Fall 2009 Issue
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Health TV


Alumnae providing latest health news via TV

By Lauren East
Senior, Public Relations

  Health Smart
Heather Muha on the set of "HealthSmart"

Health topics are big news these days, and two Purdue alumnae have made it their careers to provide the latest health news stories to the public.

Heather Muha, B.A. 2003, hosts a show called "HealthSmart" out of Harrisburg, Pa., and Liz Berry Schatzlein, B.A. 1980, hosts a show called "Docs on Call," out of Fort Wayne, Ind.

"HealthSmart," a show on the PBS affiliate WITF-TV, focuses on current topics in the medical world and gives the audience advice on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Since many current consumers challenge government medical reports, it is important to find out why, to present both sides of the story, and to allow viewers to form their own opinions, said Muha.

"Docs on Call," a show on the ABC affiliate WPTA, is similar, but includes interviews with doctors as well as viewer calls. During one of her most recent shows, Schatzlein interviewed an endodontist about root canals.

"Millions of root canals are done each year in this country, and they scare people to death," said Schatzlein. "I actually had to have him back on a few weeks later to continue answering questions. The volume of calls was just great."

Both of these women credit their success to their experiences at Purdue. Muha believes that her time at Purdue helped her to find her passion in the media.

That passion led her to seek internship experience with a then-WB news station in Denver, Colo., and work for WXIN-Fox 59 News in Indianapolis upon her graduation. When she had the opportunity to work on "HealthSmart," she did not hesitate.

Docs on Call  
Liz Schatzlein on the set of "Docs on Call"

"It's always been my dream to host a show," said Muha. "It gives me great satisfaction to know that I am helping people by providing them information that could change their lives."

For Schatzlein, her education at Purdue helped her learn the importance of writing. Schatzlein started as a reporter and weekend anchor at an independent television station and then moved to a CBS affiliate as the noon and evening anchor.

She later spent 11 years at PBS doing documentaries and hosting medical programs before she began her work with "Docs on Call." Currently, Schatzlein enjoys the interaction with the audience during the show.

"Sometimes when you are stuck in the studio anchoring, you can feel isolated," said Schatzlein. "Since the viewers are key to the format of this show, I get to engage with them weekly. They never fail you; they're always interesting."

Not only does Schatzlein appreciate the audience interaction, but she said that using television as a medium is a good way to get health information to the widest audience possible.

"In this age, more people get their news and information from television than from any other source, so TV obviously is a very good way to disseminate health messages, the H1N1 crisis being the most current example," she said.

Schatzlein cited a recent show that featured a doctor demonstrating robotic surgery.

"Trying to explain robotic surgery can be difficult, but actually seeing it performed allowed viewers to grasp the very technical procedure and how it's done. It really is true that a picture - or in this case video - is worth a thousand words. What could have been a very long, convoluted explanation was made very clear in a few seconds of video.

"I think television has that ability to illuminate through video, which can have a huge impact on an audience and aid in understanding," said Schatzlein.

Citing the current H1N1 vaccine situation, Muha said health reporters cannot take sides in any health care debate.

"It is important to give a voice to both sides of this story and let your viewers from there. It is our job as health reporters to educate, not persuade," she said.

While Muha also enjoys using television as a medium for reaching her audience, she acknowledges that the Internet is changing the role of television.

"I'm not sure what the future holds, but online productions are a different breed of 'visual content,'" said Muha. "Studies show your typical online viewer would not be interested in sitting to watch a 30-minute program on the computer."

Regardless of the future changes in the media, both Muha and Schatzlein believe that current students should take advantage of any opportunities that they come across, including seeking out internship opportunities.

"Once you get your foot in the door, many other doors open," said Schatzlein.