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Stanford Report, May 6, 1998

Chief resident co-hosts radio show: 5/6/98

Doc talk: Chief resident co-hosts radio show

BY MITCH LESLIE

Getting people to listen to explanations of medical news can be as difficult as getting them to swallow medicine. Stanford's chief dermatology resident, Dr. Alexa Boer, and her brother, attorney Andrew Boer, have developed an unusual way of making this information palatable.

Instead of a spoonful of sugar, they offer a dose of wit on a live radio call-in program.


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The Boers (pronounced "Boyers") host "On Call" every Tuesday from 6 to 6:30 p.m. on KZSU, the university's student-run radio station. The purpose is "to educate people about medical breakthroughs in an entertaining and informative way," said Alexa Boer, whose previous media experience included internships in medical reporting at CBS News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

From the show's opening disclaimer, which implores the audience, "If you get hurt, please do not sue us," the Boers clearly aim to amuse their listeners ­ mainly 20- to 35-year-olds ­ and to have a little fun themselves. They banter through a recap of the week's medical headlines. This allows Alexa to explain the significance of each discovery, but it also gives listeners time to muster the courage to call in.

The call-in aspect of the show offers students and others a chance to ask sometimes-embarrassing health questions while remaining anonymous. Knowing that their questions could become fodder for a joke "doesn't really hold people back" from calling, Alexa said. She and Andrew typically field two or three calls and several e-mail questions during each program. Topics range from the mundane to the bizarre. One caller, for example, wondered whether applying iodine under his arms was the best way to eliminate body odor. (Try deodorant, the dermatologist responded.)

Alexa's original plan for the show didn't include a part for her brother. But when he moved to the Bay Area the day before the first broadcast in October 1996, she invited him to sit in. He's still there, and his role has grown.

Andrew, who has a day job as CEO of Emptor, an electronic commerce company in Berkeley, helps choose the week's stories and recruit guests for the show. "I'm basically there to keep the audience interested. I have a very short attention span; I'll get bored before the audience does," he said.

Last fall, the Boers added an hour-long TV version of the show, broadcast Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the Mid-Peninsula Access Channel (cable channel 6).

For more information about "On Call," visit http://oncall.org. Those with RealAudio can hear the radio program over the Internet at the KZSU site, http://realaudio.stanford.edu. SR

Mitch Leslie is a graduate-level science writing intern with the Medical Center Office of Communications/News Bureau.