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.

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Three under-diagnosed health conditions can have a profound effect on baby boomers and health care providers should discuss them with their patients, especially those born between 1945 and 1965, says State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

An injured athlete with cartilage damage used to try anti-inflammatory medicine, a brace or steroid injections. If those methods didn’t help, the athlete often had to live with pain. 

Today, some orthopedic surgeons offer cartilage preservation and restoration options. Dr. Todd Battaglia explains which types of injuries can be helped by a relatively new technique of transferring cartilage from one area of the body to another, or of transplanting cartilage from a deceased donor. He also tells how, in some cases, cartilage can be stimulated to regrow.

This week: Bullying, book suggestions and more

Feb 9, 2017

Experts estimate that almost all children, at some point, will experience bullying behavior -- either as a victim, as an observer, or as the bully.

Some bullying takes place in real life, but much of it takes place in social media, says pediatrician Dr. Ann Botash.

This week: Gun violence, smoking updates and more

Feb 1, 2017

Public health specialists, concerned about what they call an epidemic of firearm violence, have agreed on some tactics they hope will help reduce the number of people killed or injured by guns.

Assistant professor Margaret Formica, PhD, from Upstate University Hospital's department of public health and preventive medicine, says some studies have tracked gun violence, revealing trends similar to those seen in the spread of infectious diseases such as influenza. This week, she tells how efforts are underway to improve gun safety and explains why more academic research is needed.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide, and is known as "the sneak thief of sight" because often people don’t know they have it and start treatment too late.

A painless, comprehensive eye exam can detect the disease -- which typically involves a buildup of pressure in the eyeball that damages the optic nerve -- explains Dr. Robert Fechtner, chair of Upstate Medical University’s ophthalmology department and executive vice president of the World Glaucoma Association.

A rural doctor can offer state-of-the-art medicine and a more personalized approach than typically found in a bigger city, according to Dr. Robert Ostrander, and his son, Dr. Geoffrey Ostrander. The father and son are both graduates of Upstate Medical University who share a family practice in the Finger Lakes village of Rushville.

They explain the vital role rural doctors play in their communities and expand on how life isn't as remote or technically backward as some might think.

Also this week: knee and hip replacement options, and college students' misuse of stimulants.

The pelvic floor is a complex structure that can be the source of disorders as women age and bear children, says Dr. Natasha Ginzburg, urologist and director of female pelvic medicine and surgery at Upstate University Hospital.

This week she describes the pelvic floor as a hammock of muscle and tissue that, in women, includes the vagina, rectum and uterus. Problems with urination, defecation and protruding organs in the pelvic floor can be treated successfully through behavioral changes, physical therapy, medicines and biofeedback -- with surgery as a last choice, Ginzburg says.

This week: Preparing your child for a mental health visit

Jan 4, 2017

Preparing for a child’s first mental health appointment requires parents to be honest and patient, an Upstate University Hospital child and adolescent psychiatrist explains on this week’s show.

Parents should tell the child why they are seeking help and how it can make things better, says Dr. James Demer. He explains what to expect, how to deal with any stigma or anxiety, and that it takes time for the assessment and treatment processes to take place.

Also on this week’s show: maternal mortality and the value of a trauma center.

This week: living well, eating right

Dec 27, 2016

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

He explains his “Core Four” concepts of wellness: nutrition, physical exercise, stress management and spiritual wellness -- which he outlines in a recent book.

Lane Rasberry is confident that Wikipedia, the most consulted source of medical information, is of comparable value to online medical sources like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic.

As the Wikipedian-in-residence at Consumer Reports, specializing in health information, Raspberry explains the free online encyclopedia. This week, Rasberry explains how medical and other information on Wikipedia is edited and the importance of citing reliable sources.

Also on this week’s show: polio and post-polio syndrome, plus a polio survivor shares her story.

This week: medication safety, teen depression and more

Dec 15, 2016

Vitamin and herbal supplements can have severe interactions with one’s prescription medications. This is why people should list any such supplements along with their other medications when visiting the doctor, to be sure they don’t pose a risk, says Michele Caliva, a nurse and the administrative director of the Upstate New York Poison Center.

This week: shingles, meningitis, eye research

Dec 8, 2016

People who had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine as children can undergo a reactivation of that disease’s virus in adulthood and wind up with shingles.

Researching ways to prevent and treat shingles, which brings a rash and possibly debilitating nerve pain, is the work of Jennifer Moffat, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Upstate University Hosptial. She describes how shingles, most common in adults over 50, can affect people with weakened immune systems.

The need for living kidney donors is growing, partly because people are living longer on dialysis, explains Dr. Vaughn Whittaker, a transplant surgeon at Upstate University Hospital.

People are usually born with two kidneys and can live with just one, and a kidney from a live donor tends to be of higher quality, he says. Whittaker explains the safety factors and support system that let almost any healthy adult make a living kidney donation, as well as  breakthroughs like the ability to donate to someone with an incompatible blood type.

This week: empathy, childhood cancer, holiday hazards

Nov 17, 2016

Establishing empathy for a patient can be tough for doctors under increasing time pressure. Yet empathy -- being able to see the world as the patient does -- can benefit both the patient and the doctor, says Dr. Louise Prince, an emergency physician at Upstate University Hospital.

Hernias can be dangerous and should be evaluated by a medical professional, but not all require a surgical repair, says Dr. Moustafa Hassan, director of acute care surgery at Upstate University Hospital.

Hernias are weak spots where an internal organ bulges through muscle or tissue. They commonly occur in the groin, called inguinal hernias. Incisional hernias may develop at the site of previous surgery.

This week: childhood illnesses, portion sizes, more

Nov 2, 2016

Colds and viruses get passed around by children, but families can get through such illnesses by following some simple practices and staying in touch with a doctor, says Dr. Jaclyn Sisskind, a pediatrician at Upstate University Hospital.

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.

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