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VillageMD’s marketing chief shares thinking behind dystopian ‘factory’ ad

Oct 30, 2023 2:08:27 PM | News VillageMD’s marketing chief shares thinking behind dystopian ‘factory’ ad

Jack interviews VillageMD’s marketing chief and the comms chief for the American College of Surgeons about their recent ad campaigns. Plus, policy updates and our Trends segment.

VillageMD’s Ellen Donahue-Dalton and American College of Surgeons’ Brian Edwards discuss recent ad campaigns, and their vision for fixing what ails primary care, with Jack O’Brien. Lecia Bushak discusses a landmark marijuana financing bill advancing in the Senate and what it could mean for that industry. And TikTok’s “bone-smashing” trend tops our Trends segment, along with Netflix’s Big Vape docuseries and olympian Mary Lou Retton’s recovery from pneumonia. Music by Sixieme Son.

Hey, it’s Marc…

You’ve seen the ads – maybe even created some of them:

Commercials with the old, tired themes of care and friendly doctors and nurses with smiling faces.

However, the reality that most older adults who manage chronic illness now face couldn’t be any further from those themes. 

So says primary care provider VillageMD.

An ad the company is currently running – called FACTORY – depicts clinicians literally getting ripped away from important interactions with patients because of the schedule that they have to follow.’

It’s part of a new campaign dubbed New Way to Well that implies V/MD patients enjoy 24/7 access to their provider and care team 

However It comes amid a national clinician shortage and widespread physician burnout – begging the question – is V/MD just trying to get on patients good side, or can it really save them from that corporate version of the American h/c system many of us have come to resent.

This week on the podcast, my colleague Jack O’Brien explores the state of healthcare through the lens of two provider marketing campaigns:

The aforementioned VillageMD ad, as described by its chief marketing officer, Ellen Donahue-Dalton. 

And the second effort – by the American College of Surgeons – is dubbed the Power of Quality – and as its name implies – the campaign is designed to highlight the physician group’s newer quality certification program for surgical centers and facilities – which ACS says patients prefer over the older U.S. News + World report certification when deciding where to go for medical procedures. Brian Edwards, ACS chief of external communications, joins Jack to tell us about the effort.

And Lecia’s here with a health policy update.

Hey Marc, today I’ll discuss a landmark marijuana financing bill that advanced in the Senate this month, which would give the marijuana industry the ability to secure funding from banks as opposed to relying only on cash business.

And Jack, what’s trending in healthcare this week?

This week, we’re talking about Mary Lou Retton’s recovery from a rare type of pneumonia, TikTok’s ‘bone-smashing’ trend and Netflix’s Big Vape docuseries about Juul.


and welcome to the mmm podcast. My name is Jack O’Brien. I’m the digital editor at mmm. I’m pleased to be joined today by Ellen Donahue Dalton the chief marketing officer at Village MD Ellen. How are you doing today?

I’m well Jack. How are you?

I’m doing great. And I’m so happy that you’re on the show. I know a couple weeks ago you spoke with my colleague John Newton about the new way to well campaign. I really wanted to focus our conversation today on kind of exploring the campaign what went into it best practices for the marketers in our audience. And if you can just start there, you know how this all come to be. I know that certainly made some Ripple effects across the industry as the ads have rolled out.

Jack it was really important for us.

To understand that many Americans who are over 63 years of age today.

Have views of the healthcare industry and their experience that include lack of accessibility lack of availability.

lack of personalized care and lack of navigation ability across complex silos

and as a primary care provider.

Not exclusively serving seniors, but helping many seniors manage chronic conditions. We realized that we needed to have a new way for people to feel and to be as well as they could we had to move away from the old tired themes of care and you know, friendly doctors and friendly nurses faces smiling when the reality that most older adults face now could not be any further from those


and we had to break through. So the new way to well was our way to create a unique compelling and distinctive offer

and could you talk about those thematic elements because I talked to marketers and Healthcare leaders so often they talk about what you have described that kind of traditional, you know Trope that we see in you know for our audience farm and biotech Brands but also in healthcare Brands too where it’s big sunshines and

Rainbow and oh your doctors taking care of you and the nurse has a smile and this just goes the complete other direction. I think that’s what makes it so gripping.

So the new way to well.

Features The Dilemma that our doctor’s nurses and apps and other specialty providers like pharmacists feel every day. And that is they are ripped away from important interactions with patients because of the schedule that they have to follow they don’t have the information that they need. They aren’t able to coordinate care in the way that they need and we knew that to create this new perspective on the part of our important patience that we needed to be able to demonstrate the fact that our providers were in their Court as well. And that really the new way to well was based upon a relationship between a provider a care team and the patient in which there was availability there was accessibility 24 by 7 virtually in the clinic or practice at

Home if you need it there right there was that availability there was care coordination to True care coordination for people who manage complex conditions of availability of other high quality referral specialists.

