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Six California Endowment Health Journalism Fellows win journalism prizes

Six California Endowment Health Journalism Fellows win journalism prizes

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We are proud to have six California Endowment Health Journalism Fellows among the winners this year of the Association of Health Care Journalists' Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. And we are grateful to the AHCJ for offering these valuable prizes. The Health Journalism Fellows' commitment to quality health journalism is apparent both in their selection of topics and their execution of complex pieces. Two Fellows, Caitlan Carroll and Kelly Peterson, were honored for their Fellowship Projects. Others were honored for other work outside of our program.

Take a look at (or watch or listen to) their award-winning pieces:

Caitlan Carroll, a staff reporter for Marketplace Radio, won an honorable mention for her Fellowship project, a two-part series, "The Economics of End-of-Life Care," on which she collaborated with her colleague, Betsy Streisand. Click here for Part One, "End of life care: More or less of it?" and here for Part Two, "Better Training for End of Life Care." One of the judges wrote: "Another hot election topic - this one explained in a very rational and clear and compassionate way. It was the kind of crisp reporting that I would sit in garage for, listening to the end of the report."

April Dembosky, a 2010-11 California fellow, won the third place award in the radio category for her compelling piece last August on pediatric hospice care for KQED's Health Dialogues program, part of The California Report. Prepare to fight back tears as you listen, but also notice how she artfully weaves a discussion of an important health policy issue through her narrative.

The judges wrote: "This is a topic that is almost never discussed. Kudos for tackling this heart-breaking topic in the first place. The story came to life with the children. It was sad and the little boy who was dying sounded so mature for his age. The story tugged at your heart without being sappy. Despite being such a sad topic - it's a reality some families have to face and I was not changing the channel until it was over."

Take a few more minutes to listen to April's recent Fellowship project on the emotional effects of violence on children in Oakland. April focuses on grief as the prevailing emotion among youth who have lost friends and family members to urban warfare.


Kelly Peterson of KVIE Public Television in Sacramento won a third place award in the Television Category for her 2009 California Fellowship project, "A Crisis in Caring: California's School Nursing Shortage," for which she collaborated with colleagues Martin Christian and Tim Walton.

The judges wrote: "This is a vivid look at a too-rarely-covered topic: The shortage of school nurses. As the program points out, with more and more children in the nation s public schools with more and more serious medical needs, there are fewer and fewer school nurses to look after them. And that is a prescription for trouble. We particularly liked that this came from a local station, which took the time to produce this well-researched and thought-provoking entry."

Elizabeth Simpson, 2010 National Fellow, won in the "Beat Reporting" category for her body of work in 2010 for The Virginian-Pilot. The judges cited "her engaging, compelling use of individual case studies to illustrate major health policy issues, from genetic testing and the dilemma it poses (a Huntington's disease family) to the impact that the new federal health care law may have on individuals and families, both in abolishing lifetime benefit limits and exclusions of pre-existing conditions, and through demonstration projects testing less expensive, more humane delivery of care." You can read the stories she submitted at these links:

For her Health Journalism Fellowship stories, Elizabeth profiled two very different communities in southeastern Virginia as they tackled obesity by improving local environmental conditions. In another story, she explored racial disparities in infant death rates. And for her third Fellowship story, she looked at the shortcomings of residental care facilities in Virginia for those with traumatic brain injuries.


Carol Smith of InvestigateWest won a second place award In the Community Newspaper category for a collection of stories that looked at the perils of "secondhand chemo" for the health care workers who deliver lifesaving drugs to cancer patients.

The judges wrote: "This series achieved the perfect balance of human emotion and investigative findings. Carol Smith grabbed us with the personal tale of a nurse whose death was likely caused by the chemotherapy drugs she gave to her patients, then shocked us with the news that the government does not regulate the administration of these drugs or monitor the health problems they can cause. Each piece was so clear and well organized that the message became a drumbeat: This shocking situation must be remedied."

For her 2010 National Health Fellowship project, Carol looked at the effects of contamination in the Duwamish River, with a sidebar on the risks to people who eat the fish in the river.

Sarah Varney, a staff reporter for KQED, won a honorable mention for her piece last summer, Losing Hospital, A County Comes Alive, about the effort by residents of remote Modoc County to save the Modoc Medical Center by adopting a parcel tax. (Sarah has been both a California fellow and a Senior Fellow for us.)

Here's what the judges had to say about her piece: "First-class job on weaving together all the threads connecting a hospital to a community. Presented in a way that is easy for the listener to grasp. Good grass-roots explanation of economics and politics of health care; unusual, clever and well-researched approach to the subject. Held my interest to the very end (hard to do for eight minutes on radio)."

Congratulations to all of our prize-winning Fellows! We look forward to more great work from you this year.

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The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors to serve as thought leaders in one of the most innovative and rewarding arenas in journalism today – “engaged reporting” that puts the community at the center of the reporting process. Learn more about the positions and apply to join our team.

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