Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetric and Gynecology


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From the “back in my day” department we have the following dispatch: If one of us residents were to refuse to care for a patient out of moral objection or fear for our safety, we would have gotten in big trouble. We would have been told to get cracking or get packing. I remember being horrified one day after I had taken care of a beautiful young Moslem woman who had endured the severest from of ritual Female Genital Mutilation. (FGM) Not only had her labia and clitoris been removed, but her skin had been sewn together to barely leave enough opening, on stretch, to have intercourse.  She had just had a normal vaginal delivery and it was all broken open. Despite the fact that she had frequent urinary tract infections and and constant pain with intercourse, she insisted that I put it all back together after the birth. I spent a great deal of time trying to reason with her about the medical inadvisability of this procedure. Despite my personal and professional objections, I had to do it. The patient explained to me that she would have felt humiliated in the eyes of her family if it were not repaired. It was an awful situation for me. I wonder now what would be the requirements for me in the same setting, given that “moral objections" are playing a role in medical care.

A new Harris Poll based study has revealed that 8 in 10 Americans “ do not believe doctors, nurses, pharmacists….” “ should be allowed to use their conscience or beliefs to refuse care.” Of course this pertains to many issues in Obstetrics and Gynecology, where one might be facing requests for routine abortion, or for abortion for grave anomalies not compatible with life outside the womb. Some people do not believe in birth control. Some do not believe that welfare mothers should have large numbers of children. Some people do not believe in women having multiple partners. Some people do not believe gay couples or single people should be able to use assisted reproductive technologies. The list goes on. 

A recent paper described a possible option of 12 weeks of paid family leave secured in a fiscally responsible way. Parents would have a choice to trade 6 weeks of delay in the disbursement of their Social Security checks later in life in exchange for 12 weeks of family leave earlier