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Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a physician and scientist who serves as chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was selected by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) to present the fifth Patrusky Lecture on October 27, 2017, at the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists.
Desmond-Hellmann, a pioneer in health care who has devoted her career to the eradication of disease, poverty and inequity, spoke “In Defense of Science." At a time when facts-based, data-driven approaches to problems are being rejected as elitist, she made the case for science and data, drawing on personal testimony and powerful examples from the Gates Foundation’s work around the world and her own career in oncology and public health.
Desmond-Hellmann addressed journalists and science communicators from around the world gathered in San Francisco, California, for WCSJ2017. CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) were co-organizers of the conference, which incorporated CASW’s traditional New Horizons in Science briefings on research and issues in science. The conference was produced in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists and two host universities, the University of California at San Francisco and UC Berkeley.
"The Gates Foundation is one of the world's biggest players in the field of global health, so it's particularly fitting that Dr. Desmond-Hellmann will be giving the Patrusky Lecture at this year's world conference – the first global event of its kind held in the U.S.," said CASW President Alan Boyle, aerospace and science editor at GeekWire in Seattle (shown at left presenting the Patrusky Lecture glass sculpture to Desmond-Hellmann). "Her perspective is also a great fit for the annual Patrusky Lecture, which focuses on big-picture views of scientific and social frontiers."
A full video recording of the lecture may be found on the Patrusky Lectures Page.
Desmond-Hellmann became CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014, after serving as the first female chancellor of UCSF for five years. She leads the Gates Foundation’s vision for a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life. Drawing on diverse experience in both the public and private sectors, she creates an environment for talented and committed individuals to help more children and young people survive and thrive, combat infectious diseases that hit the poorest hardest, and empower people—particularly women and girls—to transform their lives.
Trained as an oncologist, Desmond-Hellmann spent 14 years at the biotech firm Genentech developing a number of breakthrough medicines, including two of the first gene-targeted therapies for cancer, Avastin and Herceptin. In November 2009, Forbes named her one of the world’s seven most “powerful innovators,” calling her “a hero to legions of cancer patients.” Her time at Genentech put her at the forefront of the precision medicine revolution, and in her current role she champions a similar approach to global development: precision public health—getting the right interventions, to the right populations, in the right places, to save lives.
BBC science reporter Pallab Ghosh asks a question following Desmond-Hellmann's lecture.
|Patrusky Lecturer Susan Desmond-Hellmann responds to a question while session moderator Ron Winslow looks on. (All photos by David Poller.)|
She credits a move to Uganda in 1989—to work on HIV/AIDS and cancer alongside her husband, Nick—as a turning point in her career. “It was so profound to recognize… that all the learning I had done to become a doctor didn’t matter at all if I didn’t make a contribution,” she says.
Desmond-Hellmann is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. She was listed among Fortune magazine’s “top 50 most powerful women in business” for seven years and, in 2010, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and elected to the Institute of Medicine. In addition to an M.D. from the University of Reno, Nevada, she holds a master’s degree in public health from UC Berkeley. She serves on the board of directors at Facebook Inc.
THE PATRUSKY LECTURES
The Patrusky Lectures were launched by CASW in 2013 to honor Ben Patrusky, executive director of CASW for 25 years and director of the New Horizons in Science program for 30 years. The previous Patrusky Lectures were given by chemist George M. Whitesides of Harvard University; paleontologist Donald Johanson of the Institute of Human Origins; Yale microbiologist Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the pioneering particle physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin.
Sharon Begley, a seasoned medical reporter who is senior science writer at STAT, is the recipient of the 2017 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting.
Judges cited Begley for the remarkable authority, authenticity, precision and confidence of her writing and praised the exhaustive investigative work evident in each piece of reporting. Her articles are distinguished by “a propulsive force, an accuracy and a sharpness” that are the hallmarks of a knowledgeable reporter and polished writer, they said.
Begley joined STAT, the life sciences publication of the Boston Globe, in 2015 following stints as health and science correspondent for Reuters, science editor and columnist at Newsweek magazine, and science columnist at The Wall Street Journal. In a letter nominating Begley for the Cohn Prize, Managing Editor Gideon Gil recalled that she was the first science writer hired when STAT was launched. “One person after another told us she was the best medical science reporter around. Hiring her would bring our startup instant credibility. She has.”
Begley is the 20th recipient of the prize, awarded by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) for a body of work published or broadcast within the past five years.
