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‘Trailblazing’ Health Journalist Honored

The Florida Nurses Association is recognizing Health News Florida founder and Editor Carol Gentry for her significant and ongoing role in reporting on the state’s most important health issues.

The 2014 Communications/Media Award is being awarded to Gentry, who for four decades has been reporting on health policy and business, and has been holding industry and government officials accountable.

“Each year we try to find someone who has supported nursing in their work, or has given balanced coverage of stories important to the Florida Nurses Association,” Executive Director Willa Fuller said of the award being presented at the group’s annual conference in Orlando tonight.

“Over the years, she’s interviewed many of our members, especially nurse practitioners,” she said. “She’s always very balanced and fair and makes sure the issues are out there.”  

This recognition comes as Gentry, 66, prepares to shift her role at Health News Florida. After years and countless hours of overseeing content and staff, on Monday she becomes a part-time, special health correspondent for Health News Florida and WUSF 89.7 News, the Tampa Bay area’s NPR affiliate.

“As Carol’s role changes with WUSF, she’ll have more time to devote to the investigative reporting that she loves,” said JoAnn Urofsky, general manager of WUSF Public Media. “That means our audience will benefit from learning even more about the health care systems that impact our lives.”

Gentry joined the WUSF family in September 2012, when she suggested that public media would complement the mission of Health News Florida, a non-profit health journalism publication she single-handedly created in 2006.

“Carol and Health News Florida brought an important focus to the area of health care policy just as the health care systems we’ve been used to have been undergoing radical changes,” Urofsky said. “She and her team have been able to shed light on changing policy and regulations, and on a wide variety of health-related topics.”

Gentry already was a veteran health reporter in 2006 when she created Health News Florida with seed money from several Florida-based health foundations. Stints at newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, Orlando Sentinel, The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times taught her the public was hungry for investigative health news, and that they needed journalists to keep tabs on those in charge.

“Without a script or a net, Health News Florida helped lead the way for so many nonprofit news services around the country,” said Phil Galewitz, a senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News and former member of the Health News Florida board of directors.

Since its inception, Health News Florida has provided regular summaries on the top health news reported in other media, and shared it with a public that otherwise wouldn’t know what was happening in other parts of the state. But Gentry also made sure Health News Florida continued to provide original, Florida-based health journalism at a time when newspaper staffs were dwindling, Galewitz said.

“It also could play a key role in reporting news around the state, including from Tallahassee, which lacked a full-time health writer who could monitor agencies from the state Board of Medicine to the state Health Department,” he said.

Health News Florida became that watchdog over these and other agencies overseeing the public’s health. Today, Health News Florida is required reading for anyone who cares about health care in the Sunshine State.”

Health journalists across the country have looked to Gentry’s business model for their own publications. Andy Miller, a veteran health reporter based in Atlanta said Health News Florida was the inspiration behind his launching of Georgia Health News in 2010.

“Without Carol's advice, experience and support, GHN would never have happened,” Miller said. “She is a true trailblazer, and deserves many accolades for her work in nonprofit health journalism.”

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Reporter Mary Shedden at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or email at shedden@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.