Recently, our UVM Medical Center Facebook page ran a contest inviting fans of the  page to suggest topics for my “First with Kids” television spots, which  air on WPTZ (channel 5), WOKO (98.9 FM) and in newspapers in our region.  I was delighted to receive at least 30 new ideas that I hope to include in upcoming pieces.  The topics ranged from food allergies to a variety of behavioral and safety issues.  In addition, I have been asked by those who entered the contest, as well as by patients and families, how “First with Kids” is put together, so this month I thought I’d give you a behind-the-scenes look at how each weekly piece comes together.

Because I need to focus on the day-to-day oversight of our Vermont Children’s Hospital at the UVM Medical Center, I actually work on preparing about 20 weeks of television spots at a time.  Last month, for example, I videotaped 23 weeks of pieces that will run through the summer – all in a single day! I can still appear live at any point on television or radio for a breaking story, but it is good to have something in reserve for each week.

To prepare to shoot so many pieces, I start researching topics about two to three months before we tape or record. I use pediatric journals, parenting magazines, websites, letters and e-mails I’ve received – and now the recent contest – to get ideas for topics.  Once I have my ideas and have done the research, it takes a bit of time to write up what I want to say; after that, I spend a month memorizing what I’ve written, since we don’t use teleprompters. This takes a few weeks, since memorization is not something that comes easily to me, but usually everything comes together, and I know what I’m going to say in the time allotted a few days before we do the videotaping.

I am fortunate to have the great team in Marketing and Communications (special thanks to GeriAnn Higgins) assist me in identifying locations, gathering props, and communicating as needed with the television, radio, and print media so that different versions of the topic are made available as needed, based on time and word count.

Once we have a shooting schedule set up, we start early in the morning and shoot until all 20-plus pieces are done.  It is fun trying to create a summer setting in March or winter in August!   WPTZ sends a crew of three to assist with camera work, production, timing, sound, etc., and they, too, are terrific to work with.  Usually a week or so after shooting for television, I stop by at WOKO (they are also a great team to partner with) and record the radio versions, and a week or so after that, I work with the Marketing and Communications team (thanks to Michael Carrese) on the newspaper versions.

If you have ideas for an upcoming piece, (even if there is no contest running), feel free to share your ideas with me through the UVM Medical Center Facebook page.  I need to give a special shout-out to nine-year-old Hannah Safer, who won the recent “ideas” contest and will appear in an upcoming segment on bicycle safety.  She suggested I do a segment on puberty and I will try to do that in the months ahead.

Finally, I cannot end this month’s blog without thanking everyone for the incredible support given to this year’s Big Change Round-up.  Raising over $206,000 in change is a phenomenal achievement, but even more importantly, the change that has been raised will go a long way to ensuring we can continue to provide the programs and services that truly make us a child-friendly, family-centered, state-of-the-art children’s hospital–and for that I am eternally grateful!  I hope you are, too.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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