Monday, November 1, 2010

Conflict Resolution

Many years ago I received brief training on conflict resolution. It was insightful and gave me skills I continue to use. It hasn't however, helped me resolve some important questions.

Consider the facts. This summer we read about cardiovascular risks from a diabetes drug now more tightly controlled in the United States. Another study questioned new risks associated with calcium supplement that many women use to increase bone density and ward off osteoporosis. Increasingly we read evidence that contradicts prior medical advice.

Sometimes it's hard to know how to stay healthy.

Fortunately, the annual Johns Hopkins Medicine women's health conference,A Woman's Journey, will address many of these and other significant health issues at the November 20 conference. Vitamin specialist Dr. Benjamin Caballero, cardiologist Dr. Wendy Post and endocrinologists Drs. Suzanne Jan de Beur and Deborah Sellmeyer will provide insights into vitamin supplements, cardiovascular, and bone mineral health.

I hope you will join us at this exceptional forum on women's health. It will be an extraordinary opportunity to resolve some conflict between health information. I know my friends and I will be looking for some answers.

Stay well,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vacation is More than a Memory

Recently I returned from vacation and as often is the case, I am reminded that the friends and family we visit are more essential than the Maine woods, hiking and blueberries.

No matter where we journey, people are talking about their health. Between blueberry and peach pies and lobster, we considered integrative approaches to medicine, nutrition, strategies to reduce disease and manage our health and other concerns. I even discovered white whole wheat flour in an organic grocery store. I learn alot from talking with other, reading and, of course, my Hopkins colleagues.

I am fortunate that many of my friends will attend this year's Johns Hopkins Medicine annual women's health conference, A Woman's Journey. I know that they will learn from the experts and continue to dialogue about the choices we all make.

I hope you will join them and register for the conference. It is the best way to understand how we can improve our lives and the lives of those we love.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

What’s In a Name?

Each year I assemble a small group of colleagues to study the schedule of seminars that have been confirmed for the Johns Hopkins Medicine annual women’s health conference, A Woman’s Journey. Our agenda is to craft titles for each lecture. These are critical subjects about improving your health and sometimes devastating diseases. Naming a seminar is serious business. Never the less, the meeting sometimes becomes raucous. It’s challenging. We need to be creative, yet maintain the integrity of the subject matter. The bottom line is to appeal to your curiosity and interests.

So, as you plan your fall, I hope you will check out Read the titles of A Woman’s Journey’s 32 seminars that will be taught by Johns Hopkins physicians. Laugh at some of the titles; be motivated by others. But, when you finish reading the seminar names, be sure to go to our website, register for A Woman’s Journey, and learn what’s really in a name.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Suprising Legacy

I don’t mean to sound morbid, but last weekend we had a most extraordinary—and personal—experience.

After going through some old family papers, we learned where my husband’s grandparents had been buried so many years ago. So, last weekend, armed with genealogical information, a map, pruning shears and a few other sundry items, we traveled to several cemeteries in one of New York’s boroughs. It was not an ordinary outing. Some engravings of names and dates on tombstones were eroded by years and weather. Other grave markers had fallen over; some were overwrought with vines. But, in the course of a few hours, we located so many relatives dating back centuries. My husband learned about relatives, many of whom he never knew existed.

It was an inspiring trip and by the time returned home,I decided to assemble a “family tree.” The branches are so laden with names and dates, the draft paper now covers my dining room table. You can’t help but wonder who these people were, how they lived, and how they died. We each carry so many genes and traits from our family members, many of whom we didn’t even know. And then, I thought about a real gift I could pass on to my children.

I have prepared a medical family history. To the best of my knowledge I have detailed the diagnoses of my generation and my parents. Hopefully it will provide the detailed family records that physicians may someday request of my children. It's a unique legacy and one that I hope will keep them healthy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Master of Our Fate

I suspect by now, you’ve assessed that I am an optimistic person. Long ago my Dad taught me that you can “get more from honey than vinegar” and I have remembered this lesson throughout my life. I also believe that by our choices and determination we shape our own lives.

