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Two Detroit News staffers have been named Michigan Journalist of the Year by the Michigan Press Association Foundation.

News investigative team leader Joel Kurth and health reporter Karen Bouffard will share a $1,000 prize after winning the honor Thursday for their examination of dirty surgical equipment issues at the Detroit Medical Center system in Detroit, group officials announced during the annual Michigan Press Association convention in Grand Rapids.

The pair studied more than 200 pages of internal emails and documents on the issues, including delays during surgeries with patients kept under anesthesia while replacement instruments were found.

After The News published the reports, state and federal reviews were launched.

“This issue was thoroughly investigated and clearly explained,” the judges said, with “eye-opening documents, as well as interviews with experts, decision makers and affected families. Graphics and supporting video made the story even more compelling.”

The award, now in its third year, has been renamed after Richard Milliman, a foundation founder and longtime Michigan journalist and publisher who died last year. It honors “an individual journalist whose work had a significant impact, locally or statewide,” according to the association’s website.

Kurth and Bouffard were among 10 finalists whose work was reviewed by a panel of five judges representing Michigan media and academia.

Open to all professional journalists in Michigan, the contest allowed them to submit a body of work or a one-time effort published, broadcast, posted or distributed on a state news outlet.

Created in 1980, the foundation has invested more than $330,000 in Michigan journalism since 1990, including awarding nearly 300 scholarships to college-level journalism students.

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