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Justine Griffin, Times Staff Writer

Justine Griffin

Justine Griffin covers retail business and tourism for the Tampa Bay Times. She is a native Floridian who spent most of her childhood in Pasco County. Prior to coming to the Times in 2015, she worked for the St. Augustine Record, the Sun Sentinel and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where she gained national attention for her retail coverage and for a longform article she wrote about her experience as an egg donor. Justine is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she studied journalism. She's an equestrian. Her horse is named Belinda.

Phone: (727) 893-8467


Twitter: @SunBizGriffin

  1. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo


    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August approved the first ever Chimeric Antigen Receptor Therapy, or "CAR-T cell therapy," for children and young adults up to age 25 suffering from leukemia and other blood and bone cancers. And just this week, the agency approved the same immunotherapy for adults with large B cell lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. ...

    Dimas Padilla, right, with Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Padilla, the father of two young daughters, is in remission after receiving CAR-T treatment during a clinical trial at Moffitt for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. "CAR-T gave me my life back," he said. "This is going to be the cure for cancer." Locke said the center has made CAR-T a top priority. [Photo courtesy of Moffitt Cancer Center]
  2. For many, rising premiums for Part B Medicare will erase Social Security gains


    More than 2.4 million seniors in Florida rely on Medicare, and a good chunk of them could face rising health care premiums next year.

    With Medicare's annual open enrollment period beginning Sunday, most of the changes to plans and services seem slight for 2018. But experts say Floridians will be among the millions affected nationwide by anticipated rising premiums for Part B plans, which cover outpatient care, doctor bills, physical therapy and more routine health services....

    Christopher Wittmann, a physician assistant, examines a patient for lower back pain at Trinity Pain Center in Pasco County. Outpatient health care visits like this are covered under Medicare Part B, which will see premium increases of more than 5 percent on average in 2018. Medicare open enrollment begins Sunday and runs through Dec. 7, with a special extension to Dec. 31 for people affected by the recent hurricanes. [Times | 2014]
  3. Navigating Medicare enrollment: What you need to know for 2018


    When we think of October, candy corn, jack-o'-lanterns and cooler, dry weather are top of mind.

    But for Floridians looking for health care coverage, early October also signals that Medicare enrollment is just around the corner.

    Oct. 15 marks the start of the annual enrollment period for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors 65 and over. The traditional window to shop around for plans runs through Dec. 7 this year. But that period has been extended to Dec. 31 for people who qualify who may have been impacted by the recent slew of hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria....

    Florida is one of the biggest players in Medicare, with more than 2.4 million people enrolled, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. While most enrollees tend to stick with the plans they know and have used before, there are some subtle changes to Medicare Advantage plans for 2018 that could affect some benefits. [Getty Images/iStockphoto]
  4. Are Florida doctors prepared to treat patients with medical marijuana?


    Richard Hackler recently drove five-plus hours round trip from his home in Vero Beach to St. Petersburg, hoping to find out if medical marijuana could help with his post traumatic stress disorder.

    But the doctor he traveled to see seemed just as uninformed as the other physicians he had visited in Melbourne and Stuart. Though all three had been qualified by the state to prescribe medical marijuana, none of them, he said, seemed to know much about the plant or its ability to treat cases like his. ...

    Dr. Douglas Scott, who works at the Tetra Health Care center in Tampa, says there "a lot of gray areas" where doctors can make the decision on whether to prescribe marijuana on a case-by-case basis, especially when it comes to chronic pain. "A lot of people come in and want to take cannabis to get off pain management medication, but it's dangerous if they take cannabis with pain meds," he said. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times]
  5. Feeling allergy symptoms? Blame Hurricane Irma, some doctors say


    Allergies out of whack?

    You can blame Hurricane Irma for that. Well, kind of.

    As many continue to wait for cleanup crews to haul away the sopping piles of withering tree debris in front of their houses from Irma, plenty of people across Tampa Bay are sniffling and coughing more than they were before the hurricane passed, narrowly sparing the region from the worst of its wrath.

    "I've been telling my patients that it seems like Irma brought the allergy season on a little earlier," said Dr. Rachel Dawkins, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. "We usually see the peak of it in the fall at the end of October and into November, when the trees start shedding their leaves. But right now we have a lot of trees on the ground, which means we have a lot of pollen on the ground, and there's an uptick of mold from standing water."...

    Piles of yard debris like this one from Hurricane Irma can become laden with mold and other environmental triggers and can "heighten allergic symptoms," said Dr. Farzanna S. Haffizulla, assistant dean for community and global health at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  6. Florida Hospital buys 100 acres in Polk to connect Tampa and Orlando hospitals


    Adventist Health System, the parent company of Florida Hospital, purchased a large tract of land in Polk County this summer with plans to expand and connect its hospital systems in Tampa Bay and Orlando.

    The health care company paid $14.5 million for 103 acres along Interstate 4 just west of Florida Polytechnic University. Earlier this summer, executives with Florida Hospital, which has eight hospitals in the Tampa Bay region, met with Lakeland city officials to discuss the future development of the property. Plans include a freestanding emergency room and a possible 200-bed hospital in the next decade, if demand in the region warrants it. ...

    This illustration shows Florida Hospital's concept for a possible medical facility on 103 acres the system has purchased in Polk County. Plans include an emergency room and eventually a 200-bed hospital. Florida Hospital says the new development could connect its hospitals in the Tampa Bay region with those in Orlando. [Photo courtesy of Florida Hospital]
  7. Pinellas mosquito control detects West Nile virus, targets Sawgrass Lake and Lake Maggiore


    Two sentinel chickens tested positive for the West Nile Virus in Pinellas County this week.

