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

Several hundred cases of e-cigarette vaping related lung injury have been reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from all over the United States, including nearly 50 deaths.

Upstate toxicologist Jeanna Marraffa, assistant clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center, discusses the crisis and some of the theories about what is causing it in this week's "HealthLink on Air."

Physical therapy can help alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. In this week's "HealthLink on Air," doctor of physical therapy Julie Lombardi explains how Parkinson's is diagnosed, the role of physical therapy in treatment, and what to expect at a physical therapy appointment.

Also this week, Walt Stein from Hope for Bereaved, discusses grief during the holidays. And, Dr. Susan Levinsohn talks about wellness and integrative medicine. Tune in this Sunday, December 8 at 6 a.m and 9 p.m. for "HealthLink on Air."

A three-drug combination sold under the brand name Trikafta was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people age 12 and older with cystic fibrosis.

Dr. Christopher Fortner, medical director of the cystic fibrosis program at Upstate, describes how this treatment works, its side effects and what it may mean for many of the people with this disease.

Cystic fibrosis causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time, among other problems.

This week: Prostate biopsy, tobacco cessation, more

Nov 20, 2019

One risk of prostate biopsy has been infection, but a new way of obtaining prostate tissue for testing greatly reduces that risk, say urologists Oleg Shapiro and Timothy Byler in this week's "HealthLink on Air."

This week: Gang violence, kidney stones, more

Nov 14, 2019

Gang-related violence has been a continual problem in impoverished inner-city neighborhoods throughout the United States. In Syracuse in 2010, a Community Trauma Response Team was established -- and appears to have helped to reduce gang-related gunshots and murders.

One of the team's founders, Timothy Jennings-Bey, provides an overview of the team's role and its importance in Syracuse on this week's "Healthlink on Air."

This week: Lung cancer screening, celiac disease, more

Nov 7, 2019

Eighty percent of the lung cancers discovered through screening are early stage and mostly curable. But for a variety of reasons, only about 2 percent of the people eligible for lung cancer screening actually undergo a test.

Dr. Jason Wallen explains what's important to know about lung cancer screening. A thoracic surgeon, Wallen is the division chief of thoracic surgery at Upstate and the medical director of the Thoracic Oncology Program, which is marking its 20th year this year.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was initially used to treat deep sea divers with decompression sickness known as "the bends." Over the past few decades, the role of this therapy has expanded to include the treatment of a number of other medical conditions, particularly some which do not respond to other therapies.

Deer ticks, known for transmitting the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, also carry similar bacteria called Borrelia miyamotoi. Upstate microbiologist and immunologist Saravanan Thangamani explains what is known about how the Borrelia miyamotoi disease is transmitted from ticks to humans on this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”

A larger percentage of deer ticks carry the Borrelia mayonii, which causes Lyme, than carry the Borrelia miyamotoi. Symptoms of the two diseases are similar, he notes, and the treatment is the same.

This week: Strength training, hospital school, Dino Babers

Oct 16, 2019

Fitness guidelines for adults recommend both cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise and muscle-strengthening activities. Upstate exercise physiologist Carol Sames explains why strength training is so important, especially for seniors, and various ways to achieve it.

Sames also addresses the value of seniors improving balance and flexibility.

Upstate Medical University is screening people who want to participate in a new, national clinical research study of a treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Called the T2 Protect AD, the study evaluates the drug troriluzole for its ability to protect against, slow down or even improve memory and thinking problems that increase as Alzheimer's progresses.

Dr. Sharon Brangman, chief of the Department of Geriatrics, tells about the study in this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”

When a child has cancer, the parents and whole family focus their time and energy on getting that child through chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of those treatments. This usually means many appointments at the hospital, Cancer Center and doctor's office, medications to manage, schedules to adjust and thinking no further ahead than the next medical appointment.

Some 37 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease, and for those with end-stage renal disease, the only two treatment options are dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Dr. Mark Laftavi, a professor of surgery and interim chief of transplant services at Upstate, talks about the value of kidney transplants and how the best kidneys for transplant come from living donors in this “HealthLink on Air” interview.

This week: Vasectomy, physician burnout, Ecuador

Sep 12, 2019

Urologist JC Trussell discusses what to expect if you are considering the male sterilization procedure called vasectomy on “HealthLink on Air” this week. He explains what is covered in the first medical appointment, how the procedure is done, and what recovery is like.

Trussell also tells about options for a man who had a vasectomy and later decides he wants to have children. One option is an invitro fertilization technique in which sperm are removed surgically. Another is a complex operation in which Trussell specializes called a vasectomy reversal.

Upstate pulmonologist Birendra Sah explains pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs, and the various forms it takes, based on its causes in this week's "HealthLink on Air."

This condition is not to be confused with regular hypertension, which affects the whole body.

People approaching the age of 65 should learn about their options for health coverage through Medicare, the government's insurance plan for seniors, says Myrna Koldin.

