dr marten clearance Dean Edell retiring as KGO
Dr. , the self described “hippie doctor” who hosted a pioneering syndicated medical radio show from San Francisco for three decades, announced his retirement on the air Wednesday.
Long before the airwaves were full of medical docs such as ‘s friend Dr. and CNN’s Dr. , there was “Dr. on KGO AM, where it started in 1979. “It kind of reminds me of a feeling I used to have going into an examining room and telling a patient that they had some terrible illness. This is nothing of that magnitude at all, but I feel uncomfortable.
His last live show will be heard nationally Dec. 10, he said, and will continue in reruns through the end of the year. Friday. on Sundays through the end of the year.
Heard in more than 200 markets by 2 million listeners a week, Edell “was huge,” said , publisher of , which covers the talk radio industry. A spring survey by the publication ranked Edell as the 28th most listened to talk show host in the country, a rarity for a medical show in the political and sports talk show dominated industry.
Edell, who has broadcast his show from his home in what he described as “very rural” Mendocino County for the past several years, told The Chronicle he made the decision in the past week after consulting his family and close associates. He is in good health and wants to devote time to his eight children, seven grandchildren and interests that run from Chinese art to traveling the country in a vintage Art Deco bus.
Edell, an ophthalmologist and surgeon, took a circuitous path to radio. After graduating from , he practiced for a year then quit. He loved dispensing the information, but “something happened. I grew depressed. I hated going to work every day.”
He began a vagabond existence in the early 1970s, spending time as an artist, selling antiques and even living out of a van for a while with his family. He was working in a jewelry store in Sacramento in the mid 1970s when a customer learned he was a doctor with a still valid license. She invited him to do physicals on people “in the drunk tank,” as Edell described it. The pay: $50.
When he was there, the manager of the program praised him for explaining medical terms in everyday language. The man’s cousin put Edell on a local country music station, then sent tapes of his appearances to KGO in San Francisco.
Until a few years ago, he regularly appeared on KGO TV, too, contributing medical reports to news programs and doing longer form shows, as well. For a year in the early 1990s, he hosted a 30 minute daytime medical program on NBC. He’s also done more than 15,000 “Medical Minutes” reports on air.
Edell tackled many issues far ahead of others. He was one of the first on air personalities to say that gay people “were God’s children, too,” recalled KGO Program Director , back in the early days of the AIDS crisis. He was on the forefront of advocating for medical uses for cannabis, supporting vaccinations of children and vehemently opposing circumcision.
He spent countless hours a week preparing for shows, reading up to 100 medical journals a week in his early days. “I can talk about anything for five minutes,” Edell told The Chronicle Wednesday and laughed, “and then I’m done.”