S5-EP6: Jane Brody on Life and Lessons from a Half Century at The New York Times

Jan 6, 2023


Debbie interviews “High Priestess of Health” Jane Brody on her 57-year career as a columnist for The New York Times.



Today, Debbie talks to Jane Brody, the renowned New York Times columnist who until last year wrote the popular weekly Personal Health column. 

In this episode, she reflects on her 57-year career at the Times. They talk about how she moved from biochemistry to journalism and how she got hired by the Times at age 24.

Instead of wilting under discouraging words from the editor who was interviewing her for a job, she responded, “Mr. Rosenthal, if I didn’t think I could do this job, I wouldn’t be here.” Abe Rosenthal was the managing editor and later the legendary executive editor of The New York Times. 

Jane applied her no-nonsense style to reporting, writing with a distinctive mix of personal anecdotes, interviews with experts and scientific fact.

 She started the Personal Health column in 1976 (right when Debbie was starting work as a reporter). She  invented the topic of personal health with the goal of teaching readers how to lead better, healthier lives. The column covered everything from common diseases to cancers to death and dying, as well as wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

Jane talks about what it was like to be a woman in an almost all-male newsroom and how squeamish editors wouldn’t let her use the words sexual intercourse or penis. She changed that. 

She also tells us why she decided to retire at age 80 and what her new retired life looks like. 

Debbie hopes you’ll enjoy listening to this episode as much as she did recording it. Jane Brody does not disappoint on the topic of making the most of growing older.


Mentioned in this episode or useful:


Articles by Jane Brody


Articles about Jane:


Mentioned writers and editors:


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Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."