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AAP National Conference: Pediatricians urged to use media to make a difference :

October 23, 2016

By their very natures, pediatricians are influencers. When they feel passionately about an issue, they should consider using the media to connect with people and try to make a difference.

This encouragement came from Richard Besser, M.D., FAAP, ABC News' chief health and medical editor, in his keynote address at the opening plenary session of the AAP National Conference & Exhibition Saturday.

“What I want to do is make a case for why I think that media matters as a way of trying to make connections,” Dr. Besser said. “With our words, we (pediatricians) explain, we comfort, we reassure, we educate, we shape behavior and we inspire. That’s exactly what I try and do when I’m on the air.”

In his keynote address Saturday, Dr. Besser said he is a big fan of using social media to reach the younger generation. In his keynote address Saturday, Dr. Besser said he is a big fan of using social media to reach the younger generation.

Dr. Besser, a pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist, provides medical analysis and reports for all ABC News programs and platforms, including “World News Tonight,” “Good Morning America” “20/20,” “Nightline,” ABC News Radio and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“When I look at that camera, every time, I am imagining that I am seeing either one of my patients or one of their parents, and that’s the tone I use when I am on the air,” he explained. “Each of us is here because we care passionately about the lives of children and are trying to make an impact in children’s lives in different ways.”

Dr. Besser joined ABC News in 2009 after serving at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for 18 years. Just prior to leaving the CDC, he was promoted to acting director for six months. During that period, he led the CDC’s response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic, which focused intensely on communicating and educating the public — often in the media, for which he received the Surgeon General’s Medallion.

In addition to his traditional media presence, Dr. Besser is active on Facebook and Twitter. Each week, he hosts a Twitter chat #abcDrBchat. In last week’s chat, he and others from national health agencies discussed issues surrounding the flu. Over the course of an hour, he said there were 868 active participants and 2,600 tweets that reached a potential of 49 million people with flu information.

“I am a big fan of social media and the reason for that is that you need to reach people where they are, where they get their information. If you are looking to reach the younger generation, they are not watching our shows. Our (television) demographic is much older,” he said. “A lot of people are getting their information on social media.”

Dr. Besser said his goal isn’t to make TV doctors, but he wants pediatricians to consider offering their opinion to the media the next time they call. “And you think that ‘Wow! This is a way that I could actually get out a message to the community that could make a difference.’ You are pediatricians, and people want to know what you have to say.”

For more coverage of the AAP National Conference & Exhibition visit To watch Dr. Besser's full address along with other opening plenaries, visit
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