For more than 10 years Koldin has been the coordinator for Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance in the Onondaga County Department of Aging and Long Term Care Services. It is she who answers the phone when people call with questions: 315-435-2362, ext. 4944.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disease, and its incidence is increasing. Research in animals suggests that moderate- to high-intensity exercise can slow the disease's progression, says Amy DeBlois, a doctor of physical therapy and member of the faculty of Upstate's department of physical therapy education.

On “HealthLink on Air” this week, she explains the motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms a person may have before being diagnosed with Parkinson's and how physical therapists can help. "We want to see them as soon as the diagnosis is made," she says.

After a baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and usually discarded as medical waste along with the placenta. But umbilical cord blood is rich with stem cells, which have been used to fight leukemia, lymphoma and some 80 other life-threatening diseases.

A widely prescribed type of drug used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure was made possible by a discovery from almost a century ago. The substance eventually named angiotensin was first identified in the late 1930s by doctors in the United States and Argentina, who didn't immediately agree on what to name it.

Harold Smulyan, an emeritus professor of medicine in cardiology at Upstate Medical University, describes the discovery and how later research led to today’s ACE inhibitor drugs. ACE stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme.

This week: Post-acute stroke care, pheochromocytoma, more

Jul 11, 2019

A team of specially trained people helps guide patients through recovery after a stroke, both in the hospital and after discharge.

Nurse and stroke outreach coordinator Josh Onyan and occupational therapist Jennifer Spieker describe this process, during which a patient is evaluated and helped with needs that might include therapy to recover speech or movement, as well as monitoring medications and overall health.

This week: Sunscreen, migraine headaches, and burnout

Jul 3, 2019

The continual reapplication of sunscreen is key to its effectiveness in protecting you from skin cancer, dermatologist Ramsay Farah explains in this "HealthLink on Air" episode. He's the chief of dermatology at Upstate Medical University.

Farah says sunscreen is important for everyone, no matter how dark their complexion. He also addresses concern about the chemicals that may be contained in sunscreens. He advises his patients to seek products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, substances that are inert but effective in blocking the sun's rays.

This week: Headaches, summer poison precautions, music

Jun 27, 2019

About 1,000 new cases of cystic fibrosis are diagnosed in the United States each year, and more than 75 percent of those cases are diagnosed before a patient turns 2 years old. More than half of the population of people with cystic fibrosis, or CF, are 18 years or older, and the life expectancy has increased dramatically in recent years.

Dr. Chris Fortner is optimistic about a new medication. He explains what life is like for people who have CF, a degenerative genetic disease, and what sorts of therapies are helpful on this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”

Even before he started medical school, Dr. Gregory Conners always knew he wanted to take care of children.

He's a native of Pittsford, near Rochester, who attended SUNY Stony Brook for medical school and then completed his residency and fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He worked at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., before he became the new professor and chair of pediatrics at the Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital earlier this year.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, seems to be everywhere these days. You can buy it in pill form, or in lotions or oils, gummy candies or chocolate. ‘

It's one of the components of cannabis, or marijuana, but not the part that makes a person feel "high." So, why are so many people trying CBD?

This week: A patient and a doctor discuss kidney cancer

May 30, 2019

What is it like to live with a dire diagnosis? Dr. Adam Stern has written extensively about his experience with metastatic kidney cancer and shares his story on this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”

He's an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a graduate of Upstate Medical University whose essays have been published in the New York Times and Boston Globe as well as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pregnant women who go through prolonged labor without assistance are in danger of developing an obstetrical fistula, in which a hole forms between the bladder and vagina or the rectum and vagina. This condition carries a cultural stigma, and it can be corrected through reconstructive surgery.

Deep brain stimulation is a procedure that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and other conditions with movement disorders.

Upstate Medical University neurosurgeon Duemani Reddy explains the procedure, the types of patients it may help, and how it’s accomplished in this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”

Also this week, nurse practitioner/diabetes educator Cassandra Bradford tells about type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and Salvation Army Major David Dean explains the services his organization provides in Syracuse.

This week: Stroke symptoms, treatments and risk factors

May 2, 2019

Sleep apnea is dangerous because it can increase a person's risk for stroke, high blood pressure and vascular dementia. When a person repeatedly stops breathing during the night, the lowered oxygen levels can have negative effects on the heart and brain.

Have you ever had a biopsy or surgical procedure in which tissue was sent to the laboratory for analysis? Trying to read the pathology report, if you did not attend medical school, may prove difficult.

Pathologist Rohin Mehta, MD, offers to help patients understand their pathology reports after breast cancer surgeries or biopsies. On “HealthLink on Air” this week, he cautions patients to read their reports, circle anything they don't understand, and ask their physicians for explanations.

Taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart disease is no longer a blanket recommendation. Upstate cardiologist, Dr. Robert Carhart tells about new guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association that address the best ways to prevent heart disease on this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”

Doctors who are doing their residency training at Upstate University Hospital have the chance to improve their communication skills with the help of a professor of drama at nearby Syracuse University.

Through a program called "Education Through Theater Arts," the new doctors learn techniques to help them present their authentic selves when they care for patients. Stephen Knohl, MD, a professor of medicine and residency program director at Upstate, teams with Stephen Cross, a professor of drama at SU, to discuss the program on this week’s “HealthLink on Air.”