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UMMS resident Nancy Anoruo working as ABC News contributor

Says televised medical reporting serves as ‘a public health intervention’

By Susan E.W. Spencer

UMass Medical School Communications

April 16, 2020
 
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Nancy A. Anoruo, MD, MPH

Nancy A. Anoruo, MD, MPH, a third-year resident in the Department of Medicine, has been working over the last three weeks as a medical contributor and journalist for the ABC News Medical Unit in New York.

“World News Tonight, Good Morning America, all of those programs—everything medical within those shows that you see on ABC comes through us first,” Dr. Anoruo said about the unit’s medical experts and fact checkers.

Anoruo said she has long been a fan of medical journalists such as Sanjay Gupta, MD, at CNN and Jennifer Ashton, MD, ABC’s chief medical correspondent.

“It really is a public health intervention. They’re able to reach millions of people with their writing and with their time on the air,” she said. “And I realize for someone like myself who’s interested in public health, what an opportunity it is to be able to have the eyes and the ears of millions of people at once and be able to report and share accurate and precise medical information.”

Her mornings start with a phone call with Good Morning America producers, summarizing breaking medical news and weighing in on the latest COVID-19 issues. Much of her day is spent vetting hot-off-the-press research studies and reviewing scripts to make sure medical information that is being reported makes sense and is accurate.

Another big role: She writes original content for ABC News. One of her articles, written alongside Elizabeth K. Thomas, an ABC White House reporter and producer, was one of the first published by ABC on how coronavirus is disproportionately killing members of the black community.

“It was a huge honor and experience to have the opportunity to do that,” Anoruo said.

Her role as a contributor to ABC News, which started March 30, isn't part of a formal program, Anoruo said, but something she pitched to one of the head producers almost two years ago.

Anoruo said she’s always had an interest in journalism, but not experience. She’s getting plenty of experience now and sees parallels in the whirlwind pace of medical journalism and her work in internal medicine.

“It’s 24 hours a day, it doesn’t stop,” Anoruo said. “You really are there on call around the clock.”

With COVID-19 in the daily headlines, Anoruo said much of her team’s work is grassroots research to validate or debunk claims that are surfacing about the virus’ trajectory, vaccine and therapeutic developments, and special technologies.

“I think we’re very careful to make sure that things are not sensationalized, so we can uphold that reputation of being precise and accurate and a really trusted and reputable source for medical information,” said Anoruo.

Working in New York City at the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been “surreal,” Anoruo added.

“There is really sort of a heavy cloud of fear and uncertainty that’s very palpable,” she said. “So it is an honor and a privilege to be in that place at this moment, on the ground level reporting and investigating and sharing what the world looks like.”

Anoruo said she hopes to continue her journalism path during her medical career. But whatever direction that interest goes, she looked forward to 10 years from now reflecting and saying, “I was at ABC reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is the contribution I made to that segment in history. It’s just really humbling to think about that.”