Happy 25th, Steve Kroft

By: CBS/AP (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CBS/AP (Posted by Kion Hudson)
When Steve Kroft first arrived at 60 Minutes in 1989, he and rookie producer Jeff Fager were "scared to death" when they showed their very first story to 60 creator Don Hewitt.

Steve Kroft, speaking with Lee Wayne Hunt. (CBS)

(CBS/AP)-- When Steve Kroft first arrived at 60 Minutes in 1989, he and rookie producer Jeff Fager were "scared to death" when they showed their very first story to 60 creator Don Hewitt.

The newbie duo did a segment on Dr. Lorraine Day, a prominent orthopedic surgeon who was quitting her job because she was terrified of catching AIDS.

To the surprise of Hewitt, and even veteran correspondent Mike Wallace, the team performed better than expected -- they even received a standing ovation.

Today, 25 years later, the original rookie team now sits in the positions of those they once aimed to impress.

Kroft is a senior correspondent with close to 500 stories under his belt -- a five-time Peabody Award winner, he has interviewed everyone from the Obamas and the Clintons and Prince Charles to Clint Eastwood and Conan O'Brien and Julian Assange.

Jeff Fager filled the shoes of Hewitt as the executive producer of 60 Minutes in 2004. He was also named the first chairman of CBS News in 2011.

And whatever became of Dr. Day -- the San Francisco physician whose story started it all?

Dr. Day is 76-years-old and still living in California. She doesn't practice medicine anymore, but she said she felt that Kroft and Fager handled her story more honestly than any other television or print group.

"People said to me, 'you're going to do an interview with 60 Minutes? Boy they're going to trash you,' but I think both Jeff and Steve did a fantastic job," Dr. Day said. "They were unbiased, balanced and they told the story as it was."

Nevertheless, Dr. Day said there was hardly a week that passed through 1995 that she wasn't thoroughly "trashed" by the media for her views on AIDS.

"I don't have any regrets about standing for truth, about trying to protect both homosexuals and heterosexuals," Dr. Day said. "Why would I have regrets for trying to save lives? I'm a trauma surgeon; I should be saving lives, shouldn't I?"

In 1989, Dr. Day told Kroft that she had a 50 percent chance of contracting AIDS within five years and the risk of getting the disease from a contaminated needle was 1 in 200.

Despite the risk, California doctors were not allowed to conduct an HIV test on a patient without their consent.

"There was no disease that you had to get a consent to test for at that time; AIDS was the only one," Dr. Day said. "I was trying to keep homosexuals alive while they were killing each other with this disease and I was upset that the Public Health Department was so wishy-washy, that they would not do what they were mandated to do, to protect the lives of not only the heterosexuals, but the homosexuals."

Today, in most states, doctors are still required to receive some form of patient consent before conducting an HIV test.

Dr. Day called AIDS a political disease and said, "It would be excellent if AIDS could be handled medically like every other disease."

When asked if said she would feel safe in an operating room today, Dr. Day said she would. Since 1989, there have been significant advancements in surgical gloves and other preventative measures to protect health care workers, which Dr. Day advocated for.

"I had to fight long and hard for that and take a lot of unnecessary criticism, but now yes, we can protect ourselves," she said.

Several years after the story aired, Dr. Day developed cancer in 1993. Instead of resorting to chemotherapy and radiation, she said she was able to cure her cancer with an alternative, drug-free treatment.

"All that I learned by being in medicine and watching thousands of patients die was there's got to be another way," she said.

She has written several books on healthy living, showing that cancer patients can get well by making simple changes to their daily routines and eating habits.

Those in the medical community have called Dr. Day a "quack," and her treatments a "scam," but still, she said her regimen has worked and she has been cancer-free for 20 years.

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