HealthLink on Air

Sundays at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Hosted by Linda Cohen

“HealthLink on Air” is a 60-minute program produced since 2006 by Upstate Medical University, the academic medical center in Syracuse, NY.

“HealthLink on Air” provides a weekly dose of information on health and medical issues affecting central New Yorkers. The program showcases health professionals and researchers from Upstate Medical University, Upstate University Hospital, the central New York community and those visiting the region who are involved with health care issues and events. The interviews are permanently archived online.

For more information, visit the HealthLink on Air website.

Ways to Connect

This week: earthquake, healthy seniors and organ transplants

Oct 20, 2016

During the earthquake in Ecuador last April, Upstate Medical University scientist Anna Stewart Ibarra and her team of researchers helped mobilize relief efforts, including setting up a basic health clinic and buying emergency supplies with money donated by central New Yorkers.

Not every breast lump is cancerous, but "unless we do imaging and, at times, even a biopsy, we won't know that it's not cancer," explains Upstate University Hospital's Dr. Sam Benjamin, a medical oncologist who specializes in chemotherapy and cancer care.

This week: elder abuse and more

Oct 6, 2016

Elder abuse usually occurs at home at the hands of family members. It might be physical, emotional, sexual or financial. It often goes unreported because the victim feels isolated, afraid and ashamed.

One way to fight elder abuse is to be aware of its warning signs, explains Jenny Hicks, project coordinator for the Abuse in Later Life program at Vera House, a local domestic and social service agency.

This week: sleep disorders, opioids and Zika research

Sep 28, 2016

Thirty to 50 percent of adults have a sleep disorder, whether they know it or not. Many suffer without seeking treatment.

These disorders -- insomnia, restless leg syndrome, jet lag -- can worsen other health issues, like blood pressure, anxiety and cardiovascular disease, says Karen Klingman, PhD, an associate professor of nursing at Upstate University Hospital. Klingman specializes in sleep disorders.

Laws governing abortion in America have changed over time, from no laws in Colonial days -- when it was considered a medical issue -- to the various state restrictions seen today.

In the 1820s, states started restricting medicines that women took to induce abortions, mostly out of concern for the woman’s health. Abortion also became a legal matter, says Jonathan Parent, PhD, a political science professor at Le Moyne College who studies the history of abortion law.

This week: end-of-life ethics, bullying, pediatric trauma

Sep 8, 2016

Life-and-death decisions were once made exclusively by doctors, but nowadays those matters are largely in the hands of patients. This can create conflict as relatives disagree over how to treat a failing patient. That’s where ethics consultants can help.

According to Dr. Kaushal Nanavati, a person’s wellness depends not just on managing his or her diseases, but on getting into a routine that brings contentment and peace. Nanavati is a family practitioner and medical director of integrative therapy at Upstate Medical University.

A variety of new reconstructive and minimally invasive treatments are being used to correct problems with the urinary tract in men, women and children.

Upstate University Hospital Urologist Dmitriy Nikolavsky describes how he created a surgical procedure to restore a damaged urethra -- the tube through which urine leaves the body -- using a patient’s own tissue and avoiding the need for a tube implant.

As Jody Adams scrolled through Facebook in January, one post stuck with her. It was written from the point of view of an infant seeking someone to donate a kidney to his ailing mother.

A nurse for 12 years and the mother of six children, Adams says the idea of donating one of her healthy kidneys had never crossed her mind -- until she read that post. She didn’t want to imagine a little boy growing up without a mother, especially if she could help. It didn’t matter to her that she did not know the family.

Polio epidemics, which paralyzed and killed children and terrified their parents before Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine, are brought to life by a survivor of a 1953 outbreak.

Janice Flood Nichols was a DeWitt first-grader in 1953 when she and seven classmates were stricken with polio during the epidemic. Three of them, including her twin brother, died. Nichols recovered. The next year, she took part in testing the vaccine developed by Salk. Today she advocates for vaccination against polio and other diseases.

This week: E-cigarettes, opiates and digestive diseases

Jul 19, 2016

Electronic cigarettes, promoted as producing water vapor instead of smoke, actually produce an aerosol with tiny particles that could cause lung problems, according to Theresa Hankin, a respiratory therapist at the Upstate Cancer Center.

