When a Health Reporter Goes Under the Knife

Deborah Schoch (pictured), senior writer for USC Annenberg’s CHCF Center for Health Reporting, recently underwent cataract surgery. She has since shared what it was like for someone who covers hospital-related issues to be on the receiving end.

She admits putting off her left-cataract surgery for years. Once she settled on a specific hospital, Schoch looked up state records to determine the institution’s infection rates. She also peppered her surgeon with questions during their first meeting. Still, Schoch admits she felt a little awkward arriving at a pre-surgery suite with notebook and pen in hand, even though she had no article to write:

As a health care writer, I’ve written too many stories about hospital-acquired infections, wrong-side surgeries, even wrong-patient surgeries in which a patient lost a healthy gallbladder or unscathed knee…

Such skepticism can dog health care journalists, who in turn dog their own physicians. One ex-colleague recently told me how he interrogated his doctor (“Just how many times have you performed this procedure?” “Have you ever made a mistake?”) before he agreed to a simple colonoscopy.

If Schoch could have stayed awake during this very common procedure, she no doubt would have. But instead, her article ends with the sedative kicking in and this reporter waking up with the right side successfully operated on.