On this week’s episode, Dr. Nicole Saphier joins the podcast to talk about how to keep you and your family healthy. We discuss ways to do that right now in the COVID-19 pandemic, but we also cover the future of healthcare policy and how to make general, healthy lifestyle choices which she outlines in her new book, Make America Healthy Again: How Bad Behavior and Big Government Caused a Trillion-Dollar Crisis.

Dr. Saphier is a medical contributor and regular guest anchor for the Fox News Channel, and is a full-time practicing, board-certified radiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.



And welcome to, She Thinks, a podcast where you’re allowed to think for yourself. I’m your host, Beverly Hallberg and on today’s episode I’m delighted that Dr. Nicole Saphier joins us to talk about keeping you and your family healthy.

We’ll discuss ways to do that during this COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re also going to talk about the future of healthcare policy and making healthy lifestyle choices, which she outlines in her new book, Make America Healthy Again: How Bad Behavior and Big Government Caused a Trillion-Dollar Crisis.

Dr. Saphier is a medical contributor and a regular guest anchor for the Fox News channel and is a full-time practicing board certified radiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York city. Dr. Saphier, a pleasure to have you on She Thinks.

Dr. Saphier:

Thank you so much, Beverly. I’m excited to be here.


I first want to start off by finding out how you’re holding up. You’re a mom, you’re a doctor, you’re an author, you’re regularly on TV. How are you managing to juggle everything on your plate and stay healthy at the same time?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, I would love to say that things are going smoothly every day here at home. But yeah, I’m struggling just like everybody else’s. So, as you alluded, I have three boys and they’re all home right now and they range from college age down to kindergarten. And so we’re doing the homeschooling with all three of them during this time of distance learning. And I’m also trying to balance my hospital duties as well as my TV appearances all at the same time.

I’m fortunate in the sense that when I decided to stop going into the city, Fox News was able to immediately set me up with a home studio, which is where you will see me on camera just about every day right now is just from my home office. And Sloan Kettering also was able to set me up with a reading station to read patients imaging from home. You see, I myself actually have a medical condition and I take medications that suppress my immune system. So it’s important for me to stay home as much as possible while we’re still dealing with COVID-19.

But I am too still going into the hospital, because I can’t do everything remotely. But I try and limit how many days I’m going into the hospital. But, just like everybody else, I’m doing the best I can in terms of balancing my mom responsibilities and my work responsibilities. But there are definitely some days where I’m feeling a little bit more stressed than others, but I think everybody’s feeling it a little bit right now. It’s a difficult time for our country.


So a little insight for our listeners, because all of us were dealing with this, working from home. Have you had those situations where one of your children has made noise in the background while you’re live on TV, or talking to your patient? Is there a general rule you have for your family when you’re going live that they need to be quiet and not do anything?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, I’m trying to be conscious that the whole house can’t be quiet just because I’m doing TV, or radio, or a podcast. Because I am doing it throughout the day from about 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM at night. So, everybody has a overall awareness that when I’m in the office to try and be as quiet as possible. But I’ll tell you that sometimes my second grader isn’t really feeling doing his homework when he’s upstairs, and he wants to sit next to me. So he’ll be sitting right next to me just off camera while I’m doing some segments. And I’ll tell you right now, I have my little five-year-old sitting next to me eating his breakfast while I’m doing this podcast. Because, that is how you find your balance right now.

Everybody’s wanting some mom time, and it’s a new normal for everybody. I am waiting for that moment though, where one of my children walks into the view of the camera and then that goes viral. Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet, but never say never.


