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Stanford University School of Medicine

A conversation with former medical broadcast journalist Nancy Snyderman

In her three decades as a medical broadcast journalist, Nancy Snyderman, MD, had covered a variety of international health and humanitarian crises but she had never done so from a hot zone. In September 2014, when she landed in Liberia to cover the Ebola crisis what she didn't know was that within 24 hours she and her crew would become part of the story. (Snyderman's cameraman, freelancer Ashoka Mukpo, tested positive for the Ebola virus while they were filming there.) Snyderman returned quickly to the U.S. and was thrust into the vortex of fear, hysteria and a political frenzy fueled by the unknowns of the unfolding health crisis. She has since concluded, "If it had been at Salem, I would have been burned at the stake."

During a recent global-health conversation on campus, featured in this 1:2:1 podcast, we talked about her Ebola coverage and the ensuing outrage that resulted from her supposed quarantine violation. We talked about how she started out -- both her father and brother were physicians and there was always the expectation she would be too -- and she told me how she made the transition from head and neck cancer surgeon to television news broadcaster starting at a network affiliate television station in Little Rock, Arkansas. (She went on to become the chief medical editor for NBC News and a medical journalist for ABC News.) She discussed the times she felt compelled to assume a role as surgeon while she was a journalist covering news; in one case, she performed an amputation while reporting on Haiti's devastating earthquakes in 2010.

Snyderman, now a consulting professor with Stanford's Center for Innovation in Global Health, was one of the first women to specialize in health and neck surgery, and she also has some interesting reflections on what women bring to male-dominated professions. The entire conversation is worth a listen.

Previously: From bedside to patient: an Ebola survivor's remarkable journey, The Ebola crisis: an ethical balancing act and A behind the scenes look at the Stanford-ABC News Fellowship in Media and Global Health
Photo courtesy of Nancy Snyderman

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