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Congratulations to our 2016 California Fellows

Congratulations to our 2016 California Fellows

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Next week, the Center for Health Journalism will host 21 reporters for our 2016 California Fellowship. The competitively selected professional journalists will spend a week with us in Los Angeles, participating in workshops, panels and trips in the field. They'll get an intensive education on health care policy, health access, health disparities, reporting on mental health and the role of community engagement in journalism. For more details on the Fellowship programming, click here.

Fellows and their newsrooms will also partner with our Center to produce ambitious projects on health topic over the next six months. Each receives a $1,000 honorarium and mentoring as they tackle projects on topics ranging from the disproportionate impact of diabetes on Latino and African-American families to the health and education of California's migrant children. Other topics include disparities in mental health care offered to teens in foster care and the juvenile justice system, as well as the impact of cutting off one county's local psychiatric hospital to Medicaid patients.

To learn more about Fellows' planned projects and to keep up with our blogging on the March 6-10 Fellowship, click here. And sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay abreast of all our content and events.   

Here's the great group of journalists who will join us next week. 

2016 California Health Journalism Fellow Bios

Elizabeth Aguilera is KPCC's community health reporter. She has spent the bulk of her career in print, focusing on the intersection of people and policy. She joined Southern California Public Radio in January 2014 after three years as a staff writer at U-T San Diego, where she covered immigration and demographics. In 2011, she received an Ochberg Fellowship from the Dart Center on Journalism and Traum, and in 2013 she received a Fellowship from the International Center for Journalists to travel to Mexico to cover cross-border sex trafficking. She previously covered urban affairs, immigration and business during a seven-year stint at the Denver Post and has also worked for the Orange County Register and Long Beach Press-Telegram.  She has received numerous journalism awards. An L.A. native, she has a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree in journalism from USC’s Annenberg School. For her Fellowship project, she will report on the disproportionate impact of diabetes on Latino and African American families.

Richard Bammer is a staff writer at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Vacaville, where he covers education and general assignments and writes a once-weekly column. During his 33-year career, he has worked mostly at small Northern California dailies. Early in his career, he free-lanced for The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, among other publications. Richard has received writing awards from The Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California Teachers Association. He earned a master's degree in the humanities from Dominican University of San Rafael in 1999, and in 2004 attended the first-ever NEA National Arts Journalism Institute of Classical Music and Opera at Columbia University. For his Fellowship project, he will report on the Migrant Education Program in eastern Solano County and nearby surrounding areas. Migrant Ed, as it's called. is a federally funded program that responds to the educational and health needs of migrant children, nearly all of them Hispanic and poor.

Deepa Bharath is a staff writer for The Orange County Register covering religion and health. She has worked a number of beats, from city government to crime and courts for Southern California newspapers including the Register, Los Angeles Times and the Daily Breeze. Deepa was an International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) fellow in 2013 and received a fellowship from the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) in 2015 to write a series of articles about the role of former extremists in countering violent extremism. She has won local and national awards for her work. She earned a master’s degree in newspaper reporting from Syracuse University, as well as a master’s degree in mass communications from Madras University and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Stella Maris College, both in India. For her Fellowship project, she will explore the challenge of reducing the stigma of mental illness in Korean, Muslim, Vietnamese and Latino immigrant communities.

Jennifer Bihm is the assistant editor at both the Los Angeles Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times newspapers. She has been telling stories for more than 10 years on behalf of those who are voiceless because of poverty and illness. She has reported in a variety of areas, including politics, education, business and community news. Her man passion, however, is health.  With a degree in mass communications and a minor in health science from Cal State University Dominguez Hills, she places a high level of importance on voicing the healthcare needs of underserved communities. This year, she hopes to address more mental health issues, believing that is where overall well-being begins.  For her Fellowship project, she will explore the impact on families in public housing of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed ban on smoking.

