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Len BruzzeseLen Bruzzese, Executive Director

Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Bruzzese, a founding staff member of USA Today, spent 20 years in daily journalism before entering the nonprofit and academic worlds. He served as deputy director of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting before helping base AHCJ at Missouri in 2005. He is co-author of "The Investigative Reporter's Handbook," (fourth edition), and has edited 15 reporter beat books focused on different reporting topics of use to daily journalists. He has won several newspaper and magazine editing awards and was named Outstanding Alumnus in Journalism by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Bruzzese's journalism career included writing, editing and management stints at USA Today, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.), the Pensacola News Journal and Gannett News Service (Washington, D.C.). His final daily newspaper position was as editor of The Olympian in Olympia, Wash. | Phone: 573-884-5606

Jeff Porter, Director of Education

Jeff PorterPorter plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He has trained journalists to use databases, spreadsheets and online resources since 1998 and continues that work for AHCJ members. Before joining AHCJ in 2008, he served six years as the database library director for Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. In that position, he conducted and directed data analysis for broadcast and print investigative projects, served as lead instructor for computer-assisted reporting boot camps, and provided journalism training across the United States and overseas. He has served as a CAR instructor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Previously, he worked 20 years as an award-winning newspaper journalist, served as adjunct college faculty, and co-created and hosted a weekly radio program. His last newspaper job was at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where he served as CAR specialist, combining traditional investigative reporting techniques with advanced data analysis tools. | Phone: 573-884-5477

Cynthia Craft
Cynthia Craft, Director of Engagement

Craft is the director of engagement for AHCJ, joining the organization after an extensive career in daily and magazine journalism, including a decade on the health care beat. She plays a key role in daily operations of the association including membership, outreach efforts and online resources. Craft most recently worked as a senior health writer and assistant metro editor at The Sacramento Bee, having also worked as an assistant metro editor and state capital correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, the state editor at the Dallas Times Herald and the editor of the California Journal. Her freelance articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, California HealthLine, California Journal, The Industry Standard and Kaiser Health News. Craft is a graduate of several fellowships, including a Kaiser Family Foundation health journalism fellowship, AHCJ’s National Library of Medicine and Regional Health Journalism fellowships. As a Knight International Journalism fellow, she spent three years in Lima at the Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas de Peru as a visiting professor. She has won several journalism awards, including sharing in spot news Pulitzer Prizes as a reporter and editor and a Sigma Delta Chi National Excellence in Public Service Award as a project editor. (@cynthiahcraft) | Phone: 573-884-8103

Pia ChristensenPia Christensen, Managing Editor/Online Services

Christensen manages the content and development of and assists with the editing and production of AHCJ's publications, including books, conference programs and HealthBeat, the newsletter. In 2010, she was featured in "Journalists to Follow: 20 industry thinkers, innovators and practitioners we recommend you get to know" in Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists. She previously was publications coordinator for Investigative Reporters and Editors, where she oversaw website content, edited IRE publications and assisted advertisers. She worked as a copy editor and an interactive producer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a producer for Tribune Interactive, a sports copy editor for the Marin (Calif.) Independent Journal, and was job and internship coordinator at the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism in San Francisco. ( | Phone: 405-714-3867

Tina England, Membership Coordinator

England provides the first line of service for members and potential members. She also coordinates marketing efforts to inform both AHCJ members and other journalists who would benefit from AHCJ events, resources and support. She previously served in administrative, graphic design and conference planning roles in the University of Missouri’s College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Department of Student Life. She also teaches fitness and Pilates classes. She is interested in helping members navigate all the association has to offer. | Phone: 573-882-2955

Susan CunninghamSusan Cunningham, Events Coordinator

Cunningham heads up logistics on conferences, workshops and fellowship programs. She collaborates with hotels and other training sites to make sure events are well-planned and executed, and assists speakers, attendees and exhibitors with their training event plans. She also serves as point person for AHCJ's many fellowship programs. She most recently served as a catering sales manager with Marriott and is a former regional director with the Missouri Restaurant Association. | 573-882-2203

