry humor or a pun.”
The book debut marks the culmination of a project that Gross undertook as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. You can watch Gross and illustrator Armando Veve talk about the book and it’s cover art here.
Thanks to Betsy Mason (’16), we may never look at non-human animals quite the same. Mason was one of eight journalists named to the 2022 class of Alicia Patterson Fellows, and she will use the fellowship to pursue a project looking at how science is changing how humans think about other animals. One of American journalism’s most competitive fellowships, the Alicia Patterson fellowship has for more than fifty years awarded grants to elite journalists to support traveling, researching, and writing. Mason, a freelance writer and editor, is also co-author of the illustrated book “All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey.”
Mark Wolverton (‘17), author of several books on the history of physics and astronomy, extended his prolific writing streak this winter. His latest book, “Nuclear Weapons,” was published in February as part of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series. The 280-page primer “explains the basic scientific facts, offers historical perspective, and provides a nuanced view of the unique political, social, and moral dilemmas posed by nuclear weapons.” It takes readers from the birth of the Bomb in 1945, to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, and beyond, also revisiting the many appearances of nuclear weapons in pop culture.
Wolverton is already at work on his follow-up effort, “Splinters of Infinity: Cosmic Rays and the Clash of Two Nobel-Winning Scientists Over the Origins of the Universe.” That forthcoming book, also to be published by MIT Press, is being supported in part with a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Federico Kukso’s (’16) critically acclaimed 2019 book, “Odorama: A Cultural History of Smell,” is now poised to expand its reach. Originally published in Spanish, the book was recently translated into Romanian. Kukso was also recently named to the Advisory Board of the new Science Media Centre Spain, part of an international network of organizations that provide the media with reliable resources, content, and sources to cover science-related news.
Tasmiha Khan (’22) was selected as one of thirteen journalists to receive funding through a new initiative by the International Center for Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to support journalists from underrepresented communities in the U.S. Khan will receive $10,000 to support her project “Muslims Demystified,” a newsletter that will examine the cultural and religious challenges faced by Muslims who have immigrated to the Western world. Khan and other grant recipients will also receive three months of personalized mentorship to help them with brand-building and audience engagement.
Lindsay Gellman (’21) was one of two dozen journalists named to receive a prestigious journalism grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management. Her project, “When Health Freedom Leads to Harm,” will report on the health freedom movement, which she describes as “a new front in the war on science that poses a threat to public health as we enter a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic.” The project marks a continuation of reporting on the health-freedom movement and unproven treatments that Gellman pursued as a Knight Science Journalism project fellow.
Here’s what other alumni are writing, a compendium from Federico Kukso:
Dan Falk (‘12): “The Philosopher’s Zombie,” Aeon; “Readers Love Curious George. I Fell in Love with the Author’s Astronomy Books,” Nautilus.
Rene Ebersole (‘22): “He Teaches Police ‘Witching’ To Find Corpses. Experts Are Alarmed.” The Marshall Project.
David Ropeik (‘95): “A ‘more, more, more’ approach to cancer screening is misleading and harmful,” STAT.
Robin Lloyd (‘99): “People Are Getting COVID Shots Despite Hesitation,” Scientific American.
Wayt Gibbs (‘00): “Taking Off in Two Directions at Once,” Anthropocene Magazine.
Valeria Román (‘05): “A world with Alzheimer’s: 5 challenges for future treatments,” Infobae (in Spanish).
Carey Goldberg (‘02): “MIT Cuts Ties With Russia Tech Center in Protest of Invasion,” Bloomberg (with Denise Pellegrini).
Angela Posada-Swafford (‘01): “Two new species of see-through frog named in Ecuador,” National Geographic.
Federico Kukso (‘16): “This is how the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur in the world, hunted underwater,” Agencia SINC (in Spanish).
Claudio Angelo (‘04): “There will be war in the Amazon,” Companhia das Letras (in Portuguese).
Betsy Mason (‘16): “Do birds have language? It depends on how you define it,” Knowable Magazine.
Jeff Tollefson (‘05): “Climate change is hitting the planet faster than scientists originally thought,” Nature.
Richard Friebe (‘07): “Anxiety disorder and depression after severe covid,” Der Tagesspiegel (in German).
Teresa Carr (‘18): “New Business Ventures Tackle High Drug Costs,” Undark.
Sasha Chapman (‘16): “Oil Rigs Are a Refuge in a Dying Sea,” Hakai Magazine.
Jane Qiu (‘18): “Meet the scientist at the center of the covid lab leak controversy,” MIT Technology Review.
Andrada Fiscutean (‘20): “Why you can’t trust AI-generated autocomplete code to be secure,” CSO.
Richard Fisher (‘20): “Why teenagers aren’t what they used to be,” BBC.