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CDC's Dr. Richard Besser Joins ABC News

By Ed O'Keefe

CDC Dr. Richard Besser discusses the outbreak of H1N1 flu at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta on April 28, 2009. (Photo by AP)

In the latest example of a government official leaving public service for television, the CDC's Dr. Richard Besser will join ABC News in September as a senior medical editor and correspondent, according to an internal ABC memo obtained by The Eye.

"Dr. Besser’s distinguished background in public health, emergency preparedness, and epidemiology will enhance the leadership of ABC News in reporting and explaining medical issues to our audiences," ABC News president David Westin said in the memo to staffers.

Besser's last day at CDC is Aug. 15, according to an agency spokeswoman. He emerged as one of the Obama administration's lead spokesmen during the initial H1N1 flu outbreak. He served as acting director of the CDC until June and currently serves as director of the agency's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, responsible for the agency's public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. Many observers hoped President Obama would name Besser to the top CDC job, but he instead tapped New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden.

Besser, who regularly appeared on San Diego TV stations during his time there, will appear on "Good Morning America," "World News with Charles Gibson" and other ABC News broadcasts. He will join Dr. Timothy Johnson, who becomes the network's chief medical editor, according to Westin.

Besser joins a growing crop of television news doctors, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta (who was briefly considered for the surgeon general post), Dr. Jennifer Ashton, joined CBS News in April, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who last month launched an MSNBC daytime show about medical issues.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 30, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
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