Ryan Burns has been a journalist in beautiful far northern California for the past nine years. Starting at the copy desk of the local daily, he transitioned to the reporters' desk to become a business reporter, spent five years as a staff writer for the weekly North Coast Journal and, for the past two years, has worked for the Lost Coast Outpost, a news website in Humboldt County.   He has won 16 reporting awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and was a finalist for the John M. Higgins Award from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in English.  For his Fellowship project, Ryan plans to examine a rash of recent suicides among young men in the local Yurok Tribe, a situation that led tribal leaders to submit an emergency declaration to Governor Jerry Brown and the federal government.

Leo Castaneda is a bilingual and biliterate reporter, economic analyst and social media manager for inewsource, an independent news nonprofit in San Diego that partners with KPBS Public Radio and other local media outlets. He graduated with degrees in journalism and economics from San Diego State University, where he worked as editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. He has written for inewsource about issues including school finance, diversity in San Diego communities and water quality. His Fellowship project will focus on the relationship between the increase in use — and abuse — of prescription painkillers and illegal opioids. He plans to bring a combination of data-driven analysis and traditional shoe-leather reporting to the project.

Anna Challet has been reporting on health care, youth issues and other subjects for New America Media since 2012. She also conducts storytelling workshops with local young people. Prior to starting her journalism career at NAM, she was a high school teacher. She is from San Francisco, where she still lives. She graduated from Harvard University in 2004 with a degree in English. For her Fellowship project, she will produce a series of stories on three different subgroups of youth and issues in the mental health care systems that serves them: community college students, older foster youth and youth in the justice system.

Hannah Esqueda is a staff writer at The Business Journal in Fresno, where she covers health care, education, small business, retail, sports and technology. She has been at the weekly paper since August 2014 and previously served as editor of two small community papers in rural Fresno County. A 2013 graduate of Washington and Lee University, she has always been interested in covering the news industry. In 2015, the California Newspaper Publishers Association awarded her a second-place prize in agricultural reporting for her coverage of a proposed United Nations-sponsored animal genetics research facility in the Sanger River bottom area. Her Fellowship project will examine recent changes to the Central Valley’s health care landscape stemming from the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The series will document the rise in rural health care centers, Medi-Cal coverage and physician recruitment efforts in the region through a mix of print and video features.

Martin Espinoza has been a general assignment reporter for The Santa Rosa Press Democrat since 2004, covering health care, the U.S. Census Bureau and immigration. In 2013, Martin attended the New York Times Institute on immigration and Latino demographics, a weeklong fellowship sponsored and hosted by the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In 2008, he was a visiting fellow at The New York Times, reporting for the paper’s Metro section. Before coming to The Press Democrat, Martin worked as a general assignment reporter for The Jersey Journal in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he also covered the Census Bureau and immigration. He joined The Jersey Journal about a month after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks and was part of the paper’s ongoing 9/11 coverage. Martin has also worked for The San Francisco Bay Guardian and the weekly, English-language edition of El Financiero in Mexico City. He’s earned awards from the Peninsula Press Club, New York Times Company (chairman’s awards), The New Jersey Press Association Better Newspaper Contest and the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists. Martin’s Fellowship project will examine the gaps in psychiatric emergency services for local MediCal patients, a population that has grown significantly with the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The articles will show how the elimination of acute inpatient psychiatric care, coupled with a move toward outpatient behavioral health services, has impacted local hospitals and patients.

Gerardo Fernandez was born and shaped in Mexico City. He moved to Seattle, where he obtained an associate’s degree in audio production from the Art Institute of Seattle and a bachelor’s degree in communication and social sciences from the University of Washington. In the Northwest, Gerardo produced radio in multiple languages. Since he moved to the Bay Area in 2007, he has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and videographer for Alianza Metropolitan News. He has covered health, politics, culture and sports and has also published in La Oferta, El Tecolote, New America Media and the National Hispanic University. He has participated in journalism fellowships at Stanford University and Santa Clara University. Since 2012, he has worked at Photozig, Inc., located at the NASA Ames Research Park, as a media producer/editor and program coordinator for research programs. He has been awarded the Silver José Martí Award of Outstanding Cultural Photography and the Bronze José Martí Award for Outstanding Editorial Column.  For his Fellowship project, Gerardo will produce a three-part series that will explore Hispanics’ experience with Covered California.

