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

The disclosure invariably begins with, "This may sound crazy."

That's how psychologist Jeffrey Schweitzer can tell a bereaved person is about to relay a story about a dream featuring their deceased loved one. Schweitzer, the primary psychologist at the Upstate Cancer Center, has researched the role of dreams during the bereavement process. He says dreams featuring loved ones can be helpful as a person copes with loss, and he explains how in this week’s show.

This week: Mosquito spraying and autism, and more

Jun 15, 2017

A pediatrician and researcher at Penn State Health in Hershey, Pa. found an increased incidence of autism and developmental delays in children who live within a two-mile radius of the Cicero Swamp.

That's an area of Onondaga County with a high concentration of mosquitos that undergoes aerial pesticide spraying to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

An Upstate scientist has found a way to identify when a person has a concussion and predict how long their recovery will take -- using a simple saliva test.

This week: Building replacement bone, and falls

Jun 1, 2017

Scientists from Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University have teamed up to build replacement bones, essentially from scratch.

SU's Pranav Soman, an assistant professor of biomedical and chemical engineering, uses a 3-D printer to develop polymer-based ‘scaffolding.’ Upstate's Jason Horton, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and cell and developmental biology, adds stem cells.

This week: HIV, heart disease, and head and neck cancers

May 25, 2017

New York state has several efforts underway to curtail the HIV epidemic.

Upstate infectious disease expert Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy talks this week about the increased availability of HIV testing, treatment options for those who test positive,  and where to obtain medication that can reduce a person's risk of becoming infected.

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is available in Syracuse through Upstate's Immune Health Services, the Adolescent/Young Adult Specialized Care Center or the Onondaga County Sexually Transmitted Disease Center.

This week: stroke prevention, asthma and wrist injuries

May 18, 2017

A heart-healthy diet is also healthy for the brain. So, eating food that is low in salt, low in fat and low in carbohydrates can help reduce the risk of stroke, says registered dietitian nutritionist Rebecca Hausserman.

She and nurse Michelle Vallelunga, from Upstate University Hospital's Comprehensive Stroke Center, talk about the steps people can take to reduce their stroke risk on this week’s show. They say some 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

This week: Refugee care, sinusitis and sexual violence

May 11, 2017

Pediatrician Andrea Shaw cares for many children of refugees who resettle in Syracuse. They come from a variety of countries, including Eastern Europe, Somalia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Republic of Congo, Sudan and Syria, often to escape persecution and other hardships.

This week: Sleep research, STDs and estate planning

May 3, 2017

Most living things -- including humans, plants and fruit flies -- follow 24-hour cycles known as circadian rhythms, which influence sleep and other physiologic processes.

Neuroscientist Amita Sehgal talks about her research on fruit flies and what it tells us about human sleep. Sehgal, from the University of Pennsylvania, was in Syracuse as the keynote speaker for student research day at Upstate Medical University.

Also on this week's show: an update on sexually transmitted disease rates and treatments, plus legal issues facing people with chronic conditions.

Eating whole grains can be an important way to fight weight gain, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. But finding real whole-grain products is not always easy.

Upstate registered dietitian nutritionist Maureen Franklin explains what to look for on the nutritional label and packaging in this week’s show.

Also on the program: how tourniquets are used to stop bleeding and save lives, plus the occupational hazards that affect women.

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

This week: Talk therapy, allergies and health communications

Apr 21, 2017

Many people with depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders prefer talk therapy to taking medication alone. Upstate psychologist Roger Greenberg says those who receive talk therapy are less likely to relapse.

Greenberg discusses how antidepressant use has soared since the 1990s and how more mental health professionals are needed to meet the demand for services.

Also this week: ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Haidy Marzouk talks about diagnosing seasonal allergies; and Dr. Maritza Alvarado discusses doctor-patient communications.

Behaviors can be a form of communication for people who have dementia. This week, licensed medical social worker Whitney Hadley suggests steps that caregivers can take when their loved ones exhibit anxiety, confusion, repetition, aggression or wandering.

Hadley is associate program director at the Alzheimer's Association of CNY.

Also this week: the opioid crisis, and how to read nutrition labels.

Tune in this Sunday, April 16 at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on WRVO.

"Intersex" is the medical term for people with sex characteristics that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female, and it has nothing to do with whether a person identifies as transgender.

Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Susan Stred, is an expert in this condition, which she says occurs about as often as a person is born with red hair. In this week’s show, she explains some of the complexities of this condition and what parents need to know if their baby is born intersex.

Also on the show: the promise of a Zika vaccine, and the importance of pet nutrition.

A medication that prevents the transmission of HIV can help quell the AIDS epidemic if the people at risk for contracting the virus reliably take the medication every day.

Nicky Jennings, an education specialist from Upstate's department of pediatric infectious diseases, helps locate people who need HIV testing and who could benefit from pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, better known as PrEP. She answers questions and provides information to people via phone or text message at (315) 571-0013.

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.

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