Nancy Snyderman shows indifference for her role as a medical communicator


nancy snyderman

I wish Dr. Nancy Snyderman the best of health. I’m happy that she remains free from the deadly Ebola virus, and hopefully it will stay that way.

It must have been extremely difficult for her to be under quarantine, especially since she was feeling healthy. It’s simple: When you feel good, you want to be active. In Dr. Snyderman’s case, she was feeling well enough to ditch her quarantine and go out for take-out. However, dodging her quarantine was a huge mistake. We aren’t talking about the common cold here, but a deadly horrific virus. Dr. Snyderman was put under a 21-day quarantine for a reason. She was exposed to this deadly Ebola virus while she was in Liberia on assignment for NBC news as chief medial editor.

Her actions for violating the quarantine are unacceptable and very disconcerting. As a medical communicator, her role is to provide accurate, credible and trustworthy health information to the public, and to demonstrate good, sound judgment.

I’m not sure if she’s a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, but I am. The mission is “to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing.” Dr. Snyderman basically showed the world that it’s OK to dodge the rules at your own discretion. She had no regard for her role as a medical communicator and she demonstrated inaccurate and poor judgment.

Frankly, I don’t understand. She has an unbelievable job with a huge network. She has a huge platform to share accurate health information and to lead with integrity and heart.

Why didn’t Dr. Snyderman have any regard for people? The people, the consumers, the viewers who are smart and savvy. They want transparency and honesty; they don’t want someone taking advantage of their elite status. They are consumers who are looking to the experts to help them make sense of health information that is sometimes overwhelming and can be very frightening. It’s Dr. Snyderman’s job to provide the consumers with helpful information, not confusing information. They are looking to experts to share information and at the same time help relieve their fears. How is it that Dr. Snyderman felt it was OK to overstep the rules and ditch her quarantine early? A 21-day quarantine means 21 days, not any time sooner.

What message does that send to the public? As a health professional, Dr. Snyderman may be confident that she posed no risk to the public, but as a medical communicator, she demonstrated disregard to any rules and made them her own.

It’s sad that this one instance has changed perceptions. Dr. Snyderman has done outstanding work throughout the years. In fact, I met her years ago at the International Health and Medical Media Awards (Freddies) at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. She was hosting the event and was working with ABC news at the time, and I was on the academy of judges. We chatted and took pictures and I remember thinking what an outstanding job she has as a medical communicator with ABC. This huge network offers her a platform to report news and share health information. How amazing and powerful.

It’s disheartening now that Dr. Snyderman shows indifference for her role as a medical communicator, and the risk she poses is loss of credibility. Additionally, her apology is inexcusable.

NBC News:

“We remain healthy and our temperatures are normal,” she said, after acknowledging that members of her team did indeed violate the agreement. “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,” she said.

It was only for 21 days, Dr. Snyderman. For some people, their days have been taken away forever. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Barbara Ficarra is an award-winning broadcast journalist, speaker, and founder,  She is a registered nurse/administrative supervisor at a level 2 trauma center. This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.


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