Today’s column marks my last for the Tyler Morning Telegraph - and it’s bittersweet.
I have loved covering the health and medical beat. Over the years, my breadth of knowledge about health, health care, science, research and social issues that impact health has grown tremendously, and I continue to learn.
The health beat here is like a journalistic playground because Tyler, a medical hub for the entire region, has state-of-the-art medical facilities and an abundance of health care choices - for some. It also is a region faced with high rates of disease, socioeconomic disparities and access issues.
While there are plenty of programs, initiatives and organizations created to solve many health care problems, some people still fall through the cracks because they can’t - for whatever reason - access that care. This is primarily why my appetite for health care reporting increased.
In 2009, Tyler Morning Telegraph launched the health section, which was inspired by the paper’s Fit City Tyler project and preceded the community-led initiative. I’d already been here a year, mostly covering the hospitals and the public health district.
Creating new content for a weekly section opened my eyes to the issues that lead us down a path of sickness and disease. I’ve been most passionate about covering health in rural communities, health disparities, social determinants of health and mental health issues.
I got involved with a national health journalism organization, which helped me to digest health information and dig for the stories that really mattered - those that centered on real people and how their lives were impacted. I learned to look for the faces behind the data.
Sometimes, my own health inspired my writing, and in many ways, reporting on health changed it for the better. After having children, I was one of the many whose weight goes up and down. I struggled with what was the right way to eat, how much exercise I must do and trying to be consistent.
By interviewing experts, reading studies and researching, it has finally clicked what I need to do for myself to get fit and be healthy.
This beat also has taught me the importance of being health literate. It makes all the difference in the world to know your body, ask health professionals questions, get second opinions, be very involved in health care decisions and think prevention long before there is a problem.
I write - and will continue to write - to inform. I’m appreciative for the feedback I’ve already received. But in the eight years of reporting here, if something I’ve written has in some way helped make a change in at least one person’s life, then I would feel like I’ve truly achieved something great.