Sometimes I am slow to catch a movie. And so not surprisingly with the excitement surrounding the World Cup Soccer tournament, I just saw Invictus, the story of the South African rugby team and President Nelson Mandela's vision for a united South Africa. The title, which is Latin for ‘unconquered’, I learned comes from the 1850 poem by Englishman William Ernest Healy (1849-1903). It concludes with the well known phrase: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

May we all heed the message and try to take control of our own lives to have a healthy year. I hope you also take the opportunity to watch the movie; it is quite compelling.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Benefits of Another Day

Three years ago this week my college roommate passed away. She died of recurrent breast cancer after an 18-month struggle fraught with chemotherapy, radiation, clinical trails and finally palliative care. I find my self questioning if she had survived, would new treatments be available to sustain her life?

Through A Woman’s Journey I have learned about new drugs and experimental approaches to treatment. I don’t know if additional time would have reaped any benefit, but wish that others live long enough to benefit from new developments.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Lillie Shockney, survivor, administrative director of the Johns Hopkins Avon Breast Center and a national spokesperson will speak at A Woman’s Journey in Baltimore on November 20, 2010, in Palm Beach on January 20, 2011, and Naples on January 21. For those of us who have had an abnormal mammogram or felt a breast lump, Lillie will offer a road map telling women how to proceed when they fear a diagnosis of breast cancer.

You can bet that Lillie will be enlightening and somehow will find a way to interject humor into her otherwise serious remarks.

I hope you will be able to attend the conference ( and hear this extraordinary speaker.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

More Than a Bouquet of Flowers

When it comes to celebrating Mother’s Day, our family –like many— has a long standing tradition. Annually we venture to Maryland's wholesale fish market to purchase lobster. Preparing for a lobster feast can take hours. Besides setting the table, it can take an hour to bring the water and sea weed to a full boil. Then there is the cooking. After steaming the lobster my husband cleans out the lobster and cracks the shell to make it easier to eat. Sometimes we wonder if all the work is worth it.

But, I have concluded that Mother’s Day is less about what we eat and more about gathering together. It’s about bringing together the mothers, daughters, sisters and friends and taking the time to celebrate being together.

I hope you have the opportunity to share the day with those you care about.

Happy Mother’s Day


Friday, April 30, 2010

The Up Side of Jello

At age 50 your life changes. It’s more than menopause. You suddenly begin to take some things more seriously. Certainly you start to pay more attention to your health.

Among the recommended screening tests, the American Cancer Society and doctors prescribe colonoscopies. No wonder. Colon cancer is among the most common types of cancer; but, when detected early, colon cancer has high cure rates. It’s on my mind since my colonoscopy is scheduled this week.

Many people ignore this diagnostic test. They are more concerned about the “prep” rather than the procedure itself. Don’t let this dissuade you. There’s nothing wrong with a little jello and some clear liquids for 24 hours. The prep may be inconvenient, but the outcome can be lifesaving.

Johns Hopkins has a long history of ground breaking discoveries targeting colon cancer. Kimmel Cancer Center researchers were the first to isolate a series of mistakes in human DNA, called genetic mutations, that lead to the development and progression of colon and rectum cancer. These findings have already been used to develop screening blood tests for people with a family history of certain types of hereditary colon and rectum cancers. Subsequent work has led to the development of stool tests for non-hereditary colon cancer. Hopkins scientists also were the first to decode the colon cancer genome. Several new anticancer agents are being studied for their ability to interfere with the genetic alterations and stop the initiation of cancer. As genetic causes continue to be uncovered, Hopkins researchers expect to improve broad-based screening tests to detect colon and rectum cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages. More information is available at

So, my advice is simple. Schedule your colonoscopy and get some jello.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I always liked math—algebra withstanding. But with each year I come to better appreciate the importance of numbers. Although April 15 has just passed, remember that numbers have a pervasive impact on our health as well as our taxes. Whether we want to admit it or not, our increasing age impacts our health and our daily lives. More important, however, is our “medical age.”

Most of us know our shoe size or dress size, but do you know your HLD and LDL cholesterol, your glucose level or blood pressure? How many grams of fiber are you eating a day? What is your thyroid level? Yesterday I learned from a Johns Hopkins ophthalmologist that, on average, with each advancing decade the vitreous gel that fills your eye pulls away from your retina by 10 percent. I wondered what other changes are occurring in my body that can be captured by data.

