By Mike Kinosian
Several candidates eschewed the word “campaign” in favor of “movement.”
That particular word – “movement” – is actually an appropriate way to assess the attitude enveloping a three-hour, weeknight health and wellness program, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
A broadcasting neophyte prior to the program’s May 2006 debut, the “On Call” host has benefitted immeasurably from the magnanimous unselfish guidance of a fellow Tennessean, who is certainly no stranger to the talk radio world.
One for every 10,000
Genuine desire to help people has always been paramount to Dr. Asa Andrew but up until roughly a decade ago, the Nashville native known professionally as “Dr. Asa – America’s Health Coach” was blissfully unaware of radio’s elementary basics.
While attending a conference, he met radio-television personality-financial author-motivational speaker Dave Ramsey and it has become an extremely fortuitous connection. “Dave is exactly what [you hear on radio and see on television] – he is full of integrity,” Dr. Asa remarks. “If he believes in you, he will make things happen.”
Becoming a major media personality or “the next Rush Limbaugh” was hardly the aspiration of Dr. Asa, although he quizzed Ramsey about the competitive climate as it related to a health talk, radio show. “I asked what he thought about such a common sense-based program that would help people get to the next level in their life,” Dr. Asa recollects. “Dave looked at me and said that is what he does on the radio [in terms of a person’s money issues]. His team got behind me and helped to get the show on the air at Cumulus Nashville.”
Forever (negatively) etched in Dr. Asa’s memory is April 28, 2006, the date on which his dad passed away of cancer; the following day, he was contacted by Cumulus Nashville, a communication instigated by Ramsey.
Station executives wanted Dr. Asa to do a once-weekly program and proposed launching it on Memorial Day weekend. “It was slotted one hour on Sunday at 11:00 pm – the least-listened-to time in radio,” laments Dr. Asa, who monitored podcasts and various talk radio shows in an effort to understand the medium’s formatics. “I wrote 30 pages of notes along with the content for a one-hour show. Just as Dave is, I am a man of faith. It was when all six phone lines lit up within 20 seconds of my cheesy, two-minute intro that I knew this show was supposed to happen.”
For the entire hour, he found himself fielding question after question about diabetes; heart disease; and how to lose weight. “I got a call from the program director the next day asking if I could go to two hours,” Dr. Asa boasts. Six months later, cross-town Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) had a daily slot for him. “Within a year, I made the move from a weekend show to being syndicated and we took it from there,” details Dr. Asa, whose Nashville affiliate is WLAC, the same station carrying Ramsey, who in 2013, left his original flagship (WWTN-FM) after 20 years. “[‘On Call’] is a caller-driven show that started before Dr. Oz was doing anything other than guest spots with Oprah [Winfrey on her daytime television show].”
Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and neck/back pain are constant topics for Dr. Asa to address on his three-hour nightly InShape Network radio program. “The great thing is that, when you help one person, you are really helping 10,000 other listeners who have the same condition,” he affirms. “That is what I love about doing this show.”
Not caught up in alphabet soup
As assistant strength/conditioning coach for the Florida State University football team, Dr. Asa was part of the Seminoles’ 1993 national championship team. Health and fitness was always the FSU alum’s mainstay. “Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a doctor; I wanted to help people and see them live a better life,” he divulges. “I am literally living out what I wanted to do since I was a child. I did not know how things were going to play out and in what capacity I would be able to help people, but I knew I wanted to head down that path.”
Approximately 18 months into the radio show, a major turning point occurred in Dr. Asa’s broadcasting career and it coincided with his book, “Empowering Your Health” (Ramsey wrote the foreword), becoming a best-seller. “A caller told me that by applying principles in my book and the radio program, he was able to get off all his medications, which shocked his primary care physician,” Dr. Asa beams. “When I heard that call, I thought I was really helping people and it was so amazing. Outside of an office setting, this voice, this spoken-word was changing lives – I was so grateful. Ten years later, it feels exactly the same way. I will never get tired of that.”
Over and above being a medical doctor, Dr. Asa is a chiropractic physician; has a degree in naturopathic medicine; and is board-certified in nutrition.
Lifestyle medicine though is the field in which he specializes at his two clinics; a third is scheduled to be built this year in Florida. “That is really the thrust of my practice, what I teach, and the focus of my show,” he emphasizes. “It can get confusing with the different degrees but I am a physician who practices lifestyle medicine. I like keeping it very dialed-in from a branding perspective. I enjoy using the knowledge to help people and I really don’t care what letters come after my name. I worked very hard for all the degrees but, at the end of the day, I am not hung up with the titles. I am more interested in the knowledge to be able to make a person’s life better and [to ease] their struggles.”
