Moving beyond doctors in Vail
July 20, 2010
VAIL – Women don’t like being told what to do. As a woman, a doctor and a journalist, Dr. Nancy Snyderman knows this on many different levels.
“For smart women, and frankly I think most women fall in that smart category, we don’t want to be told what to do, we want information so we can make smart choices,” Snyderman said. “It’s a little bit like standing in the cereal aisle. There’s a million different choices, and we know that Cheerios is better choice than Froot Loops, but you know, some days you want the Froot Loops. But you do it as an informed consumer.”
Snyderman is the keynote speaker at Friday’s Celebration of Life Luncheon at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek. The annual event, put on by the local nonprofit Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group, is sold out.
“I think Dr. Snyderman is fascinating,” said Lynda Sampson, a Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group board member. “And as the NBC medical correspondent I think she’ll be a very interesting guest speaker.”
Since the group’s inception in 1994, it has raised close to $1 million, all of which has been distributed to those who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Eagle County, according to Brenda Himelfarb, who cofounded the group with Edwards resident Patti Weinstein.
Snyderman said the luncheon is an “opportunity to have a frank discussion about what we know about breast cancer, as well as what we don’t know.
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“There’s been so much news with regard to breast cancer – genetics, how we test, who we should test, reimbursement issues and the real loaded science that came down last year about the use of mammography in women below age 50,” she said during a recent interview. “We’re going to talk about those things.
“I bring a bias with me as a scientist that we don’t always like what we hear, but we have to talk about it,” she continued.
And talking about breast cancer or other medical maladies is her job, or one of them, at least. Snyderman joined NBC News as the chief medical editor in September 2006. Her reports appear on “Today,” “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” MSNBC, MSNBC.com and I Village. She is also the associate professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.
She knew from the time she was in third grade that she wanted to be a doctor, but the journalist part of the equation was an “accident.”
“I did a tonsillectomy at the University of Pittsburgh and I ended up being on television,” she said. “The producer who interviewed me said ‘You’re not bad, you might want to do this.'”
Snyderman calls the two careers “parallel pathways.”
“Talking on television is very similar to sitting at someone’s bedside,” she said. “You have to explain complicated things in plain language. Being on air and traveling the world has made me a better doctor and the fact that I still see patients as a physician has made me a better journalist.”
The one theme that carries through everything Snyderman does is patient education. She helped found http://www.BeWell.com, a website that connects the country’s top health experts to Fortune 500 companies on health topics.
“The days in the ’50s and ’60s where you could rely on your doctor to take care of you, and the local hospital would always be open and you could have access to health care and the economy would be OK, those days are long gone,” Snyderman said.
Instead, self sufficiency is more important than ever, she said.
“At this stage in my life I’ve figured out the difference between being a doctor and being a healer and so much of being a healer is enabling patients to not ever have to be patients,” Snyderman said. “To stay well so you don’t have to access the system. A lot of that is self responsibility, which comes back to knowing risk factors, to living smart, and knowing the warning signs when you might be in trouble. At the end of the day, whether we have good doctors or lousy ones, we are responsible for ourselves.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.