From health writing at the Daily Wildcat to behind-the-scenes work on The Dr. Oz Show, Akshay Syal has found a way to merge media with his medical career.
Syal once studied physiology at the UA and wrote as a health reporter for the news desk at the Daily Wildcat and the experience, he said, was influential in his work in the medical field and on The Dr. Oz Show.
“Writing at the Daily Wildcat was an incredible experience that introduced me to an entirely different world at the UA,” Syal said. “It taught me how to write about health in a fun and engaging way for college students. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.”
After graduating from the UA in May of 2016, Syal began medical school at New York Medical College, but found something lacking. During his first year, Syal said he began to miss the feeling that writing for the Daily Wildcat gave him.
“When I was writing at the Daily Wildcat, I started to realize that it was an incredible creative outlet — one that I was lacking in the typical pre-med journey,” Syal said. “When I came out to medical school, I was searching for that feeling again and I realized it was most likely going to be in the media.”
So Syal began researching possible creative avenues.
In time, he was introduced to the medical unit of The Dr. Oz Show and managed to contact the chief of staff, Dr. Michael Crupain, an alumn of New York Medical College.
Syal applied to the program during his third year of medical school. He was accepted and decided to take a leave of absence for one year to join the medical unit for The Dr. Oz Show as a medical researcher.
“This unorthodox experience allows brave students to get a unique look at the workings of health media,” Crupain said. “This experience grants them a special opportunity, unlike any they get in school, to really begin to understand how to meet patients where they are on their health journey and explain complex health issues in a way that’s easy to understand.”
In the medical unit, Syal works with production and production assistants to ensure that information and research in the show is medically accurate. He also helps to make the information more accessible and easier for viewers to understand.
The medical unit also gets to work with the star of the show, Mehmet Öz himself.
The medical unit is an incredibly important aspect of the show. They tape six shows each week and brief Öz in his dressing room before each filming, according to Syal.
“The medical unit is like the nuclear reactor of the show, and students who take a year off play an important role in helping to shape the show’s content and inspiring viewers to live healthier lives,” Öz said.
Like Öz, Syal also expressed how important their role on the show. Television has a much larger audience than doctors do on the day-to-day. Working on the show is different from the reach that other doctors have, according to Syal.
“The segments we work on are watched by millions,” Syal said. “It’s insane that, as doctors, we could harness the power and reach of the media to have an even bigger impact on our patients health and well being.”
Working for The Dr. Oz Show continues to give Syal critical experience that will help his future endeavors as a doctor. Working on the show has made him a better communicator, which Syal said will help him be able to break information down for patients — a “really necessary skill set to have,” according to Syal.
“It’s been a phenomenal experience so far,” Syal said. “Getting to work with a talented team of producers and staff that are dedicated to educating the public about health has been a really cool experience especially as a medical student.”
Syal has plans to return to his fourth year of medical school after finishing the program and will also apply for residency in Emergency Medicine next year.
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