The fact that with the new way to well your provider and you the patient can sit down with a pharmacist and work through your medications understand where some contraindications might be understand where maybe some are creating symptoms. So you’ve stopped taking them or perhaps they’re no longer affordable. So you’ve stopped taking them right? You can have real conversations with a dedicated informed care team in a way that again keeps you on the best path to be well

and can you talk about that as a differentiator again kind of going to the theme of The Campaign? I’m sure there are plenty of other provider organizations that you compete with that probably take a more. I don’t want to say light-hearted approach, but they certainly are gonna go with the happy smiling thing. Whereas whereas you are again underscoring the kind of flaws and shortcomings that our healthcare system has and


saying that our organization is looking to fill those in we understand you as a patient. We’re trying

Meet you where you are. I imagine that’s very powerful. When you go out marketing to reach patients who say finally someone understands what we’re going through

one of the things that we found Jack in our research.

Was that the primary care availability in this country was so strained and so many older adults managing one or multiple conditions. Simply no longer saw their primary care provider as really even relevant. They might see their oncologist or their cardiologist or their pulmonologist.

As the quarterback if you will of their care, but in fact, we know that Specialists are not.

Motivated or or organized to be able to provide true care coordination. They are specialists.

It’s really only your primary care provider who can and who should be responsible for that coordinating role.

And what we found was that our Primary Care Providers wanted to play that role, right? So if you open up the doors of availability and accessibility and if you bring in a patient who is in front of of the Care team at the appropriate regularity, then honestly, the next step is care coordination and care coordination. Can’t stop with one specialist. It can’t stop with one Hospital admit.

It’s kind of a 24 by 7 365 day a year.

thing for many of our patients and when we understood that that What patients wanted and what we were poised to be able to deliver in a new type of primary care we were able to bring all the forces together in the new way to well to make it that differentiated because other Health Systems may say that

like they agree with the concepts of availability and care coordination.

Village Medical has this opportunity to be uniquely differentiated to do that for its patients.

I appreciate you highlighting the importance of primary care in a past life. I used to write about hospitals and Health Systems. I remember even before covid-19. There was a big push to say Primary Care really has to be the backbone of where we’re going to see a revised and revitalized healthcare system in this country. And I’m I think that that’s probably the case with this ad campaign is going to patients and saying like, hey, it’s not just the cardiologists that you see or the pulmonologist or anybody else. It really is the people that are got that have a fundamental wholesale understanding of your health and I’m wondering what the response has been thus far whether from patients or hcps in terms of this campaign’s rollout.

Our providers love it. They love the fact that they are able to practice medicine in the way that they want to and that and then the way that they believed that they were educated and and trained for and what I would say is that those patients who are experiencing the new way to well and their personalized care plan called the stay well care plan, which is our clinical care model personalized for each individual patient those patients love it as well because those patients now understand the role of the provider. They understand the role of the Care team. They understand the fact that they have 24/7 access and availability to someone on that care team who has their information who knows their medical condition understands their medications knows that maybe they were just just you know, they’re in the hospital now or they were recently admitted Etc and

when patients feel that wrap around sense of trust and care and sort of

You know love right for them and their situation they return the failing to us in spades.

Yeah, it’s always good to be on the good side of patience, especially as more and more of them value the elements of consumerism where they can move from organization to organization. There. Is that kind of battle for brand loyalty if you will and to that end I wanted to you know talk to you about the fact that obviously you come from a provider organization on the marketing side a lot of our audience our primarily in the farm and biotech space, but obviously there are a lot of best practices that can be shared from your experience in healthcare marketing. What are some of the things that stand out most to you in terms of being able to reach patients and understand what they’re looking for and then being able to put together a campaign or educational materials around that

Well, I guess the first thing that I would say is that Healthcare is somewhat unique in that the bond of trust between the provider and therefore the institution around that provider and the patient is really where you need to start so you can’t really start with a campaign or a brochure or a tagline. You have to start with an understanding that that’s where the magic happens and for some patients. It has to happen often, right it has to be regular and it has to it has to surpass the traditional constructs of appointments physical interaction, right? It has to Encompass entire Journeys and relationships between patients and providers and the institutions and organizations that serve them so, you know every single

All macro data point in this industry points to trust right if patients can’t trust you to be there if they can’t trust you to answer the phone. If they can’t trust that you can handle and acute and a non-acute situation. If they can’t trust that you’re not going to send them information that is irrelevant to them like sending blood pressure information to a 23 year old which by the way happens if they can’t trust that you actually know them and are accessible to them and available to them and understand them then honestly all the all the marketing campaigns and everything and in the world is not going to to help the core understanding of consumer expectations, and they vary by consumer groups Etc the core understanding of those perspectives and then the the systemic systematic comprehensive work to

Build patient experiences that satisfy and Delight is really what Healthcare marketing has become all about and the new way to well.

