LISTEN LIVE

Sammy Mack

Public radio. Public health. Public policy.

Most days, Mack covers health care policy for WLRN. Her health care journalism is supported by a fellowship with the Kaiser Health News and NPR Health Care Reporting in the States project.

Like most folks who've worked at a member station, she's worn a lot of hats: interim digital editor during the re-launch of WLRN.org, assistant producer for The Florida Roundup, morning news producer, intern coordinator, party planner. She was one half of the StateImpact Florida education reporting team. 

Her stories have appeared on NPR, Monocle 24, the Miami Herald, Global Health, Health News Florida, 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 A Green Eyeshade Award for Investigative Journalism, and Florida AP Broadcaster and SPJ Sunshine State awards. She’s collaborated on projects that have won a Third Coast International Audio Festival bronze award, an Emmy, national and 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.

Louis and Linda Foranoce
Sammy Mack / WLRN

When Dr. Bobby Zervos offers transplant patients the option to accept an organ with hepatitis C, he's prepared for some surprised reactions.

South Florida researchers believe they're one step closer to developing a more effective vaccine against HIV, after overcoming a virus that infects monkeys.

Nicknamed the "Death Star," SIVmac239 is a particularly resilient immunodeficiency virus that features the same obstacles that have vexed HIV vaccine researchers over the years: the outer layers around the viruses mutate quickly. It's like the immune system is trying to track a shapeshifter—a defense against the viruses works, and then it doesn't.

The state of Florida recently passed a bill that gives most victims of crimes three years to get help paying for recovery and support services—like mental health care to identify and treat trauma related to the crime.

Florida counties can now authorize needle exchanges, after a bill aimed at reducing HIV and hepatitis C was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis.

The state legislative session is over and the fate of a bill that would allow the expansion of needle exchanges throughout Florida is now up to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Infectious Disease Elimination Programs bill creates a legal mechanism for counties to authorize programs that swap clean syringes for dirty ones. Needle exchanges have been shown to reduce the spread of blood borne infections—like HIV and hepatitis C—among injection drug users.

The bill passed 111-3 in the Florida House and unanimously in the Florida Senate.

The Florida Legislature has approved a bill that will allow the expansion of needle exchanges throughout Florida.

The Infectious Disease Elimination Programs bill—which passed a house vote on Wednesday and has already passed in the Florida Senate—creates a legal mechanism for counties to authorize programs that swap clean syringes for dirty ones. Needle exchanges have been shown to reduce the spread of blood borne infections—like HIV and hepatitis C—among intravenous drug users.

In a dark gallery at the Perez Art Museum Miami, two screens on opposite sides of the room play a pair of films on an alternating loop—one follows scientists working in a lab to create genetically modified mosquitoes, the other is a portrait of a polyamorous relationship that unfolds under the canopy of a Brazilian jungle.

There's a proposal in Tallahassee right now that could make it easier for injection drug users to trade dirty needles for fresh ones -- preventing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

A trial project in Miami Dade County is the only legal needle exchange in Florida. The bill would let the other counties to create something similar.

In May, we brought you the audio diary of Leonor Muñoz, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the class of 2018.

Leonor carried a recorder and documented life in the aftermath of the shooting—her activism, her trauma, her family.

 

Leonor's in college now. The recorder went with her. And she has this update on how she's doing—a year later.

 

It's been exactly a year today since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and anniversaries can be particularly hard on survivors of trauma.

We're well into flu season and South Floridians are feeling it.

The Florida Department of Health tracks new flu cases and outbreaks, and according to its weekly report, flu is on the rise in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. And while most of Florida is reporting new flu cases, the rates appear stable in Broward and even dropping in Palm Beach.

Madison Waldron has an app on her phone that, on the surface, looks and acts a lot like a fitness tracker. But then there are the survey questions it pushes out to her:

"Questions in regards to what I do for a living, education and things like that," she says as she thumbs through her phone, showing her scheduled doctor visits. "And I get questions as far as my sexual history and my practices."

Florida has confirmed its first case of acute flaccid myelitis, or "AFM"—a rare, serious illness that affects the nervous system, particularly among young children.

The symptoms of AFM look like polio: muscle weakness, facial drooping, trouble swallowing or speaking. At its worst, AFM's been linked to respiratory failure.

The Florida Department of Health hasn't released many details about the confirmed case—not the condition of the patient, their age, or location.

Florida State Parks want to help you usher in the New Year with a "First Day Hike."

More than 35 events are planned at parks across Florida on Jan. 1 as part of a national initiative to get folks out to their state parks. And unlike national parks, the federal shutdown won't affect state park facilities on the first day of the new year.

The year 2018 is almost over, and Florida Matters is looking back at the stories that made headlines in our region this year.


Federal law requires prisons and jails to provide medical care to people who are incarcerated. But in a recent medical journal, a group of South Florida researchers make the case that too many inmates suffer and die in part because "they lack adequate access to timely care."

"We wanted to know: what are people dying of while they're incarcerated in Miami-Dade County?" says Dr. Tanya Zakrison, a trauma surgeon at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Floridians living with HIV are increasingly getting the medications they need to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the virus, according to a new report from the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

It's open enrollment season for people who buy their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. After a series of repeal efforts and back-and-forth on the so-called Obamacare at the federal level, there's a lot of confusion to sort out.

Health News Florida has pulled together a Q&A to help you navigate your health insurance shopping experience:

Q: Do we still have to buy insurance?

A: There's no longer a penalty for going without insurance. But let's back up here a little.

There's a bridge in Overtown, under the 836 Expressway, that has long sheltered homeless people, many of whom are addicted to heroin.

Now a public health investigation is looking into a group of new HIV cases there. That’s part of what prompted Miami city commissioners to pass an emergency resolution to close the street two weeks ago.

A couple of sets of barricades block traffic to the area. Cars can't get through, but people are still staying there.

Buried deep in the War-and-Peace-length tome that is this November's Florida ballot, voters will find a question asking if a ban on offshore drilling and a ban on vaping should be codified in the state constitution.

Yup, Amendment 9 is the bundled amendment bringing together e-cigarettes and oil rigs.

In its own words:

NO. 9

CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION

Article II, Section 7

Article X, Section 20

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.

Florida established its risk protection law last year, following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where 17 people were killed and another 17 wounded.
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.

Pages