When we last checked in with WebMD chief medical officer Dr. John Whyte, he had just launched Coronavirus in Context with John Whyte. Since then, the WebMD video series has showcased interviews with everyone from Dr. Janet Woodcock to Padma Lakshmi – and, in the process, cemented Whyte’s place among health media’s most thoughtful commentators. It also helped land him a spot near the top of the 2020 MM+M/PRWeek Health Influencer 50.
On the eve of the publication of his first book, Take Control of Your Cancer Risk, Whyte weighs in on…
…writing his first book in large part during the pandemic. “It’s ironic, because we were all too busy during the pandemic, somehow. Being with family and loved ones really crystalized what really matters. So often people focus on wealth in the beginning of life, then later they focus on health – and sometimes that’s too late. You can’t get health back. So that got me thinking about how better information leads to better health, and that led me to start writing.”
…how Take Control of Your Cancer Risk differs from previous books on similar health- and wellness-related topics. “What I’m trying to do is get people to change their mindset from ‘I hope I don’t get cancer’ to ‘here’s what I can do to prevent cancer.’ Most of us don’t realize that only 30% of cancer risk is related to your genes; 70% of it is from your environment. In many ways, cancer is a preventable disease. The focus has to be on lifestyle changes.”
…on effecting those lifestyle changes. “It’s really easy to say ‘eat better’ and ‘exercise more.’ What you need to do is make it easy for people to make the right choices and for them to recognize that their health is largely the result of the choices they make over many years. You can have a piece of pizza now and then, but you can’t have it every day. It’s the cumulative daily choices that add up.”
…the approach he takes with his patients and how it has evolved during the pandemic. “I had a patient once who told me, ‘I don’t like water.’ At first, you’re like, ‘I’m not sure how I fix that.’ But when you start trying to educate them, you start getting some wins. You say, ‘Try going a week or two without whole milk or soda,’ because it’s not like people are pre-programmed to like whole milk and soda. It’s incremental. You have to help people learn those behaviors and approaches.”
…the personalities who have appeared on Coronavirus in Context, which debuted on March 19, 2020 with an appearance by then U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. “We got Dr. Fauci early in the pandemic when he wasn’t doing a lot of interviews. Deepak Chopra took me through a meditation. Arianna Huffington talked about how we thrive and what we can do to ensure happiness, which is not typically the health talk that’s out there. And with Tim Tebow, I know you hear, ‘Well, his message is too focused on religion,’ but then you listen to him and realize how genuine he is, how much of an impact he wants to make on society by addressing populations that are typically marginalized.”