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Sammy Mack

Sammy Mack loves public radio and public policy.

Mack is the Miami-based education reporter for StateImpact Florida. She is a St. Petersburg native and a product of Florida public schools. She even took the first FCAT.

Mack previously was a digital editor and health care policy reporter for WLRN - Miami Herald News, where she covered the public health and health policy beat. For two years, her health reporting with WLRN was supported by the grant-funded HealthyState.org project. She was selected as a 2012 fellow with the Kaiser Health News and NPR Health Care Reporting in the States project.

Her stories have also appeared on NPR, Monocle 24, the Miami Herald, Global Health, HealthNewsFlorida.org, Gambit Weekly, MAP Magazine, Gulfshore Life, Philadelphia Weekly, the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and other outlets.

Mack’s work has been honored with Florida AP Broadcaster and SPJ Sunshine State awards. She’s collaborated on projects that have won an Emmy, regional Edward R. Murrow awards, a Wilbur Award and a Dart Award. Mack was a writing fellow during the 2008 Poynter Summer Fellowship for Young Journalists.

She was recognized by her colleagues as the 2011 Herald Top Chef. She’s happy to share her recipe for garam masala macarons with lemongrass filling.

It's mid-morning on a weekday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Miami, and Gloria Lewis is squeezed inside her office. Lewis, a suicide prevention coordinator at the Miami VA, sits amidst a giant, shrink-wrapped pallet of boxes. 

Outside the door, a cluster of women in matching red polo shirts are arriving to visit Lewis. They're all volunteers from the League of Women Voters in Broward County and they are feet away from what they drove down to Miami to collect.

It's almost flu season, and young Floridians are not as protected as they should be. According to a new analysis, almost half of Florida's high school students reported they didn't get a flu shot within the past year.

"I would say I'm a bit frustrated," said Dr. Wissam Al Khoury, the lead researcher on the study, Demographic Differences in Flu Vaccination among Florida’s High School Students: Evidence from 2017 Florida Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which he recently presented at a conference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

On a recent Friday at Florida Atlantic University, Deb Del Vecchio-Scully began a lecture on trauma by asking an auditorium full of therapists to stand up and shake their bodies out like rag dolls.

"Do it with me," she said, as the room giggled and jiggled.

It was a light moment with a serious purpose. Del Vecchio-Scully explained that this was just one technique the therapists could offer a patient to help deal with the discomfort of traumatic stress.

As the community around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School prepares to go back to school, the Florida Counseling Association is hosting a free, two-day workshop focused on responding to communal trauma. The Friday event is tailored for mental health professionals, while the Saturday event is open exclusively to MSD staff.

South Florida continues to have the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the country, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

On average, for every hundred thousand Americans, about 15 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2016, the most recent year of data analyzed by the CDC.

When families don’t know where their next meal will come from, it can be especially hard on young children. A new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows that 5-year-olds who experience food insecurity are more likely than other kids to have behavior problems.

Most Floridians knew about the Zika virus and how it spread—but that wasn't enough to get them to protect themselves, according to a new study in the journal Risk Analysis.

WLRN

Seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland recently celebrated graduation, but they had to do so while still dealing with the trauma from the February mass shooting. This week on Florida Matters, we meet one of the graduates and hear about her life since the massacre.


PolitiFact Florida

This week on Florida Matters, we hear the story of a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who survived the February mass shooting that killed 17.


More Floridians get their health insurance through their jobs than from any other source—about 42 percent of us, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Almost immediately after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Melissa Kornhaus, a licensed mental health counselor with a specialty in trauma therapy, was looking for a way to help.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is scheduled to reopen to students on Tuesday. The children, teachers and staff who survived the shooting last Wednesday now have to deal with a shared trauma.

Peter Wang, a 15-year-old freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who spent the last moments of his life protecting other children, was buried on Tuesday.

There were too many people to fit in the Kraeer Funeral Home where the memorial service for Peter was held, so several hundred mourners—at least 200 of them students—crowded under a white tent in the parking lot out front.

The memorial was in English and Chinese, and the clear theme was that Peter died a hero.

Broward Health Medical Center received seven patients after Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. They were all kids.

Shelly Baer was working with an organization that supports people with disabilities when somebody suggested making a fundraising calendar: nudes of women with disabilities.

There is a card in Joost Sajet’s wallet that looks like any other health insurance card—plan name, policyholder, group number, a hotline number for providers—but what Sajet presents to his doctors is not normal insurance.

 

That’s because Sajet is fed up with normal insurance.

A particularly bad flu virus is burning through Florida and health officials say people can still protect themselves—and others.

“Getting vaccinated can prevent flu in yourself, but it also may prevent flu in people who you are not infecting,” says Dr. Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist with the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Especially for young children or people who are at high risk of flu, it's very important that people around them are vaccinated.”

On a recent Tuesday morning, Emy Martinez walked around a couple of blocks in Overtown, looking for used needles to deposit in the sharps container in her backpack.

She didn’t find any. 

Florida is looking to make major changes to Children’s Medical Services, the state-run health care program for children with complex medical needs.

The Affordable Care Act has had a profound impact on how money moves through Florida’s health care economy, according to a biennial market report out this week.

Time is one of the biggest factors in treating strokes — and a group of South Florida researchers say they’ve found a way to buy stroke patients more time.

If a person has a stroke, the sooner they get treatment, the better their odds are of surviving and of healing without permanent disability. Generally, the thinking has been that patients have a window of no more than six hours for a clot-removal surgery to be effective.

But people don’t always know when they’ve had a stroke — like if it happens while they’re sleeping. And that complicates treatment options. 

It’s been a month since the deadly shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and injured hundreds more, and a group of trauma researchers is calling for better attention to the health impacts of firearms.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has co-signed a letter asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send more support to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Health-care funding was already tight before the storms, particularly in financially unstable Puerto Rico, where nearly half the population is covered by Medicaid.

A team of researchers has prevented Zika virus infection in monkeys —and they hope the new approach can be developed for use in pregnant women.

The small experimental trial found that monkeys given a cocktail of known Zika antibodies—special proteins the immune system makes to stop a virus—did not develop Zika after they were exposed to the virus.

When Hurricane Irma slammed into the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alvin Joseph was home in St. Thomas with his wife, his oldest granddaughter and four of his great-grandkids.

As the wind howled, Joseph and his wife went into the little boys’ bedroom to get a mattress and box spring for protection.

“The ceiling tiles had already disappeared out of the roof and we could see the sky,” says Joseph. “By the time we left out of the bedroom to go back in the living room—whoosh—roof was gone.”

It costs American hospitals about $622 million every year to admit patients with gunshot wounds—and it turns out, we’re all paying the bills.

That’s according to a new study in the journal Injury Epidemiology that tapped into a national sample of hospital records to gauge the cost of admitting patients with firearm injuries.

The researchers broke the costs down by injury type, demographics and insurance status.

Among the findings:

There are more than 4 million children in Florida, and Dr. Jeffrey Brosco just became responsible for them.

When Monroe County held a nonbinding referendum last year on whether  to allow the experimental release of genetically modified mosquitoes, most voters said yes.

This was as the mosquito-borne Zika crisis was exploding. The Food and Drug Administration had already started to clear the way for the field trial.

But residents of Key Haven--the proposed site of the mosquito control experiment--voted against it. And the company that breeds the mosquitoes started looking for another site.

“I'm tired of operating on 14-year-olds,” says trauma surgeon Dr. Tanya Zakrison of the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

She’s one of the surgeons who’s operated on the more than 850 children and teenagers with gunshot wounds who came through the trauma center in the past decade.

What got them there and what happened to them afterwards—those are questions Zakrison would like answered. But she was initially advised by mentors and research advisors that she should avoid focusing on gun-related trauma.

When children and teenagers survive gun violence it can have an impact on their mental health.

In a series that started this week, Health News Florida partner station WLRN is exploring what the trauma of shootings can do to the mental health of children and families.

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