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10 Plus 1: Doctor And Correspondent Emily Senay

(CBS/The Early Show)
Dr. Emily Senay, the health and medical correspondent for "The Early Show," and a "Sunday Morning" contributor, has been at CBS News since 1994. She is also a resident in general preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. As this week's "10 Plus 1" subject, she discusses those roles, including what it's like working at a hospital that exists between the richest and the poorest communities in New York City and how that influences what she'd like to see more of on CBS News.

What do you do at CBS News?

I am a health and medical correspondent.
What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
Poverty in America. The disparities here in New York are profound. The Manhattan hospital where I work sits between the Upper East Side--home to some of the richest people in the world --and East Harlem--home to some of the poorest. The division is marked by a single city block and my office is on that block. It leaves me in constant internal turmoil. We should devote more coverage to all aspects of poverty in America.
Give us a great behind the scenes story.
I have never really been behind the scenes. I'm a minor player. But I can ask Dave Price for some great stories and get back to you.
Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
Let's just say Clinton was in the White House. After a go-round with the producers I prevailed and we did not do the story.
If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
I already am doing it. As a physician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City I have the privilege of teaching MPH students and residents in the Department of Community & Preventive Medicine and working to build my own research agenda. I also work in the HIV/AIDS clinic, which is a challenge, but gratifying.
Do you read blogs? If so, which ones? If not, what do you read on the Internet?
I am not big into blogs , frankly because I simply don't have time. But I do like to read The New England Journal of Medicine online. It is very well put together. ProMed mail is good to see what scary bugs are coming our way. I use online medical references all the time and am addicted to my handheld medical reference tools. We just got an electronic medical record in the clinic where I work. I can't remember what it was like before we had all these resources. How did we survive?
What's the last really great book or movie you found?
Three books come to mind. (With three young children the movie thing is out.) A Fish Caught in Time, 1491, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82.
What is your first memory of TV news?
Watching Walter Cronkite, of course.
If you could change one thing about the profession of journalism, what would it be?
I wish we had more time both on air to cover things and off air to research and think. I wish we didn't always gravitate toward the mean with story selection. Having said that I think we pick topics that help people.
Who is the most fascinating person you've covered and who is the biggest jerk?
Thank goodness I haven't met many big jerks covering science and medicine. I get to meet and talk to fascinating scientists and researchers almost every day. One of the highlights of the year for me professionally is attending the Lasker Awards Ceremony. The Laskers are the most prestigious prize in American medicine and science. To sit in the same room and talk with current and past winners is like the Academy Awards of science. I look forward to it every year.
Finally, a question just for Emily: When informing viewers about potential health risks, which is often the subject of your discussions on "The Early Show," how to you maintain the balance between warning them of a legitimate risk vs. not making them overreact to the information?
If it is a legitimate risk we say so. If it is not a legitimate risk we say so. Simple as that. Claiming that information causes hysteria or confuses people is easy to say but very difficult to prove.

The Women's Health Initiative comes to mind. Hormones did not work in the way that was hoped and promised by so many in the medical community. We wanted to show how this desperately upset women because that was being said over and over again by physicians in the print media and on the TV. We thought women would be angry, irate, and yes, hysterical. Yet, no matter how we tried, we could not find a single hysterical woman. Every woman we spoke to was taking the information in, thinking about how it might change their approach to hormones, and then moving on. We did, however, turn up a few hysterical gynecologists. Science is not static, it is dynamic. Yesterday's dogma is tomorrow's dog meat as new facts are revealed. This is a fact of life. I believe the audience knows this.


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