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

This week: the art of prescribing and more

Nov 12, 2015

A significant number of illnesses and deaths are the result of not taking one’s medicines as instructed. This is an age-old problem, called non-adherence, which happens all over the world, says psychiatry resident Swati Shivale who researched the issue with Dr. Mantosh Dewan, distinguished service professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Upstate Medical University.

This week, more about a solution where doctors carefully explain the condition and treatment to their patients, who understand and accept responsibility for taking their medicines.

Communication can frustrate a person with Alzheimer’s disease and his or her family and caregivers, but there are ways to help, says Katrina Skeval, chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association Central New York chapter.

Overcoming child abuse requires victims to learn how to trust themselves, not blame themselves, according to Dr. Ann Botash, professor of pediatrics at Upstate University Hospital. Botash is co-director of the Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation Program and medical director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.

On this week’s show, Botash describes the signs of neglect and abuse (physical, emotional and sexual), and explains a five-point guideline for preventing abuse: learn the facts, minimize opportunities, talk about it, recognize the signs, and react responsibly.

Dr. Michael Weiner encourages people to take free brain function tests on the website he created. He hopes to use the registry to find candidates for Alzheimer’s treatment trials.

Weiner, who earned his medical degree at Upstate Medical University in 1965, is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. In this interview, he explains how Alzheimer’s disease differs from normal memory loss.

This week: melanoma, family therapy and corporal punishment

Sep 30, 2015

The deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, can affect the liver and brain in its later stages, explains Dr. Ramsay Farah, division chief of dermatology at Upstate Medical University. This happened to former President Jimmy Carter.

Caused by pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, melanoma is best treated when caught early, says Farah, who notes the significance of irregular moles and the need for regular skin exams. Farah also details Carter's cutting-edge treatment, which awakens the body’s immune system to fight the melanoma.

Emergency physicians and nurse practitioners from Upstate University Hospital offer a new service that is centuries old: house calls.

Dr. Christian Knutsen created the service, called “Upstate at Home,” after recognizing how many people become ill or injured, don’t require a trip to the hospital and don’t want to leave their home.

A virulent intestinal bacterium that is often resistant to antibiotics is being fought with an age-old practice. Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, can sicken or even kill patients, but a fecal transplant can help restore the normal balance of gut bacteria, explains David Heisig, MD, an Upstate gastroenterologist. After screening, slurried stool from a healthy donor is inserted into the patient by colonoscopy. Although much research remains to be done, Heisig said anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness is strong so far.

Regular exercise in the teen years lays the foundation for a longer, healthier life, says a newly released long-term study.

Exercise physiologist Carol Sames, PhD, director of Upstate’s Vitality Fitness Program, helps explain the massive study of Chinese women on this week’s show. She cites its drawbacks and agrees with the idea that people should be encouraged to establish healthy exercise and other habits when young.

Also on the show: whether dyslexia creates a learning disability, and how a person's job could lead to cancer.

People with high cholesterol, who cannot tolerate statin drugs, may have a new option with a new class of drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors.

Upstate cardiologist Robert Carhart says these new injectable drugs are biologics known as monoclonal antibodies -- which help clear artery-clogging LDL, or bad cholesterol. They accomplish this by inactivating proteins that otherwise would attach to receptors that are responsible for clearing the LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.  

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.”