Mirroring logistics set in place years earlier by mentor Ramsey, Dr. Asa self-syndicates his lifestyle medicine radio show and he accentuates, “I would not be where I am today without the support of Dave and his team. He has been in this business for 25 years and is as strong as ever.”
Others for whom Dr. Asa admires and/or have directly helped him in his endeavors include talk radio consultant Gabe Hobbs (“one of my closest friends who has believed in me since day one – he’s an amazing person”); Salem Media Group co-founders Stuart Epperson and Edward Atsinger; ABC News Radio vice president/general manager Steve Jones; Cumulus Media senior VP/content & programming Mike McVay; and on-air personalities Steve Harvey, and Sean Hannity.
Today’s on-air talents are afforded the opportunity of utilizing social media platforms and Dr. Asa advises, “You must have a multi-purpose vertical to reach people where they are. Dave Ramsey has figured it out and has done an amazing job at that. I am on social media every day and I hammer it. We post articles and videos five days a week, so we are all over it.”
Untapped revenue source
Internal research indicates Dr. Asa, who turns 45 next Tuesday (5/17), has a wide demographic appeal for his radio broadcasts that air on over 110 affiliates via his own studio in suburban Atlanta (Buckhead). “We are very strong 25 – 64, perhaps even 10 years older than that, and the [gender breakout] is pretty [evenly] split.”
Not only does Dr. Asa host a Monday – Friday 9:00 pm – 12:00 midnight radio show, he oversees a daily 10:30 am – 11:00 am syndicated television program seen in 300 markets reaching 65 million homes.
Steadfastly convinced lifestyle choices that people make each day can influence their health, “America’s Health Coach” explains the reason he studied what he did is to have a good grasp of traditional medicine, as well as the alternative side. “Bridging the two together can give great information to people,” he underscores. “Complementary medicine is an evidence-based model that uses nutrition and exercise to help a person get back to where [he or she needs] to be so their health is in order. I am a professional member of The American College of Lifestyle Medicine – and soon to be a fellow. It is birthed out of Harvard and has become the gold standard of the alternative in medicine. Lifestyle medicine is really the brand; that is what we teach and what we do in our clinics. My show is built around that and we bring in experts from the traditional side and the complementary side so we can convey those points-of-view to the listener. If it is ‘Heart Month,’ I might talk with a leading cardiologist, but we do not have guests on every show.”
Prominent on the Dr. Asa program is the tagline, “Diagnosing hope one person at a time” and the host’s only agenda is to help listeners. “I have always been a big believer that, if you serve people, and give them hope and practical help, you can impact their lives,” he declares. “Ratings and revenue will come if you do that with great programming. It is through a very conscious effort that we do not ‘hawk’ products or become an info-mercial. We have been successful because the show’s focus is our desire to help people, stations, and communities thrive.”
Although preferring not to share a list of his national advertisers, Dr. Asa gleefully points out the revenue component to his radio show is “very good” and that not many radio sales departments have tapped into the health space. “We always talk about car dealerships having money to spend on radio, but hospitals [are another key category for the medium]. They are so competitive in a market and [that sector] has become a great piece for us. It is a [coup if] one of four hospitals in a market can have a doctor with 15 hours of radio each week highlight [that facility’s] specialists and be its voice. From a revenue perspective, the show is wide open in a space where dollars had not been utilized. It is one thing for a plastic surgeon to run a commercial inside political talk radio where there are many listeners; however, it is another thing for a doctor to be pushing a plastic surgeon in a health-related show where everyone there is geared toward possibly doing something with that doctor.”
Advantages of living by the 90/10 rule
More often than not, three specific keys – Dr. Asa contends – will determine a person’s overall health and he relies heavily on such a three-tier approach. “It is the food you eat; the exercise you get; and it is the stress that you manage,” he strongly asserts. “That is pretty broad [yet] it is actually pretty simple. The root cause of 85% of most health challenges is in our lifestyle choices, whether it is in our environment, food supply, water supply, lack of activity, or being overly stressed. Someone with diabetes [for instance] needs to be eating whole foods – not processed foods; should be exercising five to six days a week; and managing stress.”
Therefore, genetics alone does not constitute one’s health. Any of those three other factors can bring along a breakdown of the body but Dr. Asa maintains, “There is hope for every person to get back their health.”
Questioning a mother’s wisdom is without doubt unthinkable. More to the point, moms everywhere are absolutely correct in their encouragement to eat vegetables – especially green ones – since Dr. Asa insists they are “super-foods” that can significantly aid one’s health.