Is it just the way to describe this new patient experience that were committed to

I appreciate you so succinctly outlining what I think we’ve seen a lot of research reports and surveys basically underscoring what you talk about when it comes to trust and being able to understand what a consumer or a patient’s expectations are when they’re interacting with the healthcare system and to that and I wanted to give you the final word in this conversation, you know, as we’re finally coming out of this emergency phase of the covid-19 pandemic and obviously we’re going into this sort of you know, it’s going to be coming up every single year in seasonal patterns things of that nature as we go into the kind of endemic phase of the pandemic where does Healthcare marketing go what are the lessons that have been learned from this time? And how can they be applied to make more effective campaigns or ad


you know, I I think one of the lessons that have been learned by individuals is that

the state of their health and their Wellness matters every day whether a pandemic is coming whether the flu season is particularly aggressive whether you have you know, seasonal allergies that then trigger a whole number of other conditions that the stronger you are the healthier you are the more you are committed to the management of your own health and that you are empowered to be able to demand the kind of care that you need that that is the person and that group of people is growing broader and broader and older right folks are living into their 90s their 100s, right that group of people is growing every single day and I think when populations undergo something is life changing as a pandemic

You come out of it and you realize look every day. I can take the right steps to being healthier and to being stronger in face of whatever whatever is is ahead of me and having good accessible high quality care that coordinates the complexity when I need help coordinating is part of my right as a consumer and as a citizen,

those are very powerful words Ellen. I really appreciate you being able to underscore obviously what it’s been so successful in this campaign, but also the universal themes that we’ve seen across the healthcare landscape and what that’s gonna mean in terms of Outreach to patients and consumers on that front. So I certainly wish you and Village MD the best going forward. Hopefully, there’s another campaign down the line that we’re able to analyze and dissect for our audience. We’d love to have you back on

the show.

That would be great check. I really appreciate having the opportunity today to share this with you.

I am pleased to be joined today by Brian Edwards, who is the chief of external Communications for the American

College of Surgeons Brian, how are you doing today? Doing great Jack. It’s a pleasure to be with you today. I appreciate you making the time to speak with me. I know our audience is usually used us talking with agency heads or people who work for Farm or biotech companies. Obviously ACS has a different mission in mind but still as part of the larger Healthcare ecosystem to start off. Can you give us a little lay of the land with what ACS does what your mission is that we can go into some more specifics around your power of quality campaign.

Absolutely. The American College of Surgeons is the largest professional organizations of surgeons in the world over 87,000 members. We’ve been around since 1913 and one of our Founders Franklin Martin really started it to help improve the quality of surgery improve the education of surgery of Surgeons so that they could get better at what they do in serving their patients and so quality and improving Healthcare quality has been our mission and a fundamental part of what we do since our founding we started out with our

Answer programs and our trauma programs in the 1920s. They both celebrated their 100th year anniversary last year and people know about this work because for example, everyone uses cancer staging language when they talk about, you know, what stage of cancer did you have that is from work from the American College of Surgeons?

When you speak about a very level one verified Trauma Center level one trauma center that is work done by the American College of Surgeons writing the trauma standards that are really governed and guide the trauma services and hospitals across the country. So and then a variety of different quality programs that we are involved in and which is led us to our power quality campaign. So the American College of Surgeons has really impacted Health Care significantly, including our quality work which led to the development of The Joint Commission, which your credit’s hospital so so much of what we’ve done has been rooted in quality and in improving the care of the surgical patient.

I I appreciate you detailing kind of the history of the organization. Also, it’s time with quality in terms of going through the issues surrounding quality and striving to have a better standardization and understanding of quality and to that end. Can you walk me through the power of quality campaign and maybe what are some of its goals down the line?

Yes, you’re absolutely one of the things we know the hospitals work every day to try and provide high quality care for patients and it’s tough hospitals are stretched in ways that they have not been stretched in years covid showed us that all the difficulties and challenges that hospitals have in providing quality and care. And so since we’ve done we’ve created more than a dozen quality programs. We wanted to be able to help hospitals promote their commitment to Quality. And so the power quality campaign is about helping hospitals get credit for the quality work that they’ve done to get credit for the work that they’re they are doing to improve surgical quality in there in their facilities and to help promote that with patients.

One of the things we know is that patients are looking for Quality. They want to go to a hospital that they know that they can get good surgical care. And so if they have to have their mother or father or sister or brother or grandmother or grandfather have surgery. We want them to be able to use the surgical quality partner Diamond, which is part of our power of quality campaign to identify a location that they know has been verified or accredited by the American College of Surgeons and then in going to that facility that’s been verified and they see that surgical quality partner Diamond. They know that they’re going to get high quality Care.

I want to go into some more specific questions surrounding the campaign itself and maybe how you’re measuring its success but going to the issue of quality for a second. I’m curious on your end. Obviously since you have so much experience in your interacting with these industry stakeholders. So frequently, what are some of the more misunderstood aspects of quality when it comes into the conversation because I think a lot of people in their mind are probably like, you know, we we check these boxes we get these good surveys or reviews. We’re pretty set in quality, but I know it’s a lot deeper than that, too.

