San Francisco Bay Area chapter

Contact Victoria Colliver at if you are interested in taking part.

Upcoming events

The Bay Area chapter is interested in getting back on track with panel sessions and social gatherings. Please send a note to Victoria Colliver at if you are interested in playing a role or taking part.

Past events

Briefing: Affordable Care Act

San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform put on a special event Wednesday, Jan. 21.

With the ACA’s second enrollment period underway, health plans are increasingly offering consumers networks that exclude certain doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. Several court cases against insurers are now pending in California. Some claim that these networks hamper provider access and choice; others contend that this approach, if done the right way, helps consumers by creating competition and controlling costs, without compromising quality of care.

Anne Price of Covered California, Emily Bazar with the California HealthCare Foundation's Center for Health Reporting, Larry Levitt of Kaiser Family Foundation, and Betsy Imholz of Consumers Union will addressed this controversial trend and its impact on consumers, insurers and providers, and also proposed government intervention. Marilyn Serafini of the Alliance moderated this briefing.

View the event transcript, and check out this video from the briefing. This AHCJ blog post from Heather Johnson summarizes the briefing highlights.

Mental health matters

Oct. 17,  6 p.m., San Francisco Chronicle
RSVP  to

Are you a health reporter who regularly writes about mental health? Or maybe you’re looking to add this important area to your beat? Join us for a workshop and perspectives from two veteran health journalists.

This workshop explores stigmas, stereotypes, and facts about mental health, and covers sources, precision, relevance, language, cultural considerations and many other issues that can help reporters and editors tell more complete stories.

There’s never been a more pressing need for robust reporting about mental health. This workshop can provide you with some tools for telling that story accurately.

April 23, 2013: State health law implementation: Race to the starting line

Please join the San Francisco chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform for a special event on Tuesday, April 23.

Former California Medicaid Director Stan Rosenstein, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt, and workforce expert Susan Chapman will address the complex issues that California faces this year leading up to major 2014 health law changes.

Time: 6:30-8:30pm (refreshments available at 6:30, program begins at 7.)

LocationSan Francisco Chronicle - North Beach conference room (901 Mission St., San Francisco)
***Bring photo ID and check in at reception desk. (The Chronicle is near BART and parking garages are nearby)

RSVP to Colleen Paretty at

This event is sponsored by AHCJ, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


  • Stan Rosenstein, principal advisor, Health Management Associates, and former California Medicaid director, will talk about the state’s plan to expand Medicaid.
  • Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and executive director, Kaiser Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance, will discuss the major insurance changes coming in 2014, and how exchanges will work.
  • Susan Chapman, associate professor, UCSF School of Nursing, and research faculty, UCSF Center for the Health Professions, will address the medical professional workforce challenges associated with the coverage expansions.
  • Kelley Weiss, broadcast reporter, CHCF Center for Health Reporting, Sacramento, will suggest story ideas and tips on writing about the health law changes.

ModeratorMarilyn Werber Serafini, communications director and health policy advisor, the Alliance for Health Reform, a nonpartisan, nonprofit health policy group in Washington, DC

Less than a year from now, states must be ready to enroll millions of people in insurance exchanges, as outlined in the 2010 health care overhaul law. Or, the federal government will step in to do the job, or part of it. States also have the option of opening their Medicaid programs to millions of new participants. But that's not much time, considering their long to-do lists.

At least half a dozen Republican governors had delayed implementation efforts in hopes that the Supreme Court would rule the law unconstitutional, or that Gov. Mitt Romney would win the November election and repeal the law. Neither happened, but even if they decide now to run their own exchanges, it will be difficult for those states - and some others - to be ready in time, say health care experts.

California is planning to operate a state insurance exchange, and also is moving ahead with a Medicaid expansion. Also, the state will soon partner with the federal government to coordinate care for nearly half a million people who quality for both Medicare and Medicaid.  

Will California be ready to begin enrolling people this fall? Will hospitals and insurers be ready in time? Will people with changing economic situations bounce between Medicaid and subsidized private insurance, and will they have gaps in coverage? Will people know what kind of insurance to sign up for, and how to do it? Will there be a shortage of physicians and other medical providers?

This briefing will help you answer these questions for your readers, viewers and listeners.

E-Book Publishing: New Opportunities for Health Journalists?

Do you have an e-book in your writing future? Join us and find out.

WHEN: Monday, Nov. 12, 6-8 p.m.

WHERE: Yoga Journal, 475 Sansome St., Suite 850, San Francisco
(This is the San Francisco office of Active Interest Media, publisher of Yoga Journal. It's near the Transamerica Building.)
Please allow enough time to get through security at the building.

