Grad student reviews the value of AHCJ conferences


My name is Catherine, and I am a graduate student researcher for the Association of Health Care Journalists. I am so excited about the Health Journalism 2019 conference in Baltimore this week, and I hope to see you there!

This will be my first tour at AHCJ’s annual conference, and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned to expect.

In doing my research, I ran across a fount of feedback and new info that may be useful in helping you decide to join us at Health Journalism 2019.

Take in these thoughts on attending Health Journalism 2018 in Phoenix from then-first-timer Chandra Thomas Whitfield, a freelancer based in Colorado:

I’ve been pleased with the diversity of topics. What I like is the sessions have been very approachable. Nothing felt like you had to have a P.h.D in public health. All the panelists have been willing to share their information, their studies, their resources. I would say that this was a win-win for me.”

Thank you for that, Chandra! Your encouraging words about “What AHCJ does for journalists” help me and other near-entry-level journalists see that we can turn to AHCJ to overcome barriers to entry, if need be.

Then there’s this from Mackenzie Clark, health writer for the Lawrence Journal-World, in her blog after last year’s conference:

“My biggest takeaway from the whole conference is that health journalism really does matter. This beat is important, and I want this community to know I’m going to do everything I can to report on these big, innumerable topics as thoroughly as possible.

And, if you still harbor doubts about whether the 60-some conference panels and presentations are worth getting yourself to Baltimore, consider this pearl of context tweeted this month by Bara Vaida, AHCJ infectious disease core topic leader:

“The @CDC previewed its concern about this infection at @AHCJ’s annual conference in Arizona in 2018: See the slide presentation here: … This is why @AHCJ conferences are great for health journalists wanting to get ahead of the curve.”

Vaida was referring to a cluster of recent stories that sprouted up a year after CDC experts presented findings about the drug-resistant Candida fungus spreading at an alarming rate.

Now, having visited some exciting feedback from last year’s Health Journalism 2018 conference, let’s turn to some of the meat on the bones of Health Journalism 2019 in Baltimore:

Expect panels on mental health, the opioid crisis, drug prices, vaccinations, women’s health and much more. There will be workshops on researching, such as the “Using local-level data to uncover and illuminate community health,” “Finding diverse sources for your health stories” and “Using public resources to find your next big scoop” sessions. There are also many panels and workshops on the business of health, including “Hospital finances” and “The retailing of health care.”

As someone just starting out in her career, I am eager to explore the Exhibit Hall and to learn more about freelancing in one of the many sessions on the topic and at the Freelance PitchFest. There’s also a super-intriguing session on how to turn long-form health stories into a multipart podcast.

All in all, I think what I am most excited about is the opportunity to meet so many journalists on the health beat, develop myself as a journalist and find new story ideas. Health Journalism 2019 is going to be worth the trip to Baltimore, and I really hope you come, too!

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