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Board elections 2015: Candidates' statements


Run for a spot on AHCJ's board of directors

Current board of directors


May 4: Call for candidates

May 25: Posting of candidate statements begins on (Later declarations will be added as validated.)

May 29: Deadline to declare candidacy (by noon CT)

June 12-25: Elections conducted (voting ends at noon CT, June 25)

June 26: Winners will be named

July 1: Term of office will begin

Six of the 12 director positions come up for election each year for two-year terms. Incumbent board members are allowed to run for re-election.

AHCJ members in the professional category will receive an email with a link allowing them to vote online. The election will be conducted June 12-25 via the Internet. Members will be sent an email with the special ballot link. 

Below are the AHCJ professional members who have declared their board candidacy, listed in alphabetical order.

Jeanne Erdmann

Independent Journalist
Wentzville, Mo.

Jeanne Erdmann

I am running for election to the AHCJ board of directors as a first-time candidate. For the past six years I’ve organized the Freelance PitchFest, and will continue to build the slate of editors, and improve the experience for everyone involved. I’m also a proud member of the Freelance Committee, where I’ve organized and hosted webinars on pitching and on applying for fellowships. I have also helped develop the freelance slate of panels for the yearly conference.

AHCJ has enriched my career in so many ways, from the fellowships, to the website and webcasts, to the must-go yearly meeting, to the friendships I enjoy. Actually, I can trace the upwards trajectory of my career to my involvement in AHCJ. I write for a few trade magazines (mostly Nature Medicine), and the rest of my writing goes to consumer outlets, including Women’s Health, Discover, the Washington Post, Slate, and Aeon, among others. In 2013, I received an AHCJ Reporting Fellowship on Health Performance, in which I investigated disparities in access to genetic counseling and testing. My background is in science. I would never have been able to report and write stories on health policy were it not for the training and support I’ve received from AHCJ.

Also, as co-founder and editor-at-large at The Open Notebook, a craft-focused site for science, health, and environmental writers, I’ve learned that the need for training and the desire to stretch our skills only grows as our careers progress.

As a refugee from the research lab, I’ve never done anything but freelance, so I have a keen understanding of  everything it takes to grow a freelance business, including finding training opportunities. I also understand the isolation that goes along with the freelance life.

I hope that several freelance journalists are elected to the board so we can help one another build programs for freelancers, not only at the conference but throughout the year.

I ask you to elect me to the board so I can use my experience as an independent journalist, as one who organizes and produces content for journalists, to help craft critical resources for freelancers, and to expand my support for the best journalism organization around.

Felice J. Freyer

Health Care Reporter
The Boston Globe

Felice J. FreyerWhen I was first elected to the AHCJ board in 2009, someone remarked that the organization, after some growing pains, had reached its adolescence. Since then I’ve been proud to help us develop into a well-functioning adult. As I seek my fourth term, I’m asking you for the opportunity to keep moving our association toward its prime.

AHCJ has become a major force in journalism, with strong finances and growing membership. We provide unparalleled resources, hold the best journalism conference anywhere, and push hard for access to information. As treasurer, chair of the Finance and Development Committee, and vice chair of the Right to Know Committee, I’ve had a role in all those efforts.

I’ve devoted most of my career to health journalism and hope to keep doing it as long as I can. I’m currently a health care reporter at The Boston Globe, a job I took a year ago after a long stint at the Providence Journal. Over the years, I’ve won some awards and done a couple of fellowships but mostly I’ve had a great time covering medicine, policy, public health, and more. Health care reporting is so much fun, isn’t it? Always challenging, always changing – and so essential to the lives of our readers, listeners, and viewers. Still, I’m acutely aware of the hurdles we all face as news outlets struggle and resources shrink. This makes AHCJ ever more important as a source of training, guidance, and fellowship.