Please RSVP to

NOTE: This event is FREE and all AHCJ members, nonmembers working in health journalism, journalism students, and others in the health care field are welcome. Question? Comments? Email Colleen Paretty at

Tips for Health Journalists -- End of Life Care: A hidden and often ignored, yet essential area of care.

Brought to you by the Bay Area chapter of AHCJ and the SPJ Nor Cal chapter.

Thursday, Jan. 10,  6-8 p.m.

San Francisco Chronicle
901 Mission Street
San Francisco

Please RSVP -- we need to provide an attendance list to the Chronicle.

Light refreshments will be served; $5 donation requested to defray cost.


  • Lisa Krieger, a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, will talk about her award-winning series: "The Cost of Dying." She'll describe obstacles and challenges in reporting, and how she got around them.

  • Steven Pantilat, M.D., is a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the Alan M. Kates and John M. Burnard Endowed Chair in Palliative Care, and founding director of the UCSF Palliative Care Program. Dr. Pantilat is also the director of the UCSF Palliative Care Leadership Center that trains teams from hospitals across the country how to establish Palliative Care Services. He will discuss recent innovations in palliative care practice.

  • Dr. V.J. Periyakoil,  Director of Palliative Care Education and Training, Stanford University. Director, Stanford University Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program, Stanford University, Director, VA Interprofessional Fellowship in Palliative Care, VA Palo Alto Health Care System System. and Associate Director, Palliative Care Services, VA Palo Alto Health Care System System . She will talk about cross-cultural health issues that arise in working with patients and families.

  • Laurie Udesky, Moderator, independent health journalist, member of the Board of Directors, Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter, and member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Feb. 1: Implementing health reform in the states

More than 30 attendees heard local experts sketch the particular challenges and issues presented by the Affordable Care Act in California in the latest “Implementing health reform in the states” panel, hosted by AHCJ’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter on Feb. 1 at the San Francisco Chronicle.

The panel, one of a series sponsored by AHCJ, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, began with an explanation of exchanges and what’s happening with their implementation (or lack thereof) around the country by Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

He posed some story ideas, such as: How vigorously will the states promote enrollment through the exchanges? What sort of variations to the ACA might emerge once states have the ability to ask for waivers in 2017?

Read more about this panel ...

Nov. 9: Twitter and Storify for health journalists

This event will teach journalists how to use the social media platforms Twitter and Storify to improve health reporting skills and increase online visibility. You’ll get a thorough overview of Twitter and how to manage it on the third-party platform called Hootsuite. We’ll also look at Storify, a platform for creating stories using social media. Storify cofounder and CEO Burt Herman just received the 2011 SPJ-NorCal Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service award for producing Storify.

When: 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011

Where: Office, 149 Ninth Street , Suite #404, San Francisco
Parking is tough in San Francisco's Tenderloin. We recommend taking public transportation (Muni or BART) or carpooling. For BART, exit at Civic Center/UN Plaza BART and walk to 149 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 - about 8 mins (0.4 mi)

To RSVP, email

Topics include:

Using Hootsuite to Manage Twitter:

  • What is Twitter?
  • Using Hootsuite to organize Twitter
  • Hastags, RTs vs MTs, Facebook Friday, etc.
  • Scheduling tweets
  • Top health tweeters
  • Organizing tweetups
  • Managing multiple Twitter accounts
  • Creating Twitter groups
  • Using Twitter to advance your story

How and When to Use Storify:

  • What is Storify?
  • Examples of best health reporting
  • How to use it, when to use it
  • How to embed Storify content
  • SEO benefits

Our Speakers:

Marian Liu is the community manager at With a decade worth of newspaper and multimedia journalism under her belt, plus an Executive MBA from the University of Washington, Marian applies both business acumen and reporting to her job. In the past, she has covered everything from medicine to music for the Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Detroit Free Press and The Seattle Times - in print, audio and video - interviewing everyone from the scientist who coined the term “SPF,” to Britney Spears and Jet Li. She also directs Voices, a groundbreaking multi-platform student fellowship for the Asian American Journalists Association..

Shuka Kalantari is an outreach coordinator for KQED Public Radio’s Health Dialogues, where she works with citizen journalists throughout California and produces health-related multimedia and social media content. Shuka is also web producer and reporter for KPFA Pacifica Radio’s Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, and a freelance multimedia health reporter for KALW Radio’s Crosscurrents. She is the recipient of the 2011 New America Media Fellowship Program on Health, Health Care and Environmental Health; the 2009 California Health Journalism Fellowship; and both the 2010 and 2011 Association of Health Care Journalist Ethnic Media Fellowships.

Boost your reporting skills with social media: What's now, what's next

Thursday, March 17

Following up on a hugely popular social media event held several years ago, this event will teach journalists how to practically use social media platforms to improve health reporting skills. It will not only revisit the basics for Facebook, Twitter and blogging but also cover some new platforms and tools.

