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

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. Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump has talked about repealing --or at least making sweeping changes to--the Affordable Care Act. And Trump’s designee to take over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has detailed his own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Health News Florida spoke...

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.

Listen: Zika damages mouse testicles and has implications for human male fertility South Floridians have one more reason to avoid the Zika virus—and this one’s especially for the men out there: N ew research using mouse models shows the Zika virus can shrink testicles. “We started looking at the placental barrier and seeing if the virus could cross there,” says Dr. Jen Govero, a scientist who worked on the study at Washington University in St. Louis. Govero says part of what makes Zika...

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.” Frieden sat down with...

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: One in four adults have lost access to a doctor over the past year. Over two in 10 Americans have not sought care for a worsening condition due to fear of unexpected costs not covered by their health insurance. Millennials are more likely...

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...

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. “Generally what we’ll see post-hurricane is that mosquito populations will go down for the first week or two,” says Steve Bennett , a professor of global health at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. “Mainly because it washes away many of the eggs that have been laid—and...

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.

About a year ago, the journal Health Affairs published a study of the top 50 American hospitals with the highest cost markups, based on what the hospitals were charging compared to what Medicare would actually pay for services. Twenty of the top 50 hospitals were in Florida. That dubious list garnered all sorts of local and national media attention. And one researcher at the University of Miami’s business school took notice: Dr. Karoline Mortensen wanted to know how all that very public...

South Florida has one more reason to hate mosquitoes: Miami-Dade County Health officials announced a case of locally-acquired Dengue fever Tuesday night. In a press release, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Miami Dade County announced it had confirmed a case of dengue fever that had been caught in the County. The individual reportedly received treatment and is “expected to make a full recovery,” althought the DOH indicated that it is "investigating close contacts around the...

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood may be celebrating this week’s lifting of the suspected Zika transmission map, but Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people in Miami-Dade County not to let their guards down.

I’m the health reporter here at WLRN , but a couple of weeks ago, I declined to go to a town hall meeting in Miami Beach about the city’s very new status as a Zika transmission zone. Before that, I skipped out on a tour of Wynwood with Gov. Rick Scott . I didn’t visit Midtown restaurants to report on how local businesses were responding to the CDC’s Zika investigation map . I didn’t cover kids being handed bug spray at the start of school . I didn’t attend a town hall meeting that was...

A group of researchers and doctors convened in Miami this week to discuss how different specialists are responding to the Zika virus. Organized by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the conversation ranged from mosquito control to pediatric research—but one of the hottest topics at the discussion surrounded Zika virus testing. Researchers at UM have applied for a grant to develop rapid Zika testing. “It can be done in 20 minutes, on a strip of paper, in a doctor’s office,”...

When Brenda Sokolowski turned 50, she followed national recommendations and made an appointment for her first screening colonoscopy . “Everybody kind of goes into it, I think, hoping they have that clean bill of health so they don't have to go back for 10 years,” says Sokolowski. After all, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. So Sokolowski went in for her first colonoscopy. And when she woke up from the anesthesia, she waited for the doctor’s...

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Hospitals keep a list of what they charge for health care. But if you have insurance, that charge may have nothing to do with what your insurance company has negotiated and what your out-of-pocket expenses would be.

Officials from the Florida Department of Agriculture have found three Zika-positive mosquito samples in Miami Beach.

The Affordable Care Act has achieved at least part of what it set out to do—but there are still quite a few questions about the long-term impact of the health legislation, according to a new study published in the journal Health Services Research . “One of the main goals of the ACA, which was to reduce the number of uninsured, was actually happening quite well,” says Michael T. French, the lead author of the study and a professor of health economics at the University of Miami. “Along with...

WLRN Facebook Live video screenshot.

There's only one place in the continental U.S. where mosquitoes are known to be transmitting the Zika virus: Miami's Wynwood neighborhood. Pregnant women are arming themselves against mosquitoes.

WMFE

The number of locally-acquired Zika cases keeps rising in South Florida, and that means hard conversations between doctors and patients who want to get pregnant.

It’s been a little over a week since it was confirmed that the Zika virus has spread locally in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. In the heart of that neighborhood is The Wynwood Yard —an all-outdoor food and culture venue. Within hours of the Zika announcement, Della Heiman—founder of the Wynwood Yard and owner of Della Test Kitchen—temporarily closed the space. She decided not to charge rent to the six other businesses at the Yard for the week they’ve been closed. She says part of her decision...

Airplanes dispersed insecticide over Miami early Thursday morning, and according to officials they’re already seeing a lot of dead mosquitos. Gov. Rick Scott and Dr. Tom Frieden—who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—made the announcement at a press conference in Doral on Thursday afternoon. “As you know, they did aerial spraying this morning and they killed a lot of mosquitoes,” said Scott. Earlier this week, Frieden told reporters he was concerned that boots-on-the...

Late last fall, Dr. Christine Curry was at a faculty meeting with her colleagues when the conversation turned to new reports linking the Zika virus to a surge in microcephaly in infants in Brazil. "I think it’s fair to say that most obstetricians had never heard of this virus a year ago," said Curry, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Florida Department of Health

Pregnant women are being asked to stay away from the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Zika-related travel warning for pregnant women to an area just north of Downtown Miami after 10 more people were suspected of getting the virus locally.

sportzsafe.com

Dr. Dr. Gillian Hotz is the director of the KiDZ Neuroscience Center and the sports concussion program at the University of Miami. And now, she can add videogame developer to her resume. This fall, Hotz is piloting an educational video game with youth football leagues across the country. The game is called SportzSafe . And it’s designed to teach young players how to prevent, identify and address concussions. Hotz sat down with Health News Florida’s Sammy Mack to talk about the game and...

Florida health department officials have been tight-lipped about the investigation into a possible locally-transmitted case of Zika virus in Miami-Dade County.

Floridians with chronic diseases like asthma and COPD may have one more problem to worry about: sea-level rise. The Health And Sea Level Rise: Impacts on South Florida report released Monday maps out sea-level rise projections alongside health data from Palm Beach County down to the Keys—and there were some surprises about who’s at risk. “Typically from the health and public health perspective, we think about vulnerability in terms of lower socioeconomic status, poorer communities etc. But...

Medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Having health insurance is no guarantee against being swamped by bills after an emergency or a big procedure. But one Palm Beach County man has found there’s room to negotiate.

Climate change isn’t just an environmental problem. If you ask Michael McGeehin , climate change is a health crisis. McGeehin is an epidemiologist who spent more than 30 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He developed the CDC’s Climate Change Program. McGeehin was recently in Miami for an international epidemiology conference. And he spoke with Health News Florida about how public health is threatened by changing rain patterns, sea level rise and heat waves: Listen:...

The Florida Department of Health reports a child in Miami-Dade County has come down with a case of measles. According to a release from the health department, the child who came down with measles had not been vaccinated. The department said public health officials would be notifying people who may have been exposed. The health department did not say where the child may have traveled before or after getting sick. The measles virus can hang in the air and continue to be infectious up to two...

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