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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.

Two New Lawsuits Allege Surgical Errors During Heart Transplants at St. Luke’s in Houston

In one case, a patient claims a surgeon sewed a major vein closed, causing blood to back up in his head. In the other, a patient alleges that the same surgeon sewed through his colon, filling his abdomen with feces. The lawsuits follow a yearlong investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle.

What We Learned From the First Year of the Local Reporting Network

Reporters across the country are brimming with ideas for great stories to investigate. All they lack is time and support.

St. Luke’s in Houston Replaces Its President, Other Top Leaders After Series of Care Lapses, Recent Deadly Error

The sudden removal of the three executives follows a yearlong investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle into widespread problems at the hospital, including deaths in its heart transplant program.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Curbs Executives’ Ties to Industry After Conflict-of-Interest Scandals

The cancer center will now bar top officials from sitting on outside boards of for-profit companies, and is conducting a wide-scale review of other policies.

Top Cancer Doctor, Forced Out Over Ties to Drug Makers, Joins Their Ranks

AstraZeneca has hired Dr. José Baselga, the former chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering, to lead its cancer research unit.

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Season of Turmoil

One of the nation’s top cancer hospitals has grappled with how to bring breakthrough treatments to market while remaining true to its mission.

Top Cancer Doctor Resigns as Editor of Medical Journal

Dr. José Baselga, the former chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was asked to resign after he failed to disclose corporate ties in dozens of scientific articles.

An Unsigned Letter Alleged Mistakes During Heart Transplants at St. Luke’s. Now a Widow Is Suing.

David Kveton died a week after receiving a new heart at the Houston hospital in 2017, and his story was featured in a ProPublica and Houston Chronicle investigation. A new lawsuit alleges a series of medical errors.

Prominent Doctors Aren’t Disclosing Their Industry Ties in Medical Journal Studies. And Journals Are Doing Little to Enforce Their Rules

The dean of Yale’s medical school, the incoming president of a prominent cancer group and the head of a Texas cancer center are among leading medical figures who have not accurately disclosed their relationships with drug companies.

As St. Luke’s Heart Program Faltered, Deaths After Liver and Lung Transplants Also Ticked Upward

Some patients and family members who came to the Houston hospital for liver and lung transplants have complained about the quality of care provided. A St. Luke’s spokeswoman says the transplant programs still meet national benchmarks and argues against focusing on outcomes from a single calendar year.

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.

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