After becoming an expert in nutrition, obesity and chronic-disease prevention, David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H. ’93, wasn’t satisfied treating patients in his office; he wanted to get the message out to the widest possible audience. That led to his now-flourishing second career as a media star.
It began in 1997 with a health column in the New Haven Register, followed by appearances on local TV, and then a monthly health column in O, The Oprah Magazine. He contributed articles to magazines and newspapers and was soon appearing on Good Morning America, the Today show, 48 Hours and 20/20. Most recently, he was named medical correspondent for the ABC network, and he will soon begin a nutrition/health column for The New York Times.
“I was drawn to the media for the same reason I was drawn to public health: to have the greatest impact on the health of the population,” he says.
A self-described multitasker—Katz, 42, typically works at least 10 hours a day, seven days a week, and once juggled three book deadlines simultaneously—he recognizes that his expanding media obligations will require him to cut back on his clinical and academic duties. He plans to teach a bit less and relinquish his post as director of medical studies in public health at the School of Medicine, which he has held for eight years. He will continue to see patients and to direct Yale’s Prevention Research Center.
“What’s mattered to me from the start,” he says, “is making a difference. I’m interested in real-world impact, as soon as possible.” That’s why he sees his work in the media as worthwhile. “We could all but eradicate heart disease, and greatly reduce the toll of cancer, just by implementing what we already know,” he says. “So the question is: how do we get people to make changes in their lives? One thing that’s clear, you need to reach them. Through my work in the media, I can reach many more people in one day than I could hope to reach treating patients in my office over the span of my entire career.”
Besides teaching, treating patients, writing and making public appearances, Katz is also a successful inventor and poet. Among his inventions—he holds five patents—are an anatomically appropriate bicycle seat, a multiuse winter sport boot for children and a child-safe nail clipper. As an antidote to all his medical writing he turns to poetry, which has been published in anthologies and journals ranging from the strictly literary to JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Katz, who has five children, says that when he’s not working he enjoys cooking, horseback riding, hiking, skiing and carpentry. His wife, Catherine, a neuroscientist, is collaborating with him on a book about nutrition.
He attributes his productivity to passion for the things he does. “Loving what you do makes all the difference,” he notes.