By Jonathan Widran
In her ten years as an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist and owner of Central Eye Associates of Central New Jersey, Dr. Veronica Anderson built her practice of over 10,000 patients using a simple motto that can be interpreted either medically or metaphorically: “Good vision improves your outlook.”
The Newtown, Pennsylvania native, who completed her pre-med at Princeton, remembers the key moment when she was grateful that she had changed her career focus from OBGYN to her later surgical sub specialty. “One day I was taking out a cataract of a gentleman who was totally blind in the other eye and couldn’t see me at all,” she says. “He said, ‘Oh my God, you’re so beautiful, and you’re black woman, too! He had perfect vision in that eye and suddenly had a new lease on life. It was a fabulous day.”
Triumphant moments like that aside, Dr. Veronica realized shortly after launching her own practice at 31 that being an ophthalmologist wasn’t how she wanted to spend her whole life. She knew from the age of four that she was destined to be a doctor, and spent her whole adult life in a crazy whirlwind of college, med school and 100 hour work weeks—all while being married and raising young children. No one in med school taught her about the financial realities of building a business from scratch.
As her personal and office expenses rose, her only recourse was to raise fees and find more patients—but even then, her income was limited based on insurance payments. The clinical challenges and emotional toll proved heavy as she dealt with severe diseases. Dr. Veronica loved helping people but she felt trapped. She became clinically depressed.
Reaching a breaking point, she decided that the benefits simply didn’t outweigh the risks. She courageously let go of one lifelong dream to embrace another, leaving behind her marriage, mainstream religion and her career in clinical medicine. Dr. Veronica has now emerged as a smart outspoken, fun-loving voice for healthy living in a variety of media outlets. She applies her life experiences, knowledge of science and educational and medical background to help improve the lives of thousands of people in a different way.
As an entertaining, lively and provocative guest who pulls no punches, Dr. Veronica has appeared on national TV talk shows such as “Our World” with Neil Cavuto on Fox News Channel, the syndicated Live with Adam Carolla and The Playboy Channel, plus the syndicated radio program The Mancow Show. She also appeared on “Meet The Experts” with renowned book publicist Arielle Ford and on CNN with Nancy Grace as a medical commentator. Radio hosts across the U.S. love the way their phone lines light up as listeners clamor to hear more of her straight forward, practical, don’t play the victim philosophies. She also serves as host and guide for “Medicine Woman, Modern World,” a healthy living travel adventure series for the web.
Shortly after visiting Machu Picchu, Peru to debut her show with the theme of healthy living in places around the world, she launched “Wellness for the Real World with Dr. Veronica Anderson,” a spirited and provocative one hour radio interview program focused on personal wellness—in mind, body and spirit. Each week, she interviews timely guests, shares her thoughts on today’s most dynamic and often controversial issues and offers entries in three recurring categories: Food of the Week, Fits You To A “Tea” and The Veronica Report, a thumbs up/down take on Corporate America.
Dr. Veronica’s interactive show, which currently runs on blog talk radio (accessible from her website, www.drveronica.com, has covered everything from health care reform to sex (including tantric sex and why women fake orgasms, depression, weight, obesity and eating addictions and depression. Another interesting recent topic was “Women who want to be porn stars.” She has also featured a unique array of female guests: Australian writer Holly Hill, author of “Sugarbaby: A Mistress’ Account of Why Men Cheat” and expert on “negotiated fidelity”; Cheri Huber, who became a Buddhist monk in later life after becoming a grandmother; Jen Bilik, author (as “Knock Knock”) of “A Savvy Convert’s Guide To Choosing A Religion.” Her website features sections like Food and Nutrition, Fitness and Health, Mind and Spirit, Relations and Society, with articles penned by her and various guest journalists who have expertise on various topics.
