Get involved in AHCJ: Join a committee!

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If you’ve been thinking about getting involved with AHCJ, now is the time!

AHCJ relies on several committees, staffed with board members and other volunteers from the membership, to help us remain relevant to health journalists, financially viable, a strong voice for openness and transparency, and, above all, an indispensable resource. 

Some committees operate year-round with ongoing tasks, others have duties that ebb and flow throughout the year. And many have limited-term projects that don’t require a long-term commitment.

Professional, associate and allied members may all serve on committees. If you’re interested in a particular committee, you may reach out directly to committee chairs (find their contact information below),  or e-mail AHCJ President Felice J. Freyer at felice.freyer@globe.com.

Here’s a look at what each committee is up to:

The contest committee oversees the health journalism contest, which is one of AHCJ’s most well-known, popular and exciting programs. The contest helps bring our community together year after year, providing a ritual through which we publicly recognize and reward the excellence and importance of health care reporting across communities and audiences, large and small. 

The various categories developed over 18 years acknowledge the diversity of storytelling styles and their impacts — embracing the work of veteran reporters and established outlets, as well as the innovations and evolving talents of students, freelancers and reporters working across media platforms or collaboratively. 

Members of the contest committee design and oversee the contest, actively working each year to make sure the categories, rules, judging process and outreach reflect the needs of our members and the changing structures of our profession. 

Serving on the committee is creative and gratifying, and involves talking to AHCJ members, entrants and winners to ensure the contest is clear, accessible, fair and supportive of AHCJ’s independence and mission. Duties include attending committee meetings to discuss feedback and adjust rules, working with AHCJ staff on outreach to entrants and judges, and, after the contest opens, quick moments of problem-solving on issues that may arise with submissions. One of the most pleasurable duties involves contacting winners.

It’s a great way to interact with our members, encourage new and aspiring reporters, and understand the forces that are shaping our industry and the health beat in particular. The annual contest cycle has a nice rhythm to it and we have fun. We see the contest as one of AHCJ’s “public faces” and understand how it functions as a welcoming “on ramp” for greater participation in all AHCJ’s services and offerings. 

If you want to support the contest without joining the committee, we are always looking for more judges. Serving as a judge does not bar you from entering the contest yourself — we’ll make sure the category you judge is different from the one you entered. To learn more about volunteering on the contest committee or serving as a judge in the contest, please contact committee chair Carrie Feibel at cfeibel@npr.org

The membership committee works to ensure AHCJ members are well-served by the organization, conducts outreach to broaden and diversify our membership while ensuring the integrity of our member base. Members of the committee, and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee, periodically review membership criteria and categories and work to connect with other journalistic organizations to look for opportunities to collaborate and raise awareness of AHCJ services. The membership committee is also in charge of AHCJ’s local chapters, which are a good way for people to get involved without committing a lot of time or formally joining the committee. If you’re interested in volunteering on the membership committee, please contact committee chair Sebastián Martínez Valdivia at martinezse@umsystem.edu

The Right to Know Committee is AHCJ members’ advocate for, well, the right to know! We run interference for members who are having issues getting information from public officials, be they local, state, or federal. Some of the committee’s recent accomplishments include getting White House press staff to call on healthcare trade press more often during public briefings of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, and getting HHS press staff to arrange for more livestreaming of events. And we have held the second of what we hope will be continued quarterly meetings with senior communications officials at HHS, giving us more opportunities to advocate for our members’ needs. 

Committee members meet online monthly to set priorities and discussion actions, and members volunteer with information-gathering, outreach and writing blog posts. The committee plays an important role in helping AHCJ members get the information they need to do their jobs. We’d love for you to join us! Please contact committee co-chairs Joyce Frieden (j.frieden@medpagetoday.com) and Sabriya Rice (sabriyar@kff.org). 

The Freelance Committee creates programs, resources, and policies to meet the needs of independent journalists, and offers a voice to their concerns. Each year committee members craft a freelance slate of programs and workshops in advance of the conference. Throughout the year we work on efforts such as Lunch & Learn to bring freelancers together in meaningful ways. We have several ongoing efforts, including helping our freelance members gain access to meetings without a letter of assignment. We’ve recently teamed up with the Membership Committee to start a mentoring program for any AHCJ member, to be formally launched in early 2023. We’re looking for experienced members to serve as mentors, as well as mentees who are seeking support and guidance. Reach out to Mentoring Subcommittee chair Deborah Schoch (Deborah.Schoch@gmail.com) or Freelance Committee chair Jeanne Erdmann (jeanne.erdmann@gmail.com) if you are interested or have questions. 

The Finance & Development Committee has general oversight over AHCJ’s financial affairs, including fundraising. Committee members support the organization’s fundraising policy of minimizing the possibility and appearance of inappropriate influence from outside parties. One of the committee’s main tasks is to review prospective exhibitors at the annual conference and meet our fundraising standards by examining, for instance, whether funding sources are controlled by commercial firms or their representatives, whether or not they lobby, and the composition of their boards. Reach out to committee chair Jeanne Erdmann (jeanne.erdmann@gmail.comif you’re interested or have questions. 

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