Board elections 2022: Candidates' statements

Members in AHCJ’s professional category can vote for the association board of directors and have received a link via email to cast their ballot. Voting closes July 1 at 5 pm CST.

If you are a professional category member and have not received your ballot, please check your junk/spam folders for an email from "info@healthjournalism.org".

If you still are unable to locate your ballot, please contact Director of Engagement Andrea Waner at wanera@missouri.edu.

Each year, members in AHCJ’s professional category elect members for the association board of directors. (Associate and allied members cannot run for election or cast ballots.)

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.

Service on the board is a serious commitment. It has commensurate rewards (but no pay). In addition to participating in two board meetings each year and occasional conference calls, board members are responsible for making decisions about association policies and statements, as well as working with the executive director on training projects, financial matters and other efforts to achieve AHCJ’s strategic goals. Board meetings are normally held in person but can be held online if necessary.

Board members take on committee duties and contribute to association activities, including fundraising, advocacy, helping plan sessions at training events, membership outreach and writing/editing contributions. They may be asked to play a role in other association projects that arise. They also are asked to show their support through an annual donation to the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, although there is no minimum required.

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


Carrie Feibel

After three years, more than 500 journalists gathered in April for AHCJ’s annual conference in Austin. At panels, meals and in serendipitous hallway conversations, I felt inspired once again by the energy and determination of our members.

And yet the torrent of health stories — the pandemic, misinformation, systemic racism, the escalating overdose crisis, the policies and politics — continues unabated. To meet these challenges, AHCJ needs to actively recruit more members, welcome younger and more diverse members, continue to offer relevant training and support and find more ways to reach members where they are.

That crucial work is why I’m running for re-election to the AHCJ board. I’m a health editor on NPR’s Science Desk, where I help lead the NPR-Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership. I edit for radio and online, and work with dozens of new and veteran health reporters all over the U.S. 

I will also focus on two essential tasks: updating our annual contest and ensuring we find the best new leader for AHCJ’s future growth.

As Tony Leys steps off the board, the contest committee will need experienced leadership going forward. In my first term, the committee worked with Tony to establish the student category. During my second term, I led the effort to establish the new audio reporting category. With those goals completed, I’d like the committee to review the entire contest structure. I believe we can make the rules clearer and less byzantine and streamline an often confusing entry process.

As journalism evolves, we can adjust size divisions or allow more flexibility for cross-platform entries and collaborative journalism. And we need to recruit more volunteer judges, diversify their ranks, and publicly recognize their contributions. I remain committed to a journalism contest that highlights lesser-known outlets and newer reporters while also recognizing the best national and international health journalism every year. 

When Len Bruzzee retired as executive director, the board helped search for his replacement. Unfortunately, that person moved on after less than two years. This event reinforced the importance of finding the right leadership for AHCJ and the need to create incentives for that person to stay and invest in the long-term growth of our organization and industry.  

I humbly ask for your vote. Feel free to contact me at cfeibel@npr.org with your ideas and professional needs. Thank you.


Deborah Schoch

I’m a freelance health journalist with upstate New York roots who has worked in California for three decades. My clients include The New York Times and AARP.

I spent 18 years as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. Then I joined the USC-based Center for Health Reporting, where I became a senior writer and crisscrossed California for stories. Honors include a first-place AHCJ award, sharing in two Pulitzer Prizes and a Nieman Fellowship to study science and law.

My AHCJ activities include six years on the board’s Right-to-Know Committee, and I’m a member of the Freelance Committee. I’ve organized panels for five national conferences.

I’m running for the board because I want to give back to an organization that has educated and supported me since 2009. I want to expand resources for our freelance members and better engage our Western members. If elected, I may be the only board member west of Missouri.

Among my plans if I join the board:

Strengthen freelance representation. Thirty percent of AHCJ members are independent journalists — but only one current board member is a freelancer. My ideas include:

  • Creating a separate Listserv-style network for freelancers so we can communicate quickly with our colleagues.

  • Overseeing the development of The Freelance Committee’s new mentoring program, which will be open to all association members. I’ve agreed to head a subcommittee.

Better serve Western members. More AHCJ members live in California than in any other state but New York. Yet we don’t have any board members from the West. I want to better engage those members, perhaps starting with a Listserv or Zoom meeting for California members. And I will lobby for a West Coast national conference.

Help AHCJ during a turbulent time. We’ve lost two executive directors (one retired and one resigned) in less than two years. Interim executive director Katherine Reed is doing a remarkable job, and the board is looking hard for a new director, but we need the stability of permanent staffing. And I want to help create our first strategic plan in many years.

