About AHCJ: General News

Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Edwards, Mike Leavitt to headline journalism conference Date: 03/03/08


March 3, 2008

Contact: Len Bruzzese, AHCJ executive director, 573-884-5606

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Hollywood actor Dennis Quaid, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, will headline the nation's largest health care journalism conference, the Association of Health Care Journalists has announced.

About 500 attendees are expected to attend Health Journalism 2008, set for March 27-30 in Washington, D.C. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the association, one of the world's fastest-growing journalism organizations.

"I can't think of a more exciting lineup of speakers than we have this year," said Julie Appleby, conference chair and AHCJ board member. "And given the importance of health care in the 2008 elections, I can't think of a better place to hold our conference than in Washington, D.C."

Quaid will kick off the conference on Thursday evening with a candid conversation about medication errors. Twice in an eight-hour period, his newborn twins received 1,000 times the prescribed concentration of the blood thinner heparin in a California hospital. The children survived after spending days recovering in the neonatal intensive care unit and are now thriving. Quaid will talk about how the experience changed him and his wife Kimberly, who have launched a patient safety foundation.

Edwards will be the featured keynote speaker Saturday at the association's annual awards luncheon. She will reflect on her experiences on the campaign trail during her husband's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and her passion for universal health care and health system reform. She also will discuss her own battle against cancer.

Leavitt will discuss the Bush administration's health care priorities and goals during his final months in office.

In addition, the association has dozens of sessions to bring journalists up to speed on pressing issues in health care and to teach them skills to take back to their newsrooms. Panels and roundtables will cover medical research, consumer health, public health, the business of health and more. A plenary on Friday promises a lively discussion of the role health care is playing in the 2008 campaign and whether reform is likely, and a gathering Thursday night will address the changing face of health journalism.

Other highlights include a Freelance PitchFest in which freelance reporters can meet and pitch ideas to top editors from around the country, a session on using mapping software to illustrate health data, writing skills training for broadcast journalists and field trips to local research labs, clinical settings and the National Institutes of Health. Award-winning journalists will teach their peers how to investigate their local hospitals, nursing homes and physicians.

"I always have a difficult time deciding which sessions to attend because they all look so good," said Appleby, a USA Today reporter. "Each year, the conference gets better and better."

This year's conference is hosted by Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital. The endowing sponsor is The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Conference sponsors include American Journal of Nursing, California HealthCare Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, The Commonwealth Fund, Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, Johns Hopkins Institutions, Kaiser Family Foundation, Missouri Foundation for Health, Montefiore Medical Center, Picker Institute and RTI International.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. Its offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

For more information on the conference, visit healthjournalism.org or call 573-884-5606.