We need to keep doing what we’re doing – more and better – but we also face challenges in building leadership for the future and helping members cope with the uncertainties in journalism today. That can only happen if AHCJ members take part, whether by serving on a committee, running for office, or piping up with suggestions. Our new schedule for elections this year, intended to boost participation, is one of the changes I pushed for. A major goal of my next term will be to find new ways to engage members, solicit your input, and inspire you to join our efforts. I hope you will give me that opportunity and I look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

Katie Gibas

Time Warner Cable News, Buffalo, N.Y.

Katie GibasI am an anchor, videojournalist and health reporter at Time Warner Cable News. I cover health statewide for our regional 24-hour cable news station. I also host a half hour Healthy Living show that airs in several markets across the country, as well as all of the Time Warner Cable Video on Demand Channels and the Time Warner Cable News websites.

As a television reporter who shoots and edits all my own work, I offer a unique perspective of covering health in the changing nature of television news. In that role, I have to challenge myself to be creative in both writing and choosing video that can tell the best story. Secondly, I work on a daily deadline. Both of these aspects are the new normal in television news.

I have been on the AHCJ membership committee for three years and have attended four of the annual conferences. The panels are wonderful, but many do not address the new normal for television news. The beat system rarely exists in local television news. You have inexperienced general assignment reporters trying to quickly cover complicated health stories by themselves. I’ve been in that situation but with the help of AHCJ I have learned to adapt. For example, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the ACA tax penalty for not signing up for health insurance was a vast issue that left most young reporters and our newsroom as a whole confused over where to start. With the experience I’ve gained from AHCJ, I was able to help guide our coverage with a number of angles and contacts to make those stories realities to educate both the public and our newsroom on a complicated policy.

The AHCJ seminars for broadcast are helpful but we need more. I have already discussed some ideas for new seminars, including covering health for non-health-beat reporters, broadcast techniques for print media, and broadcasting health news as a videojournalist with several board members. If elected, I will work to increase AHCJ’s broadcast membership and offer seminars that reflect the changing nature of the news industry. My mission is to help more people cover health better with more in-depth stories and a more critical eye for responsible reporting.

When not at work, I enjoy traveling, cooking, and reading. I am an avid sports enthusiast, active in triathlon, ice skating, karate and skiing.

Gideon Gil

Health and Science Editor
The Boston Globe

Gideon GilI am running for re-election to the AHCJ board to help make the best journalism organization in the United States even better at serving you, its members. I am passionate about AHCJ’s mission of training and preparing journalists to cover the ever-more-complicated world of health care and medical science, building a community of health journalists dedicated to improving our profession and helping each other, and advocating for greater access to data and government records.

As chair of the membership committee the last year and a half, I have presided over continued membership growth: 2.6 percent this year and 50 percent the past five years. At a time when many other journalism groups are struggling, we have steadily increased our numbers to 1,446 members, which is a testament to AHCJ’s staff, as well as its volunteer board and committees. But we can do even better, by improving member engagement. My agenda for the coming year includes aggressively reaching out to new members to familiarize them with the organization’s many benefits, expanding membership in states where we now have three or fewer people, and continuing to work on boosting the number of minority members.

During my four years on the board, I also chaired the local planning committee for Health Journalism 2013, the conference in Boston, and I have served on the board’s executive committee and led AHCJ’s Boston chapter.

I bring a wealth of experience in journalism to my role on the board. I have been health and science editor of The Boston Globe since 2003, overseeing coverage of health care, medicine, science, and the environment. In that time, my staff has won numerous awards, including the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism, and several AHCJ Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. My team and I also contributed to the Globe’s Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. This past year, I was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, and when I return to the newsroom, I will be helping to lead a new life sciences website being launched by the Globe’s owner. Previously, I worked for 19 years as a medical reporter and an editor at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.

I hope you will support me in the upcoming board election, and whether you vote for me or not, I welcome your ideas for improving members’ experiences in our organization.

Bruce Japsen

Health Care Writer

Bruce Japsen

As a health care journalist for more than 25 years, I’ve seen our beat go from a niche to one that produces the most important daily – and often hourly – lead stories on social media, website fronts, TV, magazines and newspapers. 

