“It Isn’t Always Fun.” – Jane Brody
Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree Award,
University of Minnesota,
December 1, 2000
It was at an annual American Heart Association Science-Media Conference in the mid-70s that I first heard and then experienced directly the particularly penetrating questions of then-science reporter Jane Brody. There is a special informed curiosity in her queries, an active on-going thought process as her mind engages yours, an ease and candor in her language that bonds the moment and that brings out the truth, nothing more nor less than the truth.
My model for scientific reporting up to that time had been our own Minneapolis Tribune’s Vic Cohn. From then on there was a new model. Jane Brody is without peer for insightfulness, thoroughness, breadth, and clarity of reporting. She is catholic in her interests and experience. And she has a rare attribute among reporters, that is, an understanding of personal health, its individual, behavioral and genetic components, and the public health with its population-wide and socio-cultural components.
She has found her role as few writers have, in her column, “Personal Health.“ I have in former times tried to suggest that the world needs a column on public health as a complement to hers on personal health. I’ve argued, too, that we need from the New York Times more investigative medical reporting and suggested that no one was better equipped to see, as well as its triumphs, the sham, the flaws, and the faddism in modern science and its brilliant medical-industrial complex. My unsolicited advice at the time was treated quite properly. It was ignored. She knew what she should do. Sadly, the need I voiced then remains largely unmet today.
Jane Brody was a superb consultant and an inspiration to our Minnesota Heart Health Program and, as Linda Hachfeld, who authored our Mankato programs’ book, “Cooking a la Heart” reports, MHHP was never the same after her visit. She early put us on the map. We were deluged with queries from around the world about the involvement of Minnesota communities in health promotion.
Jane Brody has in the last decades reached higher levels of analysis and wider areas of influence with her several books (Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book; You Can Fight Cancer and Win; Secrets of Good Health; Guide to Personal Health), and in her TV and lecture career of great effectiveness. She is, without question, the most highly respected nationally of all public commentators on health. In many situations I have found her synthesis of complex health issues more reasoned, balanced, and powerful than that of my colleagues’ attempts, and surely of my own. She always gets to the heart of an issue, derives useful conclusions, and makes practical recommendations.
Tonight I believe we can all be happy with the perceptiveness of our school and university in recognizing Jane Brody’s excellence in health communications and her splendid public service to health.
It is good to have you back in Minnesota, Jane!
My remarks were outclassed by Lew Cope, retired Strib science reporter, who turned to Jane at the end of his encomium and said, “Jane Brody, you are, in fact, a National Treasure.”