    Pinellas County Mosquito Control confirmed the birds were located in the Sawgrass Lake and Lake Maggiore areas of St. Petersburg, and tested positive for the virus on Thursday. Technicians are treating the area by targeting adult mosquitoes and larvae by ground and air, according to a news release....

    Male and female mosquitoes are separated during a test for West Nile virus. The virus was detected this week in two sentinel chickens in St. Petersburg and mosquito control officials are targeting the affected areas. [Times files | 2005]
  8. Uncertainty over Obamacare's future sends premiums up, budgets down


    Open enrollment for individual health insurance is still about a month away, but insurance companies and "navigator" programs that help people find coverage are already bracing for what's likely to be a rocky year ahead.

    Premiums for health care plans sold on the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange and outside the exchange will rise an average of 45 percent in Florida this year, according to prices released this week by Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation. Insurers blame the rate hikes on the uncertainty surrounding the future of Obamacare, given recent repeal attempts in Congress to repeal the law. ...

    Petal Pennycook of Tampa, left, works with navigator Ashley Brunson to choose an Obamacare health plan in 2015. This year, when the enrollment period begins for 2018, the number of navigators will be drastically reduced because of budget cuts, and advocates fear that could lead to fewer people signing up for coverage. [KATHLEEN MCGRORY |  Times]
  9. Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?


    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer season for the virus. Some expected it to be even worse than last year, when 1,100 travel-related cases were reported statewide and Zika spread into pockets of South Florida. ...

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting Zika. Cases of the virus are down dramatically in Florida.
  10. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay


    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    The national nonprofit's Southern Florida chapter has grown geographically and is now responsible for Tampa Bay and Sarasota as well as its existing coverage areas in Naples, Fort Myers and the region spanning from Palm Beach to Miami.

    That's good news for Tampa Bay. The Make-A-Wish Southern Florida chapter is one of the most active chapters in the country for the organization, which grants "wishes" to children with critical illnesses and their families. The chapter, founded in 1983, has granted 11,000 wishes to children since it started and is on track to grant 600 or more wishes next year with its expanded reach, said chief operating officer Richard Kelly. That's nearly one wish every 16 hours, he said. ...

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  11. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project


    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    USF medical students, staff, donors and board members joined Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and a slew of local politicians and real estate developers to celebrate what will be the first part of Water Street Tampa, a $3 billion redevelopment project expected to span 50-plus acres in downtown Tampa. USF President Judy Genshaft said the medical school and cardiovascular institute will be a key anchor for the district....

    From left, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and state Rep. Shawn Harrison speak during the "Dig This" construction celebration Wednesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa. University of South Florida students, faculty, board members, supporters, donors and elected officials attended the event to mark the start of construction of the new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]

  12. Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough power outages nearly all restored a week after Irma


    More than a week after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to millions of Floridians, about 300,000 customers across the state were still in the dark Monday evening.

    But most in the Tampa Bay area could flick their lights on.

    Duke Energy reported that more than 99 percent of outages were restored in a dozen counties across the state, including in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough. The utility said about 2,549 customers in Pinellas and 280 customers in Pasco — where Duke is the largest provider of electricity — remained without power Monday, though some outages were unrelated to Irma....

    A lineman works to get power back to a neighborhood in Clearwater on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  13. Winn-Dixie store manager shelters locals in the Keys


    The Winn-Dixie grocery store on Big Pine Key opened Thursday after Hurricane Irma, thanks to a few local residents and one kind store manager.

    Kenny Lowe, the store manager of the Winn-Dixie grocery store on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, hunkered down inside the grocery store during the wrath of Hurricane Irma. While preparing the store for the big storm, he connected with a 19 local customers who needed shelter, so he opened the doors to the grocery store to let them in. ...

    The Winn-Dixie Store in Big Pine Key of the Florida Keys housed several evacuees during Hurricane Irma. [Photos courtesy of Winn-Dixie]
  14. Grocery stores working around the clock to replenish supplies after Irma


    When the big green semi-trailers with the Publix logo were driving into downtown St. Petersburg Tuesday morning, local residents breathed a collective sigh of relief.

    They might not have had power in their homes, but at least the Publix on the corner was opening soon.

    Retailers across Florida struggled to keep stores supplied before and after Hurricane Irma. The demand from everything to nonperishable food to toilet paper to bottled water and bags of ice has been fierce and overwhelming, store officials says. ...

    Customers looking for bottled water to stock up for Hurricane Irma lined up before opening time this week outside the Publix supermarket at 2724 W Hillsborough Ave. The store let them in early. [SUE CARLTON   |   Times]
  15. In Florida, 2.1 million customers still powerless four days after Hurricane Irma


    As the fourth day after Hurricane Irma stretched on, a fifth of the state remained without lights or air conditioning as energy companies worked to restore one of the largest power outages in the country's history.

    As of 9 p.m. Thursday, about 2.1 million customers still didn't have power — down from the peak 6.7 million with outages reported across the state Monday afternoon. It took utility companies working round the clock since Monday with thousands of out-of-state workers to restore power to 4.4 million Florida customers rocked by Irma's strong winds. ...

    A quarter of the state started the fourth day after Hurricane Irma without lights or air conditioning as energy companies worked to restore one of the largest power outages in the country's history. Here, Scott Crellin, a trouble man for Duke Energy, works to restore power in Tarpon Spring on Monday.l
[CHRIS URSO  |   Times file photo]