HealthLink on Air

Sundays at 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

Surgery is a valuable weight loss option for people with obesity, says Dr. Howard Simon, the chief of bariatric surgery at Upstate University Hospital. He describes obesity as a complicated disease for which a gastric bypass or gastric sleeve operation may offer treatment.

Such surgeries are usually done in a minimally invasive way, and are part of a comprehensive approach to weight loss that involves counselors, nutritionists and others to help the patient achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

This week: Medical school mission statements matter

Aug 13, 2015

Although some medical schools emphasize the training of primary care providers, the United States is not producing enough of these general medical doctors to replace those who will retire in the near future, says Christopher Morley, a professor in Upstate's Department of Family Medicine.

Often, he says, students who initially want to become primary doctors for underserved communities change their minds during medical school: "It trails off as they become more worried about debt and lifestyle and the prestige of their career."

Some forgetfulness is part of normal aging, but memory loss severe enough to interfere with your daily life could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease -- the most common form of dementia.

Cathy James is the chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's Association of Central New York. She describes what this incurable disease does to patients and their families, gives an update on research and offers some healthy living tips that might lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

An aging population and the Affordable Care Act help ensure the demand for physician assistants, physical therapists and other health care providers will continue, says Hugh Bonner, the former dean of Upstate Medical University’s College of Health Professions.

“Between 2000 and 2030, we will double the population of those 65 and older. We’ll go from essentially 35 million to 70 million people. That population also has a large number of individuals with chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes,” Bonner says.

This week: hernia repair, Lyme disease and midlife changes

Jul 24, 2015

Hernias, which are potentially dangerous openings in the abdominal wall, can result from car wrecks and other injuries. Their treatment has changed in the past decade, says Dr. Moustafa Hassan, director of acute care surgery at Upstate University Hospital.

A minimally invasive procedure called salivary endoscopy allows a surgeon to find and remove a stone while leaving the salivary gland intact. The surgery, which can be done in a doctor’s office, offers an alternative to open surgery, said Dr. Mark Marzouk. Dr. Marzouk is an ear, nose and throat surgeon who leads the division of head and neck oncologic surgery at Upstate University Hospital.

Also on this week’s show:  how medical care is provided at crime scenes when someone is still shooting, and a book created by psychiatric patients.

This week: enlarged prostates, lead in the soil and more

Jul 2, 2015

Some men with enlarged prostates can be treated with a minimally-invasive surgery that uses a high-powered laser to remove the obstructive portion of the prostate. The procedure, called holmium laser enucleation of the prostate, is now offered by Dr. Jessica Paonessa, an assistant professor of urology at Upstate University Hospital.

“For many men, taking medicine for this condition isn’t something they want to do long term, and for other patients, the medications may not be effective,” Paonessa said. “In these cases, the next step is to remove the obstructive tissue surgically.”

After dispensing medical care and supplies in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake in his native Nepal, Dr. Dinesh Subedi is focusing on rebuilding.

The disaster killed more than 9,000 people and left nearly 3 million homeless.

Subedi traveled with locally donated supplies and joined Nepali doctors from the United States to treat 25 or 30 people in each of several villages, usually hiking amid the flattened buildings and landslides.

Nurse practitioner Anthony Cerminaro, who specializes in hematology and oncology, writes thrillers in his spare time. One of his characters is a doctor who graduated from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Cerminaro joins us to talk about his books, "The Ten Knife Murders" and "Bonding Over Bullets" on this week’s show.

Also on this week's show: how multidisciplinary care helps breast cancer patients, plus kidney transplants.

James Abbott, Thomas Campbell and James Rosenberg, three former chief executives of Syracuse's public hospital, describe the challenges they faced from the 1950s to the 1990s on this week’s show. 

They helped shape health care as it underwent a revolution in the 20th century, including new technologies and quicker, less invasive surgeries. Despite all the changes, Abbott, Campbell and Rosenberg believe the fundamental task of hospitals hasn’t changed -- keeping the patients comfortable and treating them with humanity.

People seeking an energy boost are putting themselves at risk using a cheap powdered caffeine that’s easy to purchase online. A pharmacist with the Upstate New York Poison Center joins us to explain.

One teaspoon of powdered caffeine is as powerful as 25 cups of coffee, making it easy to overdose. The drug can cause serious heart arrhythmias and/or seizures, both of which may lead to death.

Also this week: syphilis and other sexually-transmitted diseases, plus the unmet promises of primary health care reform.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States and the result of factors that may include hormone levels, genetics, medications and one’s environment, according to Dr. Ramsay Farah, division chief of dermatology at Upstate Medical University.

On this week’s show, Farah explains how medications to fight acne have improved and how early treatment helps avoid scarring.

Also tune in for discussion on prostate cancer medications, water safety and stroke care. Plus, Deirdre Neilen shares a poem from The Healing Muse, Upstate's literary journal.

Cancer and its treatments can leave patients feeling nauseated, tired and deconditioned. But research shows that exercise during treatment can help them feel better and even function better.

“The goal of physical therapy is to assist the patient with cancer maintain their quality of life by managing the physical effects of the disease and/or its treatment,” said Cassi Terpening, who has a doctorate in physical therapy. She explains the most appropriate types of exercises on this week’s show.

Medical problems that afflict inmates are not much different than the ailments that are common in the central New York community, according to Dr. Anne Calkins.

Dr. Calkins leads the medical team providing care for adults incarcerated at the Justice Center jail in downtown Syracuse and the Jamesville Correctional Facility, and for youths at the Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center in Syracuse.

This week: lupus, autism spectrum disorder and sonography

May 1, 2015

The survival rate for lupus has improved significantly, but treatment of the chronic autoimmune disease remains difficult. That's according to Dr. Andras Perl, division chief of rheumatology at Upstate Medical University.

