Ben King is joining our editorial team at The Medical Care Blog!
However, all those titles were just preparation for his next big adventure, joining our editorial team at the MCB!
He first started blogging with us in early 2019, featuring key journal articles, highlighting new policies or reports from the American Public Health Association, or discussing topics of public interest like his series of posts in spring of 2020 when the evidence base around COVID-19 was just beginning to take shape. Now, we’ve invited him to join the blog as an editor.
We sent him a few questions to help us really introduce him to you, our readers:
Q. What public health issues move you most?
Perhaps because I spent so much of my career anchored in health systems, mostly hospitals, I’m most moved by the drivers of health beyond the control of the healthcare system. I’ve worked in clinical departments of Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, and Neurology over my career. In every case, it was so much easier to keep the focus on primary and tertiary care delivery to the point we can lose sight of what is actually impacting people’s health and quality of life.
First and foremost, housing and homelessness is an issue that I find both heart-breaking and invigorating. It’s hard to say when this started, but I can remember a resident in an inpatient group therapy session talking about their experience of homelessness as a child. I’ve been working with local coalitions of housing and case management services ever since 2006 (? yikes!) or so. I’ve been called a homelessness epidemiologist, and I don’t hate that label.
I started out as a behavioral health counselor after undergrad. Then after my masters, I worked as a research coordinator, scientist, and then clinical epidemiologist. Most of that time, however, I was also working with housing agencies and other non-profits outside the hospital to try to improve the linkage of information and care coordination, especially between the housing and healthcare systems. My dissertation in 2018 was an evaluation of the housing prioritization system in place at that time, which revealed several problems with the way a huge number of communities were assigning housing resources to folks who were experiencing homelessness.
Second has to be environmental justice. There is no difference between this and my interest in homelessness, to my mind. But that may not be obvious to everyone right away. The way we interact with the environment and the way it directly impacts health is not equitable in the US. You can easily see this in the distribution of air quality issues or extreme weather events here in Houston. How the built environment influences our behavior has more to do with the healthy years we get than the best healthcare in the world could ever provide.
Also, and I’m burying the lede here, climate change is very probably the single biggest challenge we will have to solve as a scientific, public health, and medical community (ideally, as one community!). If it’s not done in my lifetime, certainly in the lifetimes of my students.
Q. Why do you blog (how did you get started)?
I started blogging on this website in 2019, beginning with a super nerdy take on a very ‘meta’ article in the Medical Care journal. I wrote about measurement bias in Medicare claims versus clinical screening for heart attacks. My intent was to give it a try and it was surprisingly fun! I enjoyed bringing something kind of complex like clinical system surveillance into a more accessible format. And then adding my two cents.
I was never very interested in social media or posting about my personal life on public platforms. What is exciting to me is communicating about health and medical science in a way that is interesting, approachable, and shareable for everyone. I think of platforms like this as the single best way to combat the misinformation and disinformation about health and healthcare that we see… almost everywhere now.
Also, as an avid podcast listener, the launch of the monthly podcasts by the editorial team here at The Medical Care Blog was huge to me!
Q. What do you want our community of writers to accomplish?
In so many ways, we are already doing what I hope this blog can continue to do. We should be a voice for the evidence base, without conflicts of interest. We should serve as an approachable knowledge resource for everyone, including the medical and public health community.
The Medical Care journal is obviously very prestigious, and still on the rise. I hope we can continue to communicate the important science published there to an even wider audience. The objective, in my mind, is to translate scientific findings for everyone. We can be a trusted and neutral voice that speaks to and shares that scientific evidence. I think that is what the blog stands for and I’m thrilled to become a bigger part of that by joining the editorial team.
Bonus Question: Are there other writers/blogs you read regularly?
So many! A personal favorite is Dr. Katelyn Jetelina’s blog “YLE” or “Your Local Epidemiologist”. She is a phenomenal communicator and her presentation at last year’s Medical Care Summer Symposium was terrific. This is a terrible brag, but she was actually a last-minute addition to my dissertation committee. That was right before the blog took off and she became so well known.
I also really enjoy reading issues of the NEJM Catalyst. They do a wonderful job of communicating the most innovative ideas in healthcare to a more insider-type audience. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive. At least there are a few articles outside the paywall each week. That helps if you don’t have a medical library or academic department to pay your subscription.
Finally, if I had to pick just one more it would probably be Dr. Eric Topol’s blog Ground Truths. He’s the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, among many other titles, and another fantastic science communicator. For such a well-published and cited scientist, he makes complex topics in cardiology, immunology, genomics, and AI much more approachable. He records podcasts too, for the record.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today. Welcome the editorial team!
Thanks so much. I’m really looking forward to working on this with everyone.