About AHCJ: General News

2014 winners named in top health journalism awards Date: 03/19/15


March 19, 2015

See more about each winner, including a summary of the entry. AHCJ members can click on the title of the entry to see the questionnaire about how the story was reported.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Soaring drug prices that make even copays unaffordable for many, an unchecked rise in robotic surgery, financial abuse revealed using previously secret Medicare data, and the health ramifications of the boom in hydraulic fracturing for oil were among the top winners of this year’s Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

Awards also went to articles that examined the “collateral damage” of urban violence, followed a team of doctors and scientists fighting Ebola, and exposed the growing number of unregulated diagnostic tests that can lead to patient harm.

Liz Kowalczyk, reporter for The Boston Globe, won first place in beat reporting for her hospital beat coverage, including work about a liver donor’s death, a serious medical error, a psychiatric patient’s suicide and the compelling story of a Boston Marathon bombing survivor.

The 2014 awards, announced today by the Association of Health Care Journalists, recognize the best health reporting in 11 categories (entries in the category for business stories from small outlets were moved to other categories). This year, the contest’s 11th, had reporters compete across mediums in topic area categories, including public health, business and health policy. More than 420 entries were received.

“These pieces show that excellent journalism is alive and well, and encompasses a wide range of topics, from data-driven projects to heartbreaking stories of individual patients,” said contest chair and AHCJ board member Julie Appleby, a senior correspondent for the nonprofit Kaiser Health News.

AHCJ launched the awards program amid growing concern that too many journalism awards are sponsored by special interest groups that seek to sway media coverage. No health care companies or agencies fund AHCJ's awards program.

See more about each winner, including a summary of the entry. AHCJ members can click on the title of the entry to see the questionnaire about how the story was reported.

Contest entries were screened and judged by more than 50 working journalists or journalism professors. AHCJ board members and contest committee members were not eligible to enter the contest.

In addition to Appleby, the contest committee includes AHCJ members Naseem Miller, Cate Vojdik and Charles Ornstein.

The awards will be presented during a luncheon on April 25 at Health Journalism 2015, the association's annual conference, taking place this year in Silicon Valley. First-place winners will receive $500 plus registration and hotel accommodations at the conference. Those winners also will speak on conference panels about their work.

AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With more than 1,500 members across the United States and around the globe, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism provide training, resources and a professional home for journalists. Its offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Beat Reporting

First: Liz Kowalczyk, The Boston Globe

Second: Erika Check Hayden, Nature, Wired

Third: Nurith Aizenman, NPR

Investigative (Large)

First: Big Oil, Bad Air; Staff, Inside Climate News, The Center for Public Integrity, The Weather Channel

Second: Culture of Fear; Jeff Baillon and Tyler Ryan, KMSP-Minneapolis/St. Paul

Third: Harsh Treatment; David Jackson, Gary Marx and Duaa Eldeib, The Chicago Tribune

Investigative (Small)

First: Unregulated Tests; Beth Daley, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

Second: Killers & Pain; Mary Beth Pfeiffer, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal

Third: Too Risky to Transplant; Markian Hawryluk, The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin

Consumer (Large)

First: What's Wrong With Robotic Surgery?; Laura Beil, Men's Health

Second: Murray's Problem; Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Third: Cancer’s Super-Survivors: How the Promise of Immunotherapy Is Transforming Oncology; Ron Winslow, The Wall Street Journal

Consumer (Small)

First: An Impossible Choice; Joanne Faryon, Brad Racino and Lorie Hearn, inewsource

Second: The Cost of Life; Justine Griffin, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune

Third: Opening Up: The Evolving World of Surgery; Ruthann Richter, Stanford Medicine Magazine

Business (Large)

First: Precious Pills; Robert Langreth, Bloomberg News

Second: The Medicare Advantage Money Grab; Fred Schulte, David Donald and Erin Durkin, The Center for Public Integrity

Third: MIA In The War On Cancer: Where Are The Low-Cost Treatments?; Jake Bernstein, ProPublica

Public Health (Large)

First: Collateral Damage; Andrea McDaniels, The (Baltimore) Sun

Second: Hooked: America's Heroin Epidemic; Kate Snow and Janet Klein, NBC News

Third: Surviving Through Age 18 in Detroit; Karen Bouffard, The Detroit News

Public Health (Small)

First: The Risks of Home Birth; Markian Hawryluk, The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin

Second: Russia's Hidden Epidemic; Simeon Bennett and Stepan Kravchenko, Bloomberg Markets

Third: Pesticide Use by Farmers Linked to High Rates of Depression, Suicides; Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News

Health Policy (Large)

First: Medicare Unmasked; Staff, The Wall Street Journal

Second: The Cost of Not Caring; Staff, USA Today

Third: How Obamacare Went South in Mississippi; Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News/Politico Magazine

Health Policy (Small)

First: The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida; Barbara Peters Smith, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Second: Rural hospitals face emergency; Lauren Sausser, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier

Third: True Cost of Care; Patrick Malone, The Santa Fe New Mexican


First: Ebola's Lost Ward; Erika Check Hayden, Nature

Second: Why Are Drug Costs So High In The United States?; Roxanne Nelson, Medscape

Third: Rush to Robotic Surgery Outpaces Medical Evidence, Critics Say; Richard Mark Kirkner, Managed Care Magazine