Food cravings are a simple fact of life for most Americans. Proving he is not necessarily a killjoy when it comes to diet though, Dr. Asa teaches a 90/10 rule that suggests we eat wisely 90% of the time and do what we want the other 10%. Thus, splurging on pizza or even a greasy cheeseburger one time per week isn’t forbidden. “Cells in our body only have a life cycle of 90 – 120 days,” he cites. “There are no other raw materials to make cells.”
In other words, we decide if the cells will be good ones or bad ones by the food we ingest. “If you eat well 90% of the time with broccoli, fish, almonds, and sweet potatoes – the probability is very strong that you will have a healthy body,” Dr. Asa comments. “Having a pizza or a cheeseburger once a week will not cause cancer and you can knock out a piece of cheesecake once a week.”
Genuinely great news for anyone who feels “diet” denotes deprivation and Dr. Asa opines that while pizza, cheesecake, and cheeseburgers will taste great, the average person will actually not want them for another week. “I can eat chicken wings with the guys as we watch a football game, but I will be right back on the horse with my next meal of a broccoli and spinach salad. It is a lifestyle for me and I will never give it up [because] nothing tastes as good as feeling good.”
Not enough – or too much – of a good thing
Six hours of sleep each night is sufficient for some, but between seven and nine hours is what is recommended, and has become the average. “It just depends on your overall health,” proclaims Dr. Asa, whose nightly sleep regimen consistently falls in the six- to eight-hour range. “It takes forever for some people to fall asleep but I can do so immediately. I close my eyes and it is over. I never get less than six hours of sleep every night, but some other people can function very well on lower levels.”
Significant nugget, according to Dr. Asa, is that a fine line exists, as too much sleep “isn’t good for you.”
Managing stress – the third part of his lifestyle triangle – is typically easier said than done. “You have to figure out the source of stress – financial, relationship, work – and then cut right to finding a healthy outlet,” Dr. Asa states. “If a person is not getting enough rest, everything else is going to be haywire [because] rest is where everything begins. A healthy outlet could be sitting by the pool; taking a bike ride; walking on the beach; working out in a gym; or fishing. It is different for every person but it is not very hard.”
Luxury of having a radio and television presence results in Dr. Asa being “a cheerleader” to remind people to do relatively simple lifestyle things on a regular basis. “It is why Dave [Ramsey] has been so successful for 25 years. He could go another 100 years, but until people ‘get’ it [about their finances], he will continue to have a great audience. For me – until we are not 60% overweight as a country; until we are not riddled with cancer and heart disease; and until we can get our own choices under control every single day, there will always be a need to have someone encouraging you. That is who we are and that is what our show is all about – we are in the listeners’ corner.”
Health-related answer to Netflix
Up at the crack of dawn and going full speed until his radio show concludes, Dr. Asa performs without fail at a dizzying whirlwind pace. “On certain days, I see patients and I travel quite a bit for meetings to grow our company,” he confirms. “Depending on the day, we have television tapings and, no matter what, I’m in the radio studio for our 9:00 pm show.”
Practicing what he preaches, “America’s Health Coach” elects to manage stress by engaging in such activities as snowboarding, mountain biking, motorcycle riding, and fly-fishing.
Even though Dr. Asa hadn’t had previous media experience until 10 years ago, he always believed he had a gift of speech. “I have spoken to companies about health and wellness and in churches,” he acknowledges.
Providing community-based healthcare to families that cannot afford it, his non-profit organization Diagnosis Hope (DiagnosisHope.org) offers free health clinics. “It was amazing when I leveraged my media exposure to draw people to that,” Dr. Asa enthuses. “On one day, we saw 400 people who did not have health insurance. I rallied about 20 physicians to give up their time all day for free. We were able to make a tremendous difference in the lives of all those people. When we were done, I sat in the gymnasium that we were in and I had tears rolling down my cheeks.”
With a goal of empowering people to live an extraordinary life, Dr. Asa Andrew – listed at #93 on the 2016 TALKERS “Heavy Hundred” – is developing an all-digital, on-demand health network. “I am working on new content for other health shows that will feature trainers and dieticians,” he discloses. “It will be like Netflix but with shows that are all health-related. There are some weekend [health-oriented radio] shows, and [several other] doctors do daily shows but we dominate and are the largest health talk show in the country. No one else out there is near us in the radio space. We got in early, hit it hard, and we have great relationships. My plan is to have 500+ stations and be in TALKERS’ Top 10.
Contact TALKERS managing editor Mike Kinosian at Kinosian@TALKERS.com.