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Health and Medical Writing

Strategies for Effective Patient Outreach on Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

Public health professionals often tout long-acting reversible contraception as a highly effective means of preventing unintended pregnancies, but emphasizing LARC’s efficacy doesn’t always resonate with consumers.

Jan. 2017 @ Association of State and Territorial Health Officials ⟶

Navigating the Research on Hormonal Long-Acting Reversible Contraception and Breastfeeding

Increasing breastfeeding rates and reducing unintended pregnancy rates are both vital to improving the health of the U.S. population. However, members of the lactation and family planning communities have raised concerns that these two priorities conflict when it comes to inserting hormonal long-acting reversible contraception immediately postpartum.

Jul. 2016 @ Association of State and Territorial Health Officials ⟶

Delaware Addresses High Unintended Pregnancy Rate Through Public-Private Partnership and Comprehensive Birth Control Initiative

The Delaware Division of Public Health teamed up with a nonprofit to create an innovative initiative focused on increasing same-day access to birth control.

Summer 2016 @ Association of State and Territorial Health Officials ⟶

Massachusetts Uses Linked Data to Drive Education on Assisted Reproductive Technology and Reduce Adverse Birth Outcomes

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is linking datasets and leveraging its findings to promote single embryo transfers and reduce high-risk pregnancies with multiples.

Summer 2016 @ Association of State and Territorial Health Officials ⟶

Facing Budget Constraints, Oklahoma Secures Private Funding for Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

To reduce the state’s high rates of teen births and unplanned pregnancies, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority sought funding from foundations to increase the use of long-acting reversible contraception.

Summer 2016 @ Association of State and Territorial Health Officials ⟶

North Dakota Races to Address Housing Inspection, Facility Needs Following Oil Boom

North Dakota’s shale oil boom made it the state with the lowest unemployment as new workers poured into its Western region in search of high-paying jobs in the oil patches. But the population fluctuations also placed greater demands on the North Dakota Department of Health, which had to find new ways to accommodate growing food and lodging needs.

Feb. 2016 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

Poverty Hurts Kids’ Brain Development and Grades, Study of MRI Scans Shows

A new JAMA Pediatrics study has found that children who live below the poverty line have 7 percent to 10 percent less gray matter volume than normal in their frontal and temporal lobes—parts of the brain that are responsible for learning functions.

Jul. 2015 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act’s Tax Subsidies

On [June 25, 2015], the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell to maintain the nationwide tax subsidies established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help poor and middle-class Americans obtain health insurance.

Jun. 2015 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

Multistate Measles Outbreak Drives Up State Health Agency Costs

 With the Disneyland measles outbreak up to 87 cases in seven states as of Jan. 26, state health departments are responding to the disease by educating primary care providers and the public about measles and conducting contact tracing.

Jan. 2015 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

Virginia and Walgreens Team Up to Provide Free HIV Testing in the Commonwealth

After establishing that they share a commitment to addressing HIV, the Virginia Department of Health and Walgreens created a program that provides free, pharmacist-led HIV testing at select Walgreens sites.

Jan. 2015 @ Association of State and Territorial Health Officials ⟶

On the Front Lines: A Look at How States are Preparing for an Ebola Response

Before Ebola dominated U.S. news media or the first American citizens contracted the disease in West Africa, state and territorial health departments were mobilizing to respond to imported cases. For months, they’ve been creating Ebola guidelines and algorithms for their healthcare facilities and providers, collaborating with their West African populations, and communicating with the public about the disease and how to prevent an outbreak.

Oct. 2014 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

Public Health Leaders Play Key Role in Improving Child Nutrition

United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon was recently eating lunch with elementary school students in Louisiana when a first-grader leaned over to him and said, “Sir, if you don’t finish your broccoli, I’ll finish it for you.”

 Sept. 2012 @ Culture of Health blog ⟶

Reportage and Essays

I am a descendant of slaveholders. Charlottesville demands my honesty about white supremacy.

As a descendant of slaveholders and Confederate soldiers, I want to tell the truth about the evil that my ancestors and the Confederacy perpetrated, the repercussions their crimes have today, and how I and other white people still benefit from discrimination against people of color.

Aug. 2017 @ Harper’s Bazaar

I donate my breast milk, and this is why

With an overabundance of milk, I learned how to donate it to babies in need.

Jul. 2017 @ The Washington Post

 Reprinted in The Lily.

No Lemons Here

With a proactive approach to sour news, you can serve up sweet solutions to alumni.

May/Jun. 2017 @ Currents magazine ⟶

I’ve known two convicted child sex offenders. But I refuse to parent by fear.

On two occasions, I’ve worked with men who were later convicted of child sexual abuse offenses. One of them shocked me; the other didn’t. Now, as my husband and I prepare for the birth of our first child, the question I’ve asked before has become more demanding: How can we help our child navigate a world in which it will inevitably meet people who want to harm it?

Jul. 2016 @ The Washington Post

Why Flash Fiction? It’s a Not-Quite Accident

I’ve known since I was a kid that I wanted to be a writer. I was shy and uncoordinated, but writing made sense to me in a way that little else did. I could hear a rhythm to language, and I wanted to put it to paper.

