Journalists play a critical role bringing stories about important health issues to the attention of the public and policymakers. This week, the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy (KPIHP) named its ninth-annual Kaiser Permanente Health Policy Journalism Fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Brian Rinker and Coby McDonald are second-year students at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The fellowship will provide each student full tuition and resource reimbursement for the production of their master’s thesis on a key health policy topic.
“Because the number of working journalists has declined so significantly, it’s critical to encourage and inspire a strong and vibrant community of young journalists to enhance both the quality and quantity of print media and broadcasting on health policy concerns,” said Brian Raymond, senior health policy consultant at KPIHP.
Rinker returned to school at age 30, attending City College of San Francisco. He discovered his passion for journalism while writing for the school’s magazine and newspaper. He transferred to San Francisco State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is pursuing a concurrent master’s degree in journalism and public health.
Rinker’s project focuses on the efforts of a small town in Kern County, California, where residents work together to curb the growing number of people addicted heroin.
“The fellowship has been indispensable in giving me the time, resources, and space necessary for diving deep into the policies and stigmas fueling treatment models for heroin users,” he said. “But most importantly, the fellowship allowed me to spend a month getting to know the people in a small rural town who had been hit hard by the opioid and heroin epidemic.”
McDonald graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in community studies, a major that focuses on social change. He has also worked as a mental health assistant and classroom counselor for emotionally troubled youth.
In 2015, California passed SB 210, legislation creating language learning benchmarks for deaf children. McDonald’s project will explore the implications of the bill, in terms of both health care and education, and untangle the controversy surrounding it.
“The fellowship is a great opportunity, providing me with a significant boost toward a career in journalism focused on issues related to health and health care,” he said.