When I first heard in early April that Mike Wallace had died, I felt a bit sad. Kind of like hearing about the death of a friend you haven't seen in twenty years. Although he was known as a super-aggressive TV reporter, I didn't seem to know that side of him. How I did come to meet him, and in fact to be interviewed by him for the weekly news magazine, 60 Minutes is a long story. In this post I will tell you how it came to be. Later, I will tell you all about the interview itself.
This is really the story of serendipity
Of being in the right place at the right time. Of saying YES when you could say NO. Of course, I suspect that if any of you received a call from a 60 Minutes producer asking for an interview you would say yes, too. But it didn't really happen that way.
The interview with Mike Wallace occurred in June of 1990, but the serendipity happened about 6 months earlier.
Some time in the winter of 1989-1990 the media relations office of my hospital received a call from US News and World Report. They were scheduled to interview a number of physicians at another large, rather famous hospital in town. But apparently when they showed up, someone had changed their mind, and the interview was off. They were interested in talking with doctors who were on the hospital ethics advisory committee. [Hospital ethics committees were relatively new, the legislation that made them a required component of every accredited hospital had passed a few years prior. I realize they are old hat now, and likely no longer very news-worthy]. It just so happened that I served on our hospital's committee at that time as the only pediatric representative, and was one of several physicians asked to participate in an interview. I said "yes" fairly rapidly.
Any chance to help the public understand how we make difficult medical decisions would be a good thing.
Apparently the other physicians asked also agreed.
Shortly after we said "yes" five of us met with Jerry Buckley of US News and World Report for in-depth interviews. He accompanied me on morning rounds in the Pediatric ICU, and spoke with parents of patients I was either currently caring for or had cared for in the past. He did the same with four other physicians (a neurosurgeon, a medical intensivist, a gerontologist and an adult oncologist). He came to a meeting of the hospital's ethical advisory committee (did not hear any sensitive information) The piece was entitled "How Doctors Decide Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die" and I thought it was very well-done. This is a sensitive subject, but Jerry handled it very well. The photographer came several times to obtain photographs and many of the photos ended up in the publication. When it was over, we thought "that was that" until the day that our media relations office received that fateful call from a young producer at 60 Minutes, wanting to arrange a follow up story, and my interview with Mike Wallace was scheduled.....
To be continued....