Sammy Mack


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, 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

Sammy Mack / WLRN

On a Thursday afternoon, 17-year-old Brendon Santana is sitting cross-legged on his bed, cradling a ukulele as he sings Karen O’s Moon Song.

I'm lying on the moon
My dear, I'll be there soon

His bedroom is plastered with Beatles memorabilia and paintings of instruments.

It's a quiet and starry place
Time's we're swallowed up
In space we're here a million miles away

The song is from the soundtrack to the movie Her.

“I love watching romance movies,” says Brendon.

Health Care Cost Institute

Florida kids go to the emergency room more often than kids in the rest of the country—even when they have insurance—according to a new analysis from the Health Care Cost Institute.

The researchers at HCCI analyzed three years of insurance company billing information from Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente to look at trends in how children are receiving health care.

They found that children in Florida and across the country are going to the doctor less often, but when they do it’s getting more expensive.

everydayplus /

Health-care prices are complex and in many ways secret—which can affect how much you end up paying for your health care.

But not everyone agrees on what transparency in health-care pricing should look like.

You can listen to a story about what we mean when we talk about transparency here:

Wilson Sayre / WLRN

You are always in someone’s way on the nuclear submarine USS California.

People can only pass in the hall sideways. Head clearance isn't very generous, either. Most of the crew sleep in “racks” of three bunk beds that are hardly ever unoccupied. They call it “hot racking,” where men on different shifts rotate through their precious sleep time.

phasinphoto /

Ask what something costs in medical care and you could easily come back with a half dozen different answers. Health care costs are complex and often secret.

That’s part of why WLRN, WUSF and Health News Florida are launching PriceCheck, a reporting project aimed at bringing clarity to the cost of health care in Florida.

Listen here for a conversation about just what we mean when we talk about health care costs:

Security camera footage from the Barsotti family via Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald Tribune

Note: This interview was first published in December 2015. Leonora LaPeter Anton and her colleagues were awarded a Pulitzer Prize this week for their investigation.  

phaendin /

Florida hospitals continue to have some of the highest Caesarean delivery rates in the country, according to a new analysis out from Consumer Reports.

“People might find differences in nearby hospitals, so they really have to look at a map and at the rates and see what stories the numbers are telling,” said Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases--like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some cancers--are the leading cause of death across the country. They disproportionately affect many minorities and people living in poverty.

This month, Florida is getting a chapter of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. The non-partisan group brings together medical organizations, government agencies, the private sector, health care agencies and others to raise awareness and come up with policies to fight chronic diseases.


Your life expectancy depends a lot on where you live—down to the very neighborhood, according to a new analysis from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The distance between Downtown Miami and the city’s Overtown neighborhood is about a mile. The difference between life expectancies in those two places? Fifteen years.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez unveiled a new plan he hopes will prevent shooting deaths of children.

More than 100 children in the county have been killed by gun violence over past three years.

At 85 years old, Alpha Edwards did not expect to be out of savings or to have $3,000 of credit card debt.

"I don't do anything that costs money," Edwards says. "I can't."

The problem started four years ago, when Edwards moved to Miami Springs, Fla., with her little brown dog. Her husband had recently died, and Edwards wanted to be closer to her daughter.

Edwards regularly sees doctors for her chronic lung disease and her pacemaker. And not long after she moved, she needed a cardiac procedure.

Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

The Republican presidential candidates gathered at the University of Miami for its last debate before the Florida primary on Tuesday.


America’s changing relationship with Cuba was part of the discussion at last night’s Republican primary debate.

Donald Trump said he doesn’t agree entirely with President Barack Obama’s diplomatic openings with Cuba, but something needs to change.

“After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks," said Trump. But we have to make a good deal.”

Wilson Sayre / WLRN

By now, their stump speeches are refined: They’ve got the jokes down, the stats memorized, and the crowds hyped. But as Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rounded out their Super Tuesday in Florida—which did not hold its primary that day—it was clear that Florida was a powerful state, not just in the general election, but also in the primary to be held on March 15.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King was in Miami on Friday to launch a new national mentorship effort to reduce absenteeism in school. It’s part of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative—a White House-supported project to close opportunity gaps among young men of color.

The mentoring initiative is a partnership between Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Department of Education. Miami is one of 10 launch cities. From the White House announcement:

Sammy Mack / WLRN

Back when Laura Rollins first used food stamps for her family—more than two decades ago—she was sometimes embarrassed to use her  stamps at the grocery store.

“When we used to have those books of food stamps that you know that to me was embarrassing because that was telling everybody that was around me and letting them know that, ‘oh, she’s poor,’” Rollins recalls.

Rollins is nearly 64 years old and lives in Fort Lauderdale. Her three boys are grown. She works part time at MacDonald’s and takes care of her great-grandbabies a couple of days a week.