Topics include:

  • The range of social media and multimedia available to reporters.
  • Best practices for posting to Facebook and Twitter.
  • Incorporating Twitter lists/feeds into your website to enhance coverage.
  • How to create multiplatform storytelling and use multiple media forms (such as embedded images, video, audio or data visualization.
  • How to decide which media work best for a particular story.
  • New technology and platforms, such as the iPad and other tablets.

Our Speakers

Lanita Pace-Hinton is director of Multimedia Training Programs for the Knight Digital Media Center at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Since April 2000, she has been the associate director of the Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism, managing WKC seminars held at the UC Berkeley. She began her journalism career as a feature writer with Gannett News Service in Arlington, VA, and has written for the Detroit News and the Washington Post.

Suzanne Yada is the web producer for the Center for Investigative Reporting. She has worked as a social media strategist for the San Francisco Public Press, an independent nonprofit news organization in San Francisco. She also has been a web producer at the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.

Zoe Corneli is online news editor for The Bay Citizen, a nonprofit online news startup that also produces the Bay Area pages for The New York Times. Previously, she was a founding staff member of the local news magazine "Crosscurrents" from KALW Public Radio and managed the development of the show's companion website, Her national reporting credits include NPR News and PRI's "The World." Zoe was named "Outstanding Emerging Journalist" by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.


San Francisco Chronicle North Beach conference room 901 Mission St. San Francisco  For more information or to RSVP, email

The Impact of economic stimulus money on medical research at UCSF

Tuesday, Sept. 21

Is federal stimulus spending creating the millions of new jobs promised by President Obama? Are mechanisms against fraud and to promote transparency in place? The debate over the massive Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is becoming louder and brasher 18 months after its passage and two months before the mid-term Congressional elections.

According to the official government website (, $202 billion for 12,000 contracts, grants, and awards were issued as of June 30. Of the total, $10 billion was directed to the National Institutes of Health. It is spending the funds on thousands of medical research projects and scientific infrastructure awarded to individual scientists, one grant at a time.

The initiative has brought full-employment to scientists at the University of California, San Francisco. As of July 31, its researchers were awarded 280 ARRA-funded grants valued at $66.2 million. It laboratories are humming with researchers who are creating the next generation of genetically inspired drugs and personalized therapies.

The situation offers excellent health care reporting opportunities that combine economics, politics, and medical science. If you have never covered UCSF, this is your opportunity to learn how.

UCSF will showcase three ARRA-funded projects that exemplify the range of groundbreaking research under way on its campuses. Principal investigators for three multi-million dollar projects will describe how their discoveries may save lives and stoke the economy.

Our speakers

Kristen Bole, biotech news manager, UCSF Public Affairs, will provide an overview of ARRA funding at UCSF and introduce you to the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT), a web-based method for identifying groundbreaking projects at UCSF and other medical research institutions.

Neil Risch, PhD, director of the UCSF Institute for Human Genetics, received a $25 million grant in partnership with Kaiser Permanente to fund the research and creation of the largest genetic health care database ever undertaken. Through this project, UCSF will conduct a genome-wide analysis of DNA samples from 100,000 Kaiser Permanente member volunteers, representing decades of historical clinical, medication and health-related information on the largest and most diverse genetic population ever studied. The project will support 22 staff and research positions at Kaiser and UCSF in the first year alone, as well as providing key funding to nine current faculty and physician researchers in the two institutions.

S. Claiborne Johnston, MD, PhD, physician and director of the UCSF Stroke Service, received a $12.4 million cooperative agreement to evaluate an acute intervention in patients with transient ischemic attacks (TIA), which occur about 250,000 to 350,000 times each year in the US. Johnston will lead a multicenter clinical trial to find effective therapies to reduce the overall burden of stroke on patients with TIA. These funds also will create four full-time research positions at UCSF, six others at partnering institutions, and positions for 25 full-time coordinators throughout the trial sites.

Geoffrey Manley, MD, PhD, a neurotrauma surgeon at San Francisco General Hospital and co-director of the UCSF Brain and Spinal Injury Center, received a $4.1 million Grand Opportunity award to fund a potential framework for all future Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research, TBI is one of the greatest unmet needs in public health and is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Manley will lead an effort to test and refine standards for data collection in TBI studies, suitable for use across the broad spectrum of TBI, and use emerging technology to explore novel approaches for TBI classification and outcomes. These funds also are creating 14 full-time positions and eight part-time jobs.

A question and answer session will follow the presentations.