Melissa Acton, Fiscal Officer

Acton is responsible for daily accounting, overall budget monitoring and grants reporting for the association and the center. She previously served as chief financial officer for Welcome Home Inc., a local nonprofit that provided housing and other support services to homeless veterans. She has a master’s degree in public affairs with an emphasis in nonprofit management and a bachelor’s degree in human environmental studies. | Phone: 573-882-2868 

J. Chris ColwellJ. Chris Colwell, Web Producer

Colwell is responsible for programming and content creation that will improve site navigation and the overall experience at Before joining AHCJ in 2012, Colwell helped create commercial, educational and journalism-oriented sites and performed programming/development for sites owned by Quaker Oats, Celebrity Cruises and Pepsico brands. He attended the Missouri School of Journalism.

Student Assistants

Zia Kelly, Office Assistant

Kelly studies multimedia journalism and public health at the University of Missouri. She began working for AHCJ part-time in May 2017 and helps manage the membership database. During her time at MU she has reported on higher education administration, state Medicaid policy and agricultural pollution regulation, among other things. Kelly's journalism school emphasis is in audio reporting and she aspires to report for an NPR affiliate after graduation. Currently, she serves as a weekly anchor at Columbia's public radio station, KBIA. In addition, Kelly works part-time as a personal trainer and strength coach and trains as an Olympic-style weightlifter. 

Catherine Wendlandt, Graduate Research Assistant 

Wendlandt is pursuing a master of arts in Journalism - magazine editing at the University of Missouri. She earned a degree in journalism - magazine publishing in 2018 from MU and minored in Spanish and religious studies. She is a member of Kappa Tau Alpha honor society. As an undergrad, she worked at Vox Magazine and the Columbia Missourian, covering city and county government. She has interned at D Magazine and Houstonia Magazine as well as at several nonprofits including "We Always Swing” Jazz Series in Columbia, Mo., and Alwa Emprendizaje Social and S.O.S. Bebés Robados in Barcelona, Spain. Along with her work for AHCJ, where she helps manage the data resources page, Wendlandt also works as the Eat Drink editor at Vox Magazine. 

Editorial Contributors

Joseph Burns, Topic Leader/Insurance

Burns provides resources for AHCJ members to cover the complex and changing landscape of health insurance through blog posts, tip sheets, articles and links to sources. An independent journalist, Burns has been covering health care since 1991 and writes frequently about health policy and the business of health care for a variety of publications, including Hospitals & Health NetworksManaged Care magazine, Ophthalmology Management and The Dark Report. One of the founding editors of the Practice Options newsletters, Burns has edited books on health care and business strategies for Faulkner & Gray and Panel Publishers. From 1991 to 1994, he was editor-in-chief of Business & Health magazine and later was a contributing editor and author of a monthly column for Managed Healthcare Executive magazine. He was the founding editor of The Financial Manager, a magazine for accountants and other business strategists. Burns, based in Massachusetts, began his career as a newspaper reporter in Connecticut. (@jburns18)

Tara Haelle, Topic Leader/Medical Studies

Haelle guides journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enable them to translate the evidence into accurate information that their readers can grasp. Haelle is a freelance journalist and multimedia photographer who has particularly focused on medical studies over the past five years. She particularly specializes in reporting on vaccines, pediatrics, maternal health, obesity, nutrition and mental health. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post, Politico, Slate, NOVA, Wired and Science, and she writes regularly for HealthDay, Frontline Medical Communications, Forbes and her parenting science blog Red Wine & Apple Sauce. She's co-writing an evidence-based parenting book due in April 2016. (@tarahaelle)

