Dr. Nancy needs to set an example


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If you have been following the Ebola story on the news – and most of us have – you may have heard about Dr. Nancy Synderman. NBC’s chief medical correspondent allegedly violated a voluntary medical quarantine after she and her team were exposed to Ebola.

While covering the story in Africa, Ashoka Mukpo, a freelance cameraman hired to work as part of her team, was diagnosed with Ebola. Mukpo was sent for treatment to a hospital in Nebraska. The rest of the team, including Synderman, were sent home and placed under voluntary quarantine for 21 days.

That should have been the end of it. But the online forum Planet Princeton reported that Synderman was seen in a car outside a local restaurant, while a companion went inside to get takeout food.Nancy_Snyderman

Dr. Snyderman issued a statement that some might call an apology. NBC anchor Brian Williams read it on NBC Nightly News:       (Right: Dr. Nancy Synderman)

“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days,” Dr. Snyderman wrote, “members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed.

“We remain healthy and our temperatures are normal. As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public, but I am deeply sorry for the concerns this episode caused. 

“We are thrilled that Ashoka is getting better and our thoughts continue to be with the thousands affected by Ebola whose stories we all went to cover,” the statement concluded. 


Clearly, this statement leaves a lot to be desired. Synderman did not say what she did herself. She did not confirm or deny the reports of her appearances outside. Instead she deflected blame onto members of her “team.” Who exactly broke quarantine? She did not say what many wanted to hear: “I am sorry for what I did. I was wrong.” Instead she stops halfway, as do so many in these days of the half-hearted “apology”. I have always liked Dr. Nancy. I think she is smart and I like her take on issues. I agree with Matt Lauer that anyone can make a mistake. But I would feel better about Nancy Snyderman if she realized that as a doctor and journalist she has to set higher standards for her own behaviour. If you want to be regarded an authority, your behaviour needs to be an example.


So, don’t casually break quarantine for the wrong reasons. You, Dr. Nancy, are a doctor; please set an example. And when you make a mistake, own it. Apologize graciously and completely. That is how a leader moves on.

Make time for the things you enjoy and the people you love because, my darlings that is truly where the sweet life lies.


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Gracey Hitchcock

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