Category Archives: AHCJ news

Registration open for Rural Health Workshop 2022

Photo by Kelly L via pexels.

What does it take to keep a rural hospital open in the state with the highest rural hospital closure rate in the country?

Find out at AHCJ’s Rural Health Workshop 2022, which will be held July 14 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Registration is open. This year marks the first in-person rural health workshop since 2019.

The free, one-day workshop, presented by AHCJ and the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, will give journalists an opportunity to hear from and connect with health care and policy experts and researchers who focus on rural health. Stephanie Boynton, vice president and chief executive officer, Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital and Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital, will talk about how a hospital just days away from closing its doors found a path to survival and what that has meant to a community.

With 80% of rural America now described as a “health care desert,” the urgency of providing health care access for people who live outside urban areas has never been greater.

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Serving on AHCJ’s Board is so rewarding. Will you join us?

AHCJ board president

Felice Freyer, AHCJ board president (Photo courtesy of Paola Rodriguez)

Have you enjoyed learning and networking at AHCJ’s annual conferences or fellowship programs? Made use of our tip sheets, webinars, listserv — or otherwise found value and fun in being a member of AHCJ? Or have you had some thoughts on how we can improve what we do? 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, now is the time to consider volunteering to help govern this organization. I highly recommend it. 

The annual AHCJ Board of Directors election is under way, and professional category members have until June 15 to declare their candidacy. Every year, six of the twelve seats are up for grabs, and board members serve two-year terms. 

I’ve been a board member since 2009 and consider it among the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. (But it doesn’t feel just “professional” — because I’ve made so many good friends along the way.) Let me walk you through what’s involved. 

Why should you join the board?

For starters, because we need you. To keep this organization vital and responsive, we need new people and fresh ideas. 

Serving on the board will give you an opportunity to contribute to the continued success of AHCJ and work to elevate the quality of health care journalism.

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Wednesday webinar to explore film shedding light on the youth mental health crisis

During the making of “Hiding in Plain Sight: Documenting the crisis in kids’ mental health,” a then-executive at the National Institute of Mental Health advised the filmmakers to insert the term “lived experience” in every place that “mental illness” otherwise might have been. A Johns Hopkins University psychologist suggested “mental health condition” as the optimal reference.

“Addict” is what Makalynn Powell, one of the 20 children, teens and young adults spotlighted in “Hiding in Plain Sight,” called her father. His disorder, incarceration and absences from her life drive the mental trauma the 24-year-old details in “Hiding,” a PBS documentary.

On Wednesday, May 25, at 3 p.m. CST, AHCJ is hosting a webinar about this film that will feature Powell; Collin Cord, a high schooler also spotlighted in this documentary by brothers Erik Ewers and Christopher Ewers; the filmmakers; and several sneak-peek clips from the documentary. The film will air on June 27 and 28 and will be presented by celebrity documentary-maker Ken Burns, with whom the award-winning Ewers brothers have worked.

Letting the people they spotlighted — the youngest of them was 11— use their own preferred words to detail how they and their peers grapple with mental health seemed like the best approach, the Ewers told AHCJ.

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HHS says employee directory will be restored, but it may be limited

Right To Know AHCJ secretary and co-chair of Right to Know Committee

In early May, reporters started noticing that a handy resource had been rendered nearly useless. The directory that once provided the email addresses and phone numbers of 90,000 employees of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now contains only names and titles, no contact information.

Apparently first publicized in a blog post by Bruce Quinn, M.D., Ph.D., and later noted by Politico, the move was denounced as a step away from transparency.

In a phone conversation, an HHS spokesperson said the directory will be back online “in some form or fashion.” The spokesperson could not say what specific contact details would be restored, or provide a timeline.

The database was taken down due to security concerns, officials said.

When HHS employees began working from home during the pandemic, some staff added their personal contact information, the spokesperson told AHCJ. The national response to COVID-19 became a hot-button political issue, and pandemic-related decisions that some people “vehemently disagree with” resulted in several HHS staff receiving verbal and physical threats, including at least one incident.

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Spotlight Q&A with Marlene Harris-Taylor of Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland

Marlen Harris-Taylor, AHCJ Board Member

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How long have you been an AHCJ member, and who or what inspired you to join? 

I started as a health journalist in 2013 and joined AHCJ about a year after that, when I attended a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. I wanted to increase my knowledge and I heard about AHCJ through an advertisement. 

Where are you from and how far did you travel to this year’s  conference?

I am originally from Toledo, Ohio. I now live and work in Cleveland.

What do you think is the biggest asset of AHCJ and why?

I appreciate the AHCJ conferences because the panels have a mixture of journalists and professionals sharing their expertise. This national meeting brings journalists to a wonderful space to learn.

How have the resources AHCJ provides impacted your career?

One of the wonderful things that AHCJ does year-round is host training sessions. They also provide financial assistance for journalists to attend the sessions which is appreciated. I remember the first training that I attended. It included not only learning, but networking with journalists from across the country.

What keeps you coming back to these conferences? 

One of my favorite parts of the conference is that you always come away with ideas for a new story. At the AHCJ 2022 conference this weekend, I met an African American panelist from Chicago who started a company that assists Black and brown people in health care. Coincidentally, he is looking to expand to Cleveland. You’re learning and getting deeper knowledge, but you’re also getting the immediate benefit of stories that you can write.

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