ABC is losing its chief health and medical editor of the past seven years, with news breaking this week that Dr. Richard Besser is leaving the network to take the position of president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Adweek reports.
“A pediatrician and infectious disease specialist, Besser joined ABC from the CDC, where he’d worked since 1991. He was acting director from January to June 2009,” Adweek notes.
Besser’s last day at ABC will be April 3.
ABC News President James Goldston informed staffers of the news in a memo, writing: “It isn’t just his knowledge and his journalism that sets Rich apart, it has been his role at ABC News as our most trusted medical adviser and friend. He has been there for everybody at this News Division at our most vulnerable moments, the painful and scary moments, and at those moments when we need a shoulder to cry on. On a personal note, Rich has often helped me and my family as well, and I, and I know all of you, will be forever grateful to him.”
The Adweek report notes: “In 2012, Dr. Besser received an Overseas Press Club award as part of ABC’s coverage of global maternal health issues. He would also be a part of two Peabody Award-winning teams: for ABC’s coverage of Hurricane Sandy, and for a series of stories on Robin Roberts’ health scares. While covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia in 2014, Besser told us, ‘This is the most devastating and surreal outbreak I’ve ever seen. Every day I’m seeing displays of suffering that are unimaginable.’”
Besser’s first assignment at ABC News was in Haiti in 2010. In his memo to staff, Goldston recounted Besser’s role in that assignment, writing: “After learning of a pregnant woman who gave birth in a park, he helped her get care in a tent hospital in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake. We quickly learned he is a natural communicator and both compassionate and calm in any crisis.”
Below is a clip posted in 2011 by ABC News in which Besser goes after Dr. Mehmet Oz over alleged “fear mongering” on the issue of arsenic in apple juice — you can watch the clip by clicking through to YouTube …