Would you like to be considered an expert among your peers? Or maybe you’d like to get some mainstream press coverage? We took a look at the CV’s of a number of media-savvy physicians, to glean some tips on how you can increase your professional clout.
1. Take advantage of opportunities that showcase your expertise. Dr. Jonathan LaPook, the chief medical correspondent for CBS, is a well regarded gastroenterologist whose first media experience was doing an on-screen colonoscopy on Katie Couric. He got the job at CBS a few years later when the network decided that they wanted a practicing physician (instead of a journalist) as their new medical correspondent, because it would help ensure they were authoritative and up-to-date on the latest medical advances and patient concerns.
Similarly, Dr. Manny Alvarez, the senior medical news editor for Fox News, completed two residencies and two fellowships. He’s also a professor and currently serves as chair of the OB/GYN department at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. He got his start in TV doing a small segment for Telemundo. Dr. Jennifer Berman, who co-hosts The Doctors and has appeared on Good Morning America and other shows, is one of the country’s leading experts on women’s sexual health issues. Among her many achievements, she co-founded and served as director of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at UCLA. She spent years establishing her medical credentials before she became famous. And they are not alone: almost all of the medical correspondents on TV and major newspapers are respected practicing physicians who see patients in addition to their media work.
2. Write for the mainstream press. One way to gain prominence is through writing and publishing for the general population. Pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, who is best known for her Seattle Mama Doc blog, recognized the importance of social media early on. With her help, Seattle Children’s Hospital became the first major children’s hospital to have a pediatrician-authored blog. Her widely-read blog led to speaking engagements and other media opportunities, including a position on the board of advisors for Parents Magazine, TV appearances, a Huffington Post blog, and becoming an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon, author, and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, started writing articles for small magazines and newspapers as an undergrad. The more he wrote, the bigger the magazines and newspapers became, which began to broaden his thinking about how to approach his career. As he said in a story on Guideposts.com, “If I could help a patient one-on-one in a doctor’s office, think how many more I could reach with a story about a promising new cancer treatment or information on preventive medicine.” Reaching this broader audience via writing raised his public profile, which contributed to his popularity.
3. Consider politics. Political involvement is another way to establish your credibility. For example, Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon, author & health policy scholar, volunteered for a variety of political campaigns starting as an undergrad, including working for Gary Hart and Al Gore. He took a break from med school to be Bill Clinton’s healthcare lieutenant in the 1992 campaign, and eventually he became a senior advisor in the Department of Health & Human Services, before returning to finish his medical degree. This political work, along with his writing for Slate and The New Yorker magazine, helped place him in the public eye.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta also has political experience on his CV. In 1997, Gupta was selected as one of fifteen White House Fellows. During the year-long fellowship, he wrote healthcare speeches for then first lady Hillary Clinton. This built up his public reputation as a medical expert and created connections. It’s where he first met the CEO of CNN, Tom Johnson, who later invited him to join CNN’s new medical division as an on-air correspondent.
4. Develop your brand. Public exposure in one medium often leads to more publicity. Dr. Travis Stork got his big TV break when he was chosen to star in Season 8 of The Bachelor while he was still a resident, by a chance meeting at a bar of someone who worked on the show. And then when they started to cast the first season of The Doctors, the producers looked specifically for licensed practitioners who already had television experience.
A more pragmatic path to TV opportunities is that of Dr. Nancy Snyderman. She spent 15 years as chief medical editor for NBC, but she got her broadcast journalism start doing small appearances at the ABC local affiliate in Little Rock, shortly after she joined the surgical staff at University of Arkansas. Starting small with a local broadcast channel eventually led to bigger & better media opportunities.
Physicians can also acquire a following online. Dr. Sandra Lee, a California dermatologist known on the Internet as Dr. Pimple Popper, started with a personal Instagram account two years ago. She noticed that her most popular posts were of her at work, popping pimples, blackheads and cysts. She realized there might be a market for this kind of content, so she created a YouTube channel of herself performing these extractions. At last count, she had more than one million YouTube subscribers, and her videos had more than 570 million views. This wild popularity has led to multiple magazine articles and online media coverage as well as TV appearances.
Do you want your expertise to be widely known? If so, start by establishing yourself as a knowledgeable physician in your field and get your name out there, in print, online or on TV. Once you build some public exposure, you may be able to leverage it into additional opportunities.
Anyone can get started by establishing his or her professional reputation online. This means using social and professional networks to control your brand. Doximity gives members the power to showcase their backgrounds, accomplishments, and overall expertise in one easy-to-use national directory. If you haven’t already, create a profile and begin cultivating your professional profile.