Author Archives: AHCJ Staff

FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to speak at Health Journalism ’22 in Austin

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., M.A.C.C.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., M.A.C.C., will talk about the agency’s main priorities on Friday, April 29, at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ first conference since 2019. His remarks will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Dr. Califf served as FDA commissioner at the end of the Obama administration. In returning to the post, he emphasized a need for the FDA to help counter misinformation about science that he says has become increasingly prevalent.

“These kinds of distortions and half-truths that find their way into the public domain do enormous harm, both by leading people to behavior that is detrimental to their health and by causing them to eschew interventions that would improve their health,” Califf said in a memo to staff.

Lessons from the pandemic, the health threat posed by e-cigarettes, pain management without addiction, and the pressures on the drug approval process will also likely be part of the conversation.

Califf was confirmed earlier this year as the 25th commissioner of the FDA — his second stint, having served in 2016.  Before assuming the role at that time, he was FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco.

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Announcing the Pia Christensen Conference Assistance Scholarship

Ernie and Pia

Pia Christensen with her horse Ernie. (Photo courtesy of the Christensen family.)

Due to overwhelming response, we have closed the application for the Pia Christensen Conference Assistance Scholarship for Health Journalism 2022.

As many of our members may know, AHCJ lost a friend and colleague, Pia Christensen, to cancer at age 50 in May 2021. Pia served as managing editor/online services for 15 years and was part of the Missouri School of Journalism staff for 20 years.

Pia was especially enthusiastic about AHCJ’s annual conference and would have been very supportive of any effort making it easier for people to attend. In the past, AHCJ has been able to offer a limited amount of travel assistance aside from our formal fellowship programs for those members who might need some help with costs.

This year, AHCJ will offer a conference assistance scholarship in Pia’s name to memorialize her contributions to AHCJ.

Conference Assistance Scholarships are available to help defray some — but not all — associated expenses for members interested in attending AHCJ events. If you need some financial assistance to attend one of our events, you may apply for a conference assistance scholarship. Please complete the form, including a brief statement of what type of assistance is needed and why, and submit it to AHCJ by noon CT on April 8, 2022.

If you have received a fellowship or are attending the event in some capacity that has already provided for some assistance (speaker, panelist, PitchFest editor, etc.), you are unlikely to be eligible to receive additional funding. If financial assistance is offered, we will confirm your acceptance and follow up with you by email.

Getting up to date on Novi and registering for Health Journalism ’22

With the opening of registration for Health Journalism 2022 and the launch of AHCJ’s new membership portal, Novi, some members have had trouble setting up their user account for the first time.

The issue might well be that the email address attached to your member record doesn’t match the email address that you’ve previously used to view content on

“Truly, this is an easy fix that requires troubleshooting in the moment,” Andrea Waner, director of engagement said. “If members run into this issue, they can reach out to us directly at, and we can quickly address the disconnect.”

To tackle some of the most pressing concerns associated with launching a new membership portal, we’ve created a list of frequently asked questions for member troubleshooting.

What email address should I use to create my profile?

To create your profile on the AHCJ member portal, use the email address that you previously used to apply for membership to AHCJ. Our new database — Novi — is set up to detect current AHCJ members during the registration process.

However, if you type in your email address and do not see the alert (pictured above), don’t panic. You can either reach out to to verify the email address associated with your account or can continue with registration, and AHCJ staff can do their magic on the backend to align the records.

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Deadline fast approaching for 2022 conference fellowships

Need help getting to Health Journalism 2022? AHCJ has fellowships available to help journalists attend, but the deadline for applying — February 28 — is coming up fast.

AHCJ Freelance Travel scholarships are open to freelancers who derive most of their income from journalism. If you aren’t a member, you must qualify for the professional membership category.

Eligibility varies per fellowship.

Here’s a list of all eight AHCJ conference fellowships:

Fellowship benefits include:

  • Free conference registration*
  • Up to four nights complimentary at the downtown Hilton in Austin
  • Up to $400 in travel expenses
  • One year’s membership* (new or extended).

Freelance travel fellows will be responsible for registration and membership fees (renewal or new).

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A letter from Austin: Why you should join us

Dear AHCJ colleague,

We were pretty excited when AHCJ chose Austin as the location for its 2020 conference. Little did we know what was in store (thanks, COVID). Now that vaccines are widely available, we’re thrilled we have a chance to share one of Texas’s most dynamic cities with our colleagues.

But to do that, you have to join us. (Registration is officially open.)

We want you to hear not only from the smart people AHCJ has invited but also experience firsthand what a slice of Texas is really like, no matter what you’ve heard about us Texans. (Any claims of amazing food and great music, though, are true.)

A few things you may not know.

Austin, the state capital, has been one of the country’s fastest-growing cities for decades and is home to innovative enterprises such as Dell Computers and the flagship campus of the University of Texas, one of the nation’s leading — and largest — research and learning institutions. Did you know we have COVID vaccines because UT-Austin molecular biologist Jason McLellan, recently named Texas Inventor of the Year, and his team figured out how to engineer the spike protein so it could be used in a vaccine?

Texas is also home to Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi, co-directors of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development who recently developed a low-cost COVID vaccine that can substantially help global vaccination efforts.

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