UCSF Mission Bay Campus
Byers Hall Room 212
1700 Fourth Street (corner of 16th)
San Francisco

Enter via Genentech Hall (adjacent building) from the quad and check in at the security desk. Street parking is available; paid parking is in the lot/garage across the street. [Map | Directions]

Light refreshments will be served. This event is FREE; all AHCJ members, local health journalists, journalism students are welcome.
Please RSVP to

The Cutting-Edge of Doctor/Patient Care: Telemedicine, Teleradiology and Telehealth Defined

The notion of the "doctor is in" is undergoing rapid changes, thanks to technology that can skip the doctors' office entirely for some appointments. As health journalists, we can answer questions such as: What are the benefits of "telemedicine" for doctors and patients? What are the downsides? How does telemedicine work and how widespread is it likely to become in the months and years ahead? Will it curb runaway health care costs? We'll explore these questions and more.


Thomas S. Nesbitt, MD, MPH, Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Technologies and Alliances at UC Davis School of Medicine, founding Director of the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology, a co-director of the California Telehealth Network, and Executive Director for Telehealth Services with the Center for Connected Health Policy.  He will provide an overview of the telehealth landscape in California and discuss how technology can improve both access to care and quality of care.

Kathy J. Chorba, Director, Specialty Care Safety Net Initiative with the Center for Connected Health Policy, will discuss the Initiative's telehealth demonstration project, which aims to link University of California medical specialists with patients statewide, and identify ways to establish permanent relationships among project participants.

Eric Trefelner, MD, FACR, Co-Owner and Teleradiologist with NightShift Radiology, will describe the controversial evolution of teleradiology services from providing late night on-call coverage to acute care hospitals to competing directly with radiology group practices for medical imaging services around the clock.

R. William Soller, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Self Care and Clinical Professor, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, UCSF, will discuss telemedicine and UCSF's telepharmacy program specifically, with examples about how telepharmacy serves as a problem-solver for individual patients and providers.

When: Mon., July 12; 6:30-8:30 pm
Where: California Health Care Foundation, Oakland Office

CHCF 101: Resources for Health Reporters Post-Health Care Reform
Story Ideas, Facts, Data, Tools, News Coverage and More

Now that we have a national health care reform bill, what does that mean for California? Join us for perspectives from a leading authority on health care in the state. We'll learn about resources for reporters and specifics about how the new reform bill will affect various sectors of health care in California in the months and years ahead.

Topics & speakers

  • Overview: Mark Smith, M.D., president/CEO, will tell us how CHCF can assist reporters on various aspects of health care research.
  • Health care reform in California: What's next now that the national bill has been passed? CHCF's Senior Project Manager Marian Mulkey will discuss reform implementation this year, especially around California state government finance, insurance company regulation, and consumer access to health services.

Wednesday, June 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
California HealthCare Foundation offices
1438 Webster St., Ste 400
Oakland, CA 94612

Childhood Obesity: Strategies and Solutions from Bay Area Experts

Changing behavior and educating people about food is key to helping children become fit and avoid obesity, according to the San Francisco pediatrician who spoke at a Nov. 12 panel organized by the Bay Area chapter of AHCJ.

She also explained the challenges of children living in cities with a lack of access to fresh food and safe places to play and exercise.

The panel, convened at the San Francisco offices of Bloomberg News, featured a doctor and a journalist who are examining and trying to find solutions to the epidemic of childhood obesity. Journalist and AHCJ member Laurie Udesky moderated.

Read more and listen to the panel ...

Chapter presents workshop on FOI and public records

The Bay Area chapter of AHCJ hosted a panel discussion about the Freedom of Information Act and public records access on Oct. 15 in San Francisco at the San Francisco Chronicle building. About 43 attendees heard the panel's experts give an overview and updates about FOI and also the California Records Act, strategies for obtaining records, and how to use the information effectively. AHCJ member Laurie Udesky moderated the program.

Lee Tien of the San Francisco chapter of the  Electronic Frontier Foundation, who specializes in free speech and privacy law and works on open government cases, explained the basics of FOIA, and gave examples of the differences and similarities in government responses to FOIA requests under the Bush and Obama administrations. Despite promises of greater transparency, Tien explained that in the area of national security, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has invoked the states' secrecy privilege to push for the dismissal of cases against companies that participated in warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens. For those unfamiliar with FOIA requests, he pointed out that such requests can only be made to federal agencies.

Michael Risher, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, where he handles a wide range of cases involving freedom of expression, open government, criminal justice, and other civil liberties issues, followed with advice about accessing information via the California Public Records Act.

