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  1. Health

Sharing and learning are what I'll miss

Published Mar. 5, 2015

It has been six years since we expanded the Tampa Bay Times' health coverage and created Personal Best. As an editor, it's hard to imagine anything more fun than starting a publication from scratch for smart, engaged readers. And that's exactly what it has been my privilege to do.

Personal Best is going strong, and now it's time for me to undertake a new challenge. Later this month, I will become the health and science editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I will miss Florida, particularly when I'm dodging snow and sleet. And I will especially miss the Floridians I've come to know through this column.

So many people have generously shared their personal stories, some joyous, some harrowing. Surviving cancer, losing a hundred pounds, becoming a parent despite medical odds, running a marathon, nursing a loved one at the end of life — all defining experiences and a privilege to write about.

Health care providers, researchers and other experts have been generous with their time and wisdom, educating us on everything from diabetes to CPR to insurance. It has been especially gratifying to see local health experts write so authoritatively and engagingly for Personal Best readers.

Above all, I'll remember the lessons I have learned from our readers. You've let us know when insurers aren't keeping their promises, when the government isn't really there to help you and when health professionals don't seem to have your best interests at heart.

And sometimes you taught me lessons I wasn't expecting. After we published an article about a Haitian-American teen who needed a lung transplant, I saw an online comment complaining about "those people.'' Just as I was about to shut down the comments, other readers jumped in, reprimanded the troll and challenged one another to contribute toward the patient's care. Ultimately, readers raised thousands of dollars — and my estimation of the kindness of strangers.

One of my favorite column topics has been immunizations. Yes, I have heard from some who bought in to the baseless myths that have helped create a resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases like measles. But I heard even more often from people eager for more information, especially about the shingles vaccine and the need for whooping cough boosters in grandparents.

When we asked for readers' questions about the new health care law, you came through, raising dozens of great points that helped guide our coverage and put the lie to critics who claimed consumers wouldn't care about or bother to understand the law.

I am leaving Personal Best in the skilled hands of news editor Dawn Cate, outdoors/fitness editor Terry Tomalin and health reporter Irene Maher, in addition to our roster of expert contributors.

I know they'll continue to do fine work — and that you, our readers, will make certain of it.