I want to help journalists nationally and in their local markets better explain this complex system for their readers. Continuing journalism education is critical, and, if elected, I would make it my focus on the board. 

My work today is mainly with Forbes Media, where I have covered the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and health care business. I am a frequent television analyst for “Forbes on Fox,” which airs on Fox News and Fox Business Channel. In addition to my work for Forbes, I am a contributing writer for The Motley Fool financial news service, Chicago Medicine magazine, Life Matters Media. I wrote for The New York Times health, science and business sections and Prescriptions blog from 2011-2013. I am also an educator, currently teaching in the University of Iowa School of Journalism Master’s program online. I have also taught at Loyola University Chicago and the University of Chicago. I provide health segments and business analysis on CBS-owned WBBM news radio in Chicago.

I draw on a health journalism experience that started in my native Iowa where I covered the presidential campaign bus rides of Bill Clinton through the early 1990s. I have chronicled the rise, fall and rise again of health reform, national health trends and, more recently, the influence of Barack and Michelle Obama from Chicago's South Side from my base in Chicago. I am the author of the Forbes signature series book, "Inside Obamacare: The Fix for America's Ailing Health Care System." I covered the business of health care for The Chicago Tribune from 1998 to 2011 and before that wrote for Modern Healthcare. Prior to that, I wrote in Iowa for the Des Moines Register, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald and Burlington Hawk Eye.

I am passionate about improving health literacy through journalism. A better understanding of the health care system can save people money or their lives.

Maryn McKenna

Independent Journalist

Maryn McKenna

I joined the AHCJ board six years ago with a mission to improve the organization's outreach and support for freelancers, who are one-fourth of our membership. I did this both selfishly — after a long time working in newspapers, I had recently become a freelancer myself — and also because my struggles becoming a freelancer suggested to me how much others might need help too. Since then, I have built the Freelance Committee into a corps of 20 treasured volunteers. Together, we've delivered robust slates of freelancer sessions at the annual conference, including our always oversubscribed Pitchfest, helmed by Jeanne Erdmann, and begun to deliver both website offerings, and also non-conference opportunities for engagement such as freelancer-focused webinars.

I ask you to return me to the board for one final term so that I can help cement these gains, and also begin to research outside funding sources that may allow us to create permanent freelancer support and training opportunities within AHCJ. In addition, I hope you will consider sending to the board at least one other freelance member, to give us additional person power to run these worthwhile but time-consuming efforts.

I am an independent journalist specializing in public and global health and food policy. After five years as a contributing writer with Wired magazine, I am now a contributor to National Geographic; in addition, I write for Slate, Nature, the Atlantic, the Guardian, MORE, Modern Farmer, and a mix of other magazines and websites. I am the author of two books, "Beating Back the Devil" (2004) and "Superbug" (2010), with a third coming next year, and a TED speaker. Before going freelance, I was a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boston Herald and Cincinnati Enquirer.

Cheryl Platzman Weinstock

Independent Journalist
Weston, Conn.

Cheryl Platzman Weinstock

I’d like to think that I helped coin the phrase “freelance writer” since it’s been 30 years since I began my career rather than accept a full-time job. I believe this organization needs strong representation from the freelance membership and my unique expertise and entrepreneurial skills can help us grow and offer more services to all of our members.

Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication so the demand for writers with Web and multimedia experience is increasing. I intend to pursue more opportunities for us to gain job training skills so our members can stay abreast of new skills necessary to compete in the marketplace. I think Pitch Fest is already one of the highlights of our annual conference thanks to the hard work of Jeanne Erdmann. In order to make it even better I believe we should open the event to broadcast and radio editors and also alert editors that they have to offer reasonable freelance rates to participate. If we don’t fight for better pay, we won’t get it.

I have been active in this organization since joining it. I organized last year’s cutting edge panel on contracts. This year I helped secure editors for Pitch Fest. I am also on the organization’s freelance committee where I help develop conference topics and programs.

