Back to school tips: How to handle a bully

Dr. Sally Robinson

Dr. Sally Robinson

Keeping Kids Healthy

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Back to School Tips discusses bullying. Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet or through mobile devices like cellphones.
When your child is bullied the Academy suggests the following:

• Look the bully in the eye

• Stand tall and stay calm

• Walk away

•Teach your child how to speak in a firm voice. Continue reading

The doctor healer track at UTMB

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Today, I describe an antidote to loss of empathy during medical school, an all too common casualty of medical education. One study showed that up to 70 percent of graduating medical students entering internship met clinical criteria for “burn out.” This results in depersonalization, loss of human connection, and decreases in motivation, compassion, and empathy. It is a catastrophic, unhealthy cascade.

Medical educators strive to prevent such a negative outcome while still being charged with producing highly skilled, qualified, and competent medical graduates.

One approach that is now in its third year of trial at UTMB is the Physician Healer Track. Early student feedback shows it is effective in improving their professional skills and personal lives on multiple levels.

The Physician Healer Track was conceived and developed by UTMB School of Medicine faculty Drs. Cara Geary, Julie McKee, Susie Gerik, Era Buck, and Lee Grumbles. The course is supported by the efforts of a couple dozen other dedicated volunteer physician educators. The focus is to take students starting in year one of medical school into intimate and highly personal experiences that improve empathy, stress resilience, self-compassion, mindfulness, self-awareness, and improved communication skills. Continue reading

The Myopia pandemic

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

You’ve probably heard of pandemics — the plague, influenza, HIV — but you might not have seen coverage of the growing myopia pandemic. Before you consider bathing in sanitizer, you should know that myopia isn’t contagious. Another word for it is nearsightedness.

Myopia is a condition in which close objects are seen clearly but distant objects are blurred due to the elongation of the eye or too much curvature of the cornea. This causes light entering the eye to focus in front of the retina rather than on it. Myopia is different from hyperopia, which is the kind of nearsightedness that comes from growing older. In fact, the myopia pandemic is primarily affecting young people.

It currently affects 90 percent of the young adults in China, although 60 years ago it was 10-20 percent. In the United States and Europe it affects about half of all young adults, double what it was 50 years ago. Seoul has the highest incidence: 96.5 percent of young people in South Korea’s capital have myopia. An estimated 2.5 billion people will experience myopia by 2020. Continue reading

How to prevent backpack-related injuries

Dr. Sally Robinson

Dr. Sally Robinson

Keeping Children Healthy

The American Academy of Pediatrics made the following recommendations about backpack safety in 2014.
Backpacks are great for kids to carry items back and forth from school to home, but backpacks that weigh more than 15 percent of your child’s body weight may cause health problems for your child. Neck, shoulder and back pain may develop from carrying a heavy backpack everyday.

The spine is made of 33 bones (called vertebrae) that have disks in between them that act as natural shock absorbers. A child carrying an unusually heavy backpack leans their head and chest forward to compensate for the weight of the pack, which puts stress on the back and neck. If your child uses only one strap to carry their backpack, the spine’s natural shock absorption ability is reduced because only one side is carrying the weight and your child will end up leaning to one side to make up for the extra weight in the pack.

When choosing a backpack check to make sure that it has two wide, padded straps that fit over your child’s shoulders, a padded waist or chest belt that will distribute weight more evenly across the body, multiple compartments to distribute weight, and does not have a width greater than the child’s chest. Continue reading

Obesity and diabetes: Is your gut in control?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Your body is like a forest, providing a home to microscopic flora and fauna. In fact, your body is home to up to 100 times more microbes than your own cells, which make up your microbiome. While we provide them residence, these microbes help us out by providing a first line of defense against disease trying to invade our bodies, even breaking down food during digestion and producing vitamins. Now, the microbes that live in the digestive tract are helping us understand diabetes better.

According to the Human Microbiome Project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the microbiome plays a huge role in human health. When the microbiome is altered or unbalanced, it can cause conditions like obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, skin disease, urogenital infection, allergy and can even affect emotion and behavior. Continue reading

The benefits of empathy

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Clinical empathy is defined as “a cognitive attribute that involves an ability to understand the patient’s inner experiences and perspective and a capability to communicate this understanding.”

