Alum doctors take to TV to inform and educate
September 25, 2020
When Dr. Renee Sandy was pursuing her master’s degree in hospital and health administration and management, one of her professors asked the class what they were doing to impact changes in the health care system. “And up until that point,” said Sandy, a 2005 graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, “I hadn’t really thought about it. I had just been going with the status quo – I was an emergency room doctor and I was just working on healing the patients who came into the emergency room.”
She began to consider how she could get to the source of the problem and really effect change. “So I just started Googling how to start a TV show. It was the most random process ever. And I started getting information on how to write and produce.”
She needed a co-host though. Fortunately, she had a good one in mind. “My sister approached me to help her put together ‘De Island Docs’,” said Dr. Renauldo Gordon, a 2004 graduate of Saint John’s University. “At first I was really reluctant because I lived in Trinidad while she was in New York. I was also really busy working in the emergency room and studying for my medical license exams.”
Sandy was persistent and prepared though. “I made a visit to New York and she showed me the script,” recalled Gordon. “In place was a camera crew, lights, makeup artist, a director and a panel of guests. Who could say no to that level of preparation? So I jumped right in and never looked back.”
The result is “De Island Docs,” which has aired in about 10 Caribbean countries since 2012.
“Our motivation was basically patient education, because I worked for two-and-a-half years as a doctor in Trinidad,” explained Sandy. “And, in my time there, I felt like a lot of people had a lot of misinformation about certain medical conditions.”
Episodes of “De Island Docs” frequently focus on conditions and issues that specifically impact African American and Caribbean populations. “We did a show where we looked a lot at sugar content – mostly in drinks,” Sandy said, offering an example. That episode featured a nutritionist, followed by a physical trainer who came on to demonstrate some light exercises. They interviewed an endocrinologist, who linked high sugar intake to diabetes. “And, at the end, we always have a testimonial of a person. In this case it was a young man who had bariatric surgery and was 700 pounds and is now 200 pounds. And he mapped out his journey and all the things he was implementing to get his health back in order. So each episode is three or four eight-minute segments like that.”
“Shooting was intense,” said Gordon. “We did all three seasons (which now air as reruns) over a short period of time while I lived in Trinidad and Tobago. I would fly to New York during my vacation and we would film several episodes in a day. It was grueling work because I was also preparing for residency.”
Today, Gordon is a practicing hospitalist and Medical Director for Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City, Arizona.
Sandy is still in New York where she keeps an active “De Island Docs” community informed with timely medical info and videos on the show’s Facebook page. Beyond that she’s pursuing longer-term goals for “De Island Docs” like producing more episodes, airing the show in African countries and developing content to integrate into school curricula in the Caribbean.
“We are trying to bridge the gap (between the schools and the health care system in the Caribbean) and make information more accessible so that kids have this info from a younger age,” explained Sandy. “By the time they get older, they will be making better, wiser decisions as it pertains to their health.”
“In this age of coronavirus and so much misinformation, I believe ‘De Island Docs’ can share so much information about health care to make the world a safer and healthier place,” said Gordon.