He said that reporters need to pay attention and do some legwork before making a request:

  • Know what records you want
  • Where you can find them
  • Who to ask

He suggested that asking more than one person may get results if one of them is unwilling to provide documents. Under the California Records Act, it's within the provisions of the act that requests can be made verbally, via e-mail or by phone. And if the answer is consistently "no," you have a right to sue. For news organizations concerned about the cost of litigation, he explained that if you can show that it's in the public's interest to provide documents, then you can prevail in a case and have attorneys fees' covered.

Once you have records, what can you do with the information?

Phillip Reese, a reporter on the projects and investigations team of The Sacramento Bee, specializes in data analysis and shared some of the ways in which he uses data to create pie charts and graphs, and other ways of making information digestible and comprehensible to readers. He demonstrated how to use a simple tool such as Google Docs to create charts with spreadsheets and Google maps to add another dimension to a story.

Reese also shared his experience with requesting employee payroll records from a government agency. When his request for the data set was refused and a spokesperson for the agency said he couldn't export the data, Reese wrote a story about the agency's alleged inability to do that. In the process of writing that story, Reese contacted the software vendor who said that software was capable of exporting the data. Two weeks later, Reese received the data he had requested.

Reese also showed how he used data sets from the California Health Interview Survey to show how many Californians did not have health insurance. He also showed the audience a database he created on emergency room deaths in California hospitals. 

Follow-up questions from the audience addressed privacy rights and how HIPAA complicates requests for records.

Hot Topics in Public Health

Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at research and findings coming out of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. You'll pick up valuable leads, contacts, and background for your stories, such as:

  • New imaging techniques for Alzheimer's: Studies of how the brain changes with aging are leading to new imaging techniques to analyze brain structure and function. What does this mean for diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease? How close are these new techniques to reality for patients?
  • Climate change control: What are the health impacts of climate change control? How will controlling greenhouse gas emissions protect human health as well as the environment? What are the implications for the most vulnerable groups, such as the poor?
  • Green chemistry: California is the first state to institute "green chemistry" poli­cies designed to make the chemi­cals in everyday household and industrial prod­ucts environmentally safe. How do these policies get implemented and what do they mean for people, as well as for the state's chemical producers and industrial users? How close are we to significant clean chemical innovations?
  • The national physician shortage: What are we going to do about this crucial problem? Is the US really suffering from a shortage of doctors - or are bad policies to blame? How can the system change to ensure the right number of doctors, of the right specialty, are in the right locations? There are solutions - we'll hear what they are.

Where: UC Berkeley campus: Tilden Room, located on the 5th floor at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, Bancroft Way and Telegraph Ave. (7 blocks from the downtown Berkeley BART Station; paid parking on Bancroft Way under the Student Union building itself, and easy on-street parking on nearby streets).

When: March 10
Networking/food and drink: 6 - 6:45 pm.
Program: 6:45 - 8:30 pm

This event is free; please RSVP to

Tech tools for health reporters

Read more about this panel, listen to the panel and get the PowerPoint presentation and tip sheet from the panel.

The San Francisco-Bay Area chapter explored the online world in its Feb. 24 event: "Web Tools for Health Reporters: How blogs, Twitter, social networking, and more can improve your skills." Located at CMP Medica in downtown San Francisco, 42 AHCJ members and Bay Area health journalists learned about using online technology from an instructor and a journalist with an active blog.

Moderator Jan Greene, a long-time journalist with a daily newspaper background and who now writes for health care-related trade and consumer magazines, began by framing the issue: Is it essential to blog, podcast, and Twitter to survive in media in the future? She has a blog ( but, as she put it, she's still waiting for it to change her life.

Jerry Monti, technology training instructor for UC Berkeley's Knight Digital Media Center, answered that question with an emphatic "Yes," and showed a helpful presentation about the basics of blogging: pitfalls to watch out for, how to pay attention to SEO (search engine optimization) and SMO (social media optimization), how to use Google Analytics, and generally how to make blogging work for expanding a reporter's network for sources, story ideas, and more.

Journalist Amy Tenderich followed and explained how she began her blog in an effort to connect with others who had type 1 diabetes, after she was diagnosed with the same disease four years ago. She described the many mistakes she made, what she learned and how (such as when to post, what to write about, how to keep a firm church/state line between content and advertisements), and how to build a community that ensures steady traffic, the lifeblood of a successful blog. While enthusiastic about blogging, she made it clear how much work it is to do well, how important it is to develop a strong niche and a unique voice, and that blogging is not necessarily for everyone, even journalists.

A lively Q&A period followed, with questions relating to blogging, Twittering, social media, and more. The chapter plans to present future panels on this topic, since one evening was clearly not enough, judging by the enthusiasm of the audience.

Health care reporting workshop

The Bay Area chapter hosted a health care reporting workshop on Oct. 14 at the San Francisco Chronicle. More than 30 people attended, including experienced journalists and local journalism students looking to brush up on their skills and produce high-quality, balanced articles for print, broadcast, and the Web.

