I’m a blue collar, shoe-leather investigative journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I covered Rio Arriba County, NM for the storied Rio Grande SUN in Española before joining The New Mexico Independent early this year. Both papers epitomize the muckraking heart of the First Amendment and Fourth Estate. Great folks.
(If you’re feeling flush and want to do something for accountable government, you could do worse than donating a few bucks to The Independent.)
I co-founded epiNewswire, a muckraking and evidence-based public health news site, with a couple of fellow biologists: epi editor Rachel Campbell and researcher and doula Tara Armijo-Prewitt. (To my great fortune and her occasional chagrin, Tara’s also my wife).
I write for several medical journals, including The Lancet Oncology, a specialty cancer publication of The Lancet — a fearless publication in its own right, and the world’s oldest medical journal. (Here’s a list of my special reports for The Lancet Oncology, if you’re curious.)
I started my writing career more than a decade ago as a science and medical writer for magazines like New Scientist and Psychology Today.
The pivotal story that swung me from that genteel world into investigative journalism was the Fallon, Nevada leukemia cluster tragedy. Sixteen of the little town’s children were diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the span of a few short years. Several of them died.
I covered Fallon for science magazines and medical journals, and got to see the Reno Gazette-Journal’s old-school investigative reporter Frank Mullen at work.
Fallon is home to the U.S. Navy’s TOP GUN air base, and I spent several years documenting the Pentagon’s attempts to interfere with civilian health agencies’ efforts to make sense of the children’s cancers. (Among other things, the numbers of Navy children’s leukemias provided to state health authorities didn’t match those reported in an internal Navy study I eventually obtained.)
Nearly simultaneous childhood acute leukemia clusters were documented by the CDC in Sierra Vista, Arizona and by the Navy (albeit not publicly) at a Navy facility in Guam.
I also followed the efforts of several university and government scientists as they investigated the Fallon cluster. Some folks are declaring the cause of the cluster solved; to me, it remains a mystery.
We co-founded epiNewswire several years ago …and I started this blog today… to expose wrongs and highlight under-reported public health stories that affect peoples’ lives but have been neglected by the mainstream media.
At epiNewswire and The Lancet Oncology, I’ve broken some important stories in that vein, from the U.S. Army’s censorship of medical research findings and the VA’s failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of veteran cancer cases to tumor registries, to the Pentagon’s “green ammo” fiasco, in which the exotic tungsten alloy chosen to replace controversial depleted uranium munitions, turned out to be aggressively carcinogenic stuff. (You’ll see more here about that and the Army contractor-owned tungsten refinery in Fallon, Nevada, in the coming weeks.)
My 2009 series in The Rio Grande SUN on the off-label sedation of jail inmates with dangerous and addictive prescription drugs in Northern New Mexico … and the resulting street trade in Seroquel, which spread from former inmates to high schools in less than a year … won a first-place award for investigative reporting from the NM Press Association and AP Managing Editors.
Another series I did at the SUN, on the impact of hospital budget cuts on rural ambulance response times, was nominated for a public service journalism award, but no dice.
The Medical Muckraker will be my behind-the-scenes spot for conveying back-stories and for drawing your attention to noteworthy public health stories and sites.
I hope to be cross-posting pretty regularly with some great public health citizen journalists, like Marcie Hascall-Clark, as well. Marcie’s done a lot to draw journalists’ and policymakers’ attention to the drug-resistant Acinetobacter (“Iraqi-bacter”) infection crisis and leishmaniasis (“the Baghdad boil”).
My opinions in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of my colleagues and editors, I’ve been asked to point out.
Thanks for visiting. Feel free to drop me a line!