Absolutely. That’s a great question Jack. What are the things about quality that is is so challenging is that people think that they know what it looks like and they see but it’s like how are they measuring it? How are they assessing it? And so what our quality programs do is they come in first with setting very high standards. These are the standards that you need to meet to ensure that you’re doing your absolute best to deliver quality program. Then you need to be able to use data to evaluate that are we in fact hitting these standards and what are the processes that we have in place to to create the conditions to meet these standards and to generate the data to do that. And then once we do that then we verify it. Did we in fact meet our Mark? So for example, let’s just talk about a couple of quality programs. One of our quality programs is our geriatric surgery verification program one of our newer programs and it’s designed around here for the older adult and what we know about older adults is is that there are oftentimes or quality of life issues and and patience.

And older they’ll still get the communications that they need to make decisions about the care that they have. So in our standards we decide we Define how those conversations should go they for example we talk about

A shared decision making with patients in their caregivers and their families to decide is it right? Maybe they don’t even have need to have surgery. But if it’s a right to have surgery, what are the kinds of quality of life issues that they need to look at? For example, are they looking at prolonging life looking at preserving a function or Independence? Can I go to my grandson’s wedding? You know, can I resume pickleball all these kinds of conversations and so many times surgical questions were around is, you know, just to fix it mentality get in there and fix it and not think about the actual quality of life. Well what these standards do is they Foster those conversations and require those conversations. So you’re having that conversation with the caregiver and the patience to make the best decision, you know, in addition. It’s pre-screening. What is the risk that patient may have for delirium delirium affect in a brief in a previous studying around 2008. There was a statistics this show the 2.6 million patients had delirium after surgery costing Health Systems a hundred

64 million dollars a year. And and so the question is around. What are you doing to kind of prevent delirium? If you can prevent delirium, then you can reduce the hospital stay. So you’re improving the quality of life for that patient. You’re improving the hospital performance by not having as many having patients stay there longer than they need to be and you’re and you’re creating conditions for optimal patient care. So these are some of the real world implications of like the geriatric program that will be helpful for hospitals to be able to use and so for our perspective what we want you to do if you need to have surgery and for your grandparent or your mother or an uncle

We want you to go to facility that has a surgical of the geriatric surgical verification Diamond to show that you have the surgical that surgical quality that you know, is that that location has been verified by the American College of Surgeons and that you can get high quality Care there because for

your relative

and so going back to the campaign based on everything that you just said there what has the launch of the campaign been like in terms of reception by your target audience and I know it’s a three-year initiative a lot of our marketers that are in our audience probably are used to maybe shorter term initiatives why three years for this one? And how are you measuring a sort of success as it relates to this campaign?

Yeah, one of the things that we did is we listen to our Hospital Partners, right? We want them to be able to get maximum value out of their verification or accreditation. So what we designed is a whole Suite of marketing materials that hospitals can use right off the shelf to promote their status as an American College of surgeon surgical quality partner. That’s everything from social media cards.

To digital Banners To physical banners to search the quality plaques to advertisements and magazines web banners all the content and we’re providing all that content to hospitals for free. So all they have to do is be able to download that and be able and add their logo to it and then they can use it and we thought it was that was would be helpful because we know Hospital Marketing departments are stretched. They are under they have so many demands on them.

So we wanted to make it easy for them. And so we’re not requiring any licensing fee for using these materials because we want to help them get the most out of their investment in quality and to be able to promote that and so one of the things that we learned was patients want this information, but we did a survey to to talk to patients who were either going to have surgery that year or a real loved one was going to have surgery that year and we asked them what would help them make a decision about where they wanted to go to have surgery. Would it be American college research and surgeon quality partner Mark or maybe the US News and we’re report marketing materials and 54 55% of patients. Wanted to go to an American College of search and verified Center versus 34% for us news and we know hospitals use us news and World Report rankings. They use that’s it’s a common and has been used for years. It’s a common thing that people can use to think of. Oh, yeah. I see you US News Banner. Okay, their top 10 for this or top 100 for that or

You know top Breast Center or top colon cancer center and those give the customer and the patient some modicum of like okay, they must be pretty good here what they do. And so but what we do is by using this diamond and and the fact that we’re starting out with 55% of patients saying I want to go there.

They know that they’ve got the reputation of the American cognitive surgeons behind them.

They know that we’ve come in and reviewed and verified or accredited that Center and they know that they can get good quality Care there. So we think that’s going to be very helpful for hospitals to be able to use this material to promote it. So we’re just getting the materials out into the wild. So to speak out it’s all the hospitals that are in our programs and sharing it with new hospitals that you know, not yet participating in our quality programs to help them learn about the 13 different accreditation verification programs that we have and how that they can get involved and do this, but we think it’s gonna be a great distinguisher for hospitals to be able to showcase the fact that they are committed to Quality and finally get some real credit for all the things that they do every day to improve cervical quality.