Lupus can affect almost any organ of the body and patients can suffer flares that last for days or months. But with new drugs on the horizon, the outlook for lupus patients is brighter today than it was 20 years ago, says Perl. He talks about the increasing use of indicators called biomarkers to measure a patient’s response to treatment.

An alarming number of people who take synthetic marijuana are arriving at hospital emergency departments in Syracuse suffering from dangerous reactions. Dr. Ross Sullivan stresses that people need to know this drug can cause coma, extreme agitation, seizures and even death.

Dr. Sullivan, director of the medical toxicology consultation service and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Upstate University Hospital, says street drug makers constantly tweak the chemical structure and stay one step ahead of law enforcement.

Neurologist Deborah Bradshaw discusses two types of disease-modifying treatments that are in clinical trial and could have a profound effect on people who have muscular dystrophy.

“Because we know finally what’s wrong in the gene, how that translates to an abnormal protein and how the protein may be processed abnormally in the cell, we’re actually designing drugs that interrupt that pathway and may, literally, change the course of a genetic disease,” said Bradshaw. “It is amazing.”

With Ebola ravaging her native Liberia, Dr. Margaret Tandoh felt the need to assist. Her surgical skills might not be needed against the virus, but she could certainly provide basic medical care. So Tandoh joined AmeriCares and traveled to Africa to establish an Ebola treatment center.

“The night before my first encounter in the Ebola unit, I have to say I was a little scared,” Tandoh recalls. “I wasn’t so much scared of contracting Ebola. I was afraid of passing out in the protective equipment because it was so hot.”

How do we break our cultural obsession with weight? Author Harriet Brown says we must:

  1. Stop fat talking about ourselves,
  2. realize that being thin does not mean one is healthy, just as being fat does not mean one is unhealthy, and
  3. take our emphasis off of people's appearances.

Brown, a Syracuse University professor, speaks about what led her to write the book, "Body of Truth -- How Science, History and Culture Drive our Obsession with Weight and What We Can Do About It."

Pregnant women, sex workers and men having sex with men are recommended to be tested for exposure to syphilis since health officials have noticed an increase in cases of the sexually-transmitted disease.

"We started to see these rates spike the last couple of years, quite significantly," said Indu Gupta, MD, health commissioner for Onondaga County.

Upstate Cancer Center medical director, Dr. Leslie Kohman, talks about advances in cancer prevention that have taken place over the years; plus how surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments have changed and improved. Debbie Stack tells about an upcoming cancer documentary that will air on PBS and is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Emperor of All Maladies.”

People with Type 1 diabetes would not have to check their blood sugar levels 12 times a day or worry about wild fluctuations while they slept if an experimental bionic pancreas works as designed, says Dr. Ruth Weinstock, medical director of Upstate Medical University's Joslin Diabetes Center.

"It's not a cure, but it's definitely a step forward," Dr. Weinstock says.

This week, how the artificial pancreas works.

This week: miscarriage, HIV prevention and healthy weight

Mar 5, 2015

Though miscarriages can often go unnoticed, they are tremendous losses to the mothers who experience them. Certified nurse midwife Kathleen Dermady explains the symptoms of miscarriage, and Dr. Shawky Badawy goes over the causes.

"Sometimes they have the feeling of blaming themselves," Badawy says of the mothers, "but they are not to blame."

Also this week: how to obtain the prescription drug that can prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS -- plus, nutrition and healthy weight.

This week on HealthLink on Air: Dr. Scott Van Valkenburg discusses common foot problems -- plus, discussion on hot flashes and heart disease in women.

Also on the show, central New Yorkers have an opportunity to participate in a study designed to help find a vaccine for dengue fever, a mosquito-born disease that affects many parts of the developing world and parts of the United States.

This week: how to feed a picky eater and more

Feb 19, 2015

A parent's job is to put healthy foods on their children’s plates. After that "you need to back up and let the child choose what they are going to eat," according to Roseanne Jones.

Jones, a registered dietitian, says if a child doesn't want to eat something in particular, don't force it. This week, many more tips and advice for parents whose children are picky eaters.

Also on this week’s show: heart disease in women, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Dr. Robert Lenox was a medical intern in 1976 when he took care of a man with a fever, cough, muscle and body aches who had attended the American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

Measles was said to have been eliminated from the United States in 2000. Continuous transmission of the contagious disease was halted, thanks to widespread vaccination, and for decades measles was not a problem within our borders. Many of today’s doctors -- vaccinated as children -- have never cared for a patient sick with measles.

Now an outbreak that began at Disneyland has infected people in multiple states and underscored the importance of vaccinations in preventing the disease.

With the incidence of kidney stones on the rise, experts believe the obesity epidemic is at least partially to blame. But there are some preventative measures that could save you from some pain.

This week: medical providers who volunteer knowledge, skills

Jan 23, 2015

Nurse Laurie Rupracht is recruiting medical professionals to accompany her on a trip to Ghana (her fifth) through the Americans Serving Abroad Project. As in previous years, her group will staff a mobile medical clinic in villages at least 100 miles from a hospital.

"People are afraid to go anywhere in Africa, thinking Ebola is everywhere. Ghana has not had one case of Ebola," she says.

Syracuse University professor R. David Lankes joins us to speak about his treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma; more specifically, the type of patient he was striving to be.

His novel, "The Boring Patient," chronicles his time in the hospital.

"In the hospital, or during chemotherapy, I want to be the charming man who only requires a vitals check or a scheduled chemo dose," Lankes writes. "You don't wan to be interesting in most medical settings. Interesting means complications, and that is bad."

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