Dr. Richard Besser, ABC’s chief health and medical editor for the last 7 years, is leaving the network to join the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as president and CEO.
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.
“His first assignment was in Haiti in 2010,” writes ABC News president James Goldston in a note to staff. “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.”
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‘s 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.”
Here’s Goldton’s note:
I have bittersweet news to share. Our Dr. B, Rich Besser, is leaving ABC News to become president and CEO of the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. His last day with us is April 3.
Rich has been a beloved member of the ABC News family.
His first assignment was in Haiti in 2010. 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.
For seven years Rich has taken our viewers to the front lines of major public health disasters around the world and translated complex medical information to help people make better decisions about their health. In 2014 he memorably headed to the front lines of the Ebola crisis, where his expertise and courage took viewers right to the heart of that battle against a devastating and deadly virus.
But 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.
Please join me in wishing Rich the very best in this new assignment, where he is sure to mightily help the cause of public health in America and help all of us live healthier lives.