Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI)
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Medicine: Mind the Gap, NIH Seminar Series
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Frequently Asked Questions

Medicine in the Media

Why do I have to apply for the course? Why can't I just sign up?
Space in the course is limited to 50 participants. Over the years we’ve learned that this is the maximum number for which the course content can be provided effectively, in order to allow sufficient discussion between faculty and participants. We’ve also found that more than 50 journalists are interested each year, hence the application process.

What are my chances of getting in?
In recent years, one-half to one-third of applicants have been admitted. We’ve had as many as 250 applications for the 50 available seats.

What kinds of applicants are you seeking?
The selection committee is looking for journalists and editors who are eager to hone their skills in weighing medical evidence and interpreting scientific findings to better serve the needs and interests of the general public. The selection committee will consider the following criteria:

  • Preference will be given to journalists and editors whose primary audience is the lay public. Specifically, if your outlet (or in the case of freelancers, the outlets that have published most of your work in the last 6-12 months) is dedicated primarily to health professionals or researchers, your chances of admission are relatively slim.
  • Preference will be given to applicants writing or editing for outlets with larger audiences, because this leverages our limited resources to benefit the largest possible proportion of the lay public.
  • Selections will be made to ensure a good "mix": roughly equal numbers of participants writing or editing for daily print, longer-lead print, online-only, television, and radio; participants from across the U.S.; representation from the largest number of outlets possible; and a range of experience—from new to the beat, to seasoned veterans. Similarly, we look for a mixture of participants whose work is exclusively focused on health and medicine and those who cover these areas as only a portion of their work.

Please see additional information regarding eligibility for bloggers, international applicants, public information officers, and other non-journalists in the questions that follow.

I took the course before but I'd like a refresher and I see that it's changed a bit—can I get in again?
Because our space is so limited, our priority is to offer the opportunity first to applicants who have not yet participated in the course. Given application rates in recent years, we would expect to receive at least 50 new applicants this year. That said, if space permits, we would be happy to have you, so please feel free to apply.

Four writers from my organization would like to attend—is there a chance we can all get in? Should just one of us apply?
That depends on how many applications we receive. If there are enough applicants from different organizations to fill the 50 seats, we would likely only admit one of you. If there is space, though, we would conceivably be happy to have you all. If more than one of you applies, please prioritize the applicants from your organization so that if we are only able to admit one or two, we’ll know which you prefer. You can do this using one of the narrative fields in the online application.

I'm a blogger - am I eligible?
Yes. We are especially looking for prominent bloggers whose material is focused on health and medicine.

I currently work in a different field, but would like to move into health journalism—should I apply?
Specific experience in covering health or science is not a prerequisite for the course, but we do give preference to journalists currently working on health and medicine topics at least part of the time. Nonetheless, you are welcome to apply, and should space be available, you would be considered eligible.

Do you accept editors?
Yes—in fact, we wish more would apply, so please apply and tell your colleagues!

Do you accept public information officers?
Rarely if ever. Unfortunately, we only have 50 seats in the course and priority is given to health journalists whose work reaches a large, lay audience. We typically receive over 200 applications, and writers from research institutions aren’t typically accepted. We recognize that the course content would be valuable to PIO's and we are considering ways to provide the course content online to serve them and others who may be interested. In the meantime, you are certainly welcome to apply, but please understand that the likelihood of acceptance is relatively slim.

Do you accept freelancers?
Yes. It is especially important for freelancers to provide detailed information describing their work, including which outlets have published their material and when.

Do you accept international applicants?
Yes. Although we expect the majority of participants to be living and working in the U.S., we typically admit a few international applicants each year.

Do you accept students?
Graduate students and undergraduate seniors preparing for a career in health/science journalism are welcome to apply. Preference will be given to students with work experience.

If I attend, will I get some kind of official credit?
Those who complete the course receive a certificate indicating their participation, but the certificate is not associated with any official credentialing body.

How will I know the status of my application?
As soon as you submit your application, you’ll receive a confirmation via email. You’ll hear from us again via email by July with a decision. This will allow time prior to the course to make travel and other arrangements. If you have a serious, pressing need to know whether you’ve been accepted at an earlier stage, please include a justification for the early request in your application. Otherwise, please be patient, as repeated inquiries will only slow the process for all applicants.

What if I can only attend for part of the course?
You must be able to attend the entire course. Please do not apply if you can not commit to attending the full course if accepted. (Accepted applicants will have two weeks after being notified of their acceptance to commit or decline the opportunity, after which open slots will be offered to waitlisted applicants.)