DocWire News spoke to Dr. Jessie Holtzman, CardioNerds Executive Correspondent, about the CardioNerds Medical Journalism Program, an immersive program whereby CardioNerds Correspondents develop into seasoned journalists in the cardiovascular space. Dr. Holtzman talked about the importance of sound medical journalism, the significance of the program, and how the program supports the CardioNerds’ overarching mission of democratizing cardiovascular education.

DocWire News: Can you provide us with some professional background on yourself?

Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Absolutely. So I’m a third year internal medicine resident right now at University of California San Francisco, or UCSF. And I’m one of the rising chief medical residents at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital that’ll start shortly in a month or two. I previously trained Harvard Medical School, and so that’s where I developed my interest in academic medicine and in innovations in medical education. I joined the CardioNerds team just about a year and a half ago. And I joined initially as a part of the CardioNerds Academy, and so that was really helping create free online medical education in the cardiovascular space, whether that be tutorials or infographics. And then now I’m serving as the executive correspondent for the CardioNerds medical journalism program. And I’m so excited that we get the chance to talk about that today.

How important is sound journalism in the medical space? What would you say is currently lacking in this area?

I think that’s a great question, Rob. I think the news media, whether it’s in print or online, it can be an incredibly powerful ally to medicine. It can shape the patient, the provider perspectives on new and developing medical therapies. It can impact patient behavior. It can affect decisions about treatment options. Yet, for in invasive procedures, or things we do like ECMO or CPR or novel interventional procedures, news stories should be, ideally, balanced between the perspectives of the positive as well as the risks. And I think oftentimes we’re lacking sort of an accurate portrayal of the risk and benefits. So I always worry that with discrepancies in public perception and the expected outcomes from clinical evidence, that can cause really challenging discussions with patients and their families about the expected outcomes of treatments. Oftentimes, we’ll see positively biased media portrayals that have the potential to mask the risks, the costs, the heterogeneous treatment effects, and the underlying uncertainty of benefits.

And I think one of the greatest examples that I’ve seen is there was a great study that looked at CPR portrayals on television and how we saw that almost uniformly people were able to achieve [inaudible 00:02:08] to come back to life with CPR on television when we know that that’s not true in real life. So I think sound medical journalism, it has the potential to accurately portray the limitations of observational trials. It can couch new findings in the existing data and in the context of the trials that we’ve studied before. And I think that’s especially important in an era of such rapid proliferation and dissemination of data where the timely and accurate depiction of novel data is more critical than ever. So really, I think it’s a question of balancing the risks and benefits of treatments and making sure that the media accurately portrays that so that our patients and our providers can all accurately understand the risks and benefits of the therapies that we offer.

What are some of the most challenging, and some of the most rewarding aspects of writing in the cardiovascular space?

So I would argue that one of the most challenging aspects of writing in the cardiovascular space would be the speed with which the field of cardiology advances. So it’s been reported that on average is more than 2 million academic articles that are published broadly across scientific fields every year. And so it’s nearly impossible for active clinicians to keep up with that body of literature. And at the same time, we all know that the incorporation of novel research findings is of paramount importance to all of our clinical practice, keeping abreast of the ever expanding body of literature. And that poses a real challenge to both trainees and to active clinicians keeping up with that literature day to day. So I would argue that the speed of advancement is probably also the most rewarding aspect of writing in this space. I think it gives us the opportunity to stay abreast of late breaking clinical updates, trials that impact all of our clinical practice on a day to day basis.

It allows us to provide the highest level of care to our patients on a day to day basis. So I think it really allows you to think about the active data, to think about how our field is changing. And then it also allows you to meet incredibly inspiring figures in the cardiology space who are performing this cutting edge research. And I think one of the greatest things we’ve seen is that, in meeting these incredible, inspiring folks who are doing the research, we can also inspire future collaborations and inspire the direction that research will go in the future. So I think that speed of innovation is both one of the hardest things, it’s really hard to keep up with, especially for trainees on a day to day basis. But I think it’s also the greatest benefit that we can provide the highest level, newest care to our patients.

Talk to us about the CardioNerds Medical Journalism Program, and its significance. 