Jacqueline Garcia is a reporter with Eastern Group Publications. She enjoys reporting about issues that affect the Latino community and has covered issues ranging from crime to immigration, transportation, health, culture and more. Born in Mexico and reared in Los Angeles, she considers one of her responsibilities to help Hispanics become well informed. She previously worked as a reporter at Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C., and Estrella TV in Los Angeles. Jacqueline has reported on the relationship between health and transportation, including the efforts to limit diesel burning tucks from idling for long periods in the City of Commerce and East Los Angeles area residents’ concerns about health issues related to the expansion of the SR-710 Freeway from East LA to Pasadena.  On immigration, she has covered in depth the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs. She graduated from Cal State Northridge in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish-language journalism. For her Fellowship project, she will investigate health insurance options among DACA recipients, also known as “dreamers.” They can’t apply for Covered California because they are not citizens or legal residents—a primary requisite to qualify—nor can they apply for the My Health LA coverage for undocumented immigrants, because technically they are not undocumented.

Joseph Geha is a multimedia journalist based in the San Francisco Bay area, with a background in radio, photojournalism and writing. He works at KLIV News Radio, an NBC affiliate in San Jose. He has also contributed to KQED Public Radio in San Francisco and SF Weekly. Joseph earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University East Bay, in liberal studies, with a minor in mass communication and a focus on journalism.  His Fellowship project will report on one of the greatest social issues in Silicon Valley: homelessness. It will explore root causes of the problem and examine the money and resources that homelessness absorbs every day in one of the world’s most vibrant regional economies.

Lucy Guanuna is a freelance reporter based in Los Angeles who covers the L.A. River and labor for KCET and business and crime for the Eastsider L.A. She also has documented culture and social justice movements in the L.A. Latino community for the Spanish-language radio show, Contragolpe, on KPFK.  She is particularly interested in stories about the social and cultural movements that arise from the challenges facing marginalized communities. She graduated in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Cal State University Northridge. Her Fellowship project will examine the accessibility of health care for unaccompanied minors who have been relocated to Los Angeles following the most recent wave of immigration from Central America. Some of these  youth made the journey across the border pregnant, and others suffer from serious physical and psychological illnesses due to the stresses of their lives in their home countries as well as their perilous journeys and subsequent detention in immigration facilities.

Matt Guilhem is a reporter for KVCR, the NPR affiliate in San Bernardino. His work has been featured nationally on a range of NPR programs. A native of southern California's “Inland Empire'” region, Matt has been with KVCR for several years after beginning as a volunteer. On a visit to Washington, D.C., public radio icon Diane Rehm told him, "That's how it's done." He first dabbled in radio while pursuing his master's degree in media and communication abroad at the London School of Economics; his dissertation focused on “Mad Men.” Matt received his bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley. His Fellowship project will explore mental health across several communities in the San Bernardino area in the wake of the December 2 terrorist attack that left 14 dead and 22 injured.

Jeff Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio in Fresno. He was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, he embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, he joined Valley Public Radio last year.  He has been in public radio for four and a half years and believes in the power of radio as a medium for great storytelling. He sees the vital role that public radio can play in people's lives especially through increased community engagement with the internet and social media. For his Fellowship project, he will examine the social, economic and health characteristics of residents who have been injured or killed by police.

