Physicians Should Be the Face of Television's Health News

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Physicians need to go on television and present reliable health information to the public, Dr. Kevin Soden, a physician and television correspondent, said at a conference of family practice residents and medical students.

"We need to become front-line communicators, because we can ease our patients' minds," Dr. Soden said at the meeting, sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Some [television commentators] have no earthly idea what they're talking about, and they give very improper information."

It's often the news anchors that are the voices behind health stories. "Some of the biggest experts on the air today are Oprah, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw--and they're not doctors as far as I know, yet they come across that way," Dr. Soden said. "We have to become the doctor-experts."

Being involved is not without benefits. Physicians can market their practices or act as a spokesperson for their medical society, specialty, locality, or hospital. For some physicians, it can even be a career path, he said, though he pointed out that he often does not get paid for his medical reporting.

To get on TV, get to know your local health reporter or producer, Dr. Soden said. They are interested in stories that are timely, topical, and have a human angle; physicians who can offer expertise as well as access to patients are in demand.

When being interviewed, avoid jargon and acknowledge uncertainly in the field. …