If this seems like something you would like to have in your physician or other health care provider, it is for a good reason. There have been a number of studies that show that besides the sense of connection you will have with someone showing empathy, there are measurable improvements in clinical outcomes. Continue reading

Oil and vinegar

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The Latin derivation of the word ‘salad’ simply meant “with salt.” A little sprinkle of salt over green herbs, maybe with a drizzle of olive oil was the essence of a salad. This is a far cry from our current prepared dressings containing hundreds of calories of unhealthy fats and other chemical ingredients.

So instead of store-bought salad dressings, why not do it yourself? You control taste, ingredients, and freshness. The easiest way to make a healthy homemade dressing is whisking your own vinaigrette. Stir in a small bowl: ¾ cup of extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup of red or white wine vinegar or add a touch of balsamic, ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Making your own dressing can be as much fun as creating the salad.

You can expand your culinary delight by adding any of the following to the basic mixture: mince a small to medium shallot; add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard; add 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves; blend fresh or dry oregano, tarragon, or lemon juice. Other interesting ingredients include sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, or walnuts. Red pepper flakes on top of a salad or in the dressing instead of the regular coarse ground black pepper add a nice extra zest. Continue reading

A closer look at the cause of sporadic ALS

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

When the groundbreaking theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease at 21, he was given two years to live. Now he is 73 years old. How has he managed to survive this invariably fatal disease for so long? We may not have all the answers when it comes to ALS, but one study has brought us closer to understanding its cause.

ALS is a devastating, progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by gradual degeneration and death of motor nerves responsible for controlling voluntary muscles, resulting in the loss of all voluntary movement — including the face, arms and legs. The disease becomes life-threatening when the muscles in the diaphragm and the chest wall fail and the patient requires a ventilator to breathe. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure three to five years after the onset of symptoms. Only 10 percent survive 10 years or longer. Continue reading

Salads: Simple is best

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Often when I called my dad to see how he was doing, he’d start with saying, “I’m making a salad.” He died at 92 and taught me the value of how enjoying a salad regularly is a truly healthy habit. Eating salads is an easy way to get close to our daily goal of 5 to 11 servings of fruits and vegetables. A half-cup of salad is pretty small so a typical lunch or dinner salad can garner 2 to 3 servings of veggies.

These days, making a salad is easier than ever. Pre-washed, pre-cut, packaged spinach, romaine lettuce, mixed greens, arugula, kale, radicchio/endive, collards, mustard greens, and others shave long eclipsed the boring and low nutrient iceberg lettuce most of us remember from childhood. This was perhaps drizzled
Thousand Island dressing or these days Ranch, currently the most popular U.S. dressing. Unfortunately it is relatively high in fats, carbs, and other unhealthy ingredients compared to simpler dressings like vinaigrettes which we will discuss next week.

Remember that the darker, leafy greens are chock full of health-essential fiber, phyto-oxidants, B vitamins, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids, and are tastier by a long shot than common iceberg lettuce. Continue reading

The Plague: It was the Gerbils

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

In the past 800 years, many things have been blamed for the plague that swept through Europe in the Middle Ages: the alignment of the planets, bad air, lack of proper hygiene, black rats and their fleas. Now scientists have data that suggests the climate in Central Asia at that time influenced the size of the great gerbil population, which triggered cycles of plague in Europe. These furry little rodents carried the plague bacterium, as did the fleas that fed on them. When the gerbil population shrank, the fleas found alternate hosts like horses, humans and eventually rats, which then made their way to Europe and triggered the plague pandemics.

The plague was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of a flea that has fed on an infected rodent. Plague outbreaks have afflicted humans for thousands of years and changed the course of history. The first recorded plague pandemic began in 541 and was named the Justinian Plague after the 6th century Byzantine emperor. Frequent outbreaks for the next 200 years are likely to have killed over 25 million people. The second pandemic, called the Great Plague or the Black Death, began in China and spread westward along trade routes to Constantinople and into Europe. About 60 percent of Europeans died, eliminating entire towns. Continue reading