By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Since 2001, the people of Marlborough have been fortunate to be able to watch “To Your Health” on WMCT-TV, the town's cable station. Candra Szymanski, RN, MS, and the COO of Marlborough Hospital, leads the monthly conversations with various doctors and specialists from UMass Memorial Marlborough Hospital. The show updates the community on the latest in medical treatments and new equipment in the healthcare field, with discussions ranging from this season's flu to understanding gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD).
A recent taping at the Main Street studio on the second floor of the old police station featured surgeon Dr. Philip Cohen. He explained the differences in various types of surgery, so viewers would understand terms like “laparoscopic,” “open, “minimally invasive,” “robotic” and “arthroscopic.” Cohen does those types of surgery for gallbladders, hernias, diverticulitis, small intestine and colon surgeries, and bariatric surgery, and on patients with GERD. With new technology, advanced equipment, high-resolution cameras and constantly evolving techniques, some operations that used to mean many weeks of recovery are now day surgeries that require less than a week of recuperation.
The easy, conversational atmosphere of the show helps viewers learn about complex medical issues and treatments. Candra's medical knowledge and well-thought-out questions keep the show flowing smoothly and she helps pick the topics.
In 2001, she approached the station about a health show; WMCT-TV agreed. Originally, the show was filmed at the hospital.
“I get to showcase people who come to work every day, committed to taking great care of their patients.”
The taping moved to the Walker Building for several years. Once the renovations were completed on the old public building at 91 Main St., “To Your Health” has been taped there.
“I get wonderful feedback about the show,” Candra said. “People learn a lot. I hope that the shows make a difference in people's lives.”
Candra hails from Waynesboro, Penn., and earned her?diploma in nursing from?the York Hospital School of Nursing.? She also met her husband, Bernard, there.?After working at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center for a number of years, the Szymanskis moved to Massachusetts in the late 1970s.?She and her husband both went back to school, and she earned a bachelor's degree in 1990.?By now the family had two sons, but that did not stop Candra from pursuing her dream of being a nurse practitioner.?She?graduated from?the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing?in 1992 with a master's of?science degree?that?qualified her?to become certified as an adult nurse practitioner.? Several years later she completed?post-graduate?studies?in nursing management.?She had joined the UMass Memorial Health Care system as an Emergency Department staff nurse in 1981 and later became nursing director for Emergency Services at the facility in 1995.
“That was my dream, the opportunity of a lifetime,” Candra said. In 1999, she became the vice president of Patient Care at the Marlborough site, and in 2003,?inherited the TV show as the interim CEO of the hospital.?As a result of reorganization, her title changed to chief operating officer in 2005, giving her oversight of general hospital operations.
An issue in her personal life greatly affected her professional goals. After her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, Candra acted as her advocate. She was treated in Maryland, and is fine today.
“Her treatment was incredible, so building a cancer center here became very personal,” Candra said.
Soon Marlborough Hospital will have a brand-new 14,500-square-foot cancer pavilion, which is scheduled for completion by mid-2013 and will provide full services including chemotherapy, radiology and access to clinical trials. There will also be multi-disciplinary conference rooms for patient clinical review, and more educational space. An added feature will be a healing garden, designed to be a peaceful, restorative place for patients and their families to interact with nature.
Watch for more updates on “To Your Health.” For the show's schedule, go to wmct-tv.com.