Personalized Medicine

When the editors of NatGeo asked me to write about new frontiers in medicine, the first thing I did was volunteer to be a research guinea pig, get my genome sequenced and undergo extensive microbiological testing. I wanted to understand the complexity of what’s come to be known as “precision medicine.” Unlike the traditional one-size-fits-most medical model, the new approach uses gene research and data analytics to customize prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The advances will upend medicine as we know it.

Everybody is Unique

A new era of health care is coming. Precision Medicine will monitor our health moment to moment, predict our risk of disease and devise treatments tailored to each of us.
National Geographic


The editors of National Geographic asked me to tell the story behind the rising toll of addiction. Why do so many people get hooked on substances and behaviors we know will harm us? What does new research reveal about addiction and the brain? Can scientific insights help more people recover? I spent nearly a year interviewing researchers, clinicians and people struggling with addictions of all sorts and wrote two stories:

How Science is Unlocking the Secrets of Addiction

We’re learning more about the craving that fuels self-defeating habits — and how new discoveries could help us kick the habit.
National Geographic

Babies Fall Victim to the Opioid Crisis

Born to women addicted to drugs or in treatment, newborns suffer through withdrawal
National Geographic

Children's Health

USC’s Center for Health Journalism is the nation’s leading center for training and innovation in health reporting. I’m a longtime fan. The center is dedicated to improving and elevating journalism on health disparities and challenges in underserved communities — stories that don’t get nearly enough coverage. In 2019, I was thrilled to join the center’s roster of blog contributors.

We’re Failing at Vaccinating Kids Against HPV

And that could cost lives

We Often Don't Know Which Drugs are Safe During Pregnancy

Can new guidelines change that?

Even as the Epidemic Rages, Alarming Numbers of Teens Leave ER with Opioid Prescriptions

“It’s not the wisest approach.”

Take it from someone who almost died: The resurgence of measles is terrifying

The best remedy for vaccine refusal is policy

End-Of-Life Care

"Nobody wants to die badly. Hospice care offers the best hope for dying well and living fully until we do.” Those are the opening words of Changing the Way We Die, the book I wrote with my longtime colleague and friend Sheila Himmel. Our fathers had died around the same time, mine in a hospital and Sheila’s in hospice care. Our conversations about our very different experiences planted the seeds for the book.

Chapter 1: What Do You Want to Do For the Rest of Your Life?

Changing the Way We Die, an Amazon bestseller and winner of an Independent Book Publishers Award; and Breaking Ground: the History of the YWCA in the Santa Clara Valley.

Treatment or Comfort: Why Must Patients Choose?

Restoring Quality of Life, blog of the Partnership for Palliative Care

Fasting to Death

Radio Star’s Surprise Disclosure Rekindles Debate Over Aid in Dying.

Why Doctors Don’t Want Their Own Medicine When They’re Dying

And What the Rest of Us Can Learn From Them.

Are Moments of Death Must-See TV?

The new series “Time of Death” is hard to watch. It’s even harder to turn off.


I began my career as a newspaper medical reporter, and while I’ve written about many other subjects over the years, health and medial journalism has been a constant.

Can You Trust Your Mammogram?

Why even smart doctors miss breast cancer — and how to make sure you’re getting the best care.
Good Housekeeping

Heal Yourself With Food

In just a few weeks, these women lowered their blood pressure, slashed their cholesterol or turned the tide on their diabetes, all with simple yet powerful changes to their diets.

Your Doctor, Your Diet Coach

Doctors are prescribing drugs, “fat-dissolving” injections and severe diets to help patients lose weight. Fran Smith reports on the trend — the good, the bad and the dangerous.
O: The Oprah Magazine

Ignorance Is No Excuse

Few doctors know how to perform abortions and women pay for their lack of training

Other Topics Of Interest

The standard advice for freelance journalists is to establish a niche. But for me the joy of journalism is more about the story than the subject. In retrospect, I found my way into this business because I’m not at heart a “specialist” — I’m interested in too many things. I jump at opportunities to write stories that expose wrongdoing, celebrate people working to make the world a better place, and explore the magic and the struggles of being alive.

Intelligent Designs

When information needs to be communicated, Edward Tufte demands both truth and beauty.
Stanford Magazine

Back From the Brink

How three women walked the long, hard road out of despair and finally became free