In selecting Begley, the judges drew attention to “Behind a Cancer-Treatment Firm’s Rosy Survival Claims,” a 2013 Reuters special investigative report on the Cancer Treatment Centers of America for which Begley did the bulk of the reporting and the writing. Seasoned with interviews and gripping stories, the article presented a thorough examination of the data behind the center’s remarkable success claims, presenting ample evidence that CTCA cherry-picks its patients and reports results selectively.
Another notable piece was Begley’s November 2016 report for STAT on gene drives, “Gene Drive Gives Scientists Power to Hijack Evolution.” That story, the judges said, provided an extraordinarily clear, thorough and dramatic explanation of the science and societal issues associated with gene drives, a genetic technology that forces introduced genes to spread through a population. Gene drives have been proposed as a way to stop the spread of disease by insects such as mosquitoes.
Begley’s nomination also included her report on the potential of personalized cancer vaccines using “neoantigens,” a story showing how a lack of resources may be holding back work on a cure for sickle cell disease, and an investigation into Myriad Genetics’ attempts to discredit rival labs’ tests for breast cancer genes.
In the nomination letter, Gil praised Begley’s “remarkable range and versatility,” noting that she “breaks news, explains cutting edge advances, investigates corporate and government malfeasance, profiles scientists, and busts myths,” writing expertly about basic science one day and workplace wellness the next. Begley’s regular column, Gut Check, systematically reviews the science behind popular claims and punctures hyped studies.
“What really sets Sharon apart from most other science writers,” Gil wrote, “is that she combines probing, original reporting with a crime reporter’s metabolism... she craves the adrenaline rush of daily journalism and getting scoops.” And the stories that she breaks are skillfully told, packed “with context, insight and prose that captivates readers."
Begley will receive a $3,000 award and certificate and be honored in San Francisco on Oct. 26, the opening day of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, which this year replaces the annual ScienceWriters meeting jointly organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). CASW, a not-for-profit organization of journalists and scientists committed to improving the quality of science news and information reaching the public, is organizing WCSJ2017 with NASW and the World Federation of Science Journalists.
The Victor Cohn Prize is one of many honors earned by Sharon Begley (@sxbegle) since she joined Newsweek upon her graduation from Yale University. In 25 years at Newsweek she served as science columnist and editor and as a contributing writer at the magazine and its website, The Daily Beast (2011). From 2002 to 2007, she was a science columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and from 2012 to 2015 she was the senior health and science correspondent at Reuters (2012–15). She is co-author (with Richard J. Davidson) of the 2012 book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, author of the 2007 book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, and co-author (with Jeffrey Schwartz) of the 2002 book The Mind and the Brain. She has been honored with an honorary degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville for communicating science to the public and the Public Understanding of Science Award from the San Francisco Exploratorium. She has spoken before many audiences on the topics of science writing, neuroplasticity, and science literacy.
THE VICTOR COHN PRIZE
This year’s Cohn Prize entries were judged by Ben Patrusky, CASW’s executive director emeritus; Barbara J. Culliton, an investigative reporter, instructor and consultant who served as news editor of Science and deputy editor of Nature; and Richard Harris, National Public Radio science correspondent and CASW treasurer.
The inaugural Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting in 2000 was shared by Laurie Garrett of Newsday and Lawrence K. Altman of The New York Times. Subsequent recipients were Jon Palfreman, a public television documentarian; Daniel Q. Haney, medical editor for the Associated Press; Shannon Brownlee, a noted magazine writer and book author; Michelle Trudeau of National Public Radio; Rick Weiss of the Washington Post; Jerome Groopman of The New Yorker; Geeta Anand of The Wall Street Journal; Joe Palca of NPR; Denise Grady of The New York Times; Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press; Ron Winslow of the Wall Street Journal; Jon Cohen of Science magazine; John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; freelance health reporter and former NPR correspondent Joanne Silberner; Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times; Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and Liz Szabo, health writer for USA Today and senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News.
The award honors the late Washington Post medical writer and health columnist Victor Cohn, known as the dean of medical science reporting. He distinguished himself by the clarity and effectiveness of his reporting during a 50-year career that began with outstanding coverage of early “wonder” drugs and the polio vaccine, as well as the dawn of the modern space age. Late in his career, Cohn started a Post column called “The Patient’s Advocate,” and wrote a highly regarded professional book, News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields. Cohn, who died of cancer in 2000, was a co-founder in 1959 of CASW.
To read Sharon Begley’s work, visit her website.