The tobacco-derived liquid in e-cigarettes and related devices contains highly addictive nicotine and traces of elements like heavy metals, Hankin notes. Although some tout the devices as a way to quit smoking, many people end up using both kinds of cigarettes.

Mild cognitive impairment is when some brain processes are not functioning the way they should at one’s age. This state, short of full-on dementia and not serious enough to interfere with daily life, might involve problems with memory, language use, reasoning, or visual and spatial abilities, says Upstate University Hospital neurologist Amy Sanders, who runs a clinic that tests for the condition at the hospital.

Sanders touches on screening methods, the role of memory, the relationship to dementia and tips to keep the aging brain healthy on this week’s show.

“Rather than waiting until the kidney fails, you may want to be proactive and go for a pancreas transplant, specifically if you have brittle, or labile, diabetes,” says Dr. Rainer Gruessner, Upstate University Hospital’s transplant chief and professor of surgery. He and his team offer these transplant surgeries -- separately or combined with kidney transplants, for patients with diabetes mellitus (the most common cause of kidney failure).

This week: lupus, suicide prevention and transitional care

Jun 30, 2016

The autoimmune diseases known as lupus are hard to diagnose, unpredictable and affect many more women than men -- explains Dr. Hiroshi Kato, a rheumatologist at Upstate University Hospital.

He explains how lupus causes the immune system to attack the body’s healthy tissues and organs. While its cause is unknown, lupus appears to involve both genetic factors and environmental triggers, Kato says, adding that close monitoring by a rheumatologist is usually necessary to help control the disease.

Also on this week’s show: the role of transitional care, plus suicide prevention.

A passion for detail and for history led Dr. Stanley Burns to amass an unparalleled collection of medical photos dating back to 1839 and to advise for historical accuracy on major TV series, such as the Cinemax’s “The Knick,” set in 1900, and PBS’s “Mercy Street,” set in the Civil War.

This week: metabolic surgery, dementia care and more

Jun 16, 2016

The idea that a morbidly obese person can achieve a healthy weight through willpower alone is outdated, according to Dr. Howard Simon, director of bariatric surgery at Upstate University Hospital.

People with morbid obesity (defined as a body mass index above 40) have a metabolic disease too complicated to treat with just drugs, diet or exercise; and most will regain weight lost through those methods, he says. Simon explains why bariatric surgery, combined with behavioral changes, has a high rate of long-term success.

This week: Pancreatitis, bone health and literature

Jun 2, 2016

Diseases of the pancreas, such as pancreatitis, can bring debilitating pain and sometimes lead to cancer. Dr. Nuri Ozden, an interventional gastroenterologist, discusses the function of the pancreas, diseases that affect it, and he previews Upstate University Hospital's planned pancreatic islet transplant program.

One of his patients, Jane Cross, offers a personal view of pancreas disease. She chairs the New York State Chapter of the National Pancreas Foundation.

This week: sexual violence, vascular screening and more

May 24, 2016

Countering sexual violence can start with a conversation to raise awareness and encourage people to speak out, or even intervene, if necessary. This applies to college campuses as well as the larger society, say Meaghan Greeley and Tiffany Brec of Vera House, a Central New York agency that deals with domestic and sexual violence.

In community sessions about sexual violence, Brec and Greeley encourage people to think about the culture’s and their own attitude, the role of bystanders, and how violent acts eventually affect society as a whole.

This week: osteoporosis, mental health first aid and more

May 20, 2016

Many factors can put someone at risk for the bone-weakening conditions of osteopenia and the more serious osteoporosis, says endocrinologist Jennifer Kelly, clinical director of the bone density unit at Upstate University Hospital’s Joslin Diabetes Center. Kelly says the risk factors are a woman’s postmenopausal drop in estrogen, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism. She also describes the lifestyle changes and drugs recommended to treat osteoporosis.

This week: thyroid cancers, postpartum psychosis and more

May 11, 2016

Experts are re-examining whether to consider some slow-growing abnormalities of the thyroid gland as chronic diseases to monitor, rather than as cancers to remove immediately, says Dr. Scott Albert, division chief of breast, endocrine and plastic surgery at Upstate Medical University.

Albert also explains the thyroid’s functions, the uses of scans, biopsies and radioactive iodine; and how the vast majority of thyroid cancer patients do well after treatment, which generally involves surgical removal of the gland.

