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Talking About Medical Research

Translating complex medical research into terms your grandmother can understand is difficult, but it is extremely important in order to showcase the value of your work to the public.

  • Medical Research Summarize: Be able to state your main findings and relevance in 30 seconds or less.
  • Stress the significance of your project and why it is relevant to the audience: will it help diagnose a disease? Will it improve patients’ quality of life?
    • The same words you’ve used in a proposal for funding, justifying the cost and scope of research, may be useful in explaining its significance.
  • Don’t get caught up in the intricacies of the research.
  • Don’t overstate your science or its impact.  
  • Avoid jargon: Use plain language wherever possible, e.g., “heart attack” or “chest pains” rather than “coronary event.”
  • Pause frequently in your explanations to give reporters a chance to digest your statements.
  • Be compassionate. Relate your research to how people feel.
    • It sounds simple, but many physicians and scientists can slip into a cool, detached mode when discussing research, instead of relating that research back to people's lives.
  • Anticipate tough questions and be ready with answers. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. You can always offer to call the reporter back after you’ve had time to think about it. Don’t let a reporter push you outside of your comfort zone.
  • If the situation warrants, offer names/numbers of other experts who can speak on the topic.
  • If a reporter asks you to review the article for accuracy, respond in a timely manner.