Katie Couric Makes Health Headlines
The CBS Evening News anchor is committed to broadcasting her passion for prevention, new research, and resources.
Fighting Cancer Behind the Scenes
After her husband's death, Couric used the connections she had made during
her years in broadcasting to strengthen the fight against the nation's top two
cancer killers -- lung and colorectal cancer. She teamed up with Lilly
Tartikoff (whose husband, NBC President Brandon Tartikoff, died of Hodgkin's
disease at age 48) and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the philanthropic
heart of the entertainment industry, to form the National Colorectal Cancer
Research Alliance in 2000. The NCCRA has recruited the country's top minds in
science and medicine to work together toward creating more effective, less
invasive diagnostic screenings and, eventually, finding a cure.
Since then, NCCRA public education initiatives and Couric's own colonoscopy
on Today in 2000 have encouraged people to get screened. Right after her
televised procedure and for a few subsequent months, colonoscopy screening in
the United States jumped by nearly 20%. University of Michigan researchers, who
studied the increase, nicknamed it "The Couric Effect." And according
to the American Cancer Society, the colon cancer death rate dropped by more
than that of any other major cancer in 2003-2004.
The message is clear: Educating the public that colon cancer can be
detected, prevented, and often cured has saved lives.
This sounds like a simple formula, but the business of empowering consumers
about their health isn't always straightforward, and Couric says the media are
sometimes to blame. "Often media go for the quick headline, and it's our
responsibility to put it in perspective and not misrepresent studies," she
says. "The tendency is to present these issues in black-and-white terms,
and that often isn't the case."
Another media misstep is presenting medical news in doctor-speak. As
something of a self-taught medical expert, thanks to her endless hours of
research when Monahan was sick, Couric has a knack for explaining complex
medical stories in layperson's terms. "I had to quickly learn extremely
complicated medical concepts, and I had to learn how to ask the right
questions," she says. "I think I was able to synthesize these concepts
and distill them for myself, and that helps me explain them to others."
Couric is interested in almost any medical issue, and she sees it as her job
to attack misconceptions about medicine and share reliable information in an
easily digestible way. She now has several platforms in which to do that: her
22-minute evening broadcast; the Couric & Co. blog (on which she covers
everything from her minister's sermon about doubt and questioning, to how to go
green in your home); and online outlets such as YouTube, where her exclusive
interview last October with Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's, has been
viewed by more than a half million people. (CBS has also teamed with WebMD's
team of journalists to find and develop the best health news for her