And I do think right now there’s a lot of forgiveness for that, because everybody understands the situation. People are in here on TV that they’re working from their home. But I want to touch on something you just mentioned there and still practicing as a doctor. As you said, you have to go into the hospital some, but it sounds like telemedicine, and the use of technology has been something that’s really been beneficial to your patients and to your practice. How influential is telemedicine been for you?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, I think there are going to be a few positives that actually come out at the other end of this COVID-19 crisis, and one of that is going to be the utilization of telemedicine and telehealth. Something that I have been a massive supporter of for long before COVID-19. I think that it brings access to people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to certain physicians, and it really maintains that level of quality care. Right now you see pop up little clinics, and all these pharmacies on every corner, but those aren’t necessarily staffed with doctors. And so I feel that people’s quest, for the instant gratification, or the instant care is actually lowering the quality of medicine. But telehealth actually is still able to connect the physician with the patient. And that level of quality is still there.

For my specialty, what I do, although I do read a lot of images, my specialty is breast imaging, so breast cancer detection. So I read the mammograms, the ultrasounds, the MRIs. But then also what I do is I do all the biopsies of the breast, but I do all the head and neck biopsies, so thyroid biopsies, neck lymph node biopsies, parotid gland biopsies and so forth. So for that, I really still need to be going in to the hospital and do that. And also what we do at my work is we put in radioactive seeds to localize the areas of cancer.

So, for a patient who has a cancer, I will go in and put these tiny little seeds in so the surgeon knows exactly what to remove. So we’re still needing to do that. Because although we are all aware of the COVID-19 crisis right now, we also don’t want to slack in our cancer care, because delayed cancer care can actually have a significantly higher mortality than COVID-19 itself.


Yeah, I have a friend right now who is getting chemotherapy for cancer. She still is going into her hospital, because she has to get this type of treatment. But of course she is someone who, if she was around somebody who was infected with coronavirus, she would be in a dire position should she catch it. How are hospitals trying to care for those patients who need to come in for treatment, but definitely are in that vulnerable population category because of their current health issues?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, your friend is not alone and that is on the mind and just about every person undergoing chemotherapy right now. And that is a huge concern, because we don’t want people to stop their treatment out of fear. So certain things that hospitals are doing are, they’re restricting visitors from coming in, which is really sad because going through chemotherapy and cancer care, it’s really hard mentally on someone. So having that visitor with them does tend to provide them support. But out of an abundance of caution, and for our patients that we have restricted visitors, everyone entering the building, whether you’re an employee, or you’re a patient, will wear masks.

And the PPE, the personal protective equipment is just amped up right now. So it’s definitely the most sterile hospitals across the nation have ever been. But, it’s constant communication with the patients, testing them, continuously, making sure that they aren’t an asymptomatic carrier. And just being in constant communication with our patients, so we can help them get through this for their mental health as well as their physical health.


And I think this whole public health crisis has us thinking about healthcare in a different way. I think the fact that your book was recently released is great timing. Again, your book is called Make America Healthy Again. And one of the main arguments is actually for Americans to focus inward, to look in the mirror when they say that healthcare costs are too high. Why do you focus so much on individual responsibility? Because what we often hear from our elected officials is that it’s government that needs to set policy, but you focus a lot on the individual, correct?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, it’s a fine balance. Individuals can’t necessarily fix a lot of these policy issues that have been introduced over the last century to our country. However, it’s interesting that I wrote an entire book about personal responsibility and how preventable chronic illness is really a detriment to our society. The last couple of years we’ve been hearing the political debate between far right versus far left, or one side being the all private system and the other side being socialized medicine with a single payer.

And although I have my personal opinions and I prefer more of a mixed bag of private and public services, it doesn’t really matter what you want in terms of healthcare policy, because the United States leads the globe in preventable illness. And as long as we continue to bankrupt our system with such preventable illness, no healthcare policy is going to work. The Affordable Care Act came out and it was altruistic in the sense that we wanted to make sure everybody had health insurance. You can’t fault someone for that, of course we want to take care of Americans. Of course, we do. Anyone who says differently, yes, I agree, that’s not the right move. We want to take care of people.

