Tue07292014

Your Health

Lights, camera, stethoscope

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier Barbara Dehn hosts "Nurse Barb's Daily Dose" on KPIX-TV.

Los Altos resident Barbara Dehn plays many roles for many people.

To her family, she’s a mother and wife.

To her patients at El Camino Hospital’s Women Physicians GYN Medical Group, she’s the nurse practitioner with a penchant for lending a friendly ear.

To local television viewers, however, Dehn is known as “Nurse Barb,” a name that stems from her monthly five-minute segments, “Nurse Barb’s Daily Dose,” on local CBS affiliate KPIX-TV.

The show, launched in September, is a resource for viewers seeking useful health news and services available at El Camino Hospital. Dehn said she views her role as a television personality in the same way she performs her duty as a nurse practitioner.

“At the end of the day, you’re still talking one-on-one. It’s just through a different portal,” said Dehn, who began her television career as a health expert on the Orlando-based show “iVillage Live.”

Dehn noted that her ability to listen and offer helpful advice has always come naturally. Seeing her mother struggle with breast cancer, she added, helped shape her communication skills as a medical professional.

“I saw that communication with her health-care providers was the linchpin,” Dehn said. “It was crucial in how family members, but especially my mother, improved or didn’t.”

Jess Ponce, executive producer for “Nurse Barb’s Daily Dose,” said Dehn’s laid-back personality and inviting demeanor encourage viewers and patients alike to open up and discuss their health issues.

“She gives you a sense of credibility and confidence when you speak to her,” said Ponce, who hopes to eventually make the five-minute segments a weekly occurrence on KPIX. “A lot of people are friendly and approachable, but she’s got an uncanny sensibility where people want to tell her their life stories the moment they meet her.”

Television personality aside, Dehn takes on several other roles, including her day job working at the Women Physicians GYN Medical Group.

She also founded Blue Orchid Press, which creates easy-to-read women’s health guides addressing topics such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Dehn said the idea of creating a compact, foldout guide came to her while reading a street map.

“One day, I was looking at a foldout map of Washington, D.C., and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can take all of my pregnancy information and do this,’” she said. “What I realized was that people need actionable health education. It had to be something they could really use.”

In addition, she posts her own medical advice blog, also titled “Nurse Barb’s Daily Dose,” where she dispenses weekly advice on a wide range of women’s health topics. Dehn said she started the blog as a way to communicate with viewers, who flooded her email with medical questions after television appearances.

“Everything she does is all about educating people,” said Ponce, who has worked with Dehn for more than two years. “It’s about informing people and empowering people. … She breaks it down in a way that is easy.”

When not doling out medical advice on TV or through her blog, Dehn enjoys spending time with her husband, John, and 15-year-old son Giancarlo. Dehn said despite the demands on her time, her family always comes first.

“I do try to schedule things so I can be a mother to a teenager,” Dehn said with a chuckle. “I really learned that there’s only so much one person can do. My priority is my family. I try to make sure that I don’t say yes to too many things.”

One common thread in all of Dehn’s roles, Ponce noted, is the satisfaction she gets from helping others.

“I think there’s a release that she gets personally by being of service to other people,” he said.

Regardless of the setting, Dehn added, the bottom line is her ability to communicate effectively with others in need of advice.

“It’s all about connecting with people, whether it’s one-on-one or a group of 200,” she said. “I honestly find as much satisfaction working one-on-one with a teenage girl (who) has self-esteem issues as I do from being on television and helping lots of people.”

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