Thursday, December 1, 2011

Life's Not-So-Little Lessons

It’s hard to believe, but another Woman’s Journey conference is behind us. On Saturday, just one week following the conference, I attended a baby naming where someone remarked they heard that this year’s program was the best. After 17 years, she asked, why was November’s Woman’s Journey so special?

Most women attend our annual Johns Hopkins women’s health conference to learn about medical advances and specific diseases. This year was no different. The two keynote speakers, however, touched the hearts of the thousand women who attended the conference. They are extraordinary story tellers with powerful messages.

Sorrel King retold the devastating loss of her 18 month old daughter as a result of a medical error at The Johns Hopkins Hospital more than 10 years ago. She shared her profound grief and courageous and compassionate decision to honor her daughter's memory and create the Josie King Foundation dedicated to patient safety. Mrs. King has shared her story with thousands of health professionals and has worked with Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality to reduce the U.S.’s reported 98,000 annual deaths caused by medical errors. Her story underscored the need to turn tragedy—from the loss of a child to just a bad day—into something positive that can help other human beings.

During Lunch with the Faculty, emergency medicine physician Dr. Christina Catlett told of her journey from a southern college sorority house to The Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency Room. In this medical setting,she assembles a team of Hopkins health care providers to travel to areas, including Haiti,that have been destroyed by natural disasters. Dr. Catlett described the rampant destruction. Yet, following a subsequent professional meeting in Australia, she serendipitously found herself climbing a mountain(it was only 900 feet high). This exhilarating experience led her to acquire medical wilderness certification and pursue a new-found quest to reach summits across the globe. Her message was simple: find your passion and strive for balance within your life.

You might not be able to share the experience with other women, but I urge you to watch the conference website: for postings of video and audio excerpts from this November's extraordinary presentations. And, don’t miss next year’s speakers who undoubtedly will be just as inspirational as Sorrel King and Christina Catlett. Save the date now for next year’s conference: Saturday, November 17, 2012.


Friday, September 23, 2011


If you are a tennis fan like me, perhaps earlier this month you too watched the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. The tennis was terrific despite all the weather delays, which spawned a lot of commentary.

I was disheartened to learn from the court-side commentators that two of the top female tennis players had been diagnosed with autoimmune disorders: one with Lyme’s disease and the other with Sjogren’s disease. It reminded me of a book I read several years ago about autoimmune disorders. More than 100 diagnoses—from arthritis to Hashimoto’s disease—are now classified as autoimmune disorders. And, unfortunately for many of us, autoimmune diseases occur three times more frequently in women than in men.

The question is, why are these disorders are so prevalent among women? Researchers are just learning about this and other characteristics unique to women health. Dr. Sabra Klein, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has devoted her research to understanding how males and females differ in their immune responses to viral infection. She hypothesizes that hormones are critical signals for immune responses to viruses. Dr. Klein’s research indicates that females produce much higher immune responses than males, which can be beneficial for overcoming of viruses, but also can make females more likely to develop autoimmune and even inflammatory diseases, like asthma. Perhaps, she suggests, this may be one reason why autoimmune disorders so significantly impact women. Many questions remain unanswered.

Fortunately for us, Dr. Sabra Klein is one of the 32 faculty speaking at this year’s Johns Hopkins annual women’s health conference A Woman’s Journey. I hope you will join us and listen to Dr. Klein. Her presentation might help us understand why Sjogren’s and Lyme’s disease affect so many women, including some very well-known female tennis players.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Appetizers, Please

I must confess, personally I have one disappointment about the Johns Hopkins Medicine women’s health conference, A Woman’s Journey. As the conference organizer, I rarely attend a presentation. Yes, I help develop the topics and interface with many of the speakers, but it is rare that I have the opportunity to sit in a seminar and listen to Johns Hopkins faculty physicians as they share new advances in medicine.

So, you will understand why I was thrilled yesterday to review excerpts of four of the most popular sessions from our most recent conference in Baltimore. I watched the brief videos excerpted from presentations by Drs. Michael Gloth, Suzanne Jan de Beur, Linda Lee, and Gerard Mullen, each of whom spoke about diet, nutrition and /or exercise to promote wellness and healthy aging.

When you have five minutes, go to or You Tube and click on the videos. Surely you too will learn something and at the same time, get a great taste of A Woman’s Journey. Hopefully it will whet your appetite for this year’s conference on Saturday, November 12, 2011. I hope to pass you in the hall, or perhaps, even sit next to you in one of the sessions.


Monday, August 8, 2011

La Dolce Vita

I have returned from a memorable family trip to Italy; something I have always wanted to do. Since arriving home,friends and colleagues have asked, “what was the best part of your vacation?” Unequivocally, I have answered,“being together as a family."

But, I have to admit, the sites were breathtaking. Each Italian city is so different. It didn't take long to find our pace, absorb the Italian culture and the gelato. We were fortunate to visit the proprietor of a vineyard and wonderful Tuscan inn, take a cooking class in magnificent Florence, ride Venice’s Grand Canal and explore ancient Rome. No matter where we travel, however, there always are reminders of reality facing us at home.

When we visited the Vatican, our guide pointed out a sculpture of Artemis. This Greek Goddess of fertility was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. The sculpture is distinctive with more than a dozen breasts. I was familiar with the second century artwork because Artemis also is the name of the Johns Hopkins breast center's e-newsletter. But, seeing the sculpture in person, and in Italy, was a reminder that the world is small and that women everywhere face many of the same health issues.