Yeah, you bring up a lot of interesting points there obviously talking about how stretched thin a lot of Hospital Marketing departments are and I want to pick up on one of the latter points that you made which is talking about kind of going to maybe I won’t say the skeptical organizations, but obviously there are organizations that are very attached to their US News and World reports. I know that there have been some organizations this year that have distance to themselves or or abandon that as a measure of their success, but when you are talking to some of those organizations that may really favor that or those that you say maybe have no idea about the work that the ACs has done on the front related to Quality. What are those conversations like because I know that anytime that I’m talking with medical marketers and they’re rolling out a campaign that involves an education aspect. They usually say that’s one of the toughest things they have to do is to go to somebody and say here is the entire issue at hand. Here’s why it’s important. And here’s what you need to do about it.

Right? The US is a report rankings have been around forever and in my past life, I’ve worked in the education space as well. And so I’ve seen a lot of rankings growth on the school side.

The medical school side and for a hospitals and we know that hospitals who get good rankings, you know trumpet the the rankings and say hey, we’re we’re number X. We’re we’re great at this and we know the hospitals that don’t do so well or schools that don’t do so well say oh these rankings are deeply flawed because of X Y or Z data point data analysis because it’s hard to know exactly all the things that go into the mix and into the into the kitty. So to speak to when US News is doing their rankings the good news about what we’re doing is that we’ve got a very clear verification and accreditation process where we have teams of Surgeons that come into a hospital after they’ve applied and submitted all their materials we go in and verify we go in and ask questions we go in and kick the tires we go into see hey is this really happening as the way in the way that you say it happening?

And if it is and they meet those standards and they pass out a Critic accreditation or verification visit they get the surgical quality partner diamond and they get that accreditation and then we want them to be able to say to the community. Hey, look we have passed this incredibly rigorous test and we are ready to serve you in this way because we know we’ve met these standards. So it’s something that will take time to get out there and education space and I think the fact that 55% of patients say they are they’re inclined to go with a facility and institution that has our surgical quality partner diamond is a great persuasive point with Hospital Marketing departments because they know they they have to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. There’s so many things now competing for attention and they want to be able to say hey we are good at this and we can take care of your needs and we want to give them the tools to be able to do that in the surgery space.

Yeah, obviously any sort of Provider organizations are gonna look at where the majority of patients have a preference and say that’s probably the lane that we want to go down going forward Brian. I’ve really enjoyed having you on the show here and being able to discuss everything related to ACS in this campaign. Obviously, you’re a veteran when it comes to being in the healthcare marketing space. I want to know if there’s anything else that you would pass along to our audience of medical marketers, even those who may not be working in the provider space as it relates to, you know, reaching and understanding patients launching campaigns things of

that nature. Yeah. I think it all goes back to down to what’s in it for me, right? That’s what the patient it’s so much harder to reach patients nowadays. I’m an old reporter from my oldest days and it was easy back in the day because there were a couple of newspapers and three TV stations. Now, you’ve got your inundated with social media hitting you in every aspect of your life. You’ve got ads coming at you a million different ways on all your devices and so you have to really be able to quickly cut through that.

And get into the what’s in it for me and that’s why what we want to do to give to hospitals is we want to give them the easy toolkits, you know with like for example with the geriatric program so that when they hear that information about hey, this is I I can use this I can use this to say this is why we’re better for older adult care because we do these things to make sure that you’re getting the right care and so you have to cut through a quickly. And what we want to do is make it easy for Hospital marketers to do that. That’s what we’re providing a wealth of a free assets and materials to do that and they can provide that and get that information and they can download it. It’s ready. It’ll be ready to go and easy to get to so and folks can look on our site for more information about the quality campaign at facs.org/quality. That’s facts.org/quality. They can email for information at sqp at facs.org. That’s surgical quality partner sqp at facs.org. It will get information to them and be able to help them communicate all the good work that

Are doing in the quality space to their patients.

Awesome. Well Brian again, really appreciate you being on the show to outline this campaign the work that your organization is doing around quality and allowing me to have a little stroll down memory lane as it relates to hospitals and marketing too. I really appreciate it. Absolutely Jack. We’re always happy to share our information with you and

and all the folks that listen to your podcast and we look forward to getting the word out there about the surgical quality partner, Mark and and getting that out there to all hospitals.

Health policy update with Lecia Busak.

A marijuana bill that some are calling “landmark” legislation advanced in the Senate last week, signaling a potential step forward in allowing the marijuana industry to secure access to banking services and expanding into a bigger market.

This month, a group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act, which would give legal protection to banks and other financial institutions that are linked to marijuana services that are legal in certain states.