Mar. 2016 @ SmokeLong Quarterly blog ⟶

‘I Cried for Weeks’: Volunteering With ISIS Escapees in Kurdistan

 I could tell you 100 stories and it wouldn’t cover what the people I’ve met have to say,” Sindy writes to me, shortly before 1 a.m. her time. She has spent the past year in Kurdistan, where she works with individuals who have escaped the horrors of ISIS.

Oct. 2015 @ Jezebel

Teaching Flash Fiction to Developing Writers

 On my first day of teaching flash fiction writing to high school students, I overheard some of my students wonder aloud: What is flash fiction?

Jul. 2015 @ SmokeLong Quarterly blog ⟶

Solving a Family Mystery 68 Years After a Death on D-Day

 Since my childhood, my mom has told me, “Your grandfather’s best friend was killed beside him on D-Day.” She uses the same phrase every time: “killed beside him.” As a child, I understood this meant my grandfather and his friend were heroes, but it also explained why Grampy struggled to talk about it.

May 2015 @ The Huffington Post

What Doesn’t Kill You Doesn’t Necessarily Make You Stronger

 When I was 15, I attended a writing workshop with a girl who had been sexually abused by a family member, trauma that she explored in her poetry. She said she was offended when people told her: “I’m really sorry that happened to you.” She felt like they were saying they wanted to change her, so she’d reply: “Don’t be. It made me who I am today.”

Jan. 2015 @ The Washington Post

 Reprinted in the Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, and Salt Lake Tribune.

At the Gynecologist’s Office

 I was sitting in my gynecologist’s office, waiting to get my IUD removed so my husband and I can have a baby, when the woman across from me began telling a nurse about her daughter who killed herself the previous year.

Aug. 2014 @ The Toast

Protective Orders in Pretrial Discovery Phase Keep Journalists Unplugged

 Millions of pages of documents have been hidden from the public in a high-profile federal court antitrust case between two computer giants, illustrating how parties are able to essentially secretly litigate disputes in public courts.

Sep. 2008 @ The News Media and The Law. Republished by redOrbit ⟶


A Friend Loves At All Times

I am hunting you, Elisabeth. I pack a small bag and leave home before the sun’s up. I go down to the lake where we swam as children and perch nibbled our toes, mistaking them for stout worms. I go back to the field where we found you, take off my gloves, and trace your imprint in the snow.

Spring 2016 in Paycock Press’s Abundant Grace: Fiction by D.C. Area Women

Warm and Disloyal

Laurie never used anything she learned in home ec until she dumped Neil. Now she’s sewed a voodoo doll—back stitch, overcast stitch, running stitch. Two days ago she cut up Neil’s gray Old Navy hoodie that he gave her after the homecoming dance . . .

Feb. 2015 @ Gargoyle 62. Reprinted Jan. 2016 @ Eunoia Review ⟶

Nominated by Gargoyle editors for a Pushcart Prize.

The Rip

 Bethany’s little sister asks for an omelet. From beneath her pile of down and crocheted blankets, Gloria requests eggs with cheese, chorizo, and potatoes. She lifts her bloated hands, holds them seven inches apart, and says, “Make it this big.”

Sep. 2014 @ WhiskeyPaper

Nominated by WhiskeyPaper editors for Best Small Fictions of 2015.

A Good Body

A rusted mess of barbed wire nearly stripped Debbie of her torso in her first and only car accident.

Feb. 2014 @ Tin House’s Flash Fridays ⟶

Selected by BookPeople as a recommended weekend read.

“Virgie Townsend’s Flash Friday on the Tin House blog shows the power of a very few well-chosen words.” — Rob Spillman, Tin House editor.

Because We Were Christian Girls

 Because we were Christian girls from fundamentalist churches, we wore our dads’ old, floppy t-shirts to the pool at our co-ed Christian camp.

Jan. 2014 @ Bartleby Snopes, Issue 11

Included in Bartleby Snopes, Issue 11 as a staff selection.

Available on Kindle.

The Freeze

 Michael heard once that the stars used to be so close and bright that his ancestors could see the shape of a spoon hanging in the sky. On nights like this one, when he’s walking home from work with his nose buried in his coat, he looks up and tries to find that mythological constellation. He never does—his eyes are too weak and the stars are too distant.

Dec. 2011 @ SmokeLong Quarterly

Selected by SmokeLong Quarterly editors for inclusion in SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years.

The Crunch

 Marcella’s foot bounces forth and back, forth and back, as she unlearns middle school math. With her right hand, she unscrawls her name– the curling ‘c’ and looping ‘ls’– from the desk, and then sweeps her red hair out from behind her ear.

May 2011 @ Pif Magazine

Selected by Pif editors for inclusion in Best of Pif, Volume One.


 Your mother called me after you went missing, asking if I knew anything they should know. There aren’t a lot of places to hide in Victorsville, and she was worried because no one had seen you since the night before.

Jan. 2011 @ Every Day Fiction

Voted by readers as one of Every Day Fiction’s top 10 stories of 2011.


This episode of Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon features Virgie’s story, “The Freeze.”

Featuring Rae Bryant and Theodore Carter, authors, respectively, of The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals and The Life Story of a Chilean Sea Blob and Other Matters of Importance.

This episode of Every Day Fiction’s podcast features Virgie’s story, “Seventeen,” read by Folly Blaine.

Nancy Stebbins, former editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, interviews Virgie about her story, “The Freeze.”