Health Journalism 2018: Program

Panels and workshops were created from more than 200 suggestions made by AHCJ members, conference sponsors, outside organizations and nonmember journalists.

Sessions are often a merger of several ideas and are assigned to journalist organizers who then staff their panels with experts suggested by the local journalist planning committee, national planning committee, conference sponsors, fellow journalists and through their own coverage experience or research.

Organizers are asked to take into account national reputation, local expertise and regional flavor, ethnic and gender diversity and communication skills. Our hope is that each conference offers attendees new sources for their stories.

Click the titles of sessions having red arrows to read their descriptions.

Saturday, April 14

7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Exhibit Hall will be open for networking, finding new resources, meet-ups, breakfast and snacks.

Salons A-F 

7-8:30 a.m.

Breakfast buffet available

Salons A-F  

9-10:20 a.m.

Free health data for journalists: How to make the most of it

Imagine getting data about prescribing practices in your community, or a chance to pose a question to doctors nationwide. Companies that collect and analyze health care data are often willing to share it with reporters. What do they gain? What are the pitfalls and benefits of working with them? An experienced reporter and leaders of two national companies will answer those questions and describe the potential to enhance your reporting with hard – and hard-to-get – facts. #AHCJdata
  • Josh Gray, vice president, athenaResearch
  • Jim Rivas, head of data studies and corporate communications, Doximity

  • Casey Ross, national hospitals correspondent, Stat

  • Moderator: Felice J. Freyer, health care reporter, The Boston Globe

Salon G

Cancer basics for reporters: The latest in care, research and policy

Deepen your coverage of oncology by understanding the players, funding landscape, regulatory issues, cancer bioinformatics, and advances in prevention and treatment. #AHCJcancer
  • Otis Brawley, M.D., M.A.C.P., chief medical and scientific officer and executive vice president, American Cancer Society; professor, Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine

  • William G. Cance, M.D., deputy director, University of Arizona Cancer Center, Phoenix

  • Nader Sanai, M.D., director, Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center; J.N. Harber professor of neurological surgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center

  • Matthew Ong, reporter, The Cancer Letter

Salon H

The lurking danger of medical device hackers

How vulnerable are America’s medical devices to hacking and manipulation? What kinds of risks do patients face? And what about hospital medical equipment? This session will address the likelihood of an attack on the lifesaving devices monitoring and medicating us in hospitals, what the device industry is doing to protect patients and efforts to prevent attacks. The panel, including a physician, academic expert and industry consultant, will explore this new frontier in cybersecurity and patient safety. #AHCJhackers
  • Roman Lysecky, Ph.D., associate professor electrical and computer engineering, University of Arizona

  • Jeff Tully, M.D., resident anesthesiologist, University of California-Davis Medical Center
  • May Wang, Ph.D., chief technology officer, ZingBox

  • Moderator: Mark Taylor, independent journalist

Salon I

Newest efforts in integrative health

Healing takes many forms but the health care system has been slow to embrace many determinants of health such as meditation, self-care, nutrition and other complementary approaches as part of disease treatment. Now, with more doctors steering chronic pain patients to alternatives to opioids, public interest in integrative health has never been higher. In this session, learn how the U.S. military and Veterans Health Administration are integrating therapies such as meditation, Tai Chi, and acupuncture into routine care. See how architecture and design of the places you live, work and learn can improve health and affect healing. And hear how journalists can write about the best evidence-based approaches without veering into pseudo-science. #AHCJintegrative
  • Wayne B. Jonas, M.D., executive director, Integrative Health Programs, Samueli Foundation

  • Roberta Lee, M.D., clinical director for Whole Health, Southern Arizona Veterans Healthcare System

  • Esther Sternberg, M.D., director, Institute on Place and Wellbeing, University of Arizona, Tucson

  • Moderator: Carla K. Johnson, medical writer, The Associated Press

Courtroom K

What happens when science turns out to be wrong?

