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SPOTLIGHT: David Iverson, '71

Keeping Current With an Ailment

Courtesy KQED

RADIO TALK: Iverson.

By Sheila Himmel

Broadcaster Dave Iverson is standing on a Manhattan sidewalk, wondering which Fox the passersby think he's promoting with his logo jersey. It's the foundation, not the network. Since Iverson's 2009 PBS Frontline documentary, My Father, My Brother, and Me, he has made appearances for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the American Parkinson Disease Association.

"With most broadcasting, it happens and then it's done. You just move on," Iverson says. "This has had a different lifespan." He wrote, reported, directed and co-produced My Father, My Brother, and Me, weaving memoir into a report on the current research about Parkinson's. Diagnosed in 2004, Iverson says, "My own progression seems to be very slow."

Iverson is best known in Northern California as the Friday host of Forum, KQED Radio's call-in morning program, but mostly he works as an independent producer. He covered the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and has made more than 25 documentaries, including the national Emmy-winning The :30 Second Candidate. These days he's working on one about the Mark Morris Dance Group's classes for Parkinson's patients and one about George Moscone, the dynamic San Francisco mayor assassinated in 1978 along with Supervisor Harvey Milk.

For his Forum shows, Iverson relishes topics he doesn't know much about, but that have real resonance with the audience, including health issues from DNA testing to premature adolescence. "Also topics I really know nothing about—like gardening, or the best way to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. I like it when we're not just offering high-brow public radio fare."

Iverson reads his interviewees' books and asks thoughtful questions. "I don't write out questions but I know where I want to go. It never goes in the order I think."

He listens intently. Respect for the spoken word is another legacy of his father, Bill Iverson, who did voices for the Lone Ranger and Green Hornet radio dramas before becoming a teacher and then associate dean at the Stanford School of Education. For Bill Iverson, the loss of speech to Parkinson's was much more devastating than the loss of motor skills.

About the changes in his life, Dave Iverson says, "I have become very consistent about exercise." Research indicates exercise may delay Parkinson's degeneration. He runs, does weight-training and consults with his daughter, Laura, a yoga and Pilates instructor who puts him "into stretches I don't want to bother with." He's training to run the New York City Marathon.

"It sounds funny, but I would say I'm healthier today than before my Parkinson's diagnosis. I'm definitely in better shape. I think in broader emotional ways, too. I have a sense of what's important."

SHEILA HIMMEL, formerly with the Mercury News, is co-author of a memoir, Hungry.

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