Boodman received the award and its $1,000 prize for four stories in STAT:
- Accidental therapists: For insect detectives, the trickiest cases involve the bugs that aren’t really there
- Hog jowls and clementines: A bid to awaken cancer patients’ ruined sense of taste
- In the dark of night, hunt for a deadly bug
- Kratom ban will hinder studies of the plant for treating pain or addiction, researchers say
The panel of judges cited Boodman for his highly original topics, his meticulous and deep reporting, his ability to use vivid characters to tell memorable stories, his “lovely” writing and “fun” details, and his knack for slipping complicated science and medical ideas into compelling narratives that painlessly educate readers while captivating and entertaining them. “A writer like Boodman can potentially broaden the audience for, and the appeal of, science writing,” said one judge.
The judges and the screeners also said that quality and number of submissions for the 2017 award were extraordinarily high, with 48 submissions and 12 finalists—and that selecting one winner from among the top finalists was particularly challenging.
Originally from Montréal, Boodman graduated from Yale in 2015, where he studied journalism and the history of science. While still a student, Boodman wrote for the Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Review of Books and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He joined STAT in August 2015, and reports that he likes playing traditional Québécois fiddle music and looking at insects.
The winner will be honored by the Evert Clark Fund and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) during the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists. The conference, organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists, will be held in San Francisco from October 25 to October 30.
Judges for the 2017 award were:
- Warren Leary, retired science correspondent for the New York Times, former science writer for the Associated Press, and former CASW board member
- Laura Helmuth, health, science, and environment editor at the Washington Post
- Susan Milius, life sciences writer at Science News
- Richard Harris, science correspondent at National Public Radio, CASW treasurer, and author of the new book, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions
- Dr. Gary B. Ellis, research review specialist at the Congressional Research Service, former director of the Office for Protection from Research Risks at the National Institutes of Health, and former AAAS Mass Media Fellow
The Clark/Payne Award was created to encourage young science writers by recognizing outstanding reporting in all fields of science. It is given each year in honor of journalist Ev Clark, who offered friendship and advice to a generation of young reporters. The annual judging is organized by John Carey, former long-time senior correspondent for Business Week and colleague of Seth Payne, who raised money for the award in memory of Ev Clark. CASW now administers the fund and manages the submission process and presentation of the award. This is the 29th year of the award.
Entrants must be age 30 or younger. The deadline for submissions is the end of June each year. For more information, please see the Evert Clark page.
Five writers with varied backgrounds in crime and business reporting, science and education have been awarded the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing's prestigious Taylor/Blakeslee University Fellowships supporting graduate study in science writing.
The Fellows will receive a $5,000 award for the 2017-18 academic year, bringing to 156 the number of science writers aided by CASW’s graduate fellowships since 1981.
Chosen from a field of 33 outstanding applicants were:
Fatima Husain (pictured above right). Husain, who is completing a bachelor's degree in geology and chemistry at Brown University, began pitching her writing to magazines as a high school student. In college she continued to pursue her interest in writing, serving as science editor for The College Hill Independent, a weekly Providence newspaper coordinated by undergraduates at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design. Involvement in climate research sparked Husain's concern about sensational, agenda-driven writing and misinformation. She will attend the MIT graduate program in science writing and looks forward to getting lab experience in an unfamiliar field.
Heather Mongilio (@HMongilio) completed her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at American University in 2015 and went to work covering crime and courts for the Carroll County Times in Maryland. Having taken a course in health and environmental reporting, she found herself looking for ways to incorporate medicine and science into her reporting. Her dream job is as a science or medical reporter with a major daily. She will also enter the MIT graduate program in science writing and hopes to study neuroscience while at MIT.
Jeremy Colin Rehm (@jrehm_sci) earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Brigham Young University and pursued graduate studies in ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, where he is completing a master's degree. His science studies have taken him into the western states and to Panama and Belize, and his involvement in science education has taken him into the communities around campuses and as far afield as Tanzania. Along the way, he has captured science in context through essays, profiles, blogging and multimedia productions and even a planetary science book written as a holiday gift for his family. Rehm will polish his skill at writing for the general public by attending the science communication graduate program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Elizabeth Whitman (@elizabethwhitty) has reported from the United Nations and written feature stories about Syrian refugees, public health, medicine, climate change and women’s rights from the Middle East. She currently reports on the health care industry. In March, her writing for Modern Healthcare was recognized with the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Range of Work by a Single Author. A 2011 history graduate of Columbia University, she is heading back to Columbia for a master’s degree in science journalism. In her fellowship application, Whitman wrote: “Now is a critical time for elevating the public conversation about science…. Journalists share the responsibility for fostering an informed discussion of what we know and how we know it, and for bringing the public into this conversation through ethical, accurate writing about scientific findings and developments.”
