When Katie Couric joined CBS Evening News as its anchor and managing
editor last September after a 15-year run as co-anchor of NBC's Today
show, she famously became the first woman to hold that solo anchor position.
Behind the scenes, she also became a driving force behind CBS's newly enhanced
health and medical coverage.
"I told [my producers], 'We must have a strong medical unit,'"
Couric says. In response, they've "really beefed it up, and I think we're
getting ready to beef it up even more."
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
It's no wonder that Couric, who has evolved from local reporter to perky
morning host to prominent evening news anchor, is passionate about the subject
of health -- and her mission to raise awareness of preventive screenings and an
ever-growing list of educational resources.
Couric's life has been touched repeatedly, and at times tragically, by
serious health issues. She lost her husband, television legal commentator Jay
Monahan, to colorectal cancer in 1998, just a few months after his diagnosis.
Her sister, Virginia State Sen. Emily Couric, died in 2001 from pancreatic
cancer. And last year Couric revealed that her 86 year-old-father, John, has
long battled Parkinson's disease, the condition that damages nerve cells in the
brain and affects the body's muscle function and balance.
And so, it seems, she can't help but see health issues from both sides of
the news desk -- as a reporter intent on delivering the latest breakthroughs in
medical research to her audience, and as a wife, mother, sister, and daughter
who understands what it's like to feel overwhelmed by a diagnosis, to search
for answers and the best treatments, and to need expert guidance.
Which is one reason that medical coverage has become the cornerstone of her
CBS Evening News broadcast. And she's convinced that her viewers are
hungry for it.
"When you ask consumers what they're interested in, health and medicine
are right up there at the top," Couric tells WebMD. That's a total
transformation, she says, from the days when people knew little about their own
bodies, felt powerless to question their doctors, and rarely read medical
headlines. "I think there's been a real sea change in the way medical care
is consumed. Patient advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon, and now it's more