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

La Veu del País Valencià / Flickr

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.

Dr. Ralph Sacco has his own way of thinking about time:

“Time is brain,” says Sacco, a neurologist at the University of Miami and chair of a registry that collects hospital data on what happens to stroke patients in Florida and Puerto Rico.

During a stroke, he says, “every minute, millions of brain cells die and we can't salvage them. You need to get urgent attention ... you need to get to a stroke center.”

For most strokes, the window for treatment is six hours. Depending on the kind of stroke, treatment can be effective within 24 hours.

Sammy Mack/Health News Florida

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.

Following a rabid raccoon attack, the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County is advising residents to be careful around wild animals.

The raccoon in question scratched and bit a worker in the community of Breakers West last week. The attack was reported to the county. A local trapper caught the animal, which then tested positive for rabies.

The victim of the raccoon attack started a five-shot course of rabies vaccines.

This is the fourth confirmed rabid animal case in Palm Beach County this year.

The people behind the Wynwood Yard—the restaurant and culture incubator in Miami’s arts district—are making a bet: selling good, healthy food near a hospital will be good for business.

This week, Wynwood Yard founder Della Heiman and business partner Ken Lyon open Jackson Hall at the Civica Center in Miami’s health district.

WLRN

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.

As Florida’s legislative session winds down, the clock is running out on a bill that would expand legal needle exchange access in Broward and Palm Beach counties—and the doctor behind the proposal says he’ll keep pushing for a vote until the handkerchief drops in Tallahassee.

In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, politicians and activists have discussed funding more gun injury research.

The day of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the team that first found student Maddy Wilford briefly thought she was dead. A week and three surgeries later, Maddy was discharged from the hospital with little outward sign of the multiple gunshot wounds she sustained.

At a press conference at Broward Health North on Monday morning—flanked by her parents and the medical professionals who saved her life—Maddy and her family had a message of gratitude and hope.

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.

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.

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