Could half of the studies that inform clinical trials – and eventually clinical practice – be wrong? That's the unsettling conclusion of a number of recent studies, and a 2016 survey of scientists found that more than half thought research has a reproducibility problem. And the number of retractions – many of them due to misconduct – has skyrocketed. In this session, a researcher working to solve these problems and two journalists who have been covering them closely will look at what that means for journalists. What can we trust? How should we look at studies if we know so many of them may turn out to be wrong? #AHCJscience
  • Monya Baker, editor and writer, Nature

  • Steven Goodman, M.D., M.H.S., Ph.D., associate dean, clinical and translational research; professor of medicine and of health research and policy, Stanford University; co-founder and co-director of the Meta-research innovation Center at Stanford

  • Moderator: Ivan Oransky M.D., distinguished writer in residence, New York University Arthur Carter Journalism Institute; co-founder, Retraction Watch

Courtroom M

Finding organization in the chaos of mass violence

Mass violence can erupt anywhere – from city streets to schools to concerts – with the ensuing confusion and stresses to local hospitals. Are your local hospitals making preparations? Hear from speakers who witnessed the aftermath of a mass shooting and who plan for hospital emergencies. #AHCJmassviolence
  • Marjorie Bessel, M.D., chief clinical officer, Banner Health

  • Rachel Crosby, reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal

  • Moderator: Sammy Caiola, reporter, Capital Public Radio

Salon J

10:40 a.m.-noon

Freelance: Flex your social media muscle

You’ve got some followers, you share your articles, and maybe pick up a source on social media from time to time. It’s time to take your social media game to the next level. In this session, we’ll learn from the pros. Learn to balance social media management with the rest of your workload. Learn how to optimize your professional and personal personas online. Explore ways to connect with sources and editors. Learn to protect yourself from doxing and abuse and how to manage that viral post you thought you always wanted. We’ll discuss these topics and more. #AHCJsocialmedia
  • Andrea Collier, independent journalist
  • André Picard, health columnist, The Globe and Mail

  • Shaun A. Spalding, J.D., assistant director, New Media Rights

  • Moderator: Sonya Collins, independent journalist

Salon G

Pandemic preparedness: Lessons from disease outbreaks

Health officials face a difficult challenge in protecting the public from pandemic threats. No one knows what the next outbreak will be. Zika, Ebola and the swine flu were among a few of the unexpected outbreaks over the past decade. In contrast, public health officials knew this year’s severe flu season was possible. Yet the U.S health system experienced crowded hospitals and shortages of antiviral medications and IV fluids. What does that say about what has been learned from past outbreaks and the country’s preparedness for a pandemic? What does the media need to know and where should they look for answers? This panel will discuss current global, federal, state and local efforts to prepare for health emergencies and story ideas for writing about outbreaks. #AHCJpandemic
  • David H. Beyda, M.D., chair and professor, Department of Bioethics and Medical Humanism, University of Arizona College of Medicine

  • Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H., director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

  • Saskia Popescu, M.P.H., M.A., C.I.C., epidemiologist, Phoenix Children's Hospital; biosecurity fellow, Johns Hopkins Center for Security Emerging Leaders Initiative

  • Cyrus Shahpar, M.D., director, Preventing Epidemics, Resolve to Save Lives

  • Moderator: Bara Vaida, AHCJ topic leader/infectious diseases; independent health journalist

Salon I

Has increased scrutiny made hospitals safer?

Hospitals are facing increased scrutiny from public and private sources over the quality of their care. But do programs such as cutting payments to hospitals with high readmission rates help provide quality care? Do consumers pay attention to public and private hospital rating systems? Experts discuss how hospital quality measures influence the type of care patients receive. #AHCJscrutiny
  • Charlie Agee M.D., vice president of care management, chief medical officer-academic delivery, Banner Health, University of Arizona

