Producer Commentary

PROGRAM: Predictive Genetic Testing

AUTHOR: Kathy McAnally

November 1998:

One of the challenges to a radio producer working with complicated scientific material is finding experts who can explain this stuff in a way that is comprehensible to the average listener. So I was delighted when I discovered the existence of a neurologist at the University of California at Davis who was an expert on Alzheimer's disease AND could explain the illness and possible genetic component in a clear fashion.

My appointment with Dr. William Jagust was set for mid-afternoon. I estimated the travel time from my home to the campus at less than one hour. Only when I was in the car did my brain register the fact that I was driving to the University Medical Center, which is a ways down the highway in Sacramento. Still, I wasn't in bad trouble, time wise, when I exited the freeway. Then, the nightmare began. I made a wrong turn somehow and found myself cruising through a suburban neighborhood, past houses and the occasional strip mall. Now, I'd been told that the medical center was a huge complex, and another large hospital was right next to it. You would think that such places would stand out—loom above the landscape...I drove around and around, becoming increasingly late for my appointment. I tried to call the doctor's office on my cell phone, but the stupid thing didn't work.

Finally, I spotted some big buildings. Dr. Jagust had given me detailed instructions as to how to get to his building, but I decided just to park in front of the main hospital building. How far away can this other place be? I reasoned. It was very, very far away. It was extremely hot, I was lugging tape recorders and microphones, and by the time I found the right place, I was panting and disheveled. Arriving at the reception area, I announced that I was there to see Dr. Jagust.

The receptionist eyed me carefully, and then told me I was in the wrong place. The lab was in the basement.

I started off in that direction, when it dawned on me that she assumed I was there to be assessed for some serious brain disorder. That little misunderstanding was straightened out, and I was escorted in to meet the good doctor. We began the interview. It was going quite well when I realized that I'd had the tape recorder in the "pause" mode the entire time. I asked then to be taken to the basement right away. Fortunately, the doctor found me amusing rather than irritating, and cheerfully agreed to start the interview over from the top.