HealthLink on Air

Sundays at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Hosted by Amber Smith

“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

E-cigarettes, hemorrhoids, new blood cancer treatments

Feb 16, 2018

A new report on the health effects of electronic cigarettes says that while e-cigarettes may be less harmful than conventional cigarettes, they're not harmless -- and vaping among youth increases the risk that they will transition to smoking traditional cigarettes.

Providing an update on e-cigarette trends are administrative director Michele Caliva and public education coordinator Lee Livermore from the Upstate New York Poison Center.

People with the irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation have an increased risk of blood clots, which can lead to a stroke.

Most blood clots in these patients form in a small pocket of the heart, explain invasive cardiac electrophysiologist Jamal Ahmed and nurse Scott Davis, who both work in the Upstate Heart and Vascular Center. Davis is the Watchman procedure coordinator, which refers to the procedure now offered to prevent clots from escaping that pocket, known as the left atrial appendage.

"HealthLink on Air" brings you a special show this week for World Cancer Day.

A century ago, people diagnosed with lung cancer had few options. Surgery meant cutting open the patient's chest and removing an entire lung.

While sometimes that type of procedure is still necessary today, surgeons are much more likely to operate through tiny incisions to remove just a lobe from the lung or a piece of a lobe.

This week: It's not too late to get a flu shot

Jan 25, 2018

With widespread flu activity reported across the United States, Upstate Medical University pediatric infectious disease expert, Dr. Jana Shaw reminds central New Yorkers that it's not too late to get vaccinated.

She says this year's influenza vaccine offers some protection against the H3N2 strain, which is circulating this season. Shaw offers advice about treatment for flu symptoms and when to seek care at a hospital.

Also on this week’s show: an explanation of palliative care, and more on chest surgery done with tiny incisions and robotic assistance.

This week: Concussion, CTE and skin care for seniors

Jan 18, 2018

Brain rest is crucial for someone who has sustained a possible concussion, say experts from the Upstate Concussion Center.

Medical director, Dr. Claudine Ward, and program director Brian Rieger, PhD, explain that most people fully recover from concussion, if they are treated properly afterward.

One key is to take care not to sustain a second head injury during recovery. They recommend brain rest, especially for the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. This is not the same as bed rest. People can be physically active, as long as they are not asking their brain to think.

A surgical procedure can correct a birth defect called pectus excavatum, in which a person's breastbone is sunken into his or her chest. Dr. Jason Wallen, chief of thoracic surgery at Upstate, explains how a steel bar is inserted between the breastbone, or sternum, and the heart and left in place for two to three years.

The condition is suspected to be genetic, affecting how the cartilage and bone form where the ribs meet the sternum.

Also on this weeks' show: breast-feeding, plus hand pain causes and treatments.

It's more a compulsion than an addiction, but many people have unhealthy attachments to their smartphones, says Upstate psychiatrist Christopher Lucas, MD.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found 46 percent of smartphone owners said they could not live without their phones. Lucas tells of another survey in which almost half of respondents said they'd rather break their arm than their cellphone.

Smoking rates have dropped in recent years, but cigarettes remain the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., and electronic cigarettes pose a new danger, says Dr. Leslie Kohman, professor of surgery and director of outreach for the Upstate Cancer Center.

This week: Pain, cancer rates, HIV prevention

Dec 20, 2017

Pain is the human body's alarm system, but not every alarm can be traced to an injury that requires treatment.

Back pain is one example. It's the kind of problem almost everyone will face at some point. But when should you be concerned? Adam Rufa, a doctor of physical therapy at Upstate Medical University, says people should seek evaluation for pain that is accompanied by numbness or tingling, a change in bowel or bladder habits or pain that is severe and does not improve.

Women giving birth at Upstate University Hospital's Family Birth Center now have the option of using nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, to help control labor pain. Nurse manager Laurie Fegley explains on “HealthLink on Air” how the gas works and how it compares with epidural pain relief. She also tells about the private birthing rooms with whirlpool tubs that make up the Family Birth Center, located at Upstate's Community campus.

Children, students, adults, families and professionals can find helpful nutritional information on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, says Maureen Franklin, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Upstate's Joslin Diabetes Center.

Maintaining a routine is important for children and adults after hearing about a traumatizing event such as a mass shooting, says psychologist Wendy Gordon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Upstate.

She advises parents to consider the developmental level of a child when deciding whether and how to talk with him or her about terrorist incidents or other disasters. Remaining as calm as possible can help too, says Gordon, because children look to their parents for reassurance.

This week: HPV in men, hereditary cancers and heart attack

Nov 22, 2017

Exceedingly low HPV vaccination rates among young men are putting the men, and their sexual partners, at increased risk for the human papilloma virus, say Upstate urologists Timothy Byler and Michael Daugherty.

They point out that certain strains of the virus cause genital warts and are implicated in penile cancers. In this interview, they explain what men can do to protect themselves.

This week: Easing a loved one into long term care and more

Nov 14, 2017

When looking for a nursing home for a loved one, Upstate College of Nursing faculty member Helen Clancy says to make note of the mood of the staff, whether residents appear clean and well cared for, and your gut feeling.

"Your intuition tells you a lot, so listen to it," she advises about easing the transition into long-term care. The transition into a nursing home is more than a change of address, and Clancy describes some ways to ease that change on this week's show.

Also on the program: an update on dietary fiber, plus bladder cancer diagnosis and treatment.

College campuses are increasingly coping with outbreaks of measles and mumps, two viruses for which children are commonly vaccinated.

In the case of measles, outbreaks have occurred because people went unvaccinated, and in the case of mumps, the vaccination has not provided long-term protection, says Dr. Jana Shaw, a pediatrician at Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital who specializes in infectious diseases.