Joanne Kenen, Topic Leader/Health Reform

Kenen, the health editor for Politico, is a Washington-based writer who specializes in health and health policy. She provides resources to help AHCJ members cover the complexities of implementing health care reform. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, The Washington Post, Slate, the Washingtonian, Kaiser Health News, Health Affairs, Miller-McCune, the American Prospect, AARP Magazine and numerous other publications. She was the senior writer for the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, and a Kaiser Media Fellow in a 2006-07, where she wrote extensively about palliative medicine, hospice, and aging. A longtime Reuters correspondent in New York, Florida/the Caribbean, and Washington, she has covered everything from voodoo festivals to U.S. presidential campaigns and she spent more than a decade covering health policy on Capitol Hill. Thanks to her particularly wakeful second son, she is co-author of a parenting book, "The Sleeplady's Good Night, Sleep Tight." Earlier in her career, she did a lot of reporting from Latin America, and co-authored a book on Costa Rica. (@joannekenen)

Mary Otto, Topic Leader/Oral Health

Otto is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who began writing about oral health at The Washington Post, where she covered social issues, including health care and poverty, for eight years. In 2007, she wrote about 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, a Maryland child covered by Medicaid who died after bacteria from a dental infection spread to his brain. The death of the boy spurred congressional hearings, a revamping of Maryland’s Medicaid dental system and increased attention to oral health access for Medicaid children nationwide. After leaving the Post in a newsroom downsizing, Otto spent an academic year as a 2009-10 Knight Science Journalism Fellow studying oral health and public health at Harvard University. Her ongoing exploration of barriers to dental care in poor communities has been assisted by a California Endowment Dennis A. Hunt Fund grant. Otto has continued to write about oral health and other health and social issues as a freelance writer for the Post, as a contributing writer for an online publication for oral health professionals called, and as the editor of Street Sense, a newspaper produced and sold by homeless men and women in Washington, D.C. (@mottomatic)

Liz Seegert, Topic Leader/Aging

Seegert is leading the effort to provide resources to help AHCJ members cover the complexities of aging by writing blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other resources. She has more than 25 years’ experience in print, broadcast and online media. Her journalism experience includes stints in Boston as a general assignment news reporter for public radio and a writer for all-news radio, and as a TV news associate producer/writer in New York City. Several years in the corporate world helped to sharpen her writing and immersed her in the world of health and wellness. Since 1995, she has flown solo as a writer/reporter. She is a regular contributor to the HealthCetera, blog and to the award-winning HealthStyles show (WBAI/Pacifica), both part of the Center for Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College, where she is also a senior fellow. (@lseegert)

Bara Vaida, Topic leader/Infectious Diseases

Vaida is covering the complex and changing topic and helping journalists recognize emerging stories, understand the science of diseases, as well as prevention and cures. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years and a freelancer since 2011. She has worked for the National Journal, Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg News and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows. Vaida has written extensively about health care policy and the Affordable Care Act as a contributing writer with Kaiser Health News. Her stories on the business and legal issues raised by health reform, as well as special interest influence on health care policy, have been published in the McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Politico, and the Washington Post. She recently wrote an in-depth report for CQ Researcher titled "Pandemic Threat: Is the world prepared for the next outbreak?" (@barav)

Rebecca Vesely, Topic Leader/Health Information Technology

Vesely is helping journalists understand and cover this fast-changing and increasingly important aspect of information technology in health care. Vesely started writing about health IT in the late 1990s as a reporter and then Washington bureau chief for Wired News. Since then, she has covered health care as a staff reporter for the Oakland Tribune, the Bay Area News Group and Modern Healthcare magazine. She was a founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine, chronicling the first dot com boom. She directed a short-lived but award-winning social media site for teen girls called ChickClick. She served as a contributing reporter to and California Healthline, covering California health policy, telehealth and mobile health. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and she has penned guides on electronic prescribing and health information exchange for patients and providers. (@rebvesely)

Emily Willingham, Ph.D., Topic Leader/Social Determinants and Disparities

Willingham (@ejwillingham) is a science journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and Forbes, among others. She is the author of "The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Guide to Your Child's First Four Years" (2016), co-written with Tara Haelle.