How Ann Curry's New Show Is Using Crowdsourcing to Crack Undiagnosed Medical Mysteries

Ann Curry‘s new series Chasing the Cure isn’t your average medical mystery TV show.

Each week, the live television broadcast and 24/7 digital platform connects doctors and medical professionals from around the world with people suffering from undiagnosed medical mysteries.

Curry, 62, says the idea for the unique show came after her colleague Jennifer O’Connell saw that her son’s teacher has posted an appeal on Facebook about her husband being sick.

“The couple couldn’t afford care and they couldn’t figure what was wrong with him,” the former Today co-host tells PEOPLE. “I think we’ve all seen those kinds of postings.”

An opportunity arose: What if they could use social media together with live television for good? The idea then started to “snowball,” Curry says.

From the start, Curry says her role — in addition to hosting and executive producing the series — has been patient advocate.

“My first response was, ‘How do I protect the patient?'” she explains. “I feel that that’s my job on the broadcast, on the air and I think that’s my job behind the scenes as a hands-on executive producer — it’s my job all throughout it trying to protect the patient.”

Right away, people flocked to the digital platform looking for help. “Our website crashed the first night that we were live on air because there were so many people checking it,” she says. “The upload in terms of the number of cases has been dramatic.”

Included in the submissions is a man living with a severe undiagnosed skin condition. “I would rather find a cure than win the lottery,” he says. Another woman struggling with her vision says, “It’s just a matter of time before I go completely blind.”

“There are ways that we can punch hole in the silos that limit people from access,” says Curry. “Access from their communities, access from the right doctors, access that limits them from just being cared about by the broader community and that’s what has been so exciting.”

Chasing the Cure airs live on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on TNT and TBS.

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