Board elections 2020: Candidates' statements
Six of the 12 director positions come up for election each year for two-year terms. Although incumbent board members are allowed to run for re-election, two have decided not to run again this year.
AHCJ members in the professional category will receive an email with a link allowing them to vote online. The election will be conducted June 22-July 1 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.
I am a mid-career transplant to journalism, after more than a decade as a health sciences librarian at the National Library of Medicine, the University of California San Francisco, and Samuel Merritt University. For many of those years I helped faculty members, medical and nursing students find credible research. My library career, which began when Google was just some search engine and social media did not exist, overlapped with the period in which developing online information literacy became a vital skill.
Throughout those years I became increasingly interested in what people actually did with the information I provided. What health questions were they trying to answer? What assumptions did they start with, valid or not? How did the power dynamics in health centers thwart, or support, innovation in medical practice? These are questions that journalists answer best, which is why I attended NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting and graduated in 2019. Shifting from helping people find information to exploring what they do with it has been a natural and rewarding progression.
Even though inexpensive web publishing technologies have existed for two decades, most peer-reviewed journal content is extraordinarily expensive or only (legally) available to people at a college or university. I am one of many librarians who supported the open access movement, which seeks to make this content free for everyone by shifting some of the funds that now pay for subscriptions – a cause thwarted by inertia and the power of established journal brands, but which remains correct even so. I used to support open access purely on its own terms, without appreciating the fact that academic papers are often impenetrable to everyone but a few specialists. Open access without bold and independent analysis does not really get us very far. This is another reason I am grateful for my career switch to journalism.
I am also grateful to AHCJ, which is why I am running for the Board. As a student I received a scholarship to attend the 2019 conference in Baltimore, and now as a freelancer I regularly tune into AHCJ webinars. The amount of content produced by a relatively small association is inspiring. At one time I was very active in the national Medical Library Association, chairing regional chapters and leading task forces. It would be a privilege to make a similar contribution to AHCJ. Thanks very much for your consideration.
Senior editor, Science Desk, NPR
I began my health reporting career at newspapers, then switched to public radio, and eventually became an editor. I first ran for the AHCJ board in 2018, and in 2019 moved to the D.C. area to work on NPR’s Science Desk. I help lead the NPR-Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership. In that role, I am both a radio and print editor, working with new and seasoned health reporters, in cities big and small, across the U.S. Some of the reporters I work with are freelancers, some work in more than one medium, many are trying to survive in this fractured industry. It’s a collaboration, like AHCJ, that makes journalists stronger by bringing them together to share knowledge, resources and community.
When I first ran for the board, I wanted to establish a health reporting award for promising student journalists, and to revive an audio-focused award category for radio/podcast work. I’m happy to report the student award category is now a reality – and drew dozens of additional entrants this winter, its second year. The pandemic has delayed the work of the contest committee on an audio award, but I remain committed to pushing forward on that during my second term.
As this pandemic has shown us, a strong, sustainable and responsive AHCJ is absolutely crucial. AHCJ pivoted quickly, helping with the unique needs of laid-off journalists and freelancers (such as extending expiring memberships for reporters in need). AHCJ now offers pandemic-related webinars for free, and created a six-month “starter” membership for reporters newly thrust into the health beat.
All that has only been possible because of the contributions of money, time and expertise from members like you, and the passion and commitment of AHCJ staffers and board members.
I’m running for a second term to do my part to help our association survive and even thrive during the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus, the recession and the ongoing fights for racial justice and equity. As Len prepares to step down, the board is actively seeking his successor. I’d like to continue being part of that search, and eventually help his successor learn about our diverse membership and their needs.
I humbly ask for your vote for a second term on the AHCJ board, and look forward to hearing from you about your ideas, your professional needs, and how we can help. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Washington editor, MedPage Today
Health care journalism’s importance to society has never been more evident than during this pandemic. We have all seen our colleagues’ groundbreaking reporting on the science behind the coronavirus, the response of governments around the world, and the rush to discover a vaccine.
At times like these, the AHCJ’s work is more crucial than ever, and I would be proud to help strengthen this organization. I’ve learned a lot during my three years on AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, where we fight for unfettered access to government scientists, administrators, and data. The committee also pushes for making meetings easier to cover and for government agencies to release as much health care information as possible. And we work with other journalism organizations to speak up as a group on issues of censorship and retaliation. As a board member, I would ensure this vital work continues.
As a journalist for trade publications, I’ve had to fight a little harder for some of those interviews, or to get that question in at the press conference. That’s why I can be the voice on the board for the many health care reporters who work for that small radio station or specialty publication. And I also spent several years freelancing, so I know the joy of being my own boss and the pain of doing my own marketing. That will help me to advocate for AHCJ’s valuable freelancer constituency.
My involvement in AHCJ nationally and locally also will strengthen my work on the board. I have moderated panels at several annual meetings and participated as an editor at the Freelance PitchFest, and I spent several years helping coordinate the association’s Washington, D.C., chapter.
My varied career in health care journalism also would be an asset. In my time as a writer and editor at the International Medical News Group and now as the Washington Editor at MedPage Today, I have covered developments in health policy as well as clinical medicine. I’ve been to political conventions, medical meetings, congressional hearings, and health care-related protests. I love the fact that health care is always changing and that fascinating stories abound.
In short, I have the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm needed to serve as an effective board member. I thank you for reading this and respectfully ask for your vote.
I’m a freelance journalist based in Atlanta, Georgia. Several years ago, I pivoted to journalism from a career as a physician and epidemiologist: After training in internal medicine, pediatrics, and infectious diseases and working as a “disease detective” at the CDC and the NYC health department, I completed a journalism fellowship at the University of Toronto in 2016. Since then, I’ve written for a variety of publications about health disparities and other public health issues.
