Lisa Schwartz is co-director of the Center for Medicine and Media at The Dartmouth Institute and a general internist. She and research partner, Steven Woloshin, have worked to improve the communication of medical evidence to physicians, journalists, policymakers, and the public to help them see through excessive fear and hope created by exaggerated and selective reporting in medical journals, advertising, and the news.
Their research themes include: medicine in the media, the science of effective risk communication, prescription drugs, overdiagnosis, and the marketing of medicine. Schwartz and Woloshin’s seminal work helped establish the field of health-related numeracy. She and Woloshin created the “drug facts box”, drug-benefit and harm-data summaries shown in clinical trials to improve consumer decision-making. The FDA’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed the box and Congress directed FDA to consider it (S.3507 Affordable Care Act). While the FDA has not yet implemented boxes, they replicated Schwartz and Woloshin’s findings, acknowledged to Congress that boxes influenced their Guidances and created the Trials Snapshots website with drug box content. Based on their work developing “risk charts” the National Cancer Institute created the Know Your Chances website.
Schwartz is a frequent contributor to major media outlets, including The Washington Post and New York Times and co-authored two books: Know Your Chances and Overdiagnosed. Schwartz and Woloshin lead the “Medicine in the Media” workshop with the NIH and have taught over 500 health journalists how to interpret and report medical research. In announcing that Schwartz and Woloshin received the 2017 McGovern Award from the American Medical Writers Association, President Lori Alexander said, “These two physicians are my heroes because of their commitment to improving the quality of messages directed at lay audiences.”
Schwartz is a founding member of the Steering Committee for Preventing Overdiagnosis, an annual, international conference, Advisory Board member of AllTrials, and collaborator in Informed Health Choices (improving critical thinking skills in schools).
She earned a BA from State University of New York, Binghamton, a MS from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and a MD from the New York University School of Medicine.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Marcus Welby M.D. -a 1970’s TV kind family doctor
Q: Who is/was your role model?
A: My father – he loved his work (inventing landing systems for planes and helicopters), believed any problem could be solved with a clean sheet of scratch paper and was so excited by new ways of thinking (or really corny puns)
Q: Tell us about a meaningful moment in your career
A: When Steven Woloshin and I decided to do everything together – research, teaching, and life
Q: If someone asked you to suggest a book to read, what would you recommend?
A: 1984 (for scary reality) and David Sackett’s Clinical Epidemiology (for inspiration)
Q: What do you like to do in your down time (hobbies, etc)?
A: Running, reading and amateur british baking
Q: What is your favourite cuisine?
A: Trifle, cherry Bakewell tart and jaffa cakes (British deserts)
Q: What is your favourite place in the world?
Q: Who would you most like to thank, and why?
A: Steven – for pretty much everything.
Q: What are three things you would change in medicine?
A: Routinely ask why – how does this help or harm?
More reassurance (and compassion), less fear mongering
Protect public health from powerful corporate interests
- Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Black WC, Welch HG. The role of numeracy in understanding the benefit of screening mammography. Ann Intern Med 1997; 127: 966-972.
- Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Sox HC, Fischhoff B, Welch HG. US women’s attitudes to false positive mammography results and detection of ductal carcinoma in situ: cross sectional survey. BMJ 2000; 320:1635-1640.
- Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Fowler FJ, Welch HG. Enthusiasm for cancer screening in the United States. JAMA 2004; 291:71-8
- Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. The Drug Facts Box: Improving the communication of prescription drug information. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 20;110 Suppl 3:14069-74.
- Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. Low “T” as in Template: How to Sell Disease JAMA-Intern Med. 2013 173:1460-2.
- Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. A clear-eyed view of Restasis and Chronic Dry Eye Disease JAMA-Intern Med (In press)
- Woloshin, S, Schwartz LM, Welch G. Know your chances: Understanding health statistics. University of California Press (November 2008).
Welch HG, Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. Overdiagnosis: How the pursuit of health can make you sick. Beacon Press (January 2011)