Instructor Gary Schwitzer, University of Minnesota health journalism professor and publisher of, kicked the evening off with a spirited slideshow of do's and don'ts, using examples from local and national media. Each illustrated one or more of a 10-item "accuracy, balance, and completeness checklist" journalists can use each time they report and write a story.

Schwitzer also gave an overview of and how he and his editors use this checklist and other criteria to evaluate health news stories.

Carol M. Mangione, a medical reviewer for and professor, Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, followed with a discussion and examples to help journalists evaluate study results. She focused on how to find and use absolute risk/benefit data, and why doing so often results in a more accurate, better-reported story.

Hitting Home: Reporting on the health fallout from the Iraq war

A panel of experts gave a compelling presentation about one of the nation's biggest health stories – the medical, mental, and psychosocial challenges faced by returning war veterans and their families – at a May 21 meeting of AHCJ's San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

The panelists' insights suggested several story ideas and angles health reporters everywhere can use to cover this important and difficult topic.

Read more, get the speakers' handouts and download audio of this panel.

Our panelists:

Joe Bobrow, PhD., is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, is the founder of the Coming Home Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that brings together traditional and non-traditional approaches to helping veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families cope with combat stress and making the transition back into civilian life. He is the former chief psychologist and director of training at Kaiser, South San Francisco

Tia Christopher is the program associate for the Iraq veterans project of Swords to Ploughshares. She is a Navy veteran who was honorably discharged in 2001. She is a survivor of military sexual trauma with PTSD, and is involved in community outreach to returning veterans to help them find health services.

Keith Armstrong, L.C.S.W., is a clinical professor with the department of psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco. He is director of couples and family therapy, director of mental health social work, and a member of the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Program at the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He has authored articles and chapters on debriefing after trauma and on the treatment of couples when one person has a diagnosis of PTSD.

The panel was moderated by health care reporter Laurie Udesky, whose articles on health and public policy have appeared in The Lancet,, the San Francisco Chronicle magazine, among other news outlets. She has won national and regional awards for her work.

When: Wednesday, May 21, 6-8 p.m.
KQED at 2601 Mariposa Street, San Francisco

Bay Area experts on aging: New research and resources for health journalists

Download this session. (MP3 files).

Note - This file is difficult to hear in the beginning but the quality does improve later in the file.

The Bay Area chapter's Jan. 29 event addressed one of the hottest topics in health care journalism today: reporting on the longevity boom. About 35 people ventured out on a cold, rainy San Francisco night for a lively panel that explored trends in aging underway at a new academic center at Stanford University and at a longstanding community clinic in Berkeley.

Moderator Paul Kleyman, editor of Aging Today, started off the discussion by providing context for "the boomer generation - people ages 43 to 62 - who make up the largest generation ever in American history."

Panelist Laura Carstensen, director of the new Stanford Center on Longevity, added that because we have added 30 years to the average person's life expectancy in only about 60 years, "It's hardly surprising that we don't deal with an aging population very well culturally or socially." The center aims to change the nature of aging through science and technology, combining psychosocial approaches with innovations devised by scientists and engineers, for example.

"Instead of asking, ‘Why are older people failing, how can the culture change to support older people?'" Carstensen suggested that the very image of aging needs to shift. Questions that should be asked include "How can we in our younger years emotionally and psychologically connect with our future 80-year-old self? What is the good model of what it's like to be 80?" These challenges are among those her staff is already exploring.

Panelist Martin Lynch, CEO of Lifelong Medical Care in Berkeley, a comprehensive health plan for all ages, elaborated on the challenges of caring for an increasingly older (and in some cases, older and impoverished) population at the community level.

Lynch highlighted three key points. First is how we perceive medical care: "Medicine is no longer a cure; it's care. But our current system is built for short-term solutions, not for long-term, chronic disabilities - which is what more people are dealing with as they age." Second, Lynch pointed out that we are not ready to accommodate what many seniors want: to stay in their homes. "We don't have models or policies for people to be at home and get care," he said. Third, the middle class and the poor will constitute the bulk of older people, but we mostly hear about the rich, in the media, on television, in advertisements, etc. Lynch then described how his organization works to get people all the care they need: medical, dental, mental, social. "For the most part, all this is siloed, and difficult to get in one place. We have to change this."

A lively question and answer period followed the discussion, touching on the shift in life expectancy; retiree health; the issue of people working longer; and examples of good housing models for older people.

