My week began in the best possible way -- interviewing Jerome Groopman, a doctor at Harvard and frequent medical contributor to The New Yorker who has written a new book called "How Doctors Think" in which he recounts how doctors misdiagnosis 15 to 20% of their cases, because they have personal feelings towards their patients, both good and bad. They often find them personally annoying or they sometimes become frustrated that they can't get better.
Feeling positively toward a patient is not always optimal though. That can make a doctor unwilling to order tests that he or she fears will make a patient uncomfortable. Groopman uses a number of case studies, discusses the mistakes he's made in his 30-year career and offers advice to patients to get the best care and smartest diagnosis from their doctors. I am a huge admirer of articles that Dr. Groopman has written; they're always accessible, well-written and fascinating. I'll never forget one piece he did in The New Yorker about a young woman who was abandoned by her fiancé after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I told him how much I appreciated the piece he told me he wrote the whole thing in one sitting with tears rolling down his cheeks. He is an amazingly humanistic physician.
Speaking of cancer, CBS News was THE place to be for information on colon cancer this week. Both the Evening News and The Early Show did multiple features on the importance of screening and the latest research on the disease that killed my husband Jay at 42, nine years ago. I started covering this disease in 2000 on the Today Show after Jay's death, because I knew that there was a huge information vacuum out there among the general public. Getting a colonoscopy on television was something I never thought I'd do, but in retrospect, it may have been one of the finest moments (okay, most intimate?) of my career and certainly started a conversation about a disease that people had only whispered about, if they had ever heard of it at all.
This week we found a 53-year-old woman named Carolyn Chichester who was willing to let us televise HER first colonoscopy. Her mother, who never got screened, is now dying of colon cancer, and she said if just one person got tested, she would feel that opening herself up (literally I guess) would be a positive thing. I can't thank her enough for her willingness to be a part of it. (Which reminds me of a joke that Robin Williams told at a colon cancer benefit: "It's not the camera that bothered me…it was the crew!) A sense of humor is imperative when discussing this disease -- but I am deadly serious about wanting to reduce the mortality rate of a cancer that is second only to lung cancer in terms of the lives it claims every year.
There was also a lot of political news this week -- and I was lucky to talk to some of the key players in the '08 campaign. A few days ago, I got to have coffee with the wife of one of the candidates. And this morning, I had a meeting with a close advisor to a different presidential candidate. The campaign has gotten such an early start this go 'round (especially the primary process) and I am anxious to get out and get reporting on what will undoubtedly prove to be a fascinating time in our history.
It's certainly been a fascinating time here at the Evening News. This week, Rick Kaplan joined us as our new Executive Producer. He's quite a guy -- as I've said, he's a big personality with big ideas, and I think you'll be seeing some of those on our newscast. I also feel very lucky that I had a partner like Rome Hartman during my first six months in this big and challenging job.
Lest you think my life is all work and no family or play…one highlight this week was reading my daughter Ellie's essay on imperialism in 19th century Europe. I wish I had a built-in thesaurus in my computer (hey, wait! I didn't use a computer in the dark ages!) when I was in tenth grade.
I had dinner with two old friends: an Episcopal priest and his wonderful wife. They've been friends of mine since I worked at CNN in Atlanta 20-odd years ago. The conversation is always spirited (and sometimes spiritual) and we talked a lot about whether Americans could elect a Mormon president. I knew some things about Mormonism, but learned even more.
My favorite non-work moment of the week? When my daughter's "special" friend called, I answered her cell phone and in my best "recording" voice said: "Ellie can't come to the phone right now. She's studying for a French test. Please call back another time, or leave a message…." After I said "Beeeeeeep" Ellie grabbed the phone and said, "Welcome to my private hell." Ah, to be fifteen again.
Have a great weekend….and if you live in the Northeast, drive carefully!