Health Journalism 2012: Highlights

Health Journalism 2012

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2012 Exhibitors
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Freelance PitchFest
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Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter
The Carter Center

A Conversation with the Carters

Former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter will sit down with Health Journalism 2012 attendees at the conference’s kickoff session on April 19 to discuss issues in global health and mental health, and efforts under way at The Carter Center to address both. The Carters founded The Carter Center in 1982 in Atlanta to advance peace and health around the world.

Otis BrawleyKeynote speaker: Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer, American Cancer Society (@OtisBrawley)

Brawley, responsible for promoting the goals of cancer prevention, early detection and quality treatment, champions efforts to decrease smoking, improve diet and provide the critical support cancer patients need. He guides efforts to enhance and focus the research program, upgrade the Society’s advocacy capacity, and concentrate community cancer control efforts in areas where they will be most effective. He is a leader in the Society’s work to eliminate disparities in access to quality cancer care.

Dr. David Satcher

David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the 16th surgeon general of the United States, will join us April 20. Now director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, Satcher will discuss what the future looks like for primary care. The Satcher Institute is committed to developing a diverse next generation of public health leaders focused on the elimination of disparities.

Nora Volkow

Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will join us on April 21 to discuss new understandings in the science of addiction and treatment. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging in investigating the effects of drugs and their addictive properties.

Joshua Sharfstein

Joshua Sharfstein, M.D., Maryland’s secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, will join us on April 21 to discuss the politics of state insurance exchanges. Sharfstein formerly served as deputy commissioner of the FDA under President Obama.

Jeff Galloway

Sunrise Workshop

Group run/walk and idea session

Wake up early and gather at 6:30 for an easy-paced run or walk with 1972 Olympic runner Jeff Galloway. We’ll depart from the hotel on foot. This isn’t a competition – runners and walkers are welcome. The run/walk will follow a downtown route you can easily tailor for your own pace, time and distance. Return to the hotel on foot for a light post-run snack and chat with Galloway.

Galloway conducts training programs across North America, has authored or co-authored more than 20 books about running or walking, and is a Runner’s World columnist. He’ll draw from these experiences and observations to discuss stories, ideas and resources for journalists who write about health and fitness.

Once you sign up, we’ll send you more details. You should have time to shower and change to take part in the rest of the day’s hotel-based workshops.

Field Trips

This year's field trips include opportunities to experience virtual reality therapy, learn about biosafety training in a laboratory, meet with researchers, visit the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center, labs that deal with foodborne illnesses and infectious viruses and diseases, observe pediatric heart procedures, go on rounds of neonatal intensive care unit, take part in a live broadcast for hospitalized children, learn about life after cancer and more. Read more about the field trips. Advance sign up required; limited space available.

Freelance PitchFest

Attention AHCJ Freelance Writers! Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Atlanta to meet you! This will give you an opportunity to sit down and discuss your ideas one-on-one with editors from selected publications. In the coming weeks, we'll post information about the editors taking part. In March, you'll have the chance to sign up for quick appointments with the editors you're interested in working with. On Friday, April 20, writers will have a limited amount of time with each editor, so come prepared to sell your work. That means you need to arrive with specific pitches for the editors, as well as clips, resume, etc. This has been called AHCJ's version of “speed dating for writers” and we keep things moving to make many matches with editors and writers possible.

Thursday workshops

Sessions will include:

  • Video the right way: You have gear and know how to use it, but how do different stories engage users? Participants will see examples, weigh the pros and cons of five types of video stories, and determine whether they work better as stand-alone pieces or part of a package.
    • Instructor: Mark Johnson, senior lecturer, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia

  • Give them something to talk about: You know how to use Twitter and other social media, but are you and your work at the center of the online conversation? Learn to use digital tools and emerging technology to get everyone talking.

  • Google tools for health reporters: An insider’s guide to Google tools that will help health journalists search for information more efficiently, quantify trends, add visuals to their stories, and increase audience engagement.
    • Sandra Heikkinen, global communications and public affairs manager, Google Inc.

  • Evaluating medical evidence for journalists: Learn how to uncover the flaws in published medical research – essential knowledge for journalists charged with evaluating the quality of evidence and the potential tradeoffs between benefits and harms.
    • Instructor: Ivan Oransky, M.D., executive editor, Reuters Health; blogger, Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch
    • Instructor: Gary Schwitzer, publisher,

  • Working with geeks to tell new stories: When does a reporter need to look for data-savvy experts to analyze data and frame questions to get the best stories out of large datasets? Lance Williams will use his recent experience working with precision journalism expert Steve Doig and reporters Christina Jewett and Monica Lam to ferret out shoddy and costly Medicare billing by a Southern California hospital chain to demonstrate when and how to work with experts in data analysis.
    • Instructor: Lance Williams, senior reporter, California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting

  • Entrepreneurial journalism in an all-platform world: In an era of “hyperconnectivity” storytelling has taken on new form. It’s dynamic, social and highly interactive. Unlike “campfire stories,” modern narrative involves immersive, multi-way experiences that draw a person deeper into a story, compelling them to participate, share and act. It’s the kind of “engaged” experience savvy audiences crave. Journalists today wrestle with shifting priorities, convergence of technology and newsroom roles. Learn about the art, science and importance of a modern story and get tips for keeping up with the important industry trends.
    • Instructor: Victor Hernandez, news futurist, CNN Worldwide

  • The working  journalist's guide to using FOI laws: Public records are at the core of some of the most influential health journalism of recent years. This nuts-and-bolts workshop will show you how it’s done. You will learn when and how to file requests under state and federal Freedom of Information laws, what you can do to make those requests successful, what pitfalls to avoid, where to turn for help and what options you have when responses are slow or inadequate. You will develop ideas for stories drawn from FOI requests on your own beat. And you’ll leave jazzed about making public records a regular part of your reporting.
    • Instructor: Charles Davis, Ph.D., associate professor, Missouri School of Journalism
    • Instructor: Felice Freyer, medical writer, The Providence Journal
    • Instructor: Christina Jewett, health and welfare reporter, California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting

  • See the latest life expectancy trends by county: Explore trends in life expectancy for men and women as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation releases the only county-by-county assessment of life spans in the United States. Conference attendees will have an exclusive first look at which counties are living longest and which are falling behind. They will be able to take the data, maps and graphics to write stories about their own communities.
    • Instructor: Ali Mokdad, Ph.D., professor of global health, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington

Awards luncheon

Journalists who did the best work of 2011 will be recognized with the annual Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.


There will be evening receptions on Thursday and Saturday, providing casual opportunities to meet and catch up with your fellow health care journalists.

Membership meeting

Come hear about AHCJ's latest efforts from your elected board.


Join us in the Exhibit Hall for desserts, snacks and great AHCJ prize giveaways.

How-to Sunday

Sessions on the last day of the conference will give you skills and resources you can take home and use right away.

Handling the explosion of hospital quality data: As hospital quality ratings proliferate, this session will show you what’s new and help you determine when your local hospital may have a problem worth exploring and which data are just white noise. Even if you’ve attended one of our hospital quality sessions before, this will be a good refresher, combined with an update on the latest sets and important context to consider.
• Ashish K. Jha, M.D., M.P.H., C. Boyden Gray Associate Professor, Harvard School of Public Health; staff physician, Veterans Health Administration
• Moderator: Charles Ornstein, senior reporter, ProPublica

From story ideas to sources: Finding hidden gems in PubMed: Find out how to uncover great stories, top-notch sources, and even evidence of research fraud at this hands-on workshop. Bring your laptops. We'll review how to search PubMed effectively, save time, and obtain the papers behind those abstracts, which are frequently behind paywalls.
• Robert A. Logan, Ph.D., communication research scientist, National Library of Medicine
• Moderator: Ivan Oransky, M.D., executive editor, Reuters Health; blogger, Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch

Freelance: Managing workflow and workload: Three veteran freelancers will share their personal experiences with running a business that can potentially command 24/7 attention. They have hard-won tips for balancing business and personal life, and suggestions of useful tools for marketing and for minding the home office while on assignment. The idea is to kick off a conversation with the audience through which we can all learn from each other.
• Paul Raeburn, independent journalist, New York
• Maryn McKenna, independent journalist, Atlanta and Minneapolis
• Moderator: Irene Wielawski, independent journalist, Pound Ridge, N.Y.

Hospital finances
• Moderator: Karl Stark, health and science editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Taking multimedia beyond slideshows: As journalists we are increasingly called upon to “think visually” and create multimedia for digital platforms. In navigating this medium, what can health reporters learn from artists and multimedia storytellers? The panel explores the software tools, storytelling tricks, and collaborative challenges to be aware of in order to take multimedia beyond the ubiquitous audio slideshow.
• Maisie Crow, freelance photographer and multimedia producer, New York
• Moderator: Gregory Warner, senior reporter, Marketplace, American Public Radio

Online health data to tap for project ideas: We all need to know where our coverage area ranks on key health indicators: percent of uninsured patients, premature deaths, unsafe prescribing, preventive medicine and more. But good local data can be hard to find and interpret. The experts in this session have turned massive amounts of government data about public health and medical care into manageable online tools. They'll show us how to use the data to generate ideas for stories and projects.
• Bridget Catlin, Ph.D., M.H.S.A., senior scientist, program director, Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health, University of Wisconsin
• David Radley, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior analyst, The Commonwealth Fund
• Moderator: Marshall Allen, reporter, ProPublica