A love of the wilderness led a paramedic and a doctor from Syracuse to work with the National Geographic Channel adventure series “The Great Human Race.”

Todd Curtis, a paramedic who trained at Upstate Medical University and now teaches there, served as medical safety oversight director for the show, which follows two people as they re-create the conditions of early humans in remote locales in Ethiopia, Mongolia and elsewhere.

This week: eating disorders, Alzheimer's research and more

Apr 27, 2016

Eating disorders often develop during the transition from childhood into adolescence and from adolescence into early adulthood, says psychologist Jack Wohlers, the clinical director of Centre Syracuse, a treatment program for adults and teens.

Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating can be viewed as a way to cope with life changes and stress, he says. Wohlers describes the secretive behaviors and shame that can be associated with these disorders and the importance of early detection and treatment.

An undescended testicle occurs in about 3 percent of full-term baby boys but in as many as 45 percent of boys born prematurely, explains Dr. Matthew Mason, a pediatric urologist at Upstate University Hospital.

The reasons why one testicle, or occasionally both, does not find its way to the scrotum are unclear, he says, noting that pediatricians check for this problem in well-child visits. Mason describes aspects of the condition and possible complications, such as reduced fertility and testicular cancer, as well as treatment options in this week’s episode.

This week: kidney cancer, Wikipedia, atrial fibrillation

Apr 15, 2016

Kidney cancer is often discovered by chance, when a patient receives an imaging scan for something else, says Dr. Oleg Shapiro, a urologist and radiation oncologist at Upstate Medical University.


Minimally invasive surgery can usually be done to remove tumors when they are caught early. Shapiro also explains how renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer, how it can be aggressive and what treatments are on the horizon.


This week: Heroin addiction, organic foods and more

Apr 1, 2016

Finding a treatment program and overcoming an addition to heroin or another opioid is difficult but not impossible, says Dr. Ross Sullivan. Sullivan is director of medical toxicology at Upstate Medical University.

Sullivan tells how the effort to control pain medically helped create the current addiction crisis. Recent restrictions on prescription drugs have led to a flood of cheap heroin to fill the gap, he says, and current treatment options are inadequate to fight the high addiction rates.

Adult immunization recommendations are based less on the age of a person and more on their individual medical conditions, explains Dr. John Epling, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Upstate Medical University. He recently was appointed to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an influential panel of national experts. He is also part of a group that makes recommendations about immunizations at the national level. He talks about the vaccinations all adults should receive, and when. 

This week: Emotional eating, 3-D mammography and more

Mar 11, 2016

Why does stress cause some people to lose their appetite and others to gorge?

Patrick Sweeney explores the complex relationships between emotion, genetics and eating patterns on this week's HealthLink on Air. He's a neurosciences doctoral candidate in Upstate’s College of Graduate Studies who recently published research showing that brain regions involved with emotion and stress are also involved in feeding behavior -- something not previously reported. He hopes future research might lead to drugs for individual circuits of the brain, rather than the entire brain.

This week: the Zika virus and colon cancer prevention

Mar 3, 2016

Most people infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus show no symptoms, and the disease is not a threat to human life, says Upstate University Hospital infectious disease expert, Dr. Timothy Endy.

He tells about the history of the virus and discusses current precautions in this week’s show.

This week: prostate cancer biopsies and concierge medicine

Feb 26, 2016

Typical prostate biopsies use ultrasound to guide surgeons to areas where cancer tends to form. If cancer is growing in another part of the prostate, it can be missed.

The UroNav fusion biopsy system helps surgeons pinpoint areas that may harbor cancer, which are unique to individual patients. It works like a GPS navigation system, directing the biopsy needle to anything suspicious.

Upstate University Hospital urologist Srinivas Vourganti explains what men can expect from the UroNav and also gives us an overview of prostate cancer.

Understanding the common triggers can help migraine sufferers avoid painful and often debilitating headaches.

Dr. Luis Mejico, professor and chair of neurology at Upstate University Hospital, explains how migraines are diagnosed and goes over the typical symptoms and triggers. He also tells about three types of treatment. Behavioral modifications can be helpful. Some medications are used a preventives, to lessen the frequency or severity of migraines, while other medications, as well as vitamins and minerals, are prescribed for use during a migraine headache.