  • John Hitt, M.D., chief medical officer, Maricopa Integrated Health System

  • Richard S. Zimmerman, professor of neurosurgery, Mayo Clinic

  • Moderator:  Ken Alltucker, health reporter, The Arizona Republic

Salon J

Geography and health disparities: Resources for reporters

It’s long established that location can have an impact on health outcomes. Data can help journalists explore these health disparities and find stories at the state and local level. Attend this panel and come away with the insights from expert speakers about resources you can use. #AHCJgeography
  • Elizabeth Calhoun, Ph.D., M.Ed., associate vice president for Population Health Sciences; executive director, Center for Population Science and Discovery, University of Arizona Health Sciences

  • Ali Mokdad, Ph.D., professor of global health, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

  • Julie Willems Van Dijk, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., director, County Health Rankings and Roadmaps and RWJF Culture of Health Prize

  • Moderator: Jayne O’Donnell, health care policy reporter, USA Today

Courtroom K

Precision medicine’s new initiative

The National Institutes of Health’s new precision medicine initiative – All of Us – is designed to gain better insights into the biological, environmental, and behavioral influences on disease to make a difference for the millions of people who suffer from them. The initiative aims to collect genomic information through a biobank as well as lifestyle and clinical datapoints to help better understand contributors to disease. The end goal is disease prevention and treatment that takes into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology. Hear experts talk about this effort to make significant contributions to the diversity of enrolled participants in the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, making these advances available to traditionally underserved populations, regardless of race, ethnicity or geography. #AHCJprecision
  • Alyssa Cotler, M.P.H., director of communications and marketing, All of Us Research Program, National Institutes of Health

  • Kenneth S. Ramos, M.D., Ph.D., Pharm.B., associate vice president, Precision Health Sciences; executive director, Center for Applied Genetics and Genomic Medicine; professor of medicine, University of Arizona Health Sciences

  • Andreas A. Theodorou, M.D., F.C.C.M., F.A.A.P., chief clinical education officer, Banner-University Medicine Division; professor and vice chair for clinical affairs and quality, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arizona College of Medicine

  • Moderator: Shari Rudavsky, health/medicine reporter, Indianapolis Star

Courtroom M

The health care role ahead for artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence, big data, deep learning — these terms have become ubiquitous in discussions about the future of health care. This panel will demystify technologies such as IBM Watson, and explore how they are (and are not) starting to help physicians diagnose and treat patients, hastening drug development, and advancing precision medicine. We will examine the challenges ahead, as well, including ethical, privacy, and regulatory minefields. #AHCJAI
  • Igor Barani, M.D., director, Barrow Artificial Intelligence Center; associate professor of neuro-radiation oncology, Barrow Neurological Institute

  • Pilar N. Ossorio  Ph.D., J.D., professor of law and bioethics, and ethics scholar-in-residence, University of Wisconsin Law School

  • Casey Ross, national correspondent, Stat

  • Moderator: Gideon Gil, managing editor, Stat

Salon H

Noon-2 p.m.

Awards luncheon

Journalists who did the best work of 2017 will be recognized with the annual Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

Spotlight speaker: John Carreyrou, Pulitzer Prize- and AHCJ Award-winning investigative reporter with The Wall Street Journal, and author of “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”


2-2:50 p.m.

Exhibit crawl/dessert

Following the awards luncheon, stop by the Exhibit Hall for dessert and prize drawings. Network with fellow attendees, congratulate award winners and pick up new resources from exhibitors.

Salons A-F 

3-4:20 p.m.

How to evaluate hospital charity care and bad debt

Though the ACA has helped drive uninsured rates to their lowest levels ever, charity care continues to play an important role in getting healthcare to the poor, and, increasingly to the underinsured. The panel will examine what charity care is and how it is different from bad debt, and why that distinction is important, for the hospital and for patients. We will talk to with a hospital executive who oversees her system's charity care coverage, as well as a charity care expert with one of the nation's leading patient advocate groups, and two reporters whose recent coverage of charity care helped illustrate the challenges in assessing if hospitals are doing the work most of them were founded to do. #AHCJcharitycare
  • Dan Diamond, reporter, Politico

