You are here

Silberner Lauded for Radio Series

The awards keep coming for Joanne Silberner, artist in residence in the Department of Communication. Silberner, a familiar name to National Public Radio (NPR) listeners, has received numerous kudos in recent months for a seven-part series on global cancer issues, which aired on Public Radio International’s “The World.” Silberner’s work has also appeared in The Seattle Times and on KUOW.

Portrait Joanne Silberner

Joanne Silberner Media credit: Kristina Bowman

Honors for Silberner and the series include a 2013 Communication Award from the National Academy of Sciences, 2013 Best Cancer Reporter Award from the European School of Oncology (with Tiffany O'Callaghan, New Scientist magazine), and the 2013 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (with John Fauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Silberner was inspired to delve into cancer issues in Haiti, India, and Uganda after attending an international symposium on cancer in developing countries, held at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She learned that while many people associate other health issues with these regions of the world, cancer kills more people in developing countries than HIV, TB, and malaria combined.

“Before the symposium, I thought that few people in poor countries lived long enough to get cancer, and that cancer care is too complicated and expensive to deliver in lowresource areas,” says Silberner. “Then I heard the numbers and reports from researchers in other countries. Someone pointed out that HIV/AIDS was once thought untreatable and I realized how wrong I was about cancer.”

Portrait Joanne Silberner

Joanne Silberner Media credit: Ansel Herz

The seven-part series was an independent multimedia project initiated by Silberner with travel support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

The Cohn Prize judges lauded Silberner for “consistently breaking new ground in a heavily covered beat, and recognizing new angles in important stories rather than offering stories that everyone else covers.” They added that “she then tells those stories with great humanity, with a keen understanding of public health policy implications, and with verve.” 

NPR’s Joe Palca, writing in support of Silberner's nomination, sums up her talent: “Joanne has that rare combination of the ability to see the big picture and at the same time sweat the details.” 

Silberner joined the UW as artist in residence in 2010, where she teaches journalism courses with an emphasis on health and medical issues. A graduate of The Johns Hopkins University with a BA in biology, she holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She also completed a year-long fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health.

While pleased with the recent recognition for her work, Silberner prefers to focus on the pressing health issues highlighted in her stories. “What I’m happiest about is that [these awards] may bring some attention to the global burden of cancer, which is often ignored,” she says. 

Portions of this story were excerpted from articles about Joanne Silberner on the UW Department of Communication website.