If you have questions, email me at Deborah.Schoch@gmail. Thank you for your consideration.


Joyce Frieden

I’m seeking re-election to the board because I’d like to continue the work I’ve been doing as co-chair of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee. Over the past year, the group has worked to improve health reporters’ access to federal government officials, including encouraging White House press staff to call on health care trade press more often during public briefings of the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

We are now campaigning to restore press and public access to the HHS employee directory, which recently had much of its important data removed, including staff phone numbers and emails. And we have held the first of what we hope will be continued quarterly meetings with senior communications officials at HHS, giving us more opportunities to advocate for our members’ needs.

The Right to Know Committee is also working to distribute guidelines we’ve developed for medical societies to use when they invite the press to cover their meetings. Each society has different rules when it comes to recording meeting sessions, interviewing speakers, and using the press room. We would like to ensure health journalists are treated with the respect they deserve when covering these events, especially when such coverage is of obvious benefit to the medical societies.

I’m familiar with this issue because I’ve covered my share of medical meetings, both in my prior work as a writer and editor at the International Medical News Group and also at MedPage Today, where I am now the Washington Editor. I love that health care is constantly evolving, and fascinating stories abound.

My time on the board has coincided with several significant challenges for the organization, the most obvious being the pandemic. My fellow board members and I worked with AHCJ’s amazing staff to hold the first in-person annual meeting in several years, using essential COVID protocols such as proof of vaccination and mandatory masking to keep attendees safe.

I want to stay on the board to see these and other challenges through and keep searching for new ways to grow and nurture our membership. I also plan to continue serving on the Contest Committee as we expand and refine our contest categories. Finally, I want to continue fighting for the rights of freelancers, one of our largest member groups. I hope you will give me the opportunity to continue my service on the board.


Laura Beil

In 2006, I attended my first AHCJ meeting in Houston. I had just left an extensive career at the Dallas Morning News and was missing the camaraderie and community of a newsroom. At AHCJ, I found it.

When I started writing magazine features 16 years ago, I had only ever known the newspaper business. I’ve now been a freelancer for almost as long as I was a staffer — and in 2018 became one of only three freelancers to win the Victor Cohn Prize in its 21-year history.

In my three decades of journalism, I feel lucky to have had a wide breadth of experience: I’ve covered breaking stories I turned around in a day and investigative narratives I reported for a year. I’ve had dream assignments I never wanted to end and nightmares I thought never would. I’ve written about invisible disease threats and an 82-year-old barrel racing queen who’s hard to miss. I now make my living predominately in audio through podcasts, a late-career change I didn’t see coming.

I’ve volunteered at almost every recent health journalism conference, serving on the freelance committee for more years than I can keep track of. We only have one freelancer on our board, but independent journalists represent an increasing portion of our membership. (Whether our colleagues come to freelancing by choice — or, as news outlets shrink — unexpected necessity.)

If elected to the board, I would champion the push to allow freelance members access to medical meetings based on AHCJ membership alone. Conferences provide a vital opportunity to explore timely topics and curate sources; freelancers should be allowed press registration whether they have an assignment or are looking for one. And there’s a lengthy list of other concerns: the threat to our livelihood from the PRO Act; the continual battle for fair pay and fair contracts; the need for opportunities to learn and grow from colleagues when your day-to-day work is mostly solitary.

As a board member, I would be positioned to serve the unique needs we have as freelancers, with a broad perspective on the larger challenges we face in journalism as a whole. This organization has given me so much. I would welcome the chance to return the favor.


Leigh Ann Winick

Dear fellow members:

Thank you for considering me for AHCJ’s Board of Directors.

I am a seasoned television journalist focusing on medical news for CBS network news. I work with physician correspondents and contributors to report efficiently and concisely breaking medical news and features for a general audience.

I have benefitted from AHCJ resources, including a 2016 NIH residency, and seek to build on the organization’s solid foundation.

The pandemic has brought new audiences to medical news. There is an urgent need to reach diverse groups across the country on a variety of platforms.

Our leadership is currently print-oriented. At a time when health has such a significant impact on daily life, it is crucial to adjust to our audience by reaching them on social media and streaming services.

I would help support and train print journalists to take advantage of visual assets and establish a collaborative database of camera-friendly medical sources and communications liaisons.

I am a spirited newsroom leader who enjoys collaborating with journalists from diverse backgrounds. I would be honored to serve as a director.


Pauline Arrillaga

Dear fellow members:

It feels like I should begin with something like: “Longtime listener, first-time caller.” “Longtime” because I’ve worked in journalism for three decades now. “First time” because AHCJ is still somewhat new to me. But I’m a firm believer that fresh eyes and perspectives help promote positive and exciting growth, and so I am seeking election to the AHCJ board.

