Press Releases

2003 Releases

NBC Today's Katie Couric to Receive Highest Honor from Harvard School of Public Health for Colon Cancer Work

For immediate release:  October 16, 2003 

Boston, MA- Harvard School of Public Health will award its highest honor to Katie Couric, the longtime co-anchor of NBC’s Today, for her colon cancer prevention work. Couric will accept the Julius B. Richmond Award at a luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA.

The award seeks to pay tribute to an individual who like Dr. Richmond has promoted and achieved high standards for public health conditions in vulnerable populations. Dr. Richmond was U.S. Surgeon General from 1977-81 and was the first National Director of the Head Start Program.

Couric’s series “Confronting Colon Cancer,” which aired on Today in March 2000 had a profound impact on public awareness of colorectal cancer and prevention strategies. As part of the series, Couric underwent a colonoscopy on camera, in an effort to demystify the exam for viewers. That same month, along with Lilly Tartikoff and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Couric launched the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA) in an effort to end the threat of colon cancer through education, new research and regular medical screenings. As a result of the attention NCCRA and NBC’s Today focused on colorectal cancer, the number of colonoscopy screenings nationwide increased by almost 20 percent. Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System and University of Iowa, who measured the change, refer to this as “the Couric Effect.”

In 2001, Couric was honored with a prestigious George Foster Peabody award for the Today series and the piece contributed to NBC News’ 2001 Edward R. Murrow award for Overall Excellence for the news department.

“It is far less costly in human and financial terms to prevent disease than to have to treat it, and Ms. Couric has used her media stature and trusted name to inform millions about opportunities to prevent cancer,” said Barry R. Bloom, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. “She has performed a truly national service for which we are privileged to honor her.”

“Katie Couric has courageously and unselfishly promoted the power of prevention to save lives. We all honor her as a public health hero,” said Dr. Howard Koh, director of the Division of Public Health Practice at HSPH.

Julius B. Richmond is currently the John D. MacArthur Professor of Health Policy Emeritus at Harvard University.

Previous recipients of the Richmond Award are:
2002 Senator Edward M. Kennedy
2001 Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund
2000 Dr. David A. Hamburg, co-chair, Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict (1994-1999) and President Emeritus of The Carnegie Corporation
1999 Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Elder Statesman and President of Tanzania (1962-1985)
1998 Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General
1997 Donna Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

See also: Katie Couric address at leadership council

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Director of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
(617) 432-4752
rherman@hsph.harvard.edu