This week: Sepsis, autism and food systems

Nov 1, 2017

Pediatrician Melissa Schafer describes how the potentially life-threatening infection complication called sepsis develops, how it is diagnosed and treated and what steps are in place at Upstate to help identify and treat sepsis early.

The Sepsis Alliance -- a group that raises awareness of sepsis and educates health care providers on how best to treat it -- recently bestowed the "Sepsis Hero" recognition on the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital for its part in The Children’s Hospital Association Improving Pediatric Sepsis Outcomes Collaborative.

This week: Flu shots, congenital heart defects, more

Oct 24, 2017

The flu vaccine primes your body's immune system, so it's prepared to fight influenza. Getting vaccinated doesn't guarantee that you won't get the flu this season, but if that happens, you likely would have only a mild illness, says Jana Shaw, MD, an Upstate pediatrician with expertise in infectious diseases.

This week: Running, the hunger hormone, caregiver grief

Oct 18, 2017

Upstate physical therapist Lee Berube, who won the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge race in 2016 and 2017, joins us this week to talk about the health benefits of running. Berube explains how he got his start running as a youngster and he offers advice for beginners.

Also this week: how grief may affect caregivers, and what we know about the hunger hormone ghrelin -- specifically how molecules could potentially block the way ghrelin communicates with the body.

Join us this Sunday, October 22, at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. for "HealthLink on Air," on WRVO.

This week: In-flight medical care, lung cancer, more

Oct 11, 2017

Have you been on an airplane when a flight attendant asked whether a physician was on board to help with a medical emergency?

Dr. Gregory Eastwood has seven times. Each time, he responded to help, even though as an administrator (he was president of Upstate Medical University from 1993 to 2006, and interim president from 2013 to 2016) he was decades removed from patient care.

This week: Prostate cancer, plus common thyroid disorders

Oct 5, 2017

Prostate cancer is a disease of many types that has to be treated individually. Treatment options include various types of surgery, radiotherapy and medications, in addition to active surveillance and watchful waiting.

Dr. Gennady Bratslavsky provides an update on prostate cancer in this special 30-minute overview for “HealthLink on Air.”

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Urologists with expertise in oncology can help these men decide which treatment is best for them.

This week: Heart failure, spinal cord injury, glaucoma

Sep 28, 2017

Heart failure is the most common reason people over age 65 are admitted to the hospital. Now those who leave Upstate University Hospital with a diagnosis of heart failure receive a phone number, so they can reach a nurse 24 hours a day with any questions.

A recent study showing that people with cancer were more likely to survive when they had social interaction with other cancer patients during chemotherapy did not surprise Dr. Kaushal Nanavati, the medical director of integrative therapy at the Upstate Cancer Center.

Survival rates for people with sickle cell disease have greatly improved over the last 40 years, and pediatrician Kathryn Scott believes a cure is likely within the lifetime of her young patients. Scott directs the pediatric sickle cell program at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. She discusses stem cell transplants and the promise of gene therapy in this week’s show.

This week: Lyme disease, anesthesia and home heath aides

Sep 7, 2017

Treatment for Lyme disease is most effective when it begins soon after transmission, says Dr. Kristopher Paolino, an infectious disease expert at Upstate University Hospital.

He advises people to remove the tick and bring it with them to the doctor's office for identification. Deer ticks can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Paolino goes over the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and explains that antibiotics are the common treatment. He also tells about complications of Lyme and the lingering effects that up to 20 percent of patients deal with.

Making a low wage is a health hazard, says Jeanette Zoeckler, the director of research and special projects for the Occupational Health Clinical Centers at Upstate. She's been immersed in the Low-Wage Workers' Health Project since 2013, analyzing the health effects of low-wage jobs on workers, mostly from the service sectors of multiple industries.

This week: State fair infirmary, neuroradiology and more

Aug 16, 2017

Even if you attend the New York State Fair slathered in sunscreen, with proper footwear, and well-hydrated with water, a stumble could land you in the infirmary.

For the past two years, an average 600 people get treated in the infirmary each day, plus an average 400 visit for "quality of life" items such as headache remedies. Seventy percent of visitors are able to return to the fair, says Christian Knutsen, MD, the medical director for the infirmary. Doctors from the emergency department at Upstate University Hospital staff the first aid center when the fair is open.

This week: Glioblastoma, social media and Guglielmo Marconi

Aug 10, 2017

Dr. Lawrence Chin, chief of neurosurgery and director of the neuro-oncology program at Upstate Medical University, talks about the aggressive brain tumor known as glioblastoma on this week’s show. This is the diagnosis Arizona senator John McCain recently disclosed.

This week: Medication mistakes, divorce impact and more

Aug 2, 2017

Four in 10 people do not take their medicine as prescribed, according to a recent survey by Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Luke Probst, the director of pharmacy at Upstate University Hospital, explains the details of medication adherence and medication compliance and the sorts of problems that can arise if drugs are not taken as prescribed on this week’s show. He also shares suggestions four ways people can remember to take their medications.

Also on the show: the impact of divorce on children and families, and a video project for end-stage cancer patients.

This week: Volunteering in Ghana, breast surgery, poverty

Jul 26, 2017

What began with a service trip to Ghana in 2010 for Lauri Rupracht has blossomed into a nonprofit organization called the Americans Serving Abroad Project.

The group now sponsors two trips per year to provide medical and dental care and community development in the African nation of Ghana.

This week: Displacement, bone health and bioethics

Jul 13, 2017

The Interstate 81 project in Syracuse will likely result in some forced relocations for people and businesses. Psychiatrists have a term -- "community displacement" -- for when a population is moved by another entity.

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