I spent 27 years at The Associated Press — including a decade working across Texas. I later became a national writer and senior journalist for the company, specializing in long-form narratives. I also worked five years as the head of enterprise journalism in the U.S., collaborating not just with reporters but with photographers and video journalists to produce award-winning work.

In 2019, I left the AP to join the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to launch our Southwest Health Reporting Initiative. I lead a group of student journalists who develop coverage about health disparities in underserved communities and communities of color. Come fall, we’re looking to add an element to the program aimed at combating health misinformation.

As a board member, I’d love to contribute to AHCJ in a number of ways. First, as a Latina journalist, advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in our newsrooms, J schools and coverage is both my passion and mission. COVID made it clear that journalists must understand how to accurately report on health disparities. As a longtime trainer of editors and reporters across the globe, I’d relish the chance to contribute to AHCJ training efforts in these areas and beyond.

I’d also like to help represent the next generation of health care journalists. These are students going on to pursue traditional journalism careers in digital, audio and broadcasting — but also future content producers working at nontraditional outlets and as freelancers in the U.S. and elsewhere. I’ve had past conversations with AHCJ leaders about growing membership among college journalists and recent graduates, and I’d like to further add to that effort.

In the brief time that I’ve been an AHCJ member, I’ve seen how much the organization has to offer — the wonderful resources, collaboration on sourcing, training sessions and more. I’d be honored to help further advance the group's mission.

Thank you for your consideration.


Randy Dotinga

Nearly four years ago, I sprang into action when California freelancers began to lose work because of a court ruling and a new law called AB5. I organized a coalition of creator organizations, pressured legislators in one-on-one meetings, talked to dozens of reporters, and convinced a nonprofit legal advocacy firm to represent freelancers in a First Amendment lawsuit.

Ultimately, we prevailed — mostly — after an intense campaign that pitted us against powerful labor unions that are threatened by freelancers. But our work isn’t over. The American Society of Journalists & Authors, which I served as president from 2014-2016, and the National Press Photographers Association are still fighting AB5’s unconstitutional ban on freelance video journalism. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering our joint lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the proposed federal PRO Act continues to pose a major threat to all independent journalists. Now, I’m running for the AHCJ with two missions: We must speak louder as an advocate for journalists and do more to support the independent journalists who make up a third of our membership.

I’ve been a full-time San Diego-based freelance writer for 23 years and earlier worked as a reporter at Southern California newspapers. I’m also a longtime advocate for journalists: I served on the board of ASJA, the leading association of independent writers and non-fiction authors for 12 years. I also served for eight years on the board of NLGJA/The Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

I’ve also spoken at dozens of journalism conferences, including AHCJ’s, and I’ve been chair or co-chair of six conferences.

As a board member of AHCJ, I will:

  • Pursue grant funding so we can produce a definitive legal guide for independent journalists that will guide freelancers through the thickets of contracts, indemnification clauses and libel law.

  • Work to boost AHCJ training to help freelancers improve their skills at using search engines, medical research databases and social media.

  • Strive to make our virtual Pitch Fest editor meetings permanent and encourage book editors and agents to participate in Pitch Fest. I’ll also work to bring Pitch Slams – which are hugely successful at ASJA and NASW meetings — to our annual conferences.

  • Look for opportunities to sue on behalf of journalists. The connections I’ve made thanks to AHCJ have been crucial to my survival as a freelance journalist, and I look forward to giving back.


Sabriya Rice

I am a veteran health care journalist with more than a decade of experience in print, digital and broadcast media. I was first elected to the AHCJ board in 2016. With your support, I hope to continue to advocate for press freedom, work towards diversity in our membership and boost AHCJ’s programs for journalism students.

It has been an honor to be part of the AHCJ board for the past few years. I currently serve as co-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. There remains so much work to do on this front. I’m also secretary of the board and have been diligently working to maintain thorough and accurate minutes to keep everyone up-to-date.

As chair of a health journalism program at the University of Georgia, I helped prepare the next generation of reporters to write about health, science and medicine. This year, I worked with the AHCJ staff to coordinate a newsroom for journalism students at the Austin conference. Not only did it prove to be a unique introduction to AHCJ for a new and diverse group of emerging journalists, but the students’ blog posts about sessions made tip sheets available to members who could not attend, and their Q&As on current members highlighted the range of talent in our existing membership.

If voted back on to the AHCJ board, I will work hard to continue efforts like the ones outlined above. Thank you for your consideration!