I have a particular interest in solutions journalism and in educating and mentoring young journalists: as a 2019-2020 Solutions Journalism Network fellow, I taught teen journalists how to create stories about what’s working to fix problems in their own communities at VOX ATL, an Atlanta-based, teen-led media outlet. I also maintain an active clinical appointment with the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.
When I found AHCJ in my early freelancing days, I felt like I’d found my people. Since my first AHCJ conference, I have been an active and grateful member of the organization, serving on the freelance committee, and this year, helping to judge awards. The personal and professional connections I have made through AHCJ have been critical to my sense of community and my development as a reporter and writer. I rarely miss a chance to tell a health journalist about the benefits of membership and conference attendance.
This world and its media structures are at an inflection point: At a time when the public’s understanding of public health issues is an especially important determinant of their health, that understanding is increasingly driven not by facts, but by trust in the media. Increasing the diversity of voices and experiences within the health journalism landscape is a step toward increasing that trust. As an AHCJ board member, I would aim to identify and support initiatives to help make freelancing a financially viable and intellectually satisfying career for a broader range of journalists.
I look forward to hearing your ideas and to bringing an open, creative spirit to representing you on the AHCJ board.
Health care reporter, Des Moines Register
Des Moines, Iowa
I’m running for my fourth term on the AHCJ board of directors, because I want to continue repaying the support the association has given me.
I’ve been the Des Moines Register’s main health care reporter since 2000, and previously worked 12 years as an editor for the paper. I recently returned to the Register after completing a 10-month Knight Science Journalism fellowship at MIT.
I first ran for the board in 2014 as a candidate representing daily health journalists from relatively small outlets, who can feel isolated because we lack teams of co-workers with knowledge about the subject. AHCJ’s conferences, webcasts and tip sheets are a boon to freelancers and reporters at local newspapers, websites and radio and TV stations.
Since joining the board, I’ve also become co-chair of AHCJ’s annual journalism contest. The contest committee sets the contest rules and categories, recruits judges and decides tricky questions about whether entries qualify. Our biggest accomplishment recently was the addition of a student category, to encourage young journalists who cover health care. We’re now looking into the possibility of adding an audio category, to recognize health journalists making podcasts and radio shows.
I hope AHCJ members elect me to another term on the board, so I can continue representing front-line reporters.
Vice president, Editorial, Medscape
This is a trying time for the world, and for us as journalists. We are fighting an existential fight for the public health, but also for our industry. Even as AHCJ has had to make difficult decisions, including postponing our annual meeting, it has been a privilege to serve as president of the board of directors. I’m seeking your support for another term on the board in order to continue that work.
This is a pivotal time in AHCJ’s history, as we search for a new executive director. Filling Len Bruzzese’s shoes will be a formidable task, but my hope is that the institutional memory of my longtime experience as a member of the board will help to smooth the transition. AHCJ’s finances and programs are in excellent shape, but strategic planning requires anticipating downturns such as this one, and planning for other contingencies.
As someone with experience in trade journalism, consumer journalism, for-profit journalism, non-profit journalism, and journalism education, I hope that I bring a diversity of perspectives to bear on the challenges and opportunities AHCJ faces. I would welcome the chance to continue helping chart AHCJ’s course. My involvement in AHCJ, from serving on the board to speaking at many of our fellowship programs and moderating the listserv, has been a highlight of my professional life.
I am vice president of editorial at Medscape, co-founder of Retraction Watch, and Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur Carter Journalism Institute, where I have taught medical journalism for 18 years. Previously, I was global editorial director of MedPage Today; executive editor of Reuters Health; managing editor, online, of Scientific American; and deputy editor of The Scientist. I have written for numerous publications, including Columbia Journalism Review, Nature, STAT, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and WIRED.
I received my B.A. from Harvard University, where I was executive editor of The Harvard Crimson, my M.D. from New York University, and completed an internship at Yale before leaving medicine to be a full-time journalist. I live in Northampton, Mass., with my wife Cate Vojdik, whom I met at the 2002 AHCJ conference.
I hope I’ve earned your support, and I look forward to your feedback.
Knight chair in health and medical journalism, University of Georgia
I am a veteran health care journalist with more than a decade of experience that spans print, digital, and broadcast media. I was first elected to the AHCJ board in 2016, and with your support, I hope to continue to advocate for press freedom and work toward diversity within the organization, but also to boost AHCJ’s presence and create a mentorship program for students.
Currently, I chair a health journalism program at the University of Georgia, where I prepare the next generation of reporters to write about health, science, and medicine. I’ve been with UGA since August 2018. Previously, I worked as the business of healthcare reporter for the Dallas Morning News, reported on quality and safety for Modern Healthcare magazine, and for many years, produced health and science segments for the Cable News Network.
It has been an honor to be part of the AHCJ board for the past few years. I serve as vice-chair of the Right to Know Committee, where we have been incredibly busy fighting for transparency, advocating for greater access to top officials, and educating members about available resources. The importance of these tasks became even more salient over the past few months, as reporters clamored to access data during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There remains so much work to do. I am interested in surveying members— and nonmembers who suddenly found themselves on the health care beat —about the recent challenges with access to information. I’d like to use the findings to create a targeted strategy for improving communication between journalists and local, state and federal health officials in the future.
This year, I also joined the awards committee, where I worked to boost student participation in the association’s annual contest. I feel it’s important that we work closely with the next generation to best prepare them to cover this extraordinary beat. I would like to work towards creating a mentorship program that pairs promising students with professional journalists. I’d also like to increase outreach to students of color who, for many reasons, are hesitant to tackle this beat.
If voted back on to the AHCJ board, I will work hard towards the efforts outlined above. It has been an honor to serve you since 2016, and I look forward to continuing the work. Thank you!