About: Patricia Thomas directs the health and medical journalism MA concentration. She teaches graduate courses in basic and specialized journalism, trains working reporters and does community-based research.
M.A., Communication, Stanford University
B.A., English, University of California – Berkeley
Research Interests and Activities
Professor Thomas’s research focuses on two complementary issues: how poor people in the South obtain health and medical news and information, and how reporters and editors in small media outlets decide what health and medical stories are relevant to their audiences. She will use research findings to design public service and outreach programs for working reporters and for health professionals, with the long-range goal of bettering communication in ways that will narrow health disparities between rich and poor. Professor Thomas is one of two dozen investigators involved with the new Southern Center on Communication, Health, and Poverty at UGA, and she is working with Grady collaborators to investigate newsroom issues.
Professor Thomas’s teaching interests include reporting on public health, medicine, and science, magazine writing and non-fiction narrative.
Patricia Thomas is the first holder of the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia. She leads UGA’s new MA concentration in health and medical journalism, organizes professional workshops for reporters from traditional and ethnic news organizations, and does media training for public health students and professionals.
She has written about medicine, public health, and life science research for many years, and from 1991 to early 1997 was editor of the Harvard Health Letter. For her book “Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine” (PublicAffairs, September 2001), Thomas won the 1998 Leonard Silk Journalism Fellowship and the 2002 Ralph A. Deterling Award of Distinction from the American Medical Writers Association New England Chapter. Thomas was also one of the first healthy volunteers injected with an experimental HIV vaccine.
She has been a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in 2002-2003 was the Visiting Scholar at the Knight Center for Science and Medical Journalism at Boston University. During that year, Thomas taught graduate students, wrote a monograph analyzing news management and reporting during the anthrax attacks of 2001, and wrote a chapter for “The War on Our Freedoms: Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism”. She analyzed how post-9/11 laws such as the Patriot Act affect infectious disease research.
Thomas is a member of the Editorial Board of the University of Georgia Press.