University’s medical-advice show enters 10th season

Lynne Kozarek

More than 30 people with questions about breast cancer treatment called a local television program Tuesday evening seeking informed answers from a University doctor.
“Health Talk and You” is a television call-in program produced by University Media Resources and the Medical School. It airs on KTCI Channel 17 at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. The show is hosted by Dr. Greg Vercelotti, professor of medicine at the University.
“I believe this show is an educational service for the community,” Vercelotti said, “There is a hunger in the population for information about health issues.”
The show, which is shot in Rarig Center, includes a panel of University doctors. Viewer phone calls are answered by University student volunteers. The program is modeled after a similar show that has been produced on the Duluth campus for more than 12 years.
The show’s producers estimate that 25,000 viewers tune in weekly to watch the long-running show, which is in its 10th season.
“People often receive confusing information about health problems,” Vercelotti said. “They are looking for a resource to put clinical facts into plain language.”
Viewers are encouraged to phone in during the live telecast and ask medical questions pertaining to the topic of the day.
After the show Vercelotti often receives feedback from callers who thank him for clarifying a medical matter or tell him that they were encouraged to seek help from their own doctor.
Executive producer Mary Kelley said the most common complaint they get about the show is that it is too short.
“We like to cover topics that appeal to a large number of people,” Kelley said, “allergies, eye problems and colds are all popular.”
Kelley also said that covering topics like AIDS and how to take medications are not as popular, but are just as important.
Kelley is enthusiastic about the student volunteers who answer the phones during the live telecast.
“They’re such busy people,” she said. “But they’re always willing to help out.”
Three second-year medical students screened calls and then transferred the questions to Vercelotti, who then answered the calls on-air.
Negar Beheshti, one of the students, said that the experience was overwhelming at first, but once she got into the groove she felt she was helping people.
Rachel Zent, another of the students, became interested in the evening’s topic of breast cancer treatment because her stepmother survived breast cancer.
Paula Casta¤o, who also screened calls, said that it was refreshing to hear someone say out loud that they have breast cancer.
All three students watched the broadcast from the show’s green room and all said they would volunteer again.
Kelley said the show is a small and simple production, but it reaches many people.
Vercelotti agreed and expressed his hopes that the show would one day be used around the country for educational purposes.
“We operate on a shoestring budget,” said Vercelotti. “We’re just trying not to make it look like ‘Wayne’s World.'”