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Charles Ornstein

Senior Editor

Photo of Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a senior editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network. From 2008 to 2017, he was a senior reporter covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry.

Prior to joining ProPublica, he was a member of the metro investigative projects team at the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he and Tracy Weber were lead authors on a series on Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a troubled hospital in South Los Angeles. The articles won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service.

In 2009, he and Weber worked on a series of stories that detailed serious failures in oversight by the California Board of Registered Nursing and nursing boards around the country. The work was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

He previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, where he covered health care on the business desk and worked in the Washington bureau. Ornstein is a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct journalism professor at Columbia University. Ornstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Federal Inspectors Cite St. Luke’s in Houston for Problems in a Heart Transplant

Defibrillator paddles did not work during a patient’s heart transplant in January, and a backup set was not nearby. The transplant ultimately failed, and the patient died two months later. His case was featured in a May article.

St. Luke’s in Houston Replaces Heart Transplant Surgical Director After Program Loses Medicare Funding

The hiring of two outside surgeons comes after Medicare terminated funding to the heart transplant program, citing poor outcomes in recent years. Hospital leaders also hired a new top transplant administrator, saying the new staff members will help move the program forward.

Sloan Kettering Cancer Researchers Correct the Record by Revealing Company Ties

The hospital’s chief medical officer resigned last month after failing to disclose company ties in medical journals. Now, Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers, including chief executive Dr. Craig B. Thompson, are updating their own conflict-of-interest disclosures.

“They’ve Got to Execute You”: St. Luke’s Doctor Faces Discipline After Raising Patient Care Concerns

A Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center physician alleges in a lawsuit that hospital officials retaliated against him for expressing concerns about ICU care. The Houston hospital has denied the allegation in court filings.

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Chief Executive Resigns From Merck’s Board of Directors

Under scrutiny for the hospital’s industry ties and compensation, Dr. Craig B. Thompson stepped down from two company boards.

Cancer Center’s Board Chairman Faults Top Doctor, Saying He “Crossed Lines”

The executive told Memorial Sloan Kettering staff that the hospital did not do enough to limit the industry conflicts of its chief medical officer, who has resigned.

ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network Is Looking for the Best Accountability Projects to Fund in 2019

We pay the salary and a stipend for benefits to local reporters working on investigative projects with a moral force. Apply by Oct. 26.

Facing Crisis, Sloan Kettering Tells Exec to Hand Over Profits From Biotech

A vice president at Memorial Sloan Kettering received a stake of nearly $1.4 million in a biotech company for representing the hospital on its board. He will give back his stake as the cancer center grapples with questions about conflicts of interest.

Cancer Center Switches Focus on Fundraising as Problems Mount

The change highlights the challenges facing Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the nation’s most prestigious cancer centers, amid a widening crisis.

Trump Administration Proposes Weakening Rules Governing Organ Transplant Centers

The revised rules, proposed this week as part of the agency’s efforts to reduce “burdensome” federal regulations, would no longer penalize hospitals if too many of their patients die following transplants. St. Luke’s in Houston recently lost its Medicare funding for heart transplants for that very reason.

Sloan Kettering’s Cozy Deal With Start-Up Ignites a New Uproar

A for-profit venture with exclusive rights to use the cancer center’s vast archive of tissue slides has generated concerns among pathologists at the hospital, as well as experts in nonprofit law and corporate governance.

Top Official at Memorial Sloan Kettering Resigns After Failing to Disclose Industry Ties

Dr. José Baselga, the hospital’s chief medical officer, stepped down days after a report by ProPublica and the New York Times that he failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from the health care and drug industry in research articles.

Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Orders Staff to “Do a Better Job” of Disclosing Industry Ties

The move comes after ProPublica and The New York Times reported that one of its top executives failed to report payments from drug and health care companies in dozens of medical journal articles.

Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals

A senior official at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has received millions of dollars in payments from companies that are involved in medical research. His omissions expose how weakly conflict-of-interest rules are enforced by journals.

Heart Surgery “Legend” a Factor in Transplant Deaths, a St. Luke’s Colleague Told Inspector

Notes released by a federal agency indicate that one of the hospital’s top heart transplant doctors spoke about “a retiring surgeon” who “wouldn’t stop performing transplants” in explaining a rash of patient deaths. Only Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier matches that description.

Prominent Houston Judge Quits St. Luke’s Board After Heart Transplant Troubles Revealed

Carolyn Dineen King, a senior U.S. Circuit Court judge, resigned from the St. Luke’s board on May 30, two weeks after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle detailed deaths and complications in the famed heart program.

St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program to Lose Medicare Funding Today

The action is a stunning blow for a historic program that has performed among the most heart transplants in the nation.

Famed Houston Surgeon Updates Conflict-of-Interest Disclosures

ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle reported in May that Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier had often failed to disclose his payments from medical device makers in articles he authored. Since then, he’s amended his disclosures for three pieces in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For Most Common Heart Surgery, St. Luke’s Has Been Among the Nation’s Worst

A leading group of surgeons gave the Houston hospital poor marks for heart bypasses. Hospital officials acknowledge the low rating, but say outcomes have improved in the past year.

He Went In for a Heart Transplant. He Suffered Severe Brain Damage. Now His Family Is Suing St. Luke’s.

After a heart transplant in August 2016, Ernest “Chris” Keys can’t talk or walk. The Houston hospital is under pressure for the quality of its once-renowned heart program.

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