I’m so proud of the work that we’re doing with the CardioNerds Medical Journalism program and that Dan Ambinder and Amit Goyal have put together. I’m lucky enough to serve as the executive correspondent for the CardioNerds Medical Journalism program. And we work with a big team of correspondents that I’ll tell you a little bit more about. So we were founded in May of 2021, and I think we have two main goals through the CardioNerds Medical Journalism program. The first I would say is to provide timely, accurate information to the public on advances in cardiovascular research space. And the second, and arguably equally importantly, is that we’re trying to provide a structured approach for medical trainees to the evolving body of cardiovascular literature. So we initially recruited a core group of nine medical correspondents, and these are internal medicine residents up through cardiology fellows, and they’re throughout programs that are accredited in the United States.

And then we also had several guest correspondence come join our team as well. The correspondents synthesize the evolving cardiovascular medical literature. And so often, they’re reviewing the primary literature, news outlets, major cardiovascular conferences. So whether that be ACC, AHA, ESC, and then also following FDA activity to identify the highest impact research that will affect clinical practice. The articles are then peer reviewed by senior cardiology fellows, including Dan and Amit, and then they’re published on your website on DocWire News. And together, we’ve published more than 50 articles in the last year, really contributing to the sort of late breaking nature of cardiovascular research. So I think the biggest thing is that in general training programs, especially in residency and in fellowship, they lack a standard way that we teach our trainees to engage effectively with the primary literature. It comes at us quickly and it’s really hard to keep up with it.

So I think our hope is that the CardioNerds Medical Journalism program provides an immersive experience that augments that regular interaction with the primary medical literature. It provides valuable clinical context. And ideally, it’s increasing trainee commitment to our specialties within the field and enhancing our sense of professional identity and network all in the context of creating this timely and relevant content for DocWire News. So I think we’re really hopeful that we’re providing a value add and that we’re really teaching our trainees how to engage with the primary literature in a more effective way. I think one of the best things that we’re doing right now is that we’re also studying this intervention. So we’re assessing before and after for our trainees to try to decide whether this is an effective intervention and whether this is something that we can disseminate further across cardiology and internal medicine training programs, really helping filter and teach trainees how to synthesize the ever expanding body of literature.

How does this program support the CardioNerds’ overall mission of democratizing cardiovascular education?

Yeah. I think that’s a great question, Rob. And I think it really gets to the core of the CardioNerds mission, which is to democratize medical education. Our team reviews the latest and greatest in the cardiovascular space, and they find a way to distill it down and share it for the general public. This program allows us to disseminate cardiovascular education all while promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, which I think is one of the core tenets that Dan and Amit and all the CardioNerds promote every day.

So through reporting, we’re hoping to highlight opportunities to improve enrollment of diverse candidates and diverse participants in trials, and hoping that our clinical trial populations will also be representative of the populations that we serve. I think secondarily, it really provides an opportunity for us as educators, and it helps us to really train the trainees. So I think that’s one of the best parts is not only are we sharing cardiovascular education with the public, but we’re also sharing that within our own CardioNerds group. And so I really think this is just another way that we can hopefully enhance the training experience for medical trainees with regard to their engagement with the primary literature, all while sharing relevant and timely cardiovascular education with the public as well.

What can we look forward to seeing from the CardioNerds Medical Journalism Program in 2022?

So we are so excited to have a new group of medical correspondents joining us from internal medicine residencies, as well as cardiology fellowships, even some very engaged and wonderful medical students as well. They joined us here in March 2022, and so we’re expanding our cohort every day. We’re also having more guest correspondents come join us as well, and we’re hoping to highlight a variety of spaces. So heart failure, electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, women’s health, and then also making sure that we’re highlighting disparities in cardiovascular care.

We’re really excited to continue to report on upcoming conferences as well. And so includes AHA, ESC, and we were just at ACC as well. So hoping to provide these continuing late breaking clinical trials for the medical community. At the same time, we’re also hoping to continue sort of studying our own intervention, and so gathering data on the effect of this intervention for our medical trainees and making sure that we’re rigorously studying this to make sure that we can disseminate if possible, and really feeling like it’s our obligation to disseminate the center of intervention to other training programs so that we can train all of our doctors to most effectively engage with the literature and share that with the public as well.

Any closing?

I would just say we are so grateful to you, Rob, and for involving our whole CardioNerds family and this partnership with DocWire News. We are so grateful that we can sort of help shape what medical journalism looks like and also provide an engaging experience for our medical correspondents. So I really can’t wait to see what we do in the next year together. And we feel so to be on this journey with you here.