  • Susan Sherry, deputy director, Community Catalyst

  • Moderator: Sean Hamill, reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Salon G

Health IT trends you need to know now

Blockchain, predictive analytics, digital therapeutics – these are just a few buzzwords in the rapidly evolving and complex field of digital health. This panel of experts will discuss the biggest trends in health information technology so attendees come away with a basic understanding of how these technologies work and how they are influencing patient care. The panel will also focus on solutions to removing disparities in technology adoption so all patients can benefit. #AHCJHIT
  • Melissa Buckley, director, Health Innovation Fund, California Health Care Foundation

  • Brad Tritle, partner, Alira Health

  • Chris Young, vice president of innovation and new virtual market development, Ascension Health

  • Moderator: Rebecca Vesely, AHCJ core topic leader/health information technology; independent journalist

Salon I

Covering Medicaid (from Washington, D.C., to the states

Workplace requirements, monthly premiums, lock-outs and drug testing are some the big changes (possibly) coming to Medicaid. But the nation’s largest health program that covers one in four Americans has already undergone a transformation in recent years with the move to managed care and growing role responding to public health emergencies from hurricanes to the opioid epidemic. This panel will help you identify the hottest trends in Medicaid – and help you evaluate how your state’s program is working or not. #AHCJMedicaid
  • Thomas Betlach, director, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System

  • Rachana Pradhan, health reporter, Politico

  • John Selig, senior vice president, The Lewin Group

  • Moderator: Phil Galewitz, senior correspondent, Kaiser Health News

Salon J

The future of veterans’ health

Where is veterans’ health care going? Experts will talk about the national crisis in VA health care that erupted more than three years ago in Phoenix, and what the future holds. Speakers include a top VA administrator, the Phoenix hospital chief of staff and a veteran/activist critical of the department. They’ll discuss reforms already in place, but the focus will be on future plans, funding and the Veterans Choice option. Panelists also will offer tips, and perhaps criticism, on VA coverage. #AHCJVA
  • Dan Caldwell, executive director, Concerned Veterans for America; Marine Corps veteran

  • Sam Foote, M.D., retired physician, Veterans Health Administration

  • Maureen McCarthy, M.D., chief of staff, Phoenix VA Health Care System

  • Moderator: Dennis Wagner, reporter, The Arizona Republic and USA Today News Network

Courtroom K

Despair, disparity and #MeToo: Reporting on women’s mental health

Across the lifespan, women suffer. They’re twice as likely to experience depression, PTSD, and other debilitating mental health conditions, and increasingly more likely to take their lives. From 2007 to 2015 alone, suicide rates doubled among teen girls, reaching a 40-year high. Why are women so disproportionately affected by mental illness? What role do widespread discrimination, exploitation, and abuse – now brought to the fore by the #metoo movement – play in women’s suffering? Hear experts and activists discuss these questions and more. #AHCJwomen
  • Patricia Harrison-Monroe, Ph.D., clinical associate professor and vice chair of psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine

  • Suniya Luthar, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Arizona State University

  • Dior Vargas, Latina feminist mental health activist

  • Moderator: Gisela Telis, mental health producer-reporter, Arizona Public Media

Courtroom M

Next targets for deep brain stimulation

Throughout history, physicians have tried electrical stimulation for all manner of neurological maladies. Deep brain stimulation – in which electrodes are implanted in certain parts of the brain to regulate abnormal impulses – has been used for nearly two decades to help alleviate life-altering connected with movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. Now, in hundreds of clinical trials around the world, researchers are investigating whether DBS could address dementia, depression, sleep disorders, epilepsy, pain, addiction and more. In this panel, two leaders in the field, along with a DBS patient, will talk about the science and the promise of DBS, as well as its risks and limitations, who might consider the procedure, and why some patients are less likely to seek it. #AHCJDBS
  • Bill Barta, deep brain stimulation patient

  • Francisco Ponce, M.D., neurosurgeon, Barrow Neurological Institute

  • Robert Wharen Jr., M.D., neurosurgeon, Mayo Clinic

  • Moderator: Charlotte Sutton, health and science editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Salon H

4:40-6 p.m.

