Dr. Richard Besser is ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor. In this role he 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.” His weekly health twitter chat #abcDrBchat and frequent Facebook chats reach millions.
Since joining ABC News in 2009, Dr. Besser has traveled all over the U.S. and the globe to cover major medical news stories. A pediatrician and infectious disease specialist, he walked the Ebola wards in Liberia on two trips in 2014, reporting from the center of the deadly epidemic, and continued to provide extensive coverage for months as cases were seen the United States. In 2012 Dr. Besser was the only journalist to be embedded with a team from the Center for Disease Control in Uganda, delivering a series of exclusive reports titled “Inside the Hot Zone: The Ebola Outbreak.” In 2011 Dr. Besser led ABC’s global health coverage, “Be the Change: Save a Life,” reporting on health issues vital to emerging nations from seven different countries.
Dr. Besser came to ABC News from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he served as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. In that role he was responsible for all of the CDC’s public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. He also served as acting director for the CDC from January to June 2009, during which time he led the CDC’s response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
Dr. Besser began his career at the CDC in 1991 in the Epidemic Intelligence Service working on the epidemiology of food-borne diseases. He served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego as the pediatric residency director, while working for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to CDC in 1998 as an infectious disease epidemiologist working on pneumonia, antibiotic resistance and the control of antibiotic overuse.
Dr. Besser volunteers as a pediatrician with the Children’s Aid Society in New York City. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The author and coauthor hundreds of presentations, abstracts, chapters, editorials and publications, Dr. Besser has received many awards for his work in public health and volunteer service. He received the Surgeon General’s Medallion for his leadership during the H1N1 response, and in 2011 he accepted the Dean’s Medal for his contributions to public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His investigative reporting into umbilical cord blood banking was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011. In 2012 he received an Overseas Press Club award as part of ABC’s coverage of global maternal health issues and two Peabody Awards as part of ABC News coverage of Hurricane Sandy and Robin Robert’s health journey. His first book, Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions, was published by Hyperion in 2013.
Dr. Besser received his BA in economics from Williams College and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Besser met his wife, Jeanne, a food writer, while on his first outbreak investigation in 1991. They have two sons, Alex and Jack.