The panel will present an update on cutting-edge news, research, and innovations in longevity and aging currently being developed in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Widely respected psychologist Laura L. Carstensen, director of the new Stanford Center on Longevity, which focuses on how increased life-expectancy can improve quality of life at all ages, and Martin Lynch, CEO of Lifelong Medical Care in Berkeley, the comprehensive health plan that grew out of the Gray Panthers' Over 60 Clinic. Both speakers are nationally recognized for their achievements and will focus on the challenges ahead in research and practice innovations as boomers become elders.

The panel was moderated by Bay Area journalist Paul Kleyman, editor of the American Society on Aging's publication Aging Today and the national coordinator of the Journalists Exchange on Aging. Kleyman knows this topic thoroughly and provides insider's tips about how to report effectively and compellingly on aging and related health issues.

The event was held at the London Wine Bar in San Francisco.

Holiday Party: Dec. 20, 6-8 p.m., in San Francisco

Hosted by KQED Public Radio's The California Report, producers of "Heath Dialogues," at the KQED offices in San Francisco.

Sept. 5, 2007


SF Bay Area chapter discusses universal health care

This discussion is available for download (MP3 files).

About 30 people attended the Sept. 5 meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter to hear a panel discussion about "Universal health coverage in California and the U.S.: Will it happen, when, and what will it look like?"

The panelists were Richard Figueroa, a health care adviser for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Larry Levitt, M.A., vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and editor-in-chief of; and Harold S. Luft, Ph.D., a professor of health policy and health economics at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco.

Figueroa explained the basics of the governor's plan and the state assembly's plan, including similarities and differences between the two, who would be covered by each and eligibility levels. He said cost containment efforts such as encouraging the use of information technology, reducing medical errors and encouraging preventive medicine would be a part of the plan.

Preventive measures would encourage people to stop smoking and address diabetes and obesity, particularly among children. About childhood obesity, he said "It's just really staggering, it's just absolutely staggering, the numbers that are coming out of schools."

Levitt said the proposed health care reforms in California may provide momentum for national debate. "Conversely, if they fail, I think it does actually take some of the wind out of the sails for the national ... debate," he said.

Luft said that, as an academic, he is looking ahead to the day when there is universal coverage and whether the system will work the way people want it to. He proposed a market-oriented system of health care.

"The real issue, as I see it, is how do we reorganize the way we pay providers, mostly physicians, to make good decisions about high-quality care and reorganize the kinds of services they order," Luft said. "Give doctors more responsibility; let them set their fees however they want, let them order whatever they want and let the health insurers work for them. Each doctor chooses one insurer who basically serves like VISA or MasterCard for them, handles their billing handles their processing, etc."

The panel discussion was followed by a question and answer session that lasted more than 40 minutes.

Sara Solovich of the San Jose Business Journal won complimentary registration to Health Journalism 2008, AHCJ's annual conference, by entering a drawing at the meeting.

The Kaiser Family Foundation hosted the event at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

May 8, 2007 at 6 p.m.

This discussion is available for download (MP3 files).

Conflict of Interest in Health Care: How to Spot It, What to Do About It

Thirty Bay Area AHCJ members and health journalists gathered in The London Wine bar in San Francisco on May 8, 2007, to hear a timely, important, and revealing report about a rampant problem: conflict of interest and bias in the health/drug industry.

The panelists were Lisa Bero, Ph.D., a professor of health policy and clinical pharmacy at University of California at San Francisco who researches conflict-of-interest and industry influence on research and clinical practice; Rob Waters, a Bloomberg News health reporter who investigates psychiatric drugs and mental health issues; and moderator Laurie Udesky, an independent health reporter on health and public policy for The Lancet and other publications.

The panelists provided evidence and examples of bias that journalists need to be aware of, including pharmaceutical-funded studies and research, so-called "unrestricted" education grants, compromised clinical trial set-ups, selective and/or incomplete publication of clinical trial results and inappropriately compensated investigators and researchers who may influence any or all of the above.

The panelists also gave some practical tips to help reporters spot bias, dig for confirmation, and ask the right questions to determine where conflict of interest problems exist, and what to do about them when they arise.

The discussion was followed by several questions from the audience.

Panelists' bios:
Lisa Bero, Ph.D., is a professor of health policy and clinical pharmacy at University of California at San Francisco. She researches conflict-of-interest and industry influence on research and clinical practice. She is also the co-director of the U.S.Cochrane Center at the University of California at San Francisco. Among her investigations, she and her colleagues have documented the practice by drug companies of sponsoring clinical trials with built-in design flaws that skew findings in order to show favorable results.

Rob Waters is a health reporter for Bloomberg News. He reports on psychiatric drugs and mental health, among other topics. Before joining Bloomberg in Jan. 2006, he covered health, mental health, and child and family issues for Mother Jones, Health, Parenting,San Francisco magazine, and many other publications.His investigative report in Mother Jones, "Medicating Aliah," showed how pharmaceutical industry influence over state officials in Texas and other states fueled the prescribing of anti-psychotic medications to children. It won the 2006 Casey Award for best magazine journalism.