The bill would allow legal cannabis businesses to have access to bank accounts and small business loans.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley noted in a statement that the bill’s passage in the Senate Banking Committee was a “historic moment.” Merkley said the bill was designed to end the so-called cannabis cash economy, and argued it would help improve public safety.

He added that, “Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities; it’s an open invitation to robberies, muggings, money laundering and organized crime.”

39 states have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medical use, though its federal status as a Schedule I substance has hampered the industry’s ability to scale to a bigger market. Cannibis businesses are now currently reliant on using cash.

Still, while the bill had bipartisan support in the Senate Banking Committee, it will face significant hurdles through its journey to pass the Republican-controlled House. I’m Lecia Bushak, Senior Reporter at MM+M.

And this is the part of the broadcast when we welcome Jack O’Brien to tell us what’s trending on healthcare social media.

Hey Marc, before we start the episode, I want to send our collective best wishes to the family of Suzanne Somers. The actress passed away over the weekend at the age of 76 following a five-decade battle with breast cancer.

We start today with the news that Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton is making ‘remarkable’ progress fighting a rare form of pneumonia.

The infection left the 55-year-old gymnastic icon fighting for her life, according to her daughter, who has been posting updates on social media.

“Prayers have been felt and have been answered,” her daughter wrote in an Instagram post. “Although she remains in the ICU, her path to recovery is steadily unfolding. Her fighting spirit is truly shining!

Many in our audience may recall that Retton won the gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, earning the adoration of millions and the nickname of “America’s Sweetheart.”

Of note, a fundraising page set up by the family has already exceeded $400,000 in donations.

Obviously, you know a well known part of American culture certainly sporting culture and retin and it’s a very promising to at least see that she’s recovering like this still scary that somebody you know with her physique and her background is suffering from this at the age of 55, which really is not that old in comparison. I think a lot the celebrity health conditions that we write in report about

it is heartwarming the news that she’s doing better. And yes, she’s she’s so young to be stricken with such a serious illness, but if it can happen to her it’s you know, kind of a warning sign, you know, not that you know, there was anything necessarily preventable here. I’m not sure how she actually got

pneumonia was that did that come out of the story Jack not that I’ve seen it any of the reporting. I think that’s gonna be you know, something that probably unfolds the next few days is how she can attracted it. Obviously it’s not necessarily something that people go out of their way in terms of risk factors to get but

One other thing that stuck at me in the story it was the last thing I included in there is the fundraising link. I think it kind of speaks to what we’ve talked about in the show before this kind of GoFundMe effication of healthcare where even somebody like Mary Lou Retton new has a gold medal still has to raise money to be able to you know afford ICU care and something as dangerous as deadly as this kind of eye-opening and that sort of way. Yeah. That was also

pretty surprising right, you know, it’s a does every you know person battling, you know, a serious illness need to open up a GoFundMe page, you know, when they have, you know, ostensibly private private health insurance, but you know as a kid growing up and not I can’t say that I can specifically recall, you know vividly, you know, her gold medal and 84 but certainly, you know, her her representing this the sport. She was the face of the sport. She made she made us proud, you know of you know, the Olympic team and you know, she’s I think a, you know a commentator for all those

So it’s it’s good to see that she’s on the mend.

and relevant to sort of bring that up. Now, even though you know, we don’t know what caused her severe case of pneumonia but as we are entering flu and cold season, we do know that flu can be a common cause of developing pneumonia according to the American Lung Association particularly among younger children, the elderly or other is with certain chronic health conditions, maybe more likely to develop pneumonia if they do catch the flu. So just another reminder to stay safe as we enter the flu and cold season.


It all started with “mewing,” a trend that involved people keeping their tongues at the roof of their mouths in order to make their jawlines sharper. Now it has moved on to bone-smashing.

The trend involves young men hitting their faces with a hammer or their fists in order to “chisel” their facial structure. While many observers believe the trend shouldn’t be taken seriously, others seem to genuinely believe that repeatedly hitting their faces to create small fractures can actually make them more aesthetically pleasing. Falls under this idea of “Looksmaxxing” online which involves making physical changes to your appearance (nose jobs, jaw implants, etc).

Videos labeled with the #bonesmashing hashtag have already racked up hundreds of millions of views. 

Bone-smashing only gained traction on TikTok during the last year or two, with the first videos appearing in 2022 and going viral earlier this year. Now that the trend has established itself on TikTok, of course, the reaction videos have followed. Many recent bone-smashing videos mock the practice rather than espouse it. The hashtag has now reached a state like many other hashtags on TikTok, where the videos often toe the line of being half-serious and just trolling at this point.