Incorporating images and sounds on the health beat

Video and audio aren’t just for television and radio reporters anymore. Demand for web videos and podcasts mean that covering the story requires getting pictures and sounds that will grab and hold your audience. We will show examples to emulate, offer equipment tips and talk about working with patients and hospitals. The panel includes experienced TV and radio reporters. #AHCJvideoaudio
  • Alexandra Olgin, health care reporter, WFAE-Charlotte, N.C.

  • Joy Robertson, co-host, Ozarks Live, KOLR-Springfield, Mo.

  • Andrew Holtz, M.P.H., chief, HoltzReport; contributor,

Salon G

Opioid crisis: Covering pain control, addiction issues

How can patients find relief from debilitating pain without becoming addicted to opioid pills? Can journalists do a better job of helping the public appreciate the risks of addiction without whipping up hysteria and backlash against people who need care? In the light of the opioid crisis, hear from medical experts and a veteran health journalist to explore those questions. #AHCJopioid
  • Adriane Fugh-Berman M.D., professor of pharmacology and physiology, Georgetown University

  • Markian Hawryluk, health reporter, Bend (Ore.) Bulletin

  • Sandra Indermuhle, J.D., emergency department medical director, Chandler Regional Medical Center

  • Moderator: Tony Leys, health care reporter, Des Moines Register

Salon I

Will Congress protect Medicare — or overhaul it?

Republicans in Congress have hinted at their interest in entitlement reform – and the Trump administration has already initiated several major changes to the nation's health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. How will new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar work to change the program? What are the biggest changes that beneficiaries should expect, either from Congress or the administration? What changes are on the horizon for hospitals? For doctors? #AHCJMedicare
  • Kelly Hall, founder, Pembroke Policy Consulting

  • Robert E. Moffit, senior fellow, Health Policy Studies, Heritage Foundation

  • Megan O'Reilly, director of the federal health and family team, AARP

  • Moderator: Erin Mershon, Washington, D.C., correspondent, Stat

Salon J

Nutrition, obesity and countering clickbait

We live in a world with unprecedented access to information about food and nutrition – but not all that information is good or based on good nutritional science. This panel will take a look at the buffet of nutritional misinformation and explores how academics, public health officials and dedicated members of the public are tackling this head on and working to improve the health, nutrition and overall well-being of their specific communities. #AHCJnutrition
  • Lydia Kaume, Ph.D, R.D.N., L.D., assistant professor, University of Missouri Extension

  • Katarina Sajovec, executive director, Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture

  • Cynthia A. Thomson, Ph.D., R.D., professor, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; director, Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion; director, Arizona Smokers' Helpline

  • Moderator: Rebecca Smith, health reporter, KBIA; instructor, Missouri School of Journalism

Courtroom K

What's ailing the health care workforce?

The U.S. population needs more doctors, and newly minted physicians are spurning primary care. Older nurses are heading for retirement. Who will be left to provide patient care? What will it take to retain good doctors, nurses, and physician assistants? Panelists will provide perspectives from medical schools, researchers, and hospital recruiters. Learn what’s really happening with the health care workforce and come away with story ideas good for local or national coverage. #AHCJworkforce
  • Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., R.N., director, Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, Montana State University

  • Darrell Kirch, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Association of American Medical Colleges

  • Maureen Sterbach, vice president of human resources, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Dignity Health Arizona
  • Moderator: Joyce Frieden, news editor, MedPage Today

Salon H

6:15-7:15 p.m.

Salute to Health Journalism: AHCJ celebrates 20 years

Join us for a quick toast, an appetizer and some conversation prior to your dinner plans.

Grotto Pool & Palm Terrace

Sunday, April 15

7:30-8:45 a.m.

Breakfast buffet available

Salons A-F  

9-10:20 a.m.

