Journalism & medicine

Medical media elective: Exploring one DO’s time in the ABC News Medical Unit

For those interested in journalism, a residency elective focused on health media might be the perfect fit.


Kristen Kendrick, DO, a family medicine physician based in New York, had the exciting opportunity during her PGY-3 year to complete a residency elective in the ABC News Medical Unit. Inspired by her interest in journalism, Dr. Kendrick learned the ins and outs of the media during the elective, including the importance of medical journalism and medical professionals’ involvement in the media.

In this edited Q&A, we learn more about Dr. Kendrick’s background, as well as her exciting experience working with ABC.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

I graduated from the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2017 (which is actually in my hometown of Pikeville, Kentucky). I then entered the family medicine residency program at Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) in 2020, which I loved – and while completing my PGY-3 year in 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in the ABC News Medical Unit elective.

That led me to complete a family medicine fellowship in Health Media at Georgetown, where I served as junior faculty and worked for NPR as well. Since then, I’ve been working as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Columbia. 

Why did you decide to participate in this elective when you were in residency?

I decided to pursue this elective because I was interested in writing and journalism. I wanted to be a reporter growing up, but I didn’t think I’d make it (neither did anyone else) with my country accent. I actually didn’t know that the rotation existed and didn’t know much about non-clinical electives in general at that time. Then I heard through the grapevine that an acquaintance had completed it the year before, so I reached out to her to learn more and decided to apply. 

How do you think the elective influenced your experiences after? 

I learned a lot about journalism in general, but also gained an appreciation for the importance of medical journalism and the role health care professionals play in media messaging for the public. I liked that it was fast-paced and provided a high level of intensity like in medicine. Because the world of journalism is so fast-paced, I was able to do/see quite a lot in just a month, and I think the experience also helped confirm that I really enjoy health care journalism and writing in general. That rotation is probably what led me to apply for the health media fellowship. 

What were some of the highlights of your experience?

I had my first-ever online article published, which was really fun. It was the first time I had a pitch accepted, and it happened to be a story about my hometown area in Eastern Kentucky, which was special and very exciting. Being able to pitch story ideas is a really unique experience that’s very different from medicine. Another story I pitched about asbestos in Philadelphia schools ended up becoming a nice segment for Good Morning America.

So many great experiences – two highlights were watching Jennifer Ashton, MD, do her job and seeing how dedicated she is to her craft, and attending one of the UN meetings at The Rainbow Room. I also loved getting to meet other residents in different specialties from around the country. I actually met one of my closest friends on that rotation!

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently during your elective?

No. I think I was equal amounts motivated to learn and to do work and publish things, but also not super competitive about it. Overall, the rotation was a great fit for me. 

How do you see this rotation impacting your career post-residency?

It gave me exposure to an entirely different career field and motivated me to make an impact in health media with the goal of improving health literacy and health messaging to the public. Given the scale of national health media, there’s great potential for doctors to make a significant impact. I met friends during the rotation that I’m still close with today and had experiences that I won’t soon forget. Plus, doing an away rotation gave me insight into a new city and ultimately, I made the decision to move to New York City!

What kind of resident would be a good fit for this elective?

I would recommend it to someone who is interested in writing or media or any kind of health care communications, and/or a resident who has good writing and communication skills at baseline. I also think it’s a great option if you’re looking for a nonclinical rotation. You can do something other than see patients but still learn a lot that can be applied to patient care because most of our patients are news consumers. I would not recommend this rotation to someone who wants a relaxed or slow-paced rotation. 

Disclaimer: The ABC News Medical Media Resident Elective rotation has changed a lot during the past several years, during the pandemic in particular, and Dr. Kendrick’s experience was individual. Neither she nor The DO can guarantee that a resident’s experience will be similar or the same.

For more information regarding the elective opportunity, please visit the ABC News Med Unit website. Please note that electives require a full-time commitment of one month and that there is no hands-on medical training involved with this opportunity.

Related reading:

5 unique electives for residents

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