Over 800 conference-goers made the AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2019, which was conducted in Baltimore, a record-setter attendance.
In 20 years of annual conferences of the AHCJ, the record-setting attendance has reflected the people’s level of interest in medical and healthcare news, and a need for clear, accurate medical reporting.Nowadays, topics and stories related to health-care are more likely to be front and center in upcoming elections.
Health journalists attended over 60 panels, which included independent journalists and informative sessions on how to cover important health-care aspects.
The conference welcome and kickoff session featured Dr. Otis Brawley who is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and a former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Brawley quickly reminded health journalists about their role as truth-tellers. He said his focus is on the health disparities facing Americans, stating, “The nation needs programs to try to overcome the lack of access… because poverty is the problem. It’s not your DNA; it’s your ZNA: Your ZIP code.”
The professor mentioned, “How precision medicine and immunotherapy are redefining the approach to cancer treatment. The fact is cancer is incredibly complicated. There’s more trends in oncology than there is in fashion. Every couple of years, we have a new trend, a lot of them over-hyped.”
Dr. Joseph Sakran, who is a well-known presenter on the intersection of gun violence and public health policy, told health journalists his personal story of inspiration to become an emergency surgeon. He decided to pursue surgery as a career at the age of 17 after undergoing surgery for a gunshot that ripped off his throat.
Rebecca Dineen, the Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, who leads the city’s program called B’more for Healthy Babies, said she was inspired by “the Wood Wide Web” network for her role in helping to stitch together the city’s disparate 55 neighborhoods to help them connect in a healthy way.
The influential speakers and panels exposed health journalists to new ways of learning medical study reporting, health broadcasting, the genetics of mental illness, and their role in today’s era of social media misinformation.
AHCJ board president Dr. Ivan Oransky noted that the association offered fellowships and stipends so that journalists could attend the conference – and another 58 non-conference fellowships in seven different programs over the past year. He also noted that the AHCJ’s reach has been extending worldwide. To know more, visit healthjournalism.org.