Keeping Patients Informed Through Mass Media
Anne Negrin, MD, is a television news personality, health blogger, and ophthalmologist in Rye, New York. She has appeared on television programs including ABC7 Eyewitness News, The Today Show, and PIX11 News to discuss topics ranging from medical myth debunking to eye-friendly makeup.
When she’s not in the clinic or on television, Dr. Negrin writes on her website, Dr. Anne: Spreading Love and Knowledge, about a wide range of health-related topics such as sleep quality, food label myths, and digital eye strain. She also runs a Youtube Channel, Medical Minutes, where she teaches patients how to identify and address common health issues like styes and dry eyes.
Dr. Negrin received her B.A. in Government from Cornell University, her M.D. from New York Medical College, and her Ophthalmology training at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers of Brooklyn and Queens.
In her medical training and as a clinician, Dr. Negrin observed that doctors do not always have sufficient time to address patients’ questions and concerns. Passionate about both providing for and educating her patients, Dr. Negrin strives to make health information consistently accessible to the public.
H: How did you wind up becoming a medical commentator on television?
Dr. Negrin: It was actually kind of serendipitous—I had a patient in my chair one day, who is a psychiatrist. I realized I had seen her just the day before on The Today Show talking about children. When I mentioned that to her, she commented that I would be great for the show. I said I was interested, and so I ended up doing a segment on the show about the fear of doctors.
H: How much of an impact do you think these television segments have on healthcare?
Dr. Negrin: The information is watered down a little bit because of the short attention span television viewers have. But I think it is still very informative. If something catches on and people start talking about it, then you can see how much awareness is raised. Take Zika Virus for an example—it has become a catchphrase. Everyone wants to talk about it, and that’s great.
At the same time, there are so many more relevant health issues. But the point is, though, the average person knows a lot more about Zika than they would have without these media outlets. If you get the right person to talk about it on television, people will be able to comprehend the issue, and react accordingly.
H: What motivated you to start your website?
Dr. Negrin: My specialty, cataract surgery, is filled with innovation. You’re never just sitting back thinking: “Oh just another day at surgery.” Earlier on in my medical career, my time was focused on honing skills. After that, I started to feel like something was missing—like there’s a little bit more of me that I could put out there.
I’ve always loved writing and communicating, and I wanted to share what I had learnt or experienced. For example, I see a lot of diabetics in my practice who don’t control their diet and start losing sight because of retinotopy, or develop secondary glaucoma. What’s really unfortunate is that by the time people identify these issues, it’s too late to work towards a cure. All you can do is fight the symptoms.
I think people need to be told where they’re going wrong, and I wanted to come in and give people an incentive to change their habits. I thought about this for a long time before I actually got around to doing it, simply because of lack of time. We’re in a time when we prioritize according to what return we get from our actions, so things for the greater good get pushed back. But we need to realize that even if one person reads what you write, and it helps them, then there you go. That’s why you did it.
H: How did you end up deciding on medicine?
Dr. Negrin: I was actually a government major at Cornell, and was very into debating and international relations. I was still interested in the sciences though, so, I took a couple of pre-med courses. Towards the end of my junior year, I decided that medicine was what I wanted to do. Admittedly, the job security was a reason for choosing this career path. Other jobs offer that security too, but what pulls me towards medicine is that there’s altruism in it. I love helping and talking to people and educating them, and I get to do that with every patient that walks through my office. They trust you, and that is a privilege.
H: Your website mentions that you were drawn to Ophthalmology because of its “surgical nature.” Could you elaborate on that?
Dr. Negrin: When I first started out, I knew I wanted to do something with my hands, and not just see patients in an office. Seeing the internal human body—the organs, the blood vessels, the blood—during general surgery rotation in my third year made me love surgery. But general surgery was too demanding and cut-throat for my taste. It wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted, especially with a family one day. Ophthalmology, on the other hand, is focused on this one crucial part of the body. I get to make a huge impact on people’s lives that leaves me with a sense of satisfaction. To top it off, our call isn’t bad, and my hours aren’t bad. Because of my choice, I have the time to be there for my kids.
H: What are your aspirations with writing? Would you consider writing for outlets other than your own website, such as the science section of the New York Times?
Dr. Negrin: I would love to! I feel like we tend to peg people based on their careers. So if you’re a doctor, people will ask: “Why do you write?” We shouldn’t feel like a square peg in a round hole just because what we are interested in doing is a little unorthodox in our field.
I get to make a difference with my writing by using the knowledge I have gained from my medical profession. The degrees we have as doctors aren’t going to change health care, it’s what we do with the knowledge we earn that matters.
H: What is the key to balancing being your many life roles?
Dr. Negrin: Admittedly, there are a few very late nights at the computer. But also, as you get older, you get better at time management and prioritizing. The lack of time only gets more serious after college and medical school. During residency, you barely get time for yourself, let alone to do something like read or write. Even now, it’s not easy to do it, especially being a woman with two young children. It’s not easy, but it’s a great feeling knowing that my children will look up to me and know that it’s possible to be a mother and a professional at the same time.