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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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TV doc’s new show answers viewers’ questions

Tags: Health
Marla Shapiro

You might wonder how Marla Shapiro does it all.

In addition to her full-time medical practice, her reporting work for CTV News and Canada AM, lecturing at universities, and much more, she’s launching a new television show called Dr. Marla and Friends.

The show, which premieres Sept. 24, answers viewers’ health questions and delivers the latest news in the world of health and medicine.

“Health care is about a partnership between the patient and the health-care provider,” Shapiro says. “The best way to be a member of your health-care team is to be empowered by knowledge.”

Each week, Shapiro will delve into recent health-care news, and give viewers insight into tests and other situations that they might never experience unless they were undoing treatment themselves, she says, using a sleep study as an example. “What is a sleep study? What does it look like?”

She will also discuss medical misconceptions and host health panels featuring experts who will debate and discuss important issues.

The viewers will drive the topics, she says, adding that she expects a huge viewership, consisting of people from all ages. “Regardless of how old you are or how young you are, that this will be the place to go to get your questions answered.”

Although Shapiro has had plenty of airtime to discuss health issues, this show gives her the chance to delve deeper and offer the viewers more information.

“This is a new opportunity to reach out the viewers in a longer format,” she says.

So far, she has received a wide variety of questions from the public. “Is tap water as good as bottled water? If I get a shingles vaccine, can I give my children chicken pox? Why do my ears pop on a plane?” she says. “They’re really varied and they’re lots of fun.”

Many viewers will remember when Shapiro faced her own health issues back in 2004, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2006, Shapiro released Life in the Balance, a book detailing her life as she fought the illness.

She says it had a built-in audience – unfortunately, she adds – because so many people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. The book gives insight into how her family dealt with the diagnoses.

“It’s as much about life balance as it is about my breast cancer experience,” she says. She also released a documentary called Run Your Own Race, which covered with the same period of her life.

Shapiro has been a medical correspondent for CTV News for many years, as well as a reporter for Canada AM. She writes a weekly health blog and an “Ask Dr. Marla” column. She is the founding editor of ParentsCanada, which publishes parenting magazines. She also works as an associate professor at the University of Toronto and lectures at universities across the country.

Her work doesn’t stop there though. She sits on a number of boards, including Baycrest, Cancer Care Ontario, and the Canadian Menopause Society, and she boasts she is the only Canadian to sit on the board for the North American Menopause Society.

Not to mention her full-time medical practice.

She says it’s not too difficult to manage it all, because it ultimately comes down to doing what she loves.

“It doesn’t really feel like work,” she says. “It just feels like great fun to do the things I do.”

In addition to mastering the art of multitasking, Shapiro says organization is the trick to balancing so many different jobs – as well as a lack of need for sleep.

“I do sleep, though,” she insists, laughing. “It’s organization and passion that keeps me going.”

She credits her parents for shaping her values of hard work. “My family values and the way I was raised had a huge impact in terms of who I am and how I run my own life, and what my personal values are,” she says.

She says she hopes she has transferred the same values to her children. “My family and I are very active in UJA and in the community,” she says, adding that it’s important to give back through involvement, rather than simply through financial donations.

Her 28-year-old daughter is involved in the Jewish community, particularly through her career at Bialik Hebrew Day School, and her 17-year-old son has shown a well-rounded commitment to his community, she says.

Her family life has been quite busy, too, with the arrival of the person Shapiro calls the most exciting member of her family: her first grandson, who is now six months old.

She says her patients remind her how lucky she is to be able to do her work, which she considers a great honour and privilege.

“I think how enormously lucky I am to have parents who encouraged my education,” she says. “I’ve been so lucky to have an incredible academic experience both in Montreal and in Toronto, and I don’t take what I do lightly at all.”

These are some of the values that will go into the new show, she says. “A great respect for our viewer and really taking into account who they are and what our values are, and doing the best job we can to meet the values of the show and keep it as up to date and current as we can.”

The show airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on CTV News Channel.

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