The Weekender: BirdDog update, AI in hospitals + Netflix tests commercials

Spotlighting original BirdDog reporting and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash



This journalism experiment you’re choosing to follow turns five months on Aug. 21, not that I’m counting or anything, and in the last few weeks business development conversations have taken up an increasing amount of my time.

There are a couple of reporting things in the works that will definitely need to get to you before the next Weekender so be on the lookout for an email to land in your inbox in the coming days.

Meanwhile, I’m excited to announce:

  • BirdDog is the media partner for Healthy Tennessee’s Working Together to Find Solutions to the Opioid Crisis on Fri., Aug. 24 in Nashville. Experts from across Tennessee talk about coalitions, fentanyl and public-private partnerships and there will be remarks from gubernatorial candidates Karl Dean and Bill Lee as well as U.S. Senate candidates Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen. 

If you’re not attending but want to catch parts of the discussions the event will be live-streamed. Look for an email Friday morning with a reminder with a link to the live-stream.

  • I will be moderating a medical cannabis discussion on the behavioral health track at Health:Further on Aug. 28. If you’re planning to be at the festival and want to meet up then shoot me a note so we can find a time.

When this thing launched in March, I wrote that the goal is “to connect the dots so that wonky becomes interesting and nerdy is cool. If that’s interesting to you, then think of this publication as a living and breathing entity that is as much yours as it is mine.”

It is evolving and, thanks to an astonishing amount of readership and support for an independent press, I’m cautiously optimistic this idea could have a future.

Be well, and keep reading.


p.s. If interested in talking about getting involved with BirdDog (creativity abounds in the possibilities) then reach me at




1. Japan plans 10 ‘AI hospitals’ to ease doctor shortages

Nikkei staff writers

The Japanese government is planning to invest more than $100 million over five years to set up artificial intelligence in hospitals alongside academic and corporate partners.  The move is aimed at trying to “address structural challenges to health care, including the chronic lack of doctors and nurses in some areas and rising medical expenses.”

The use of AI in care models has raised concerns about bias that shows up in code or machine learning, which can impact the delivery of services. In an earlier Weekender, there was a spotlight on the difference in using AI to identify medical issues versus “on the business side as a gateway to care.”

Omotayo Banjo, an associate professor with the University of Cincinnati, wonders how AI (given criticisms around technology objectivity) would impact maternal care for black women, who have higher rates of maternal mortality.

Read more: Motherboard: Bias In Maternal AI Could Hurt Expectant Black Mothers


2. Why do so many new apartment buildings in Seattle look the same?

Eric Keto, Crosscut

To be honest, the buildings being built in Seattle look very similar to the buildings popping up around Nashville that appear to be variations of the same modern look — and Crosscut explains why so many projects, even from different developers, are, at a quick glance, sometimes indistinguishable.

A Seattle architect weighed in on why the need for housing and development charge led by private investors looking for scale and volume lead to an explosion of nearly cookie-cutter designs.

It’s a minute-and-a-half video that is worth the time. Volume on is recommended.

Bonus! Crosscut is an 11-year-old independent, reader supported online news site that recently merged into a larger non-profit media group.


3. NYU Makes Tuition Free for All Medical Students

Melissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal

New York University has raised more than two-thirds of the roughly $600 million needed to pay for medical students’ tuition into the future. It’s trying to find a way to make sure that debt doesn’t push students toward specialties that pay more rather than lesser paying fields, such as primary care physicians.

Reversing a provider shortage, particularly around preventative care and those willing to practice in rural areas, is spurring a variety of initiatives. For instance, there are two initiatives in Tennessee, as I covered previously in a prior job with then-colleague Adam Tamburin:

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is “actively exploring ways of covering more need, as calculated by federal aid applications,” said Craig Boerner, spokesman.

Based on Vanderbilt’s financial aid website, attending for four years costs more than $451,400, including living expenses, to receive an MD. The school provides both need and merit-based scholarships.

Roughly 48 percent of VUSM medical students graduate with no educational debt, which Boerner said puts the school in the 90th percentile. For those who graduate with debt, the average is about $171,000, which means the school is at the 30th percentile for private schools and under the 50th percentile for all schools, which Boerner said is relatively good.


4. Netflix is testing video promos that play in between episodes

Shannon Liao, The Verge

So video promos is just Silicon Valley talk for commercials, as noted on Twitter by Alex Fitzpatrick, a senior editor at Time. It’s intriguing that the larger Netflix gets, the more it could mimic behaviors of entertainment incumbents.

Apparently some viewers aren’t so chill about the Netflix pilot so if people show a willingness to pay more to keep an ad free experience it’s conceivable the company would unveil pricing tiers.

How much would you pay to keep binges free of video promos?


5. Blind Loyalty: How a social network is redefining the future of corporate culture

John Chen, TechCrunch

An app called Blind is giving employees the opportunity to anonymously discuss traditionally sensitive issues such as salary and workplace politics, which is giving human resources officials some heartburn. According to TechCrunch, it has more than 2 million users — more than 81,000 of whom work at Microsoft, Amazon and Google — and the “typical monthly active user” is using the app up to four times a day for an average of 35 minutes.

Excerpt: “Hierarchy, politics, and negative career impacts burden conversations about difficult topics, and so Blind tears these barriers down one employee at a time, affording a space for uninhibited dialogue. More importantly, Blind succeeds as a resource for questions not only company-related, but also around career, family, and life decisions.”

Take a spin to think about the potential impacts of how greater transparency could shape workplace dynamics and the decisions people make about how to engage and interact on the job.


Local news to know

Hopefully Nashvillians like going to the polls. There’s another election in a few weeks. Read or listen to WPLN’s Tony Gonzalez break down the differences between Jim Shulman and Shari Weiner who are vying for vice mayor in a run-off election.

The so-called tampon tax cropped up in public debate in pockets of the country in the last year, but not widely in Tennessee. The Tennessean’s Amelia Knisely spotlights how a lack of access to feminine hygiene products keeps girls out of school across the mid-state.

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