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  April 15, 2002

Faculty Member Lends Voice, Humor
to Health Center's Radio Ad Campaign
By Maureen McGuire

She's reached millions of people as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, an author of popular books about feminism and humor, and a columnist for the Hartford Courant. Now, Regina Barreca, professor of English literature and feminist theory, has a new role as the radio voice for the UConn Health Center.

"Working with Gina is a big plus for the Health Center," says Jim Walter, associate vice president, communications, at the Health Center. "Her unique brand of humor helped us to create innovative and entertaining radio ads. And it's an added benefit that she is part of the UConn faculty."

Image: Regina Barreca
Regina Barreca, professor of English, appeals to listeners' humor and common sense in her radio ads on behalf of the Health Center.

File Photo

Throughout April, Barreca can be heard on six radio stations in the Hartford area. In the ads, she talks about several clinical services at the Health Center, including women's health programs, sports medicine, cancer care and cardiology. Each ad begins and ends on a light, humorous note that is tied to the ad's core meaning.

"Who else could bring together seemingly unrelated topics like primary and specialty health care, manicotti, grandmothers and casserole dishes?" muses Walter. "To find out what all of these things have in common, listen carefully during your drive home."

Barreca, who has never been known to shy away from creative challenges, says she enjoyed the project. "I liked the fact that the radio campaign brought together parts of the UConn community that people don't usually associate as belonging to the same tribe - linking the humanities and the sciences, critical thought and vital technologies," she says.

"The ads help listeners recognize the connections between what we think and how we feel," she adds, "as well as help connect our need for medical information with our need to feel comfortable and comforted with and by health care."

Walter contacted Barreca about the radio campaign after she participated in a special Discovery Series program last fall on "Laughter and Healing."

The program was originally scheduled to run on Sept. 13. After the terrorists' attacks on Sept. 11, however, the program had to be rescheduled. But despite the change of date, Barreca still packed the house - the Health Center's Keller Auditorium was at capacity - and then brought the house down with laughter. She talked about everyday things, like the differences between the way men and women tell jokes, and touched on poignant topics like racism, sexism and making the most of every day of our lives.

"After the program, many people commented that it was the first time they had laughed or smiled since Sept. 11," says Walter. "It was clear to us that Gina has a unique way of reaching people. She makes people think, and she helps people laugh at their own foibles."

From a marketing standpoint, Walter also noticed that Barreca's audience is largely made up of women. Coincidentally, most healthcare marketing is geared toward women, and the women the Health Center tries to reach in its marketing efforts is the same group of women Barreca reaches so effectively.

"Numerous studies have shown that women make most of the consumer-based healthcare decisions in this country," Walter says.

In the ads, Barreca appeals to listeners' hearts, humor and common sense. "We try to remind people that not only is laughter the best medicine," she says, "but also, literally, that the best medicine is the best medicine - and the best of everything is what the UConn Health Center has to offer."

The radio campaign with Regina Barreca is scheduled to run through April 27.

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