Peiwen Jing is a general assignment reporter for KSCI-TV LA18, the largest Asian language TV channel in Southern California. Peiwen covers issues related to Chinese American communities, with a focus on Los Angeles City and County’s legislation and policies. She has covered many stories about the challenges of getting Chinese Americans to sign up for health care, as well as the challenges of helping Chinese immigrants understand the U.S. health care system. Peiwen was born and raised in China and is a native Mandarin speaker. She has a master’s degree from USC’s Annenberg School for Journalism. Her Fellowship project will explore why Chinese American in Southern California have such a low sign-up rate for health insurance.

Alex Kacik is the real estate and finance editor of the Pacific Coast Business Times, a Santa Barbara-based weekly business journal that covers San Luis Obispo through Ventura counties. Alex covers energy, real estate, banking, economic development, tourism, agriculture and law and also edits and shoots photos. He has been reporting in Santa Barbara since 2010 and in 2013 helped launch the investigative news website, Mission and State, which produced in-depth narrative journalism, videos and interactive graphics regarding clergy sex abuse, police shootings, oil production, homelessness and the criminal justice system. He was also a staff writer for the Santa Barbara-based online news website Noozhawk. He earned his journalism degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he ran the Mustang Daily. For his Fellowship project, he will analyze how the proposed merger of Cottage Health System and Sansum Clinic, the largest health care providers in South Santa Barbara County, would impact cost of care, quality of service and access to care. 

Angela Maria Naso is a reporter for two weekly Spanish-language newspapers, Excélsior and La Prensa, which cover the Inland Empire area of southern California, and also has contributed to The Press-Enterprise.  She was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of a native-born Spanish mother and an American father, and learned to speak both English and Spanish while growing up in the Inland Empire and spending time in Spain with her relatives. After teaching in the public schools for 10 years, she came to the field of journalism.  She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UC Santa Barbara. For her Fellowship project, she will explore the role of stigma in treatment of mental health conditions that affect Latinos in the Inland Empire and Orange County communities in Southern California.

Barrett Newkirk is the health and wellness reporter for The Desert Sun, a paper based in Palm Springs that covers the entire Coachella Valley. He came to the paper in 2013 and took over the health beat in the summer of 2015. He previously worked for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana and The Enquirer in Battle Creek, Michigan. He won a 2011 investigative reporting award from the Michigan AP Editorial Association and has received various company awards for his work.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Indiana University and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern. For his Fellowship project, he will look at why many Coachella Valley residents travel to Mexico for health care, how local whites and Latinos use Mexican health care differently and how the Affordable Care Act has changed cross-border health care in California.

Samuel White Swan-Perkins is a freelance writer and cultural consultant. He is the owner of White Swan-Perkins Cultural Consulting and a contributing writer for leading American Indian news outlets, including News from Native California, Indian Country Today Media Network and powwows.com. He has spoken frequently on various Indian Country topics at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University, the California State University at Chico and several California community colleges. He traces his lineage back to the Tsalagi/Welsh/German and Siksika peoples. He fulfills his duties as a culture bearer through traditional singing, as a member of the Kiowa Gourd Dance Society; working as a food preservationist/certified nutrition assistant; and studying Native languages.   For his Fellowship project, he will report for News from Native California on what several California tribes are doing to encourage healthier eating and how the WIC and food stamp programs might be helping or hindering their efforts.

Elizabeth Zach is a freelance journalist as well as the staff writer at the , where she covers rural poverty and economies, the environment and tribal issues across the 13 states of the American West, including Alaska and Hawaii.  For more than 20 years, she has written about culture and international travel. From 2000 until 2014, she was based in Berlin, Germany, allowing her easy access around the Continent, Russia and the Mideast. She has visited 46 countries and reported from more than a dozen for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. She is a fellow at , and, with the Center’s support, is .  Her Fellowship project will explore the effects of hospital closures on several rural California communities, as well as the growing use of telemedicine.

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Got a great idea for an ambitious reporting project on a California health issue?  Let us fund it.  Apply now for the 2019 California Fellowship, which provides $1,000 reporting grants and six months of expert mentoring to 20 journalists, community engagement grants of up to $2,000, specialized mentoring, to five.

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