So we’re now kind of in that in between state where like everyone is kind of in on the joke while they’re still remain some people who I think are genuinely trying this in hopes of quote looks maxing

looks maxing. I love it yet another tiktok Beauty Trend here with serious health ramifications. And you know as you point out actually these are there’s a rolling out quite often and you know one has to wonder you know, why why is this and whatever stop, you know, the times that are really interesting article last week. Maybe you want some people saw it in the audience. It was on Mental Health influencers, but it kind of deconstructs that whole dynamic, you know, where you have so is this the Surgeon General has described the mental health

Young people in America as the defining Public Health crisis of our time and for this vulnerable hard to reach population social media serves as their primary source of information where they getting it tiktok Instagram YouTube and who are The Gatekeepers? That’s the creators, you know, some look like their audience others are professional psychologist psychiatrists that just do this as a side gig but there’s very little oversight to know oversight and as the times pointed out now a team of Harvard researchers has selected a group of mental health influencers to try and inject accurate information into their posts. So I was thinking maybe mental health can be improving ground in a platform for that model for mitigating this information going viral on social for other therapeutic areas. And as you pointed out election interview with Austin Lee Chang that’s running on our site now that you interviewed in Vegas, there’s certainly no shortage of areas where we need better info and health. So, you know, those beauty and cosmetic trends that have to do with makeup haircuts clothing styles. Those are innocuous enough, but others like this,

This bone smashing Trend can be downright dangerous and you know in my own admittedly conservative opinion, it’s not worth the risk of permanent facial disfigurement because as you saw some, you know attractive person with a lot of followers seemingly inducing many fractures along their jawline, but the Times article gave me hope

yeah, I’m glad you brought up that article mark because I thought it was a very interesting experiment that Harvard researchers wanted to do with some of these influencers to see if they could get some of these people to speak about some of the research that they’ve been doing and these evidence-based things that the researchers want to get out there. But I do think that that article is a sign that the research and science Community is no longer dismissing Health influencers on tiktok as sort of being quacks or like just pure spouts of misinformation. They’re actually saying wow, we see the power that you have over your audiences and we want to tap into that. So they’re starting to kind of see if

Can leverage them or partner with them? So I think it’s an interesting development.

Absolutely Jack you went away in on this one.

Yeah, I want I want to take our listeners behind the game here because as Lesha was detailing what bone smashing is and the various examples that she found on tiktok are producer fits was visibly cringing and putting a palm over his face for understandable reasons because I think we both share the same sentiment that Mark put so eloquently that this is dumb and a bad idea. Yeah. I think we’ve have We Lost Society. Is that what’s going on here? That’s what it does. Just what it feels. Like. I don’t know. It’s just of all the ways to try and sculpt your face to you know, fit whatever aesthetic you’re going for the Seems like by far one of the more bizarre and to Mark’s Point permanently disfiguring. I I truly it doesn’t even take that much common sense to go down the logic tree and say oh this is maybe not a good idea. But again, I think less it makes an important point where yes, there are probably a handful people.

People that do genuinely and sincerely ascribe to this but then there are plenty of other people that are just trolling and I saw some of the videos that she included in her article of people, you know with the biggest hammer you’ve ever seen about to bring it to their face and they’re obviously not meaning it seriously, but it does point out just the Ridiculousness of this. I don’t know other way to put it. Yeah and

Jack, you know to that point I was troubled by the same thing like who is gonna be falling for this who’s that vulnerable person who’s doesn’t have you know, the wherewithal the common sense stakehold as we call it and Yiddish and you know, the young people in this country is the times pointed out are going through a mental health crisis. They’re they’re vulnerable. They’re you know, they’re the ones who are falling for this unfortunately. And so they’re the audience we gotta be concerned about maybe in a few years, they’ll they’ll be grizzled veterans like myself.

But until then, you know, we got to kind of look at for our young people speaking of which that’s a good transition.

Whatever happened to Juul?

Sure, millions of Americans still vape. But what became of the company that was synonymous with the widely established alternative to smoking?

In Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul, Netflix seeks to answer that question. Released last week, the four-part docuseries has quickly become one of the streaming giant’s most-watched shows.

While Big Vape taps several of the all-too-familiar dramatic tropes — ambitious leaders undone by hubris and greed — the series reveals that the true culprit in Juul’s undoing was the company’s marketing practices.

From its origin as a Stanford University-based startup seeking to disrupt the $90 billion per year tobacco industry to its evolution into a nearly $40 billion colossus, Juul advertised early and often. The company’s initial mission was noble: To help transition smokers to a less harmful e-cigarette or vape and, in the process, address one of the most challenging public health threats of the past half-century.

Big Vape points to the “move fast and break things” mindset as a major contributor to Juul’s downfall. But ultimately it was the company’s decision to market an addictive product to children that ended its brief run.

Mark, I know that you’ve certainly been following the issue for a number of years. I wanted to bring you in and then unless you as well, I wanted to hear your thoughts after Mark goes in terms of you know, how the marketing aspect really plays into the whole vaping thing. You know, I didn’t catch the the series yet Jack

but you know, you bring up a great point and you know, I remember, you know, in terms of Vapes and e-cigs, you know, a couple of years ago the FDA tried to this in a related, you know move, you know, regulatory move. They try to you know, make efforts to ban menthol cigarettes and they got a lot of pushback, you know from African-American communities, you know where you know, the bulk of these are soul and so, you know, even the FDA has been, you know had trouble, you know, regulating.