Valley fever and other regional diseases: A struggle for awareness

Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is a paradigm of many other regional diseases. In Arizona it is one of the most common infections reported to the state and the numbers are growing. Yet outside of the endemic regions in the southwest, valley fever is rare and fails to get attention nationally. Hear from fungal disease experts, a doctor fighting for a valley fever vaccine, a recovering patient and a journalism collaborative that took on valley fever as an ongoing project.  #AHCJvalleyfever
  • Orion McCotter, M.P.H., epidemiologist, Mycotic Diseases Branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • John Galgiani, M.D., executive director, Valley Fever Center for Excellence, University of Arizona

  • Jim Meenaghan, valley fever patient

  • Harold Pierce, reporter, The Bakersfield Californian
  • Moderator: Stephanie Innes, senior health reporter, Arizona Daily Star

Salon I

Freelance: Think before you sign

It's never been more important for independent writers to pay close attention to contracts and not automatically sign their rights away in order to get a gig. Indemnification clauses, which put writers in danger, are becoming more common. Other contract hazards lurk in clauses about kill fees, payment schedules, publication rights and more. The good news: You have more power than you think. It's often possible to convince publishers to revise contracts, and our panelists will tell you how to do it. We’ll also discuss how to estimate your risk since it’s not likely you can say no to every bad contract, especially when you’re starting out. Get the tools you need to make the best decisions when you aren't sure whether to sign on the dotted line. #AHCJcontracts

Salon H

Planning and organizing your enterprise project

At the outset, long-term projects can be daunting for reporters. Simply finding the time can be a challenge, plus finding and juggling data and documents, sources and resources. Hear tips from veteran journalists who can help you find a worthy angle, then craft a plan to organize your project. #AHCJproject
  • Instructor: Brad Hamilton, editor-in-chief, The Contently Foundation

  • Instructor: Markian Hawryluk, health reporter, Bend (Ore.) Bulletin

Salon G

10:40 a.m.-noon


Fires, floods and storms: Covering health angles of natural disasters

Beyond the breaking news generated by massive wildfires, category-5 hurricanes and deadly debris flows is a near limitless supply of impactful health stories. This session will help you uncover a trove of fascinating health angles that accompany disaster and its aftermath - from community-wide PTSD, increased rates of suicide and behavior disorders in children to pollution-related illnesses, fetal distress and even higher obesity rates among children born to pregnant survivors of disaster. We’ll also guide you to resources that will link you to growing body of interdisciplinary disaster science and scientists. #AHCJdisasters
  • Jason DeRose, western bureau chief, National Public Radio

  • Cathy Kennedy, R.N., vice president, National Nurses United

  • Lori Peek, Ph.D., director, Natural Hazards Center; professor, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado-Boulder

  • Moderator: Stephanie O'Neill, independent journalist

Salon I

Using public resources to find your next big scoop

Health data and information often undergird good stories; but it can be difficult to find evidence-based resources. In this session, we suggest sources of evidence-based information and data from PubMed, PubMed Health, and other U.S. government sources, as well as other publicly available sites that allow reporters to see how scientists discuss and track evidence such as clinical trials and FDA documents in real time. Come with your laptops or tablets – this is a hands-on session to help you navigate and personalize the use of National Library of Medicine and other web-based resources. The presenters will help beginners in one part of the session as well as devote some time to assist more advanced users. #AHCJresources
  • Instructor: Robert Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, National Library of Medicine

  • Instructor: Ivan Oransky, M.D., distinguished writer in residence, New York University Arthur Carter Journalism Institute; co-founder, Retraction Watch

Salon H

Hospital finance

It’s a challenging year for hospitals. Trump administration’s and congressional changes to the Affordable Care Act will likely reduce insurance rolls and cause more fiscal strain for hospitals in your area. Other massive changes are being driven by the states. This session will summarize the trends around hospital finances and give you the tools to understand arcane numbers and how to get them in a timely way. We will discuss how to find five key documents and the experts to review them, and we will suggest many practical story ideas. #AHCJfinance
  • Instructor: Karl Stark, business news editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Salon G