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New AHCJ board seated for 2012-13

Scott Hensley, NPR’s Shots blog writer and editor, joins five incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2012-13 board of directors.

Scott Hensley
Scott Hensley

Incumbents starting a new two-year term include AHCJ Secretary Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News; AHCJ Treasurer Ivan Oransky, M.D., Reuters Health; Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News; Andy Miller, Georgia Health News; and Irene Wielawski, independent journalist. Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman, a longtime board member and contributing editor for Columbia Journalism Review, chose not to run for re-election.

Hensley has served on AHCJ’s membership committee since 2009 and helped refine its membership rules. Longtime Covering Health readers will remember that Hensley contributed to this blog for several months in 2009.

Before joining NPR in the summer of 2009, he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog after several years of print reporting for the Journal and previously a reporter at Modern Healthcare and American Banker.

The newly seated board members join those elected last year for two-year terms: AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, ProPublica; Vice President Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Felice Freyer, The Providence Journal; Gideon Gil, The Boston Globe; Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press; and Maryn McKenna, independent journalist.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. AHCJ is housed at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Catch up with the latest AHCJ member news

KMSP-Minneapolis investigative reporter Jeff Baillon earned two Upper Midwest Regional Emmy awards. “Where’s the Money,” a series looking at the financial collapse of a company owned by a former U.S. senator, won for investigative reporting. “Car Trouble,” a piece about a man imprisoned for killing three people in a car crash involving a Toyota Camry, also won. The story uncovered evidence which supported the driver’s claim that the accident was the result of “unintended acceleration.” The man has since been freed from prison.

Theresa Brown‘s new book, Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between, was published by Harper Collins in June.

Heather Chambers left the San Diego Business Journal for the California Healthcare Institute in June. She is serving as their writer – technically “communications specialist.”

Columbus Business First reporter Carrie Ghose’s health care beat coverage in 2009 won second place for business reporting among papers with less than 100,000 circulation in the 2010 Ohio Society of Professional Journalists Awards.

Carol Goldsmith, an anchor at WYFF-Greenvile, S.C., won a Peabody award for “Chronicle: Paul’s Gift,” an hour-long documentary on organ donation that goes from the hospital bed, to surgery for organ recovery, to the transplant recipients, and the meeting months later between the donor’s widow and the recipients. She was the co-anchor and co-producer for the project.

On Aug. 30th, Christine Gorman started work as the health/med/bio features editor at Scientific American, with a mandate to beef up its health and medicine reporting. She works in the print, online and mobile spaces. You can find her first health column in the October 2010 issue.

Terri Hansen won first place in the 2010 Native American Journalists Association’s Media Awards for “Best Environmental News Story.”

Andrew Holtz‘s third book, House M.D. vs. Reality, will be published in early 2011 by Berkley/Penguin in the United States. He also has deals for Brazilian and Czech editions with other proposed editions pending. The bad news is that www.MDiTV.com, where Holtz was anchor & senior news editor, has suspended production of video news reports. Holtz continues to do reviews for www.HealthNewsReview.org and, along with Bill Heisel, occasionally fills in for Gary Schwitzer to coordinate the reviews.

Lisa Jaffe Hubbell has become a regular blogger at GE’s healthymagination.com health blog and is contributing to Today’s Hospitalist.

Chicago Tribune health care reporter Bruce Japsen has a new column answering readers questions specifically about the implementation of health reform.

Sandra Jordan is a winner of the American Cancer Society High Plains Division 2010 Media Awards competition in the Newspaper – Weekly Feature category for her story, “The New Age of Prostate Cancer.” Jordan is also a 2010 National Press Foundation fellow for the “Cancer Issues” seminar in Washington, D.C. in October. Chris King (managing editor) and Jordan (health reporter) shared honors with the rest of St. Louis American staff when it was recognized as best non-daily paper in North America (circ. greater than 37,500) of 2010 by Suburban Newspapers of America.

P. Mona Khanna, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P., is the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association’s Walter C. Alvarez Award. The award honors excellence in communicating health care developments and concepts to the public.

Euna Lhee is now a multimedia health reporter for Florida Public Radio, as a part of the Healthy State Collaborative project. Based at WMFE in Orlando, Lhee reports on health care issues, biotechnology and medical research.

The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Heather May was awarded a fellowship this summer through the USC Annenberg/The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship program. She will be writing about minority health disparities in Utah.

Maryn McKenna became one of the seven launch bloggers on Wired.com’s new invitation-only science-blog network.

Marilyn Nelson took part in the International Center for Journalists’ personal finance class, for which she completed a story project about American Indians and personal finance.

Tom Paulson curates a niche news site for KPLU as part of NPR’s new Argo project. His focus, based in Seattle, is on global health and development.

Peggy Pico has returned to her hometown of San Diego as the science and technology reporter at KPBS, where she does daily radio and weekly TV reports on the biotech industry.

Lisa A. Price, chief editorial adviser at Sound Integrated Health News, was featured in the Journal for Minority Medical Students (Vol. 22 No. 2), NCCAM Researcher Profile, Special Report for research on medicinal mushrooms and cancer.

Lee-Lee Prina, senior editor of GrantWatch at Health Affairs, is now managing the journal’s new GrantWatch Blog, which launched in March 2010.

