Howard Wolinsky is one of Chicago’s most experienced medical writers. He worked that beat for about 15 years at the Sun-Times, cowrote a muckraking book on the American Medical Association, and now teaches at Medill and freelances. After the Boston marathon bombing, Chicago Medicine, a monthly magazine published by the Chicago Medical Society, assigned Wolinsky and another writer to examine emergency preparedness in Chicago. Eric Beck, medical director of the city’s emergency medical services system, suggested some doctors he ought to talk to.

One was Elisabeth Weber, projects administrator of the hospital preparedness program of the Department of Public Health. Another was Will Wong, medical director of the department’s Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response. Wolinsky e-mailed them both on April 20 and asked for an interview. The e-mail to Wong bounced back; but even though it was a Saturday morning, Weber replied within minutes. “How nice of Eric Beck to send you my way,” Weber wrote. “I have time on Monday and Tuesday but I will need to loop in the PIO from the Health Department. I am not certain of his availability.” However, Wong’s office was next to hers, and she thought possibly he could join her when Wolinsky came over.