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Television Doctor Was Tested by Mother’s Death

Hollywood — Dr. Lisa Masterson is one of those women who’s done it all, and almost all at once. But the obstetrician-gynecologist who represents the distaff side on the syndicated TV show The Doctors did it the hard way.

She married her first year of medical school, had her son the second year, and then heard the worst news of her life. Her mother, who’d been her muse and mentor all her life, was dying of breast cancer.

Masterson had a brother, 13 years her junior, and when her mom became ill for the second time, they moved in with Masterson and her family.

“It was very difficult being a physician and not being able to save her,” she says in a barren meeting room backstage where The Doctors is taped.

“That’s one of my biggest disappointments in life ... I’d give anything if that never happened. I was told when she had about a year left. So when I got that information, she moved in with us. And when my mother passed, my husband and I tried to raise my brother,” she says.

“But I was in residency then, so I wasn’t around a lot. And he rebelled. His mother had just passed away, and he rebelled at me trying to raise him.”

Her brother was sent to live with his stepfather, but Masterson was having trouble coping with the grief herself.

It was her mother who’d first inspired her to greater things. A divorced mom, she raised Lisa alone. “She was always very much ‘Go for it. Follow your dreams, whatever you want to do you can do it.’ My mother was always my biggest advocate ... She said go for whatever you want. She put that in my mind, and I believed it hook, line and sinker and just figured I could do whatever I wanted to do,” she recalls.

“I was very, very studious, very driven. I skipped fourth grade. I always wanted to be the best in school and that was the drive. My mother always said to give 110 percent and that’s what I did.”

With her mother’s passing, Masterson recalls, “I almost didn’t make it from my mother’s loss. I stopped eating afterwards and my family were all worried about me — I was that close to my mother — whether I would be able to go on after her loss. And my son was the one who actually made that happen. He came to me and said, ‘You need to be my mother now.’ I sort of equated that with my mother being there for me and my child now needed me in that way. He was 3. He’s like that to this day,” she smiles.

“He’s taught me many, many things. I don’t know who raises who, really. He’s taught me even more things in raising him. He snapped me out of it with almost one sentence.”

Her son is 21 now and graduating this month. Her brother is also graduating, a time for celebration, she thinks. But she also admits that she’s going to suffer from the empty-nest syndrome.

Divorced, she says she and her ex remain friends. But she’s not eager to try marriage again. Still, she has plenty to keep her busy. Besides filming The Doctors two days a week and a day of preparation for the show, she maintains her private practice and is on-call on weekends. She’s also a tireless advocate for women’s issues and travels to various countries in Africa in an effort to stem maternal mortality.

She conducts seminars on adolescent sexuality, penned a guidebook for teenage girls about their body changes and has written a book about her own journey.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have the people around me,” she sighs. “I met my husband in college. We practically grew up together. I was fortunate to have the woman of the year or the century for a mom, and my grandmother was also a phenomenal woman. And to have the support of my husband from college on and then my son, I probably could do even more if my mom was still around. I would say I’ve had people who’ve always been in my corner. So any time I felt maybe not so confident, they’ve been right there to push me back up and that’s what you need in life.”

How would you like to have a camera peering at your every move during that crucial first year of marriage? That’s what Bravo is basing its latest reality show on. Newlyweds: the First Year examines that critical time through several partners.

Two of them are Kim and Alaska Gedeon, who say that they are so committed to their marriage that divorce is not an option. The Gedeons had the secret to a successful marriage before they ever hooked up. “Alaska and I, we dated for five years,” says Kim. “We did not live together, and he proposed to me on his 30th birthday. Alaska and I come from traditional families, so they don’t believe in living together before marriage. But it’s funny, because we live a modern marriage, if you will. So there’s a lot of things that people are like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of ‘50s.’ But it works for us.”

Nobody ever played the ukulele like Jake Shimabukuro. Audiences will get the chance to witness that when PBS offers Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings,” premiering May 10 (check local listings).

Growing up in Hawaii, Shimaukuro says his mother used to strum the ukulele when he was little.

“My mom played when she was a teenager, so I remember she would always play for me when I was a kid, and I always begged her; I was like, “I want to learn. I want to play it.” But she always thought I was too young. Finally when I was about 4 years old, she said, ‘Okay. I’m going to teach you a chord.’ And I specifically remember that day when she pulled it off the shelf. She put it in my hands, and it was like I was holding a newborn baby for the first time. And she told me where to put my fingers, and I just strummed the four strings and fell in love with the sound. And I just I couldn’t put it down. So it was exactly that.”

If you haven’t caught Jeremy Pivan as the title character in PBS latest Masterpiece Classic, Mr. Selfridge, there’s still time. Pivan, best known here for Entourage, plays the brash American merchandiser who set England on its ear when he established the unique Selfridges department store.

“It would have been incredible to go over there and do the (British) accent,” says Piven, “but knowing that he’s from the Midwest, as am I, growing up and going to Marshall Field’s where he made his bones — and my mother, you know, grew up going to Marshall Field’s, and we have a history with that place. And so I kind felt connected to him and going to his the store, Selfridges, to this day it was voted the best store in the world. And here we are 100 years later. So I think he was onto something. He transformed Marshall Field’s in Chicago into what it is today with the big windows, and saw it as theater. And he loved P.T. Barnum. And he thought of himself as a performer. And the store was his theater, and being on Masterpiece is like telling a Jewish mother that you’re going to be a doctor.”