Marilyn Werber Serafini has been selected as the inaugural Robin Toner Distinguished Fellow of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Serafini, who spent 19 years at National Journal,  covered the U.S. Congress since 1985, writing about health care, tax, trade, welfare, pension and banking legislation. She covered the health reform debate during the Clinton Administration and the recent debate that led to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Serafini began her fellowship in August and is working closely with the editors of Kaiser Health News and KHN its partners on a series of articles on health policy and politics, as well as stories that explore the intricacies of health reform implementation.

Tampa Tribune consumer health reporter Mary Shedden won a SPJ Green Eyeshade Award, which recognizes excellence in 11 Southern states. She took first place in the category of “Public Affairs – Print – Daily.” Her entry, “Stuffy Nose? Tired? You may already have had swine flu,” included her body of work that aimed to help readers understand how to identify the flu’s symptoms and to protect themselves. Shedden also was a 2009 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellow.

Lorena Tonarelli‘s new book, Caring – The Essential Guide, has been published by Need2KNow books.

Send us your latest news

Got a new job? Earned a promotion? Won an award or fellowship? Just published a book? AHCJ members are encouraged to share your news by sending it to info@healthjournalism.org. Member news items are published on Covering Health and in HealthBeat, AHCJ’s newsletter.

Everyone reacts to Avandia roller coaster

First, the background: Avandia, also known as rosiglitazone, is an anti-diabetes drug that helps patients control their blood sugar. It made billions of dollars for GlaxoSmithKline until it became associated with higher risks for cardiovascular issues. On Sept. 23, the FDA and European regulators issued their verdicts on the drug. In America, it will still be available, though with much stronger restrictions than before. In the European Union, regulators are looking to stop sales entirely and steer patients toward alternatives.

If you’re looking for the official lines and basic news, start with CardioBrief, where Larry Husten recapped a few of the highlights and then provided each agency’s press release, as well as the official take of Avandia maker GlaxoSmithKline.

Then, it’s time for the reactions. On the NPR health blog, Richard Knox examined the dueling story lines that have emerged since yesterday’s announcements. This larger framework makes all subsequent reactions a little easier to contextualize.

Speaking of other reactions, The Hill‘s health blogger, Julian Pecquet, rounded up the thoughts of some Washington heavy hitters involved in the Avandia debate, from the omnipresent Sen. Max Baucus to the consumer group Public Citizen. Another key player, cardiologist and Avandia critic Steven Nissen, spoke to The Wall Street Journal‘s Alicia Mundy.

In terms of the big regulatory picture, Avandia is the 30th drug which has been restricted under the FDA’s risk evaluation and mitigation strategy provisions since they began in 2007. Merril Goozner says that the FDA has created a new class of drugs. “They are not exactly safe, but not so dangerous that we would deny them to physicians or patients who really want to have them,” he wrote. Five years ago, he said, Avandia would have been pulled from the market. Now, it just gets restricted. It remains to be see how effective those restrictions really are.

Finally, Pharmalot’s Ed Silverman brings us the thoughts of cardiologist and Yale professor Harlan Krumholz, who you might remember from his recent star turn in Forbes. His take emphasized a principle well-known to health journalists: Marketing matters, and often it matters even more than regulation does.

“The company has announced it will no longer promote the drug,” Krumholz wrote, “and the practical result in Europe and the US may be a lot more similar than the decisions at first appear. Usage will stop in Europe and new use should virtually stop here.”

That said, Krumholz raises some interesting questions, any one of which could form the basis of a follow-up story or two. I’ll paraphrase:

  • A long series of fortunate coincidences lined up to produce the evidence that led to Avandia’s delayed near-demise, which begs the question: Why are we relying on luck when it comes to spotting danger in major pharmaceutical products?
  • “Why does the FDA believe that the barriers to prescription in new users should be stronger than those for current users? There are no studies that indicate that the excess risk dissipates over time.”
  • Will the FDA really be able to effectively implement the regulations and guide physician/patient behavior, especially when it comes to a blockbuster such as Avandia?
  • Have we done anything to prevent the next Avandia? How do we even go about doing that?

Update: The European Association for the Study of Diabetes weighs in

Hensley explores HIT-related privacy breaches

NPR health blogger Scott Hensley writes that the HHS’ running list of “breaches of unsecured protected health information affecting 500 or more individuals” reads like a sort of police blotter for health wonks, and explores a few of the more interesting cases.

Related: FDA committee recommends anonymous HIT error database

As expected, the FDA’s Health IT Policy Committee endorsed a database to confidentially record reports of HIT-related errors. A few months, another committee and the Office of the National Coordinator still sit between the recommendations and action.

NPR answers H1N1 questions

With H1N1 and the mini-pandemic of rumors that seem to follow it on the rise, NPR brought out the big guns in an attempt to answer reader/listener questions and get the facts straight.

NPR’s health editors, Joe Neel and Anne Gudenkauf, teamed up with Dr. Andrew Pekosz and Dr. William Schaffner to tackle your questions.
Pekosz is an expert on viruses and immunology and a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Schaffner is an infectious disease expert and professor at Vanderbilt University.

They answer questions like “Do H1N1 and other flu vaccines work?”; “Are they dangerous?”; “Who’s immune?”; “Should I be vaccinated for both H1N1 and typical seasonal flu?” and more.

(Hat tip to NPR Health Blog’s Scott Hensley. In that post, Hensley does a great job of summarizing the highlights of the Q&A.)