“I show all different types of alternatives for people living lives that may work better for them, putting scientific concepts behind them,” says Dr. Veronica, who holds a black belt in taekwondo and has completed two marathons. “I think this message of wellness needs to be delivered by different voices and people, and needs to come from different sources and media outlets than Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz. Like them, I have the training and background but my style is very different. I got into radio as a ‘relationship expert’ who combined my medical expertise and study of psychology with my background as a counselor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, where I used to attend. My ex-husband and I helped found a marriage ministry and developed a popular Sunday School course on managing money according to Biblical principles. We always found that money troubles were symptomatic of larger problems. My hook was why smart women obey their husbands. I raised a ruckus when I got on the radio and declared that Hillary Clinton was a bad wife!”
Dr. Veronica tackles some of the most important psychological and physical issues of our time, including obesity (and its related diseases) and sexual abuse. Rather than allow those she interviews or her listeners to wallow in victimhood, she seeks to get to the root cause of the problems and figure out what can be done to stop them. She’ll either figure out how to stop the problems before they happen, or seek solutions to help people emerge triumphant from their personal darkness. Her background with glaucoma patients plays a role here in that diabetes—which is of course, prevalent in obese people—is one of the factors contributing to the eye disease.
“Too many Americans know how to be sick and play the victim, but don’t know how to be well,” Dr. Veronica says. “They need someone to show them how to be well. If I can show them how, and introduce them to people who are living proof of wellness, I think that is a great way to contribute to healthy minds and lives. People need counseling and good information. It’s okay that Jillian Michaels just says to run more, but they also need to talk to an MD who knows about medications, surgical options and even alternative approaches like chiropractics and acupuncture. I can talk about all this because I have lived the lifestyle and I can help people learn to integrate these things into their lives. I have always believed that if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and living your passion, it’s easy and going to flow.”
Dr. Veronica, who sees herself as a practitioner of “social media medicine,” is also a big believer in the Buddhist concept of learning from masters. If you want to learn about health and wellness, she says, you have to learn from someone who has been down that road and has an expertise to offer. “I tell people to look deeply at the lessons they can learn from the master at whatever they want to know more about,” she says. “If they want to embrace health and wellness, they need someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
Whether we’re talking about health and medicine, spirituality or ice skating, one of the hallmarks of the master is that these people learned from their own masters; they always have teachers and guides too, that help them tap into the answers which lie deep inside every one of us. One of the masters who played a significant role in Dr. Veronica’s life is LeGrand Green, a onetime producer of Oprah Winfrey’s show and a media consultant for Spirit Media Works.net who also worked as an independent producer. The two were friends back at Princeton and had lost touch, but she knew of his reputation and that he could help her develop a career in media. She tracked him down and hired him to assess her.
Green told her she had the “it” factor, that the camera loved her and best of all, she had the unique 21st century gift of being able to talk in sound bites. He gave her behind the scenes media training, helped her figure out her unique “hook” and created simulated Q and A scenarios to test her TV and radio skills.
“Part of getting unstuck from an unfulfilling life is cutting yourself off and leaving certain comfortable people, places and things behind,” Dr. Veronica says. “I brought to my future an impressive pedigree. I had a degree from Princeton, graduating with honors, residencies at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and New York’s Mt. Sinair Medical Center, and those ten years of practicing ophthalmology, which included being a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and being a diplomat of the American Board of Ophthalmology. Yet I still wondered, what am I going to do now? Are people really going to listen to me? So beginning with LeGrand, I made a conscious effort to surround myself with experts in the things I wanted to do. That has made all the difference.”
Her current goals: Though she doesn’t agree with him politically, she would like to launch a media empire like Sean Hannity, and as part of that, become the Tyra Banks of health—a successful, fit African American woman who can be a role model to all races and generations. “I’ve come to believe that the key to making any of this happen is discovering those answers that are already inside,” Dr. Veronica says. “The people who are good guides and teachers teach you to look inside, and if you look at any religion, the basic principle is the same. To figure out what those answers are, you must quiet your mind. I only started doing this when I quit everything that had defined my life and hit a point where I had time to think of what I really wanted. Now I can’t imagine my life being anything but what it is now.”