Panels, key speakers announced for Health Journalism 2015

California’s Silicon Valley – an intersection of health and technology – will be home to Health Journalism 2015, AHCJ’s annual conference scheduled for April 23-26.

Abraham Verghese

Abraham Verghese

Convening at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, hundreds of journalists will visit area sites during field trips, hear from world-class speakers during panels, take part in skill-building workshops and more.

The  conference will help reporters, editors and producers cover the latest in medical research, health technology, public health  issues, the business of health care, health policy matters and journalism. Freelance members can meet face-to-face with editors during the popular PitchFest.

Deane Marchbein

Deane Marchbein

Conference spotlight speakers will include Stanford University physician and author Abraham Verghese, M.D.,  M.A.C.P.; Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald; and Deane Marchbein, M.D., the president of the United States’ board of directors for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

Verghese, a bestselling author and medical school professor, will be the  conference kickoff speaker on the evening of April 23 .

His work includes advocacy for the value of bedside skills and physical diagnosis, skills he sees as waning in an era of increasingly sophisticated medical technology, diverting  physicians’  attention from patients. At Stanford, he was instrumental in development of the “The Stanford 25” initiative, which is designed to showcase and teach 25 fundamental physical exam skills and their diagnostic benefits to interns.

The conference begins earlier that day with busloads of journalists who preregister for field trips to local research and medical facilities, and a series of class-like settings designed to bring hands-on training in three tracks of workshops. With the workshops and field trips finished, first-time attendees can get tips and advice on making the most of the conference during the Newcomer Welcome session. Then, after a long day of field trips, workshops and kickoff event, attendees will round out the day with an opening reception.

Robert McDonald

Robert McDonald

April 24’s schedule will begin with a news briefing by VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. A full slate of panels will begin immediately after the briefing and continue through the conference’s end on April 26. In between, the conference will feature a luncheon to recognize the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism winners, plus prize drawings, networking opportunities in the Exhibit Hall and more.

The Saturday awards luncheon speaker will be Deane Marchbein, M.D., the president of the United States’ board of directors for Doctors Without Borders. She will just be back from West Africa, report on the latest from the field and provide her insights into the Ebola crisis, the victims, the caretakers and the global response.

She joined the organization in 2006 to work as an anesthesiologist in its surgical program in Ivory Coast. She has worked as an anesthesiologist with Doctors Without Borders in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Afghanistan  and  Syria, and as a medical doctor in Libya and Lebanon. She was formerly the business manager and chairperson of the anesthesia department as well as the director of the intensive care unit at Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, Mass. She now works for Massachusetts General Hospital and the Cambridge Health Alliance.

Health Journalism 2015Also on April 24, the Freelance PitchFest will return as a favorite for freelance members to meet with editors of major outlets to offer story idea pitches and perhaps land assignments. The panels will hit current and future story ideas for health journalists in their own  communities, include  technology, research and big data; local angles about health reform; and the vulnerable populations of children, the elderly and the impoverished.

Journalists also will have the chance to attend skill-building sessions and make connections with leading health experts. Visit the website  to get updates as conference planning continues.
[See the program: Overview | Wednesday/Thursday/Friday | Saturday/Sunday]

A number of fellowships are available to help journalists, students and journalism educators attend the conference. Applications are due March 2.

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