Laurie Udesky is an independent health reporter whose articles on health and public policy have appeared in The Lancet,, San Francisco Chronicle magazine, among other news outlets and she has won national and regional awards for her work. She recently reported on the HPV vaccine controversy for The Lancet.

Jan. 25, 2007, 6-8 p.m.

Schroeder's - 240 Front Street - San Francisco - 415-421-4778 - (No host bar)

End your work day with a friendly gathering of coworkers and friends. No guest speakers or panels, just mingling with colleagues about hot topics in health journalism. Come by to talk shop, catch up on health news, network, or just relax in Schroeder's Cafe, a San Francisco institution since 1893. An added bonus: We'll have plenty of German and wheat beers on tap to choose from.

July 12: South Bay Gathering

For our friends and colleagues in the South Bay (and everyone else willing to make the drive/ride), we're meeting in Palo Alto this time. You don't have to be a member of AHCJ, but if you are a health writer, author, reporter, editor, educator, or communicator working or residing on the Peninsula or in/around the San Jose area, please plan to join us -- and pass this invitation along to folks who may not be on my contact list.

Nola's Restaurant and Bar - 535 Ramona St. - Palo Alto 650-328-2722.

** Special thanks to Sara Selis of Stanford's Center for Health Policy for organizing this event. **

Lecture: Stem Cell Research

Drop by SF's Gladstone Institutes ( for the latest in its series of free public lectures: "Stem Cell Biology 101: An Introduction to the Science and the Politics." Two experts will speak:

  • David Gollaher, PhD, president and CEO of the California Healthcare Institute (CHI), a private, nonprofit public policy research and advocacy organization representing California's leading bioscience companies and academic institutions.
  • Deepak Srivastava, MD, Director and Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, a leading expert on basic research into the potential uses of stem cell technologies to avoid or repair malformations of the heart.

The event runs 5:30 - 7:30 pm, in Mahley auditorium at the Gladstone building, 1650 Owens Street, San Francisco. The program is free and open to the public but seating is limited. To reserve and for more information, contact Sally King (415-734-2015 or

Field Trip: The Buck Institute

NCSWA has some open spots available to AHCJ members (or any interested health/medical journalist) for its upcoming all-day field trip to the Buck Institute (, a unique facility devoted solely to research on the process of aging and age-associated disease.

On June 10, the Institute is hosting a day of scientific lectures, laboratory demonstrations, and a picnic lunch with its scientists. Participants will hear top scientists give talks on research aimed at new ways of detecting, preventing and treating conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, cancer, and more.

The cost of the event is $13. Reservations need to be made by June 1

Health Journalism Schmooze

Join your fellow Bay Area health care writers, editors, reporters, and authors for the next Health Journalism Schmooze in San Francisco Friday, May 19, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

13 Views Bar - Hyatt Regency, Embarcadero
Market Street at the Embarcadero, San Francisco
(No host bar)

End your work week with a friendly gathering of colleagues and friends. Stop by to talk shop, catch up on health news, network, or just relax in the Hyatt's beautiful lounge.

Happy New Year

Bay Area chapter hosted a Happy New Year event open to all healthcare writers, editors, reporters, authors in the Bay Area on Jan. 31, 2006.

Social Hour, Veno Venue

The chapter met June 9, 2006, at the Vino Venue on Mission Street in San Francisco to network, chat and meet fellow Bay Area health journalists.

Socialize with the SPJ Salon: “Journalism in the Bean Counter Culture" Tuesday, April 26

Taking the pulse of the current newsroom: With resources cut and bottom-line pressures escalating, what’s happening to journalism? How seriously is the quality of news coverage being compromised? Former KRON-TV reporter Greg Lyon and Oakland Tribune reporter and union official Sean Holstege take on these and other pressing questions. Moderated by Grade the News project director John McManus. For more details visit This event was hosted at the London Wine Bar in San Francisco on April 26, 2006.

Social Hour, Vino Venue

The chapter met March 23, 2006 at the Vino Venue on Mission Street in San Francisco to network, chat and meet fellow Bay Area health journalists.

The event focused on how the group can help members do your job better, find valuable resources, keep up on issues, learn new angles, make connection, network for new positions and access, meet other people working in Bay Area healthcare, and, of course, have fun.

Northern California Science Writers Association tour of the University of California-San Francisco-Gladstone Institutes

The Northern California Science Writers Association arranged a tour and research talks March 15, 2005 at the UCSF Gladstone Institutes. Tours took place all evening, and the event featured Gladstone President Robert W. Mahley as a speaker. Additional details can be found at