Introducing the staff

Tom Avril is a health and science reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He was hired by the newspaper in 1998 and has previously covered environmental issues and New Jersey state government. Along with two colleagues, he was a finalist for a 2009 Pulitzer prize in national reporting about how politics had tainted the mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2005, the Society of Environmental Journalists named him a finalist for outstanding beat reporting; his work also has been honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers and by the Society for American Archaeology. A former math teacher, Avril studied engineering as an undergraduate. Before coming to the Inquirer, he worked at the Newark, N.J. Star-Ledger, where he wrote about telecommunications, and at the Associated Press in Chicago.


Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a writer and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens. She blogs on GreenSpace about how to reduce your carbon footprint in everyday life. Her column by the same name appears every other Monday in the Health & Science section.


Stacey Burling covers general medicine with special emphasis on the brain and behavior, and on psychosocial issues surrounding serious illness, especially cancer. During nearly 20 years of health coverage, she has written frequently about health reform and changes in the delivery of health care, transplantation, Alzheimer’s disease and a wide variety of medical topics. What she likes about health reporting is that she’s always learning. Burling came to The Philadelphia Inquirer from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where she was a general assignment and projects reporter. She previously covered education, police and courts at newspapers in Virginia and Illinois. A native of Indiana, she is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has won numerous awards, including the science journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Ellen Dunkel has been working at since 1998, specializing in health, entertainment and national and international news. She previously worked online at The Bergen Record and the Detroit Free Press. She was also a reporter at the Christchurch Star in New Zealand. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and the New School. She is also a dance critic for the Inquirer.


Faye Flam covers a wide range of basic science and health research for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and has examined issues in evolution on her Planet of the Apes blog and weekly column in the Health & Science section since April 2011. In pursuit of her stories, Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine. In 1995 she became a staff writer for the Inquirer, where she’s covered everything from climate change to space exploration to cancer research. Her story “Faulting the Forensics” won first prize in the 2010 Keystone competition. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. It covered the intersection of science and sex.


Marie McCullough has been a medical reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1995. She specializes in women’s health issues, but her wide-ranging coverage has included the anthrax attacks, stem cell advances, emerging infectious diseases, and molecularly-targeted cancer medicines. She has won numerous awards and journalism fellowships, including one that took her to Southeast Asia to learn first-hand about avian flu.


Don Sapatkin has been a reporter and editor on The Philadelphia Inquirer’s health and science staff, otherwise known as the SMASH desk, for most of the last decade. He currently focuses on public health – a broad beat that ranges along the alphabet from AIDS to addiction, autism, foodborne illness, health insurance (or lack of it), nutrition, obesity, soda pop, tobacco, vaccination, and, for many, many months, the pandemic formerly known as swine flu. He is most interested in examining the points where disease, culture, and demographic issues converge – HIV in Philadelphia’s African American neighborhoods,or example - and how the city and the nation can work invisibly to improve the public’s health. Sapatkin has moved all around the Inquirer since joining the staff in 1987, reporting on the outdoors, overseeing the Friday Weekend section, and directing daily coverage of South Jersey. He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., served stints at the renton Times and Wilmington News-Journal papers, and is a graduate of Haverford College and the Pennsylvania Gestalt Institute for Psychotherapy and Training.


Karl Stark is the Health and Science Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. A journalist with more than 25 years experience, he has worked previously as the paper’s National/Foreign Editor and as a business of health reporter who has been honored for his investigative work. He is also vice president of the Association of Health Care Journalists, the nation’s leading group of health reporters and editors.

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