However, what the Affordable Care Act did not necessarily address in my opinion, was by just giving out a health insurance card, that is why all of a sudden you saw an uproar. Because physicians became overworked, they were working significantly longer hours. And in some instances they were being paid less and people were seeing longer wait times to see their doctors. So it didn’t address by decreasing the demand for such services. They increased the supply in the sense that they gave everybody an insurance card, but they didn’t necessarily increase the personnel to take care of all those patients. But they just said nothing about the demand that would require that care.

And so, for my aspect, before we can really tackle this health policy dilemma, we have to decrease the amount of preventable illness. And when you look at the numbers, it’s staggering. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, heart disease, that’s the number one killer in the United States. And it’s been that way for a very long time. But yet anywhere up to 80% of all heart disease could potentially be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices. We’re spending trillions of dollars on heart disease every year and about 80% of that could potentially be prevented. Why aren’t we holding the people accountable who could have potentially prevented such illness?

And I’m not saying that you hold them accountable in the sense of saying, “We’re not going to care for you”, or, “You don’t deserve certain things.” That’s not what whatsoever. But I am a firm believer in positive and negative reinforcement. That’s what I do with my children. I reward them for good behavior and I take away certain luxuries when they have bad behavior. And I think that is honestly how most people respond. We’re taught that at a very young age. You do well, you get a gold star, you don’t do well, you don’t. And so when it comes to a person’s health, shouldn’t we be doing the same thing?

The preexisting condition portion of the Affordable Care Act is the most popular provision, because all of a sudden people who had chronic illness, they weren’t being punished, or there weren’t punitive measures for that. However, what did that do? That then said, “You can live whatever behavior lifestyle you want, you will not pay more for it.” So, that took away that negative reinforcement right there. And for the people who are living healthier, their health insurance costs actually went up to help cover everybody else. So therefore you took away their positive incentivization, or their positive reinforcement for healthy behavior.

And in my opinion, that is the wrong thing to do, because look at the seatbelt laws. You had doctors telling people decades ago wearing seatbelts and obeying speed limits will save lives. But people didn’t want to do it, until there was a penalty of a speeding ticket, or wearing a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt. All of a sudden when the possibility of a financial penalty came into the mix, people started adhering to it. And what’s happened? You had fewer deaths from motor vehicle accidents. So again, Americans respond to positive and negative reinforcement. Our current policies do not do that.

So, my thought is we need to get back to the place where we are rewarding those for good behaviors. And I’m not necessarily saying punish those for bad behaviors, but we need to get back to rewarding the people for their good behaviors. Because I think positive reinforcements are significantly better than negative reinforcements.

And even cancer care, cancer being the number two leading cause of death across our country, anywhere between 30 and up to 50% of cancers can potentially be prevented with healthy behavior choices, early detection, as well as vaccinations. Can you imagine that? We have come to the time where cancer could be prevented, not just treated, but prevented. And yet we’re still not doing it. And it’s really disconcerting because in my line, I provide a cancer diagnosis every single day. But that’s not the time for me to tell them, “Well, what you could have done was this.” Because at that point it’s too late. They’ve already gotten cancer.

So, we need to educate society on ways that they can do better, because I don’t think most people are bad. I don’t think people are obstinate in choosing certain lifestyles because they want to be rebellious. I think it’s because they don’t know better. And my job as a physician and a public figure in the sense that I go on TV, is to educate people on how they can do better. In my book, Make America Healthy Again, I talk about the leading causes of illness, as well as our mental health crisis, the opioid crisis, physician burnout, physician suicide. And then I also talk about the certain health care policies that have really not done much to help.

And I go through waves that you could individually change your lifestyle. There’s an appendix at the end of the book, with some very easy to follow guides on look what can you as an individual do. And also as a nation, what can our legislators do? But my book, it is certainly not a self-help book by any stretch of the imagination, although it gives some vital information on how you can live a healthier life. It is really breaking down to show people what can be prevented and what cannot be prevented. Because the truth is there are a lot of people out there living with an illness that they could have done nothing, nothing to prevent, but yet they are paying high prices for their cost of their care, because we are covering a lot of illness that could have been prevented.

