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Midwest Health Journalism Program: What the fellows say

Application deadline: July 27, 2009
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Press release about the program

Past fellows

Advisory Board

• The Kansas Health Foundation, Wichita, Kan.
• The Sunflower Foundation, Topeka, Kan.
• The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Hutchinson, Kan.
• REACH Healthcare Foundation, Merriam, Kan.
• Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City, Mo.
• Missouri Foundation for Health, St. Louis

Some of the past fellows have shared their thoughts on what the fellowship has meant to them:

"When I embarked on this yearlong journey called the Midwest Fellows Health Journalism Program, I expected to encounter new sources, story ideas and a better understanding of this complex field we cover. I was far from disappointed.

Already, information I gleaned or became more familiar with during the fellowship has yielded articles on the woeful board certification scores of a local medical school's pediatrics students, the health effects of ground-level ozone, problems in the pharmaceutical industry and many other topics.

And as an added bonus, I made several friends among the fellowship class and its high-caliber instructors.

In fact, the inspiration provided by these talented and energetic people may have been the fellowship's greatest take-home treasure."

— Rob Roberts, Kansas City Business Journal

"The fellowship sessions, experts and discussions opened my mind to a more sophisticated level of reporting."

— Kathleen O'Dell, reporter, The Springfield News-Leader


"Initially I wondered what I would get from the training because I don't cover health exclusively. I have found the training invaluable. It has helped me know how to quickly find data that has added depth to my stories."

— Jeanine Koranda, The Wichita Eagle

"The Midwest Health Journalism Fellowship has been a thought-provoking, thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. I think the most beneficial aspect of the Fellowship is the fellowship – the opportunity to interact with, and learn from, the other Fellows and, especially, the leadership of AHCJ. ... If you should get the opportunity to take part in the Fellowship, by all means go for it!"

— Bryan Thompson, Kansas Public Radio

"It couldn't have been better timing for me to get accepted into the fellowship program. I was in the beginning of an investigation into Missouri's mental health system and I needed help. AHCJ connected me with a special projects editor at the Tulsa World to be my mentor. She showed me how to build a database for all the records I had, how to get more records, make sure I wouldn't get sued and then helped edit the series of stories before they aired.

The fellowship training gave me a wide range of reporting tools and depth to make my radio stories comprehensive while still maintaining the key element of storytelling.

The contacts, information and generousness of AHCJ make this an excellent, hands-on fellowship. You will meet your peers around Kansas and Missouri who are doing outstanding journalism and learn from them and build friendships. And, the people behind the program are always willing to go above and beyond to help you."

— Kelley Weiss, former health reporter at KCUR-FM Kansas City, now a health care reporter at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento

"Participating in the Midwest Health Journalism Fellowship has provided me with a knowledge infusion and a battery recharge. It also has allowed me to get to know some of the most talented and enthusiastic people in this business.

Health care is one of the most complex beats at any news organization today, and one of the most important. Perhaps THE most important. Even in an age of apathy and disconnect, most people care about it deeply.

That's why it's up to us health-care journalists to keep learning. By that I mean learning about the topic itself, learning about new sources of information and learning about new ways to impart that information. And when this process occurs with other journalists who share your beat and your ideals, the learning curve shoots way up.

I also enjoyed getting to know the folks who run the fellowship program. They did everything imaginable to make the program valuable and enjoyable. I hope we will all be able to reconnect from time to time.

It was a year of my life I will always look back on fondly, and I urge everyone who has the opportunity to apply."

— Julius Karash, The Kansas City Star

"I'm coming away from the fellowship with so many benefits, chief among them being the renewed enthusiasm I have for the health beat. But there's so much more: I have increased confidence in my reporting skills. I know who the expert sources are, and how to get in touch with them. I have more story ideas than I'll be able to tackle in years. I know about the documents that can add the edge to the stories I'm doing. I've learned from some of the best in the field and know I can call on them for guidance, because I already have. And I've met the best journalists in Kansas and Missouri and have formed bonds with them that will endure long after the fellowship. From start to finish, it's been an excellent experience."

— Karen Shideler, The Wichita Eagle

Chris KingChris King, a 2007-08 Midwest Health Journalism Program Fellow, attended Health Journalism 2008, giving him the opportunity to question health experts.

"The AHCJ fellowship proved to be an unforgettable professional development opportunity and experience. I learned a wide range of skills and techniques, garnered an A list of national sources and contacts, and my future story budget lengthened and deepened.

The organizers were efficient and inspiring, and the presenters and mentors were all that and then some. The personal dedication to the mission of this program shown by our host journalists with established national reputations was almost unbelievable. I might add that they are, top to bottom, also a set of good and personable people. Though the program starts with a 'boot camp,' as a Navy veteran I can say it was all gain, no pain nor humiliation.

The next group won't enjoy the same colleagues I have had, but here is hoping they end up working with a group half as dedicated and fun. We have made promises to remain in touch after the program ends – which in itself is remarkable for a group of salty, mid-career journalists. However much contact we are able to pull off in actuality, I'll miss these folks."

— Chris King, St. Louis American

I just wanted to write and thank you all SO MUCH for the opportunity to learn and grow as a Midwest Fellow! The Association of Health Care Journalists has truly given my career a shot in the arm – pun intended. The energy and passion of my colleagues has inspired me to do better work, to dig deeper, and to look for more thoughtful and insightful stories. If I can't find the answer I need for a story, I have a host of experienced journalists to call upon for help. I've formed close bonds with other fellows as well as board members, and look forward to continued friendships.

— Joy Robertson, KOLR-Springfield

The Midwest Health Journalism Fellowship has provided me with one of the most enriching experiences of my professional career.

Not only did the fellowship extend my contact list, but the workshops and lectures provided fantastic background on today's most relevant stories. At the AHCJ conference, we listened to Elizabeth Edwards expound upon the health care crisis and at the Rural Health Journalism Workshop we were exposed to some of the latest health databases and mapping techniques.

And though the education was invaluable, the most valuable contribution the fellowship has made to my career would have to be the professional contacts. The fellowship gathers together the best in the business and these experts are more than willing to extend a hand to a reporter in need. Regardless of your level of experience, this fellowship will give you a leg up!

— Betsy Lee, independent journalist