As we returned home I reflected on the two cultures. Florentian gelato may be memorable, but we are fortunate to have a program like A Woman’s Journey to learn about diagnosing breast cancer and a myriad of other health issues confronting us. We may not serve gelato or ice cream at the conferences, but you will be treated to a healthy serving of new medical information.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Life's Rewards

The most rewarding part of my job is engaging with people who make a difference in the health and well being of others. At Hopkins, most often it is the scientists, researchers and physicians whose discoveries alter the course of medicine. Sometimes, however, it also can be a lay person.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking with Sorrel King, an author and mother, who has transformed a personal family tragedy into a campaign to change today's health care system. After living with what she describes as "searing pain" from the death of her youngest child, Sorrel began a foundation dedicated to improving patient safety domestically and globally. It has been a nine year crusade that has reaped real change and undoubtedly saved so many lives.

Fortunately for us, Sorrel King has accepted our invitation to be the plenary speaker at the November 12, 2011 annual Johns Hopkins women's health conference, A Woman's Journey. I hope you will visit the conference website to take advantage of the discounted early on-line conference registration. Register for A Woman's Journey and be inspired by Sorrel King. She will be joined by 32 Hopkins physicians who will present seminars on topics from What You Eat Can Save Your Life to Top 10 Tips to Prevent Cancer. It’s a day you won’t want to miss!

Shortly after Sorrel and I concluded our conversation that afternoon, I was off to the book store to purchase a copy of her book, Josie's Story. Whether you read the book or not, I hope you will take the day for yourself and come meet Sorrel in person.


Monday, July 25, 2011


I have been out of the office for more than one week and it always is hard to return. I am back in the office, however, at an exciting time. A Woman's Journey has begun registration for its annual Women's health conference that will be held on Saturday, November 12, 2011.

As co-chairs Mollye Block and Harriet Legum acknowledge a lot has changed since the three of us began the conference 17 years ago. Who could have imagined all the discoveries that may influence our daily lives: personalized cancer treatments, unique immune responses in women and the importance of vitamin D. These and other medical advances are changing our ability to influence our health as well as the way doctors diagnose and treat disease.

We need to harness this knowledge and personally make a difference for ourselves and our families. That's why I hope that you will take a day for yourself and join me at this year's conference. It is one day that could change the course of all others.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Statistics Don't Lie

Last week I attended a professional briefing and was struck by a fact included in the speaker’s presentation. By 2013, cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States. I don’t know why I was startled. The American Cancer Society reported 1.5 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2010. Most weeks I hear about cancer affecting someone I know; just this month, several people have asked me about the pancreatic center at Johns Hopkins.

It’s no surprise then, that so many women responding to the recent Woman’s Journey survey of health interests identified Strategies to Prevent Cancer as their top choice. So, in response to the survey outcomes, the annual Johns Hopkins women’s health conference November 12, 2011 will include four sessions related to cancer:

• Advanced in Diagnosing Breast Cancer
• Ten Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
• What You Eat Can Save Your Life
• Changing the Outcomes for Pancreatic Cancer

Johns Hopkins faculty speakers also will focus on dozens of other topics, but from my perspective, I will be sure I learn about cancer prevention. For myself and my family I want to do everything possible to reduce the likelihood of having cancer as well as know about advances in diagnoses and treatments. Perhaps after hearing about the projected rate of cancer, you will too.

Be Well,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Chance to Expand Your Vocabulary

“Personalized medicine” is a phrase we are going to hear a lot more about in the future.

Recently I have attended meetings or picked up articles about “personalized medicine.” It seems like many people are beginning to use the term in different contexts. Some use the term to refer to high-end concierge medical practices in which a patient pays a primary care physician an annual “membership” fee. But, the term conveys far more power and has implications for many of us.

Last year I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Bill Nelson, Professor and Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He explained that “within the next few years, all cancer patients at the Kimmel Cancer Center will have their tumors analyzed to reveal a unique “fingerprint.” The fingerprint represents the combination of genetic alterations specific to each person’s cancer. Just as every person is genetically unique, so is every cancer. Targeting these alterations, say scientists, will improve treatment outcomes, thwart cancers before they develop, and slash the costs of new drug discovery.”

The new edition of the Hopkins publication, Promise and Progress, describes how The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center is translating laboratory discoveries into remarkable new therapies that target the unique cellular characteristics of each patient’s cancer. [].

Personalized medicine may sound like a simple concept, but the science behind it may change the course of cancer treatment. Like me, you may want to add the phrase to your lexicon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What You Eat Can Save Your Life

Finally, I can take a breath. It has been a busy winter. Following the successful Johns Hopkins Medicine women's health conferences in Baltimore, we got some respite from the snow and ice when we traveled to Florida to conduct A Woman’s Journey in Palm Beach, Naples and Sarasota. Regardless where the Johns Hopkins faculty and I travel, women are curious about medical discoveries and searching for information

Conversations with women around the country about new advances in women's health, reinforce the need for A Woman's Journey as a forum about health issues. No wonder. Every time I listen to a speaker at A Woman's Journey, I too gain valuable information. Did you know, for example, the more than one million Americans die annually because of poor dietary choices? At A Woman’s Journey Baltimore and Palm Beach, nutrition specialist, Lynda McIntyre, talked about foods that boost your immune system and combat disease. What I learned will change my diet.

• Beta-carotene increases our “t” fighter cells that help improve immunity and prevent cardiovascular disease.
• Mango and apricot, among other foods, can retard the growth of breast and colon cancer cells.
• Vitamin C not only boosts our immune system, it increases good/HDL cholesterol and cartilage synthesis, and reduces osteoarthritis and wrinkles.
• Garlic fights bacteria, but needs to sit on the counter and be oxidized before you cook it.

So, now I am going prepare my shopping list for the week, get a cup of green or oolong tea, and beginning planning for the next women's health program.