Sammy Mack

Health News Florida Reporter

Public radio. Public health. Public policy.

Most days, Mack covers health care policy for WLRN – Miami Herald News and Health News Florida. 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 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, 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.

Ways to Connect

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.

After three decades, the United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse is changing its name to reflect a more holistic view of its mission.

At a 30th anniversary celebration in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, the group announced it is rebranding itself as the United Way Commission on Behavioral Health & Drug Prevention.

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.

Floridians have until Dec. 15 to buy health insurance through healthcare.gov, and a lot has happened since the last shopping season.

Multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” have failed. Now there’s a proposal to dismantle the health care law through the tax bill. President Donald Trump has already stopped funding some pieces of the Affordable Care Act.

So where does that leave the average consumer?

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.

WLRN

“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.

WLRN

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.

Mosquito populations may be dropping with the temperature outside right now, and that means this is the right time to ramp up mosquito prevention efforts, says Dr. Uriel Kitron.

There is a room in artist Beca Gilling’s Miami house that looks a little like it should belong to a mad scientist: Candy-colored, amoeba-shaped critters smile out from specimen jars. There’s a row of tools you wouldn’t be surprised to find in a dentist’s office.

It’s an unusual season for shopping for health insurance.

Dec.15 is still the deadline to buy an Affordable Care Act plan that begins Jan. 1 through the healthcare.gov website.

 

South Florida has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in new HIV cases.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks the South Florida metro area as number one for HIV diagnoses in 2015.

South Floridians have one more reason to avoid the Zika virus—and this one’s especially for the men out there: New research using mouse models shows the Zika virus can shrink testicles.

Temperatures may be dropping a little in Florida, but that doesn’t mean the Zika virus is going away anytime soon, according to Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Here’s the plain truth,” Frieden told an audience at The Atlantic magazine’s CityLab conference in Miami. “Zika and other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti are really not controllable with current technology. So we will see this become endemic in this hemisphere.”

According to a new national poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians, the view on health insurance from the emergency department is pretty grim.

The report released on Tuesday links fear of high costs with worsening health.

Among the findings:

If you’ve lived in Hurricane Alley long enough, you’ve heard about the phenomenon of “hurricane babies”—nine months after a big storm, there’s a spike in births.

The hurricane baby thing? It’s totally real.

There have been a number of studies that look at birth rates after big natural disasters. There is evidence that in fact, starting about nine months after a hurricane, you can expect a baby boom in a lot of places.

But when you start digging into the research, there’s more to it than the lights going out.

Mosquito control and health officials are hoping mosquito prevention is on the minds of Floridians preparing for Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricanes can create perfect conditions for an explosion in mosquito populations.

National Institutes of Health

Zika vaccine trials could come to South Florida as early as this winter.

Now that the House and Senate have agreed on a $1.1 billion Zika funding package, research and vaccine development is a federal priority.

WMFE

This week, Congress will have another opportunity to compromise on a Zika funding measure.

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