Tina Tsomaia, 39, a native of the Republic of Georgia, is studying at New York University. Tsomaia is an assistant professor at Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs where she is a doctoral student in mass communications.
Tsomaia was educated as a pediatrician who, after the fall of the Soviet Union, felt that she did not have the resources to properly practice medicine and turned her focus to journalism, eventually earning her master’s degree in journalism and media management.
Tsomaia spoke passionately about the critical need to bring “Western-style, fact-based journalism” to her native country.
She said that she discovered the Association of Health Care Journalists while studying journalism in Georgia.
“I always wanted to attend the health journalism conference of the Association (AHCJ) but, you know, Georgia is very far,” Tsomaia said. “Finally I ended up in New York as a visiting scholar.”
“I’m just happy that I’m here,’’ she said on the conference’s first day. “This organization and the concept of being part of some big professional association and serving people and readers, that’s a very important concept.”
Was there any one panel you were particularly interested in or one area of knowledge?
“I’m really interested in many things … What I really want to do and take from the conference is a very concrete plan and idea of what I’m to do when I’m back in Georgia. I want to either form an association of health care journalists. … Maybe a blog or a website, something that is connected to new media.’”
Do you have a website?
“We have a GIPA news café.”
What would you say is the number one health care issue in Georgia?
“The number one issue is that healthcare services are not affordable for Georgians,’’ Tsomaia said. “Everything was privatized’’ after the fall of the Soviet Union. “But even private insurance didn’t help my father. He had brain cancer… His plan didn’t cover his cancer…We struggled. We raised money from our relatives.”
Her father, a physicist, died at age 63.
She said journalists can help improve the health care system in Georgia by educating the public.
Did you have a favorite panel so far today?
“I liked (“Great leap forward: Shaping complex topics into compelling stories”) because story telling is very important…Probably five years ago we wouldn’t hear such tips. You have to tell the story.”
Do you have this type of narrative journalism in Georgia?
“Georgian journalism is very much opinionated. That’s why this fact-based journalism is very important for me as a concept…Now I see also that you still need to humanize your stories.”
Is this your first time in Boston?
“Yes, it is.”
She said she hoped to get a little time to explore during the lunch breaks.