Dear Journalist:

Newswise — Harvard Medical School’s Media Fellowship program, now entering its 20th year, is accepting applications for its spring 2017 sessions. The fellowships bring together top health and science journalists and preeminent researchers and physician-scientists for a weeklong educational immersion on the HMS campus in Boston.

The 2017 topics are:

Medicine by the Numbers (April 24-28)How computation, math and big data are transforming basic discovery, diagnoses, clinical therapies and population health.

• The Quest for Immortality: Rethinking an age-old question (May 15-19)While scientists uncover the molecular aberrations that fuel cell atrophy and cell demise, evolutionary biologists ponder the limits of human longevity and frontline clinicians develop new therapies to stave off the degeneration and frailty of aging.

About the Media Fellowships

During each weeklong session, media fellows spend time on the HMS campus and in our affiliated hospitals and institutes to gain a deeper understanding of the spectrum of research and state of the science in a particular area.

Reporters meet with a range of experts on a given topic, including basic scientists, translational investigators and practicing clinicians. Although reporters attend as a group, we try to work with each fellow to tailor the experience to individual interests within the broader theme.

We will choose three fellows for each thematic track.

HMS will pay for participants’ lodging, meals and ground transportation, but fellows must cover their own travel costs to and from the Boston area.

These fellowships are offered as educational opportunities on a background basis. Over the past 19 years, HMS has hosted more than 100 reporters from print, online and broadcast news outlets. Reporters spend unsupervised time with faculty, researchers and physician-scientists from affiliated hospitals and various experts from other Harvard schools and institutes. Fellows often cultivate lasting relationships with scientists and generate a wealth of story ideas.

2017 TopicsMedicine by the Numbers April 24-28

Computation, information technology and the unprecedented amounts of data spewed out every second are transforming our lives. The massive amounts of data generated in research, medicine and other fields are also transforming our understanding of basic biomedical processes, our clinical decision making, diagnostic and treatment decisions and approaches to population health.

The marriage of previously disparate fields such as physics, computation, bioinformatics and information technology with medicine and biomedical science has generated novel ways to gauge risk, predict drug behavior and understand disease.

New data are flowing in from the genome, the proteome, the microbiome. This information—analyzed and contextualized properly—can reframe the way we view basic biologic processes. It casts new light on how proteins network with each other in disease and health and it allows us to predict how drugs interact for therapeutic synergy or toxicity.

Computational and statistical analysis of genomic data also sharpens researchers’ ability to diagnose a person with an exceedingly rare disease or gauge an individual’s risk of developing a common one. Neuroscientists are using data and algorithms to unravel how neurons in the brain communicate with one another. Cancer biologists use computation, biostatistics and bioinformatics to unravel the myriad complex links between the presence of genes and subsequent disease development. These are only some of the examples that illustrate the way bio-computation and information technology are starting to disrupt how we study the human body, how we think about science and how we practice medicine.

The Quest for Immortality: Rethinking an age-old questionMay 15-19

Youth, aging, death and the quest for eternal life have been central themes in philosophy, literature, science and art since the dawn of humanity.

As scientists uncover the molecular aberrations that fuel cell atrophy and cell death, evolutionary biologists are pondering the limits of human longevity and frontline clinicians are developing new therapies to add more healthy years to people’s lives and stave off the degeneration and frailty that come with aging.

Today, we are closer than ever to developing treatments that halt the subtlest molecular shifts that can spark cellular degradation, loss of function and cell death—the basis of degenerative diseases and aging. But are we any closer to stopping aging in its tracks or even reversing it?

According to scientists, slowing down the process of degeneration is an achievable goal, yet what are the proven strategies that frontline clinicians can use to slow down the march of aging? What does science tell us about the effects of diet, exercise and lifestyle on longevity? How far away are we from “exercise in a pill” that can halt DNA damage and boost cell repair?

On a societal scale, the graying of the population represents one of modern medicine’s greatest successes and one of its gravest challenges. With age, the risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, bone loss and frailty rises precipitously. Researchers are trying to understand just why and how living longer precipitates changes that lead to aging and degeneration.

Caring for the old and frail can take a great economic toll on the health care system and a severe financial and personal toll on individual families who care for their aging relatives. How are health care policy experts and health care economists dealing with these challenges? How can we reconcile our desire for longer life with the need to remain healthy and independent longer?

According to some healthcare experts, the focus of our research and clinical efforts should be not so much to prolong life at all costs but to “compress” of morbidity. In other words, the focus should be on adding healthier, more independent and more productive years to one’s life, rather than merely extending life.

These are just some of the questions, topics and themes that scientists and clinicians will explore with reporters during the five-day immersion. Journalists will also meet with scientists who can address the various micro- and macro-dimensions of aging, including basic researchers, frontline clinicians, geneticists, neurologists, geriatricians, public health experts, health care policy experts and bioethicists.

Application Process

By midnight on March 1, 2017, please email [email protected] the following:

• three to five relevant clips of stories dealing with health, medicine or science• two to three paragraphs detailing why you are interested in attending and what you hope to take away from the fellowship

In addition, please state that you have license from your editor, or usual freelance clients, to cover the topic broadly at some point in the future.

You are not obligated to cover Harvard’s work in the area, just the field as a whole.

We look forward to hearing from you or from someone you think would benefit from this experience.

Please contact me with any questions at [email protected] or 617-432-0441.


Ekaterina PeshevaDirector, Science Communications and Media RelationsHarvard Medical School