Show features local experts talking about topics that affect Central New Yorkers
By Matthew Liptak
Erin McCormack, producer of WCNY’s popular health program “Cycle of Health, said that the most challenging part about her job is fitting the busy schedule of local medical experts and their patients into the burgeoning production schedule.
“When I came on board I could understand what an undertaking it was from a production point of view, to wrangle doctors with busy schedules who were still working,” she said. “Obviously they had appointments and responsibilities of their own. I would call it the biggest challenge — to really capture the stories that you want in a time frame that works for everybody.”
To simplify things, the producer began to give each program an overall theme starting with season five. She’s proud of how it came out.
“I like all the stories in one episode to make sense together,” she said. “I like one cohesive episode — one with the mental health story really serving the other in-the-field stories.”
She cited recent examples of a story on kids’ health and how to approach a child’s experience in the hospital as notable. They went to Upstate to explore all the facets of how a child’s medical care is unique.
Originally the show included a roundtable of five doctors who explored specific patient stories. The show has evolved over the years though.
Veteran journalist Susan Kennedy moved to Syracuse and came on board with WCNY to host the show.
“[She] had a big influence on the production and the types of stories chosen as well,” McCormack said. “From there it was a perfect combination of informed doctors from lots of different areas of medicine and Susan Kennedy who was a perfect fit for a host of a show like this.”
“Cycle of Health” episodes cover a gamut of topics — the opioid epidemic, Lyme disease, you name it. Physician Rich O’Neill of Upstate explores a mental health subject related to each episode’s theme.
“He always has ideas and stories he’d like to cover, contacts that he’d like us to speak with,” McCormack said.
The original roundtable of doctors doesn’t exist anymore. Now there are doctors who speak to one specific segment. There’s quite a few doctors that appear throughout the season. One segment at a time is done to speak to their specialties.
Susan Kennedy will be stepping back from some of her duties on the show and new hosts will be coming in for the new season, scheduled for Oct. 5.
“We are going to be talking to some new hosts for this season to host some new segments,” she said. “We’re really excited to work with some new voices.”
The show pulls topic ideas from the staff, experts, and viewers in Syracuse and the surrounding 19 counties they cover. McCormack said, although their public television station doesn’t use a ratings system, feedback about the show has been widely positive over the years.
“If I had to guesstimate, I would say this is one of our most popular programs,” she said. “We are lucky enough to have very open communication between our members. We don’t really need to go by numbers. We go by firsthand comments.”
The producer said the show is popular enough that syndicating it to a larger audience might be in the future. The station is considering the possibility, McCormack said, by staying in touch with other public stations and evaluating what their needs might be.
“We don’t have anything specific right now, but we are certainly open to it and certainly have it in mind as we go to produce this next season,” she said. “We are an operation that is on the rise. We’re expanding. We have more content than ever.”
McCormack said she is motivated both professionally and personally to produce Cycle of Health. She cares about her own health, and the health of her family, and is invested in the segments she produces. The uplifting stories of the doctors and patients they cover keeps her going.
“I would say my motivation is the constant inspiration from the stories that we cover,” she said. “When we talk to the doctors in the hospitals and what they are really trying to pursue in the name of making patients as comfortable as possible in the process of medical care—it’s really wonderful to see.”
Cycle of Health
The New season starts at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5 on WCNY TV. It is re-run at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 8
Topics of the first three episodes:
Wake up to Health
The show explores a before-school ‘Morning Mile’ program where students run a mile together ahead of the school bell and explains why and how this helps them throughout the day. Kelly Springer walks viewers through their favorite fast food breakfasts made quick and healthy at home. The show also visits a local wellness and yoga studio to explore finding peace and making intentions first thing in the morning, and a fitness expert wakes us up with the best workouts to get you motivated and ready for the day ahead.
The show visits an after-school program that closes the gap between school and parents returning home from work with a positive athletics program that emphasizes fun and camaraderie. Kelly Springer shows viewers how to get kids to make and eat their own healthy lunch and which after school snacks are the best for keeping energy up throughout a busy activity schedule. SUNY Upstate physician Rich O’Neill provides some tips and hints on how to give kids after school down time without technology, and a fitness expert shows us how your office can also be a relaxing workout space in late afternoon.
End of Day Fun Made Healthy
Local dance lessons that have surprising health benefits. Kelly Springer shares a delicious dinner recipe that makes three meals. SUNY Upstate physician Rich O’Neill shows us how to decompress after a work day — can a glass of wine actually help? A fitness expert gives viewers easy, lowkey workouts guaranteed to shed the day’s stress and set up for a great night’s sleep.