So, in order to protect the people who are living with diseases right now that they have done nothing to cause, we need to get the resources to them. And that goes with our children, our childhood cancers and a lot of our cancers and other ailments that our adults are suffering from. We don’t want to be rationing care. We see, we have seen what happens in other countries when you ration care, but we’re going to start rationing care if we do not start decreasing our preventable chronic illness.

And that ties into what we’re seeing with COVID-19 right now. Who is most at risk for it? Yes, the elderly, but also those with chronic medical conditions. Had we been a healthier America before this novel coronavirus entered our border, we would have not been as vulnerable to the pandemic as we are seeing right now. So I really hope that the enthusiasm around preventing chronic illness doesn’t die once we get a handle on that coronavirus, because the truth is there will be another pandemic. And our most vulnerable will be those with chronic illness. So unless we continue our efforts in the making America healthy again, then all of these efforts will be futile.


And from your perspective in this idea of making good, healthy choices for people. As you said, your book is in a self-help book. But if people are saying, “I agree with you, doctor, I want to get healthier, but here’s my problem. I get mixed messages from activists, alarmist, or Hollywood actors who sell these false promises.”

How do people Wade through the best things to eat, not to eat? We have had the Atkins diet, Keto diet, then there’s get rid of all fat and only eat carbs, which was from a couple of decades ago. How do people determine what is healthy eating and breaking through all the noise we hear from people in how we ought to eat and how we ought to exercise?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, Beverly, that’s a great question and one that I actually address in my book. And I give out certain examples such as their Kardashians and some other celebrities, where they love to talk about the fads, the latest cleanses and what they’re doing. And the bottom line is I don’t ascribe to any of those. I myself am far from a wellness expert and I certainly don’t live a model of health that one could be touted. Or a book written on. I love chocolate and I drink wine and I don’t exercise every day. However, my overarching mantra is always everything in moderation.

And so, in my book I discussed the blue zones, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but those are certain regions across the globe where people live to be over a hundred years of age. And so they really looked at why are these people living so long? And it does come down to a balanced diet, not the latest fad diet, but a long-term balanced diet. And I tell my children to always try and eat the colors of the rainbow. And that means, that’s their way of getting food groups onto the plate, between fruits and vegetables and meat and grains.

And so, if you have a very colorful plate, and I don’t mean like with the sugary cereals that are all multicolored, but I mean out of the more natural substances and that’s a step in the right direction. I also dive deep into the big food industry, and how we as a society have really gone away from eating at home to eating out. And in my opinion, a lot of that has to do with women going into the workforce. I work full time, I work many times, six days a week. I go into the hospital on Saturdays. And so the last thing I want to do certain nights is to cook at home. I’m very fortunate that I have a husband who actually loves the cook dinner. And so we find that balance.

But some simple tricks that can get people to a healthier self is if you’re someone who likes to eat out three to four times a week, maybe you just eat out one to two times a week. Because that right there is massively decreasing your sodium intake and sodium intake itself costs our country billions of dollars a year. So just by cutting back a little bit, it’s going to help. These little moves will actually make a really big difference. If you are someone that loves soda, I personally hate soda, I think is a terrible thing to drink. But if you’re someone who loves soda, I’m not necessarily saying you can’t have soda ever again, but you shouldn’t be having it every day. Whatever you’re doing now, just do less. It doesn’t mean you have to cut everything that’s your favorite out, but just do less.

These little moves in everyday lifestyles is going to make a big difference. If you’re someone who works in an office, get up and walk around your building twice a day. It’s not doing a lot. You don’t have to go to the gym and do some massive workout to get to a healthier state. You just have to do more than they’re doing now.