Area and you know e-cigarettes and and Vapes are no exception, you know, there’s still you know, they can’t keep up possibly with the flood of these products, you know, illegally coming in from China now and although they’ve done their best to undermine Jewels marketing ability, you know, like you said with some of the flavored Vapes and appealing to kids and following the big tobacco Playbook that got you know, a lot of America hooked on Tobacco for so many years. So, you know, it’s it’s sounds like an interesting watch and it’s in that same vein. Yeah of the hubris of you know, the big corporate Executives trying to you know, sell America on something of you know, dubious health benefits in this case. It’s better than from what I’ve heard. It’s better than smoking but it’s still nicotine is still highly addictive and it does have health drawbacks.

Yeah, I believe that was part of their Jack correct me if I’m wrong, but part of Jewel and other e-cigarette Mak.

Is marketing is basically saying well, these are safer than cigarettes. It’ll help you kind of wean yourself off the worst tobacco and cigarette addiction and I believe that was kind of part of their their play with with marketing these as well, but I I want to bring tiktok back into this actually because I feel like tiktok has sort of taken out a life of its own in marketing these products to kids without Jewel or elf bars or anything even trying to Market them because you’ll if you search elf bar and tiktok, you’ll just see so many viral videos with like millions and millions of views and likes of kids trying different elf bars and being like Oh, I got this new flavor. I really want to try it. You should try and everyone in the comments asking where they got them or we’re kind of flavors the best and like you’ll you’ll see there’s a whole community on tiktok of kids basically trying all these different e-cigarette flavors and Brands and everything. So it’s like the marketing is happening on

Attack even without the company necessarily putting ads on tiktok. So I think that’s also an interesting aspect of this.

Yeah, Russia highlights an important aspect of the marketing strategy which even Jewel acknowledged in the docu series some of the members of the organization of the interview that it was originally word of mouth and samples and then it was leveraging in a very highly coordinated and curated way social media influencers a major cities like New York, Los Angeles San Francisco and really trying to make it the cool kids are using this. So why aren’t you using it? And that point is not lost in the fact that you know in 2016 when it really entered the mainstream you have kids doing the jewelpod challenge and they’re you know, putting three Jewel pods in their mouth that wants to see how much they can bring into their lungs and obviously that again is problematic for an adult but when it’s a 14 year old child and the whole goal as they stipulate in the documentary for a big tobacco companies was to get your users as young as you can because then you haven’t for a

Time and you’ll ultimately which had a steak taken out by Altria the former Philip Morris company.

Did the exact same thing in terms of saying if we can get these consumers young enough? We will have them for life. And one thing I just want to bring up just to kind of bring a finer point to this is that in the summer of 2019 they go through a very well in the docky series. There’s a number of vaping related illnesses that some in our audience may recall teenagers ending up in the hospitals with severe lung issues and really scary stuff. That wasn’t Jewel they go through them the documentary about that wasn’t Jewel that was primarily kids getting Black Market Vapes and E-cigarettes with who knows what in them and then ingesting them and that was causing the issues but Jewel had so almost too effectively marketed itself as the lead Vape that every new story involved, you know, some sort of Jewel pod or the company logo or something like that and they couldn’t escape their own oversaturation. So once we became an issue and they’re trying to push back and say no no ours are fine and young people aren’t using them and X Y and Z. No, there was no public trust to rely back on which I think is an important thing for

Marketers our audience understand is that you can promote your Brands you can get them in front of the public. You can have people a lot of people aware of them. But when it hits the fan, you know, you have to be ready for those repercussions, even if you didn’t do anything wrong that people are gonna point to your brand and say nope. They’re part of the problem and we don’t trust them enough to fix it. That’s a great

Point check. Yeah, when you’re you know, the leading brand in the market and anything you do all roads lead back to your brand

and you just to correct something. I think I said earlier that I think it was speaking at a turn that the FDA did recall Jewel but then they walk back on the recall. Yeah do another review of the product so they haven’t even really, you know done a good job, you know regulating the lead dog in this fight, but I’m so glad you know, maybe maybe just to put a final point on this discussion that they’re someone tackled this as a doc you series because I’m sure myself I’m not alone in a lot of parents out there and trying to you know, educate our kids our young people.

Going to look after them on the dangers of Vapes and vape related illness and those kinds of things and this as you point out yet goes into all that and then the sorted underbelly and what they’re not telling you, you know that Altria as you said made a big investment here and it’s a for-profit company. Okay gonna bring this one to a close.

Marc: Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of the MM+M Podcast. Be sure to listen to next week’s episode when we’ll be joined by AstraZeneca’s Arun Krishna.