We may not be doctors, but we need to become familiar with these numbers and know how they can impact our health.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Unfortunately my daughter recently had ankle surgery related to a fall down a circular staircase at school. The surgeon performed the ankle repair. The hospital provided detailed discharge instructions. Now as the mother, it is my responsibility to help my daughter recover in the aftermath of surgery. I can fluff the pillows, apply the ice packs, and fill the prescriptions. It’s managing her pain that leaves me uneasy.

Research shows that women suffer from pain conditions disproportionally compared to men. Johns Hopkins assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and pain specialist Dr. Paul Christo tells me that women represent 72% of chronic pain sufferers. Migraine headaches and fibromyalgia are more common in women; women report more serious, more frequent, and longer lasting pain, and too many women are given antidepressants and tranquilizers when they report pain. Pain is often undertreated which results in needless suffering for millions of people.

Chronic pain affects a staggering 25% or more of the population and continues to cause distressing symptoms for many years. Very few patients with persistent pain have access to a pain specialist, and those who gain access report that treatments are underutilized and often fraught with barriers.

My daughter was fortunate. The pain was quickly controlled. For others, however, it’s good to know that there are pain specialists at Hopkins.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Medical School Credentials

No, I didn’t go to medical school. I haven’t taken medical boards. Probably the last formal science courses I took were 9th biology and 10th grade chemistry. Graduate school focused on health care and research. Yet, because I manage the Johns Hopkins Medicine annual women’s health conference--A Woman's Journey--and am fortunate enough to interact with some of the world’s leading physicians, my family, friends and their friends call me for medical advice.

Weekly, I field telephone calls and emails: How should they treat a growing list of ailments? Which treatment option has better outcomes? Who is the best expert? How many international units of Vitamin D should they take? Should pathology reports be overread? or Does a patient need a second opinion? Many times I am able to confidently refer friends to the right specialist. Most times I remind them of the shortcomings of my “medical education.” And, always, I urge them to attend A Woman’s Journey so they can learn and personally question the real experts.

Before the conference in November, sign up for the Woman’s Journey monthly e-mail which contains reports of relevant medical advances from Hopkins. It’s a good way to learn about health care hopefully before we need it. Take it from me; this is good advice.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Your Opinion Matters

This is the time of year I enjoy most. Not because of the snow, for sure. Rather I find it satisfying to identify the topics for the forthcoming A Woman's Journey and begin to interview faculty members about their specialties.

Each year women ask how we select the health topics offered at the Johns Hopkins Medicine women's health conference. The answer is simple. We survey women like you and ask you to identify the health issues that are of greatest concern to you. So I ask for your help.

If you haven't already, please go to the Woman's Journey website ( and take the brief survey. It takes just a few minutes to scan through the list of potential seminar topics and indicate those of interest to you. The results will guide our decisions as I outline the program for next winter.

Your opinion really does matter.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Sunshine and Inspiration

After months of planning, the staff and I were finally departing for south Florida to bring A Woman's Journey to women in Palm Beach and Naples. When the captain informed us that we would sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes, I turned on my phone and found a message from Lillie Shockney, the scheduled keynote speaker for A Woman's Journey Palm Beach. Lillie had food poisoning and would not make the conference. I looked around at the other passengers and spotted some Hopkins colleagues. By the time we took off, we had invited the new president of the Johns Hopkins University to be a keynote speaker.

Ron Daniels, who had been installed in the fall as JHU's 14 president, was amazing. I am so grateful that he was willing to speak about the university and his self-described walk-abouts throughout Johns Hopkins. In particular, President Daniels described his tour of The Johns Hopkins Hospital operating rooms and the opportunity to witness a Whipple procedure. The Whipple is a surgical procedure that was developed to remove pancreatic and other GI tumors. According to President Daniels, when Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. John Cameron began his career, the mortality rate from the surgery was nearly 30 percent. Since then Dr. Cameron has worked to improve the Whipple procedure and reduce the mortality rate to nearly 1%. Just days after observing this procedure, President Daniels was diagnosed with a rare type of tumor in the intestine. As we all learned, the tumor was removed through a Whipple procedure. Fortunately, President Daniels' prognosis is excellent.

The presentation was a most inspiring conclusion to a terrific Woman's Journey in Palm Beach. Surely we will return next year. I hope those of you living in south Florida will join us.