I have been on high profile boards before, including NASW and ASJA, so I know what the job entails and I have the energy, ideas and hope for the future that it takes to help grow this organization.  As a writing award judge for many professional contests I also know and understand how to work as a team and assess good reporting and writing.  That’s why I am so passionate about furthering the organization’s educational opportunities.

I am the recipient of many awards and fellowships. Besides covering health and science for major women’s magazines, such as O, The Oprah Magazine and Woman’s Day, I also contribute to the Metropolitan Section of The New York Times where I last wrote about the after effects of the Sandy Hook massacre. I also contributed to the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of 9/11.

I welcome the chance to be able to contribute more to the future of AHCJ as a member of the board and hope you will support me. 

Mary Shedden

Health News Florida

ary Shedden

The day I was assigned to cover health, I couldn’t believe my luck. This beat included a little of everything I loved: policy, business, and a constant connection to real people and their lives.

I discovered right away I didn’t know much. It was 2009 and there was this “Affordable Care Act” idea looming in Washington, D.C. I needed to catch up, stat. A friend suggested I join AHCJ. Right away, I dived into the email ListServ, and saw new and veteran journalists exchanging emails explaining research and policy in the midst of a political firestorm.

The ListServ, an AHCJ Regional Health Journalism Fellowship in 2012-13, and two stints as a panel moderator at AHCJ national conferences helped me evolve from a newbie to a veteran. It was instrumental as I transitioned from mainstream newspaper journalism to work as a reporter and editor in public radio. And it’s why I can make a strong contribution to the AHCJ Board of Directors.

I’ve spent two decades as a journalist, and have a strong sense of what it takes to help health journalists do great work in print, online and on the air. All of it’s been in Florida, home to many of the nation’s important – and controversial – health issues.

I’ve worked at several newspapers, most recently at The Tampa Tribune for eight years. In 2013, I joined WUSF Public Media in Tampa, where I wear two hats. I’m editor of – a statewide digital news service, and I’m the coordinator of statewide radio health coverage for NPR member stations in Miami, Tampa and Orlando.

I feel health journalists need to help one another tell news beyond the rancorous political debate. Health is life and death. As a member of the AHCJ Board of Directors, I want to bring that perspective and my enthusiasm to current members and newbies wanting to catch up, stat.

Karl Stark

AME Business, Health and Science
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Karl StarkI am running for re-election to the AHCJ board of directors. I currently serve as your president and would like to continue many of the efforts we have undertaken to make our association one of the most dynamic in journalism.

I have guided health and science coverage at The Philadelphia Inquirer for years, served as an instructor on dozens of AHCJ panels and volunteer my time as a trainer in some of AHCJ’s fellowship programs.

The whole point of serving on the board of AHCJ is to serve members. That means listening first and thinking about what our group can do to enhance what we all do.

On a basic level, it means increasing services that come with membership, like the access to more medical journals, and providing more training in journalism and technology.

It means continuing to make the annual conferences useful and connecting with the right funders who understand the need for great journalism.

It also means keeping a high line of integrity and not taking money from the industries we cover.

My goals are to continue growing our organization using the member-inspired guidelines we’ve put in place over the years, and help create one that responds more quickly to events and to the trends sweeping our industry. 

We long ago embraced the needs of freelancers who comprise about one quarter of our membership. We need to keep expanding those efforts.

A big challenge is how many general-assignment reporters are being thrown into health stories with little preparation. We need to reach them along with their editors to make sure they get the training they need. Inviting in more newsroom managers remains a longtime goal for AHCJ, and as an editor, I feel I can help us make progress in that area. 

Many health stories are international in scope. So we need to be welcoming to journalists from other countries and learn from their struggles without diluting our resources.

We have to keep our members up to date technologically.

Finally, we need to be an organization that is friendly and nurturing, where members can be as good as their dreams. 

I ask for your vote and your help in continuing this work.