Sammy Mack

Reporter

Public radio. Public health. Public policy.

Most days, Mack covers health care policy for WLRN – Miami Herald News. 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 A Green Eyeshade Award for Investigative Journalism, and 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

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.

NIH.gov

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.

“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.

alex_ugalek / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.”

American College of Emergency Physicians

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:

Nadege Green / WLRN

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.

nature.mdc.mo.gov

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.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

On Tuesday evening as the sun set in a clear sky, shrimper Aaron Comegys tied a couple of extra lines between his boat, Hat Trick, and his slip at the Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove.

“We take everything that’s up top and put it down below,” said Comegys, who lives aboard a sailboat moored out in the bay—though he won’t be sleeping there if a storm comes through.

“I did Isaac back in 2012 on my boat and it sucked,” said Comegys. He was stuck for 36 hours after his skiff blew away and left him stranded with no way to get back to shore.

Douglas Hanks / Miami Herald

Hours before the National Hurricane Center issued a  tropical storm and hurricane watches for South Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew,  Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked residents to be prepared for tropical storm-force winds by Thursday.

“The message is very simple right now, it’s: You should be prepared for the eventuality of a hurricane,” said Gimenez.

Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

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 individual to determine if additional people are infected."

CDC

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.

Miami Herald

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.

Kyle Holsten / WLRN

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.

gutcheck.cancer.gov

When Brenda Sokolowski turned 50, she followed national recommendations and made an appointment for her first screening colonoscopy.

everydayplus / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Health care prices are notoriously difficult to come by ahead of a procedure, but Jackson Health System in South Florida is experimenting with a new approach in price transparency.

Hospitals keep a list of what they charge for health care services—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.

What makes Jackson’s Care Quote different from a typical estimate is how it accounts for an individual’s insurance plan.

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