Author Archives: Mary Otto

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at

#AHCJ18 panelists urge earlier conversations about a palliative approach to end-of-life care

Photo: George Bush Presidential Library via FlickrFormer First Lady Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday, announced two days earlier that she had ended curative treatment for life-threatening health issues in favor of what was described as “comfort care.”

Death may be the price we pay for life. But many physicians still regard death as a kind of failure. For families and patients, decisions about the management of serious illness and death can seem forbidding and difficult.

Even so, timely discussion of options such as palliative care and hospice care can offer deeply meaningful choices to people navigating life-threatening and terminal illnesses, according to experts on “The Increasing Demand for Palliative Care,” panel last week during Health Journalism 2018 in Phoenix.

“The model I am trying to promote … is earlier conversation,” said Robert Shannon, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine and palliative medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Fla. Continue reading

Reporter follows dental hygienists’ battle to treat vulnerable patients

Ana B. Ibarra

Sacramento-based California Healthline reporter Ana B. Ibarra has been following a battle being waged by independent practice dental hygienists who contend that actions by the state of California are forcing them to give up their most vulnerable patients, poor and frail people covered by Denti-Cal, the state’s Medicaid dental program.

In one story late last year, Ibarra captured the scene at a Rancho Cucamonga residential care facility where a visiting dental hygienist Gita Aminloo was caring for one of those patients, Devon Rising, who is blind and disabled. Continue reading

Editors at #AHCJ18 share tips on composing a winning pitch

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

PHOENIX – Successfully selling story ideas requires energy, skill and plenty of patience. At Health Journalism 2018 in Phoenix on Thursday, a panel of seasoned magazine editors offered tips to freelancers on “Crafting the Perfect Pitch.”

“Pitching is an art, not a science,” observed Jennifer Bleyer, who until recently was an editor at Psychology Today. Still, some general rules apply, including, “Be brief.” Continue reading

NY program highlights challenge of providing dental care to patients with disabilities

Photo: Phil King via Flickr

Reporter Richard Liebson recently recounted the story of an aging, 35-foot Winnebago that trundles through New York’s Hudson Valley to deliver dental care to intellectually disabled children and adults served by 15 agencies in the region.

Before the dental van started making its rounds, “we were in trouble,” said John Porcella, who heads one of those agencies. Finding care and scheduling dental appointments for the 140 disabled people in his program was a major ordeal, Porcella explained. Getting one single person to the dentist could tie up a staffer for an entire day. Continue reading

New study helps document role of oral health in overall health of Hispanics

Photo: Ann Fisher via Flickr

More than half of U.S. Hispanic adults suffer from dental pain, have difficulty eating or report other oral problems that impact their quality of life, according to new findings gleaned from a major federal research project.

The conclusions are just the latest from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) a multi-center, population-based project. Continue reading