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JAMA Editor and WROC-TV Anchor Win First Addiction Studies Awards

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A medical news editor with the Journal of the American Medical Association and a television news anchor/reporter from Rochester, N.Y., have won the first two journalist awards of the Addiction Studies Program for Journalists.

Brian Vastag, a news associate editor of JAMA, won first prize for two articles published last year: “Addiction Poorly Understood by Professionals” and “In-Office Opiate Treatment ‘Not a Panacea.’” Melissa Long, an anchor and reporter for WROC-TV, won second prize for “Strung Out: Kids at a Crossroad,” an hour-long documentary, as well as a series of five-minute stories looking at drug abuse from many of its complex sides.

More than 100 print and broadcast journalists have attended one of the two-day workshops offered during the past five years by the Addiction Studies Program. The program is cosponsored by Wake Forest University School of Medicine and National Families in Action, a drug-prevention organization in Atlanta, Georgia, and is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The purpose of the Addiction Studies Program for Journalists is to help journalists attain the highest standards of scientific accuracy in reporting about drug addiction.

The workshops are designed to give reporters a strong grasp of the neurobiology of drug addiction, including the latest scientific information, all presented in an interesting lay-language format.

The awards competition is open to journalists who have completed an Addition Studies Program workshop. The awards were made possible when the program’s leaders won the 2003 Media Award of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), the largest and oldest nonprofit organization for the scientific study of drug dependence and addiction. The decision was made to use the CPDD award to fund the journalist awards for two years. A second set of journalist awards will be presented in 2004.

“These awards, like the workshops themselves, encourage journalists to use their new broader knowledge of the science of drug addiction to enhance their reporting,” said Sue Rusche, president of National Families in Action and codirector of the Addiction Studies Program. “Drug abuse and drug addiction touch so many areas of our lives today, and an accurate portrayal in the media of the true nature of these problems is crucial to our eventually solving them.”

The next Addiction Studies workshop is scheduled for June 11-12, 2004, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the College for Problems of Drug Dependence. Information is available at www.addictionstudies.org.

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Media Contacts: Mark Wright, WFUBMC, (336) 716-3382; Sue Rusche, NFIA, (404) 248-9676

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