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Forever America’s Doctor

Dr. Dean Edell has retired from radio broadcasting. His last show was this past Friday, December 10th.

Before you knew the names Stephen Barrett or Steven Novella as your go-to sources for skeptical and purely scientific treatment of medical claims, Dr. Dean was there blazing the trail the whole time. For those of you unfortunate enough to not have been AM radio listeners over the past 3 decades, you have missed out on the longest-running broadcast skeptic in history. His personal specialty was medicine, but when it came to other subjects such as paranormal beliefs and pseudoscience, no skeptic reached a larger audience than “America’s Doctor”.

No one can explain his departure as well as Dean himself. Please listen to the fist part of his December 1st broadcast so he can tell you in his own words.

Dean is everything the science-based medical and skeptical communities could ever ask for in a medical representative. He is critical of alternative medical practices, a strong advocate for vaccinations, and a champion of logic and critical thinking skills – all rolled up into a delightful radio voice with a personality to match. Easy on the ears, Dean always treated his listeners with the greatest respect, care, and compassion. In much the same way that Carl Sagan delivered the hard sciences to his audience with enthusiasm, conviction, and gentleness, Dean did the same when he delivered the medical facts to his devoted audience.

Today, politics and sports dominate the talk-radio airwaves. But as Dean alludes to in his December 1st show, it was he who blazed the trail for syndicated talk shows of all genres. When people were telling Dean that talk radio could only succeed on a local level, Dean proved them wrong by being the first nationally syndicated talk show host. Dean re-defined the medium of radio, and made it possible for today’s giants of the airwaves (including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck to name a few) to reach their multi-millions of listeners. The modern day radio talk show host must give acknowledgement to the importance that Dean Edell has made to their individual careers and livelihoods.

Dean has been a very good friend and strong supporter of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and particularly, the Science Based Medicine blog. We have interviewed Dean twice on The SGU, and both times we received many comments and emails about the awesome qualities of Dean’s knowledge and insights. Dean mentioned the SGU in his third to last show (around the 34:10 mark of the show) as a resource of rationally for his (estimated) 2 to 6 million person weekly audience. Amongst the other resources held in the highest regard by Dean are Quackwatch, The JREF, and SBM. I have personally heard him refer his listeners to SBM a half-dozen times on the air over the past two years.  The skeptical community could not ask for a better friend than Dean.

I am saddened for many reasons by the news of Dr. Edell’s departure from the airwaves. Long before I was a skeptic, I was an avid AM radio talk show listener (mostly sports and politics.) Yet every once in a while, I would catch Dean’s show, and without even thinking about it at the time, I would not be too quick to change the station when his voice hit my radio speakers. Not because I was a skeptic (far from it) and not because I was interested in the latest medical news and research (far from it.) I stayed tuned in because this man was a genuine pleasure to listen to. He could be talking about the ‘man in the moon’ for all I could care, and I subconsciously just left him on to talk – at least until the next commercial came on. So in a way, I grew up with Dr. Dean without even realizing it at the time. I wish I could say I realized my skepticism through him (I did not), but once I did embrace my inner skeptic, listening to Dean became a delicious treat to both my ears and my brain.

Make no mistake about it folks – one of the most listened-to skeptics in the past three decades has gone silent. As part of a community wanting for more nationally-recognizable, mainstream skeptics, this is a loss from which we will not soon recover.

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