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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.

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.

New Jersey to Suspend Prominent Psychologist for Failing to Protect Patient Privacy

The state began investigating Barry Helfmann after a 2015 article by ProPublica and the New York Times about debt collection lawsuits against his patients that included details of their mental health diagnoses and treatments.

Supporters of a Famed Houston Surgeon Have Alleged Inaccuracies in Our Investigation. Here’s Our Response

Several dozen people have authored letters defending Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier and criticizing an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle. We stand behind our story.

Opioid Makers, Blamed for Overdose Epidemic, Cut Back on Marketing Payments to Doctors

As ProPublica updates Dollars for Docs, we found that drugmakers spent less money to market opioids to doctors in 2016 than in prior years. Studies have shown that payments to doctors by opioid makers are linked to more prescribing of the drugs.

We’ve Added 2016 Data to Dollars for Docs

Is your doctor taking money from drug or device companies? Check with our newly updated app.

Medicare to Terminate Funding for St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program in Houston

Federal health officials say the hospital hasn’t done enough to improve care after a string of patient deaths. The decision comes a month after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle found serious problems with the program.

After Two-Week Review, St. Luke’s in Houston Reopens Its Heart Transplant Program

Officials said they found no “systemic issues” in the care of two patients who died last month, but that they are making staffing and policy changes to improve the program.

Patients Wait in Limbo as St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program Reviews Its Problems

“I sort of feel like we’ve been left in the dark,” says one patient’s wife, who learned from a reporter — and not the Houston hospital — about the program’s temporary suspension. An expert says it will likely take much longer than 14 days to fix.

St. Luke’s to Suspend Heart Transplants After Recent Deaths

The move comes two weeks after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle reported on pervasive problems in the historic heart program.

A Pioneering Heart Surgeon’s Secret History of Research Violations, Conflicts of Interest and Poor Outcomes

Over decades, Bud Frazier has played a leading role in the development of mechanical heart pumps and an artificial heart. Out of public view, he’s been accused of putting his quest to make history ahead of the needs of some patients.

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