And I think that’s still important. People jokingly are talking about the COVID 19 that they’re gaining and during this time, but like you said, you don’t have to go to the gym. The gyms are obviously closed. Get out there, walk. That’s a way to be healthier and just to move more and eat a balanced diet. But as we wrap up, I just want to close with public policy as a whole. You talked a little bit about Obamacare, some of the challenges that doctors have seen from it.

With this global pandemic and there being a federal government involvement and talking to us about how to stay healthy during this time, what do you think that means for healthcare moving forward? Of course, we have elections coming up, so whoever wins the presidency, whoever has control of the House and the Senate is going to determine what type of policies move forward. But do you find that this is bringing the discussion of healthcare to the forefront even more so than before?

And if so, from you and your colleagues, fellow doctors, what type of healthcare policy or what type of fixes do you think need to be put in place in order to get us on a more sustainable healthcare policy for this country that can be affordable, that isn’t extravagant and cost to the federal government, or to especially individuals who buy their own health insurance?

Dr. Saphier:

Well, that is a great question and unfortunately, I think that this pandemic has brought into a light a lot of weaknesses within our system. I will say one thing that I enjoy every day is watching the White House press briefings because I think that transparency is vital in times like this. And I really hope that that transparency will continue on. The thing is, when it comes to talking about the nation’s health, we can’t just talk about it in terms of an infection. So when we’re talking about COVID-19, we’re saying we have to overcome the virus, but that doesn’t just mean we have to get the actual virus out of this country and keep people healthy.

The overall health of the nation includes physical health, mental health and economic health. And so I think as we go into November 2020 election, people aren’t just going to be looking at where we’re at in terms of how prevalent this viral infection still is, it’s what’s the economic health of this nation? Because if that is still failing, then what is the purpose of trying to overcome this virus at all? So I think going into the election, they’re going to be looking towards someone for leadership in terms of economic policies, but also public health policies.

And this is going to be a critical time for President Trump and Joe Biden to come together and figure out what their message is going to be. Joe Biden is saying that he wants to build on the Affordable Care Act. Well again, that would take just a lot more money. He’s saying he’s not going to adhere to all Bernie Sanders plans, but he’s talking about education and the minimum wage, and that’s going to cost a lot of money. And they can’t keep throwing money at programs, unless they’re decreasing the demand on such programs. So until I hear coming from Joe Biden’s mouth, what his plan is to make America healthier again, in terms of lessening the demand on the healthcare system, he can tout any sort of reform he wants. But the bottom line is it’s not going to work because we cannot just continue to print money and pay for things.

You can’t just increase the supply and not focus on the demand. I want to see President Trump also talking about giving positive incentives for those with healthy behaviors. Now this may be not very popular as a political move and they have to be really eloquent in how they do this. Because the preexisting conditions for Affordable Care Act is extremely popular. So he can’t just come out and say, “We’re no longer going to cover that. For those with chronic illness, they’re going to pay for more.”

But they need to be creative in figuring out a good incentive program for how those who are less costly to insure, living healthier behaviors, are actually rewarded for such behaviors. Because if you do that, then you’re going to start seeing more people living healthier lifestyles and trying to get those positive incentives. And that potentially will decrease the demand on the system. And then it won’t matter what the legislators do in DC, because we’ll be able to afford it and we’ll be a healthier nation because of it.


Well, people should go out there and get the book. It is called Make America Healthy Again, but for now, Dr. Saphire, it’s a pleasure for us to have you on the program. We know you’re a busy person. We appreciate all the information you’re giving to the public. And also to give us the information that wine and chocolate and moderation is okay. I think that’s a good message for all of us today, but thank you so much for your time.

Dr. Saphier:

All right. Thanks for having me, Beverly,


And thank you all for joining us. Before you go, we wanted to let that during this time of uncertainty and unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to show what America’s made of. That’s why Independent Women’s Forum is highlighting American ideals of ingenuity, generosity, thoughtfulness, and kindness. From everyday Americans sewing masks and donating blood, to companies, providing free food and housing to those on the front lines, it’s a beautiful reminder that we’re in this together.

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