After completing a bachelor’s degree in physics at Brown, Charles Wood (@walkingthedot) headed for Korea, Mozambique and Japan as a teacher of English and physics. Landing afterward at the Christian Science Monitor as an intern, he found that writing about science combined his passion for explaining with his love of science. He will join the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) at New York University. “I hope to become a skilled science journalist who can acknowledge the context surrounding each new development," he explained in his application, "while conveying to the public a nuanced but engaging picture of what’s going on in the lab or out in the field.”
CASW's graduate fellowships are underwritten by a grant from The Brinson Foundation, a Chicago-based philanthropic organization. They honor the late Rennie Taylor and Alton Blakeslee, science writer and science editor respectively for the Associated Press. More information may be found on this page.
May 1, 2017 — CASW and its partners in organizing the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists today unveiled a comprehensive program of conference sessions focusing on professional development, leading-edge research and issues in science and journalism for the five-day meeting to be held this October. Registration and access to the full preliminary program, which features renowned plenary speakers, is now open.
The 2017 edition of WCSJ, the biennial meeting of international science journalists, will be held October 26 to 30 in San Francisco, California, a global hub of science and technology innovation. This year marks the first time the conference will be held in the United States. The program and registration information can be accessed at www.wcsj2017.org. “We are thrilled to invite science writers from around the world to participate in this exciting global meeting,” said WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee Co-Chairs Cristine Russell and Ron Winslow. “American science writers will have a unique opportunity to network with colleagues from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and the Middle East.” Russell is a board member and immediate past president of CASW. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.
Program themes, additional plenary sessions and fundraising progress were described by the organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) at a press conference during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Mass. Feb. 16.
CASW is organizing the WCSJ2017 science program—an international edition of New Horizons in Science—and co-managing sponsor recruitment for the conference, to be held October 26-30 in San Francisco, Calif. Travel fellowships to bring international journalists to the conference have been established in honor of David Perlman, veteran San Francisco Chronicle science editor and past CASW president. CASW is conducting a donation campaign to fund the fellowships.
Cristine Russell, immediate past president of CASW, co-chairs the Organizing Committee with Ron Winslow, a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.
Conference registration opens May 1. The full text of the announcement may be found at the WCSJ2017 website.
Amid debate over new U.S. visa restrictions, organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists affirmed the conference's determination to welcome journalists from across the globe to the conference. A statement issued February 10 says the organizers "oppose any restrictions that would prevent participants from attending WCSJ2017."
CASW and the National Association of Science Writers are partners with the World Federation of Science Journalists in organizing the conference, scheduled to be held in San Francisco Oct. 26-30. The statement is signed by the co-chairs of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee: Cristine Russell, CASW immediate past president, and Ron Winslow, past president of NASW, and was endorsed by current presidents Alan Boyle (CASW) and Laura Helmuth (NASW).
As an additional expression of global welcome, CASW is raising $20,000 in donations to the David Perlman Travel Fellowships, which honor the former CASW and NASW president and longtime San Francisco Chronicle science editor. The fellowships will support travel by conference attendees from any nation. An anonymous donor is matching all donations up to the goal.
In the hope that all colleagues will be able to come to San Francisco, the organizers have also recruited conference partners to help with visa appeals.
The full text of the statement may be found here.
(January 27, 2017) Jennifer Lu, now studying toward a master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, has won a $5,000 special reporting grant from CASW’s Taylor-Blakeslee university graduate fellowships program.
In her final semester of the Mizzou master’s program, Lu is focusing on investigative and data journalism. Her professional goal is to apply these skills to stories about science, health and the environment. She will use the Taylor/Blakeslee Project Fellowship toward reporting on the urgent problems that come with the nation’s aging drinking water infrastructure for the online investigative news group InquireFirst.
The judges noted the urgency and importance of investigative science reporting on the drinking water contamination crises now facing many cities. They congratulated Lu on a reporting plan that will dig into these issues and examine the effectiveness of practice and regulation at the local, regional and national levels.
Lu is one of five graduate students currently supported by Taylor-Blakeslee University Fellowships. The Brinson Foundation, which underwrites the fellowships, provided the follow-up grant to enable a Fellow to undertake a career-launching enterprise project.
In a competition, Fellows approaching graduation were invited to propose high-impact enterprise projects that would leverage their graduate training and entrepreneurial talent. "The submitted projects were all excellent, and we hope these exceptional science journalists will find ways to complete them. The world needs this reporting," said CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid.
Lu holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from Brandeis University and worked as a research technician in Boston-area medical labs before taking up science writing and newspaper reporting.
This is the second year of the project fellowship. The first grant went to Amy McDermott, then enrolled in the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.