Last May, a fourth-year medical student and a psychiatry resident at NYU Langone both died by suicide within days of one another. Over the previous two years, the Mount Sinai medical community has been rocked by the deaths by suicide of a newly-minted attending physician, an internal medicine resident, and a fourth-year medical student. Both institutions revealed few details about the deaths, but many within these communities believed there was a bigger problem at play. They just didn’t have the data.
While studies have meticulously documented the elevated rate of suicide among physicians in the United States—believed to be at least double that of the general population—there is no systematic data on suicides among students and physicians in training. Despite being one of the most intensely regulated educational paths, no overseeing body or institution tracks suicides among medical students or physicians in residency and fellowship programs. Many institutions are reluctant to publicize these deaths out of fear that such news might harm recruitment and reputation. But without better data, it is impossible to know the true scale of these deaths, or to identify the structural problems that cause them and may also be harming the quality of the American healthcare system overall.
Over the course of two semesters and the summer, an investigative reporting clinic of six select students at the Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY will investigate this phenomenon, collecting and analyzing data on suicides among physicians in training in real-time, and studying root causes that may illuminate structural problems within the healthcare system. CUNY Investigative Journalist in Residence Azmat Khan will run the clinic, leading students through a rigorous methodology for conducting a data-based investigation, from story development and reporting, sensitive interviewing and ethics, to storytelling and publication. In weekly clinical sessions, students will collect data, starting with New York, and evaluate the results, before embarking on the national dataset. Students will have the chance to report in the field, and the final product is intended for publication. The goal of the course is for students to learn a rigorous model for conducting future investigations, while carrying out one together in real-time. Students will also gain an understanding of healthcare reporting, narrative storytelling, and journalistic ethics.
Students who wish to apply to the course should submit an application to Azmat.Khan@journalism.cuny.edu with the subject “APPLICATION FOR LAB” and these materials:
- Your CV
- Two clips
- A memo no longer than 400 words expressing why this course is of interest to you, what you could bring to the class, and something important about you that one wouldn’t know from you CV.
Permission of instructor is needed for this course.