Health News Florida

Since 2006, Health News Florida has provided in-depth journalism on health policy issues in our state.

Health News Florida is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at

The University of South Florida announced today it wants to merge the university's health-related programs with Lakeland Regional Medical Center, the largest hospital in Polk County.

If it's approved by the boards of both the university and Lakeland Regional, it would create the largest doctor training program in the state, USF President Judy Genshaft announced today in her fall address to students and staff.

A Tampa mental-health counselor who refused to turn over her patient records to the state has won the right to keep them confidential.

Joanna Theiss Mulder was allowed to withdraw as an expert witness in a case brought by the  Agency for Health Care Administration, rather than turn over records of sessions  with her mentally disabled clients at Hillandale Assisted Living in Pasco County.

A Habitat for Humanity chapter “was misled” when it purchased a piece of property from the brother of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, according to a board member who also is a property appraiser.

Even though Buchanan’s brother is listed as making the original deal, Buchanan later used the mortgage with Habitat as collateral on a larger loan with Bank of America, according to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times. Payments now go to Buchanan's wife.

We have big news today here at WUSF Public Media.  Health News Florida, a non-profit website with a substantial following, is now part of WUSF.

This means we're also being joined by Health News Florida founder and editor Carol Gentry, who is a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

I'm personally very excited to have someone of Carol's caliber coming to work with us at WUSF. It's just part of our commitment to provide in-depth coverage of health, education and other issues that are important to you.

Humane Society of Tampa Bay

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay  will open the doors to a brand new animal health center today during a ribbon cutting ceremony.  The grand opening comes after a record $1 million donation by Talk Fusion CEO Bob Reina last year and several other contributions.  Donors, sponsors and a few elected officials will be honored for their support during a special ceremony organized by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Executive Director Sherry Silk.  Silk thinks this health center has been a long time coming.

Google Lounge: A Haven for Journalists

Aug 30, 2012

Just a few steps away from the security perimeter outside the Tampa Convention Center is a reporter's oasis.

It’s the Google Lounge—and it’s swanky.

On the last day of the convention, journalists filled the lounge, taking advantage of all it has to offer. It sounded like a school cafeteria with laughter piercing through the din of journalistic chatter.

Sarah Palin impersonator and adult film star--Lisa Ann-- spoke out about the current health crisis in the adult film industry while holding a press conference in Tampa.

Lisa Ann, best known for her adult film satirizing the former vice presidential candidate in 2008, was in town for the Republican National Convention where she performed at Thee Dollhouse.

She spoke out about the Syphilis outbreak after a reporter asked her whether she mentored other younger girls in the business.

New Happiness Gene Found in Women

Aug 28, 2012


Sorry guys. This one's for the ladies. A new study has found a gene that appears to make women happy. The findings appear online in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

According to USF Health, scientists at the University of South Florida, the National Institutes of Health, Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute reported that the low activity form of the gene monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) is associated with higher self-reported happiness in women. 

However, the findings were not the same for men.

The number of Tampa International Airport's international passengers is gaining some altitude. Two new services that weren't in place last year are the reason why.

Tampa International Airport's international passengers increased by 20 percent year to date compared to the first 7 months of 2011. 51,000 more international passengers went through Tampa this year.

Airport spokeswoman Janet Zink says she's attributing the increase in passengers to two new services. TPA now has 5 weekly flights to Cuba and has a nonstop flight to Switzerland.

Bobbie O'Brien

Republican voters in eastern Hillsborough County are sending a familiar face into the general election and most likely back to Tallahassee in the GOP leaning State Senate District 24. Tom Lee, a former Florida senate president, beat his GOP challenger state Rep. Rachel Burgin in a bitter primary battle.

It’s been six years since Tom Lee served in Tallahassee and he’s anxious to return with a more seasoned, statesmanlike perspective.

Prostitution in the Tampa Bay area is expected to increase during the Republican National Convention. But will that lead to the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases?

We asked that question of a county health official, a high-end escort, and an academic expert. The answer is complicated.

When it comes to heat exhaustion, local health officials are planning to hand out fliers to educate convention-goers. But the Hillsborough County Health Department is not planning anything special to deal with the STD threat.

The Affordable Care Act has gotten a lot of attention lately for its mandated provisions, which went into effect in the beginning of August.

Donald Palmisano, a doctor, attorney, and former president of the American Medical Association, says he's not a fan for several reasons.

Palmisano is the head of the anti-ACA group "The Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights." He also offers himself to doctors to "help you protect yourself against the potentially devastating effects of malpractice and liability claims."

When Fred Davis lost both of his legs to infection --he thought his walking days were over.

Then he was introduced to a therapy that combines movement and timing to help the brain redevelop motor skills.

It’s called Interactive Metronome. For six months, Mederi Caretender therapist Tameka Walker has been helping Davis relearn to walk.

"Left hand, right toe, left hand, right toe. Got it?” she instructs.

To the chime of a cowbell, Davis steps one foot forward on a mat – and then pulls it back. Then, it’s the other foot, always sticking to the beat.

ACA Mandated Preventive Services for Women Kick Off

Aug 1, 2012

Beginning Wednesday, most employers who provide health insurance must now cover women's birth control.

It's one of eight preventive services mandated by the Affordable Care Act – but not everyone’s excited about the new requirements.

There's continued opposition to this part of the federal health care overhaul.

Three million Americans will be getting a pleasant surprise in the mail – a refund check from their insurance provider.

That’s because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act. It limits how much insurers can spend on administrative costs. This includes salaries, sales or advertising.

Depending on who they cover, the insurance companies now must spend between 80 and 85 percent of customer premiums on patient care.


Just weeks after U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke barred the enforcement of the so-called “Docs and Glocks ” law, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Health are appealing the ruling.

The law forbade doctors and other medical providers from asking patients about guns in their homes.

When Ruben Bermudez, 31, found out that he had HIV more than a decade ago, he didn't want to take his medicine. He went on treatment for a few weeks, but said the intensive pill regimen made him feel dizzy.

He stopped treatment and tried to ignore the diagnosis, moving to Florida from Washington in pursuit of sunshine. In 2008, he learned that one of his best friends died of a brain tumor that couldn't be treated because his immune system has been debilitated by AIDS. Bermudez realized that his only chance at a relatively healthy life would depend on taking pills daily.

Sal Gentile says sometimes his tinnitus sounds like bacon frying in a skillet.

Other times it’s hissing – like air out of a popped tire. Or it can sound like conveyor belts, or rough ocean waves.

On his worst days, Gentile says, it’s a combination of these things – a cacophony of sounds within his head.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

After the Floridan Hotel rose 19 stories above downtown Tampa during the Roaring 20s, it became not only the tallest building in Florida - but the swankiest hotel around.

It was the home of the famed Sapphire Room - dubbed the "Surefire Room" by servicemen during World War II. But the creeping suburbanization after the war relegated the Floridan to what was essentially a flophouse before it closed in 1989.

And so it sat, until Clearwater hotel developer Antonios Markopoulos purchased the building in 2005.

Diabetes, heart disease, and even hypertension -- just three of dozens of pre-existing conditions insurance companies have historically used as reasons to deny health care coverage.

That is, until the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Families USA released a report showing that  3.8 million non-elderly Floridians are no longer at risk for denial because of the law.