Max Gomez, an award-winning medical and science journalist who provided informed reporting for more than 40 years on television networks in New York and Philadelphia, most recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, died September 2 at his home from Manhattan. He was 72 years old.
His partner, Amy Levin, said the cause was head and neck cancer, which she was diagnosed with four years ago.
Billed as “Dr. Max,” he brought a relaxed gravitas to reporting on topics including vaccinations, knee replacements, prostate cancer, colonoscopies, sickle cell anemia and, when he himself contracted, Lyme disease and MRSA infection. One of his reports on Alzheimer’s disease focused on his father, a doctor, who was cheated as his memory failed him.
Dr. Gomez was chief medical correspondent for WCBS, Channel 2, in New York since 2007 and last appeared there in March 2022. He also worked at WNBC, Channel 4 and WNEW, Channel 5 (now WNYW), in as well as KYW, Channel 3, in Philadelphia.
“What he did best was care deeply and combine that with his ability to explain complex things so well that ordinary people could understand them,” Dan Forman, a former editor, said by telephone. head of Channel 2’s news department. “And he would enable it by helping viewers find the help they needed.”
Dr. Gomez has won seven local Emmy Awards in New York and two in Philadelphia, and some of his work has been seen nationally, on CBS News’ “48 Hours” and on NBC News. He was also a semifinalist in NASA’s Space Journalist Program, suspended indefinitely after the Challenger explosion in 1986, and co-author of three books, including “Cells Are the New Cure: cutting-edge medical advances. that are transforming our health” (2017, with Dr. Robin L. Smith).
He was regularly present on Channel 2 from the start of the pandemic, when there were very few cases of Covid diagnosed in the United States. For two years, while battling cancer, he explained the medical issues facing viewers; showed how the coronavirus mutates; and sorted through infection data and studies.
He was not a doctor – he had a doctorate in neuroscience – and he and the stations where he worked were sometimes criticized for calling him Dr. Max Gomez. “Max doesn’t tell people he’s a doctor, and neither do we,” Paula Walker, then deputy news director at Channel 4, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1991. “In our opinion, he’s probably more informed than the average medical journalist.”
Maximo Marcelino Gomez III was born on August 9, 1951, in Havana and moved to Miami with his family three years later. His father was an obstetrician and gynecologist; his mother, Concepción (Nespral) Gomez, worked for Cubana Airlines, Cuba’s national airline, and then for Avianca, Colombia’s largest airline.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in geosciences from Princeton University in 1973, Dr. Gomez earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in 1978. He then became a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University in Manhattan.
While studying there, he chose not to pursue a career in research or academia, but instead to seek work in media that would put his scientific background to good use.
“When I first decided to get into television, it was because I thought if I didn’t do it, in 20 years I’d be like, ‘What if?'” he said. he told the Philadelphia Daily News in 1985.
He added: “Why television? Well, if I said money and ego weren’t part of it, then I’d be lying to you or myself.
He contacted Mark Monsky, the news director of Channel 5’s “10 O’Clock News,” who offered him a one-month trial in July 1980 that turned into a four-year stint. While there, Dr. Gomez was one of the first television journalists to focus on the AIDS crisis, according to Ms. Levin, who was then a producer at the network.
Dr. Gomez moved to KYW in late 1984 and stayed for six years. There, he received an award from United Press International for his documentary on AIDS. He later received an award from the New York City Health Department for his coverage of the September 11 attacks while working for Channel 4.
“Fear and anxiety levels were out of control in the city, but we spent the first 20 minutes of every show scaring people,” he said in a 2016 interview for the newsletter from CaringKind, a non-profit organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease. organization, “and then, as my news director said, at the end of the show, I had 90 seconds to talk them out of it.”
He moved to Channel 2 in 1994 and returned to Channel 4 in 1997 where, after almost a decade, he was made redundant when the station cut costs. He returned to Channel 2 in 2007.
In addition to Ms. Levin, Dr. Gomez is survived by a daughter, Katie Gomez; a son, Max IV; and a brother, George. His marriage to SuElyn Charnesky ended in divorce.
In the 1985 interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Dr. Gomez said he viewed his role seriously: Being on television, he said, gave him credibility and major responsibility.
“I feel like I owe it to people to be their first filter,” he said. “So if I’m talking about a health cure, I want to know where this information was published. I present the best possible product. I know it’s scientifically accurate.