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How to be as popular as pop music

by Barb Boose No Comments

The public relations staff at a Champaign- Urbana, IL, hospital once asked Jim Ellis, D.O.’88, then-head of its emergency department, if he would make nice with personalities at a local radio station. More than six years later, Ellis’ weekly “Ask-A-Doc” program on Mix 94.5 FM continues to be one of the station’s most popular.

The top reason for its success: Ellis – aka “Dr. J” – truly cares about people.

“He has a nice bedside manner on the air,” says Sarah Addison, co-host of the Mix’s morning show.

“The way he is with listeners and on air is the way he is with patients,” adds fellow co-host Kevin Lambert.

Lambert knows: In 2008, his colon burst while he was on air. Ellis happened to be on duty in the ER. “I was in so much pain, but he made me feel better,” Lambert recalls. “Some people are lucky enough to find the job they’re passionate about, and he is.”

Ellis, Lambert and Addison choose questions e-mailed by listeners that are topical, timely, pertinent to many and able to be covered in the segment. Ellis then researches answers and advice. The program airs Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. It is available by podcast and is archived on the station’s website, www.mix945.com.

Topics range widely, from the H1N1 flu to snoring, chest pain, mammograms and the drug that killed Michael Jackson. A mother once submitted an especially poignant question about her alcoholism; rather than talk about it on air, Ellis immediately e-mailed her to strongly encourage her to get help and inform her about local resources.

“I didn’t hear from her for two months, but then she e-mailed to say she went into rehab and had been dry eight weeks,” Ellis recalls. “Clearly we made a big difference in her life.”

Ellis combines “Ask-A-Doc” with emergency medicine and his role as regional director for Emergency Consultants Inc., a Michigan based company that provides ER staffing for hospitals in 16 states. He gets a kick out of talking with people who recognize him from the program, and he enjoys working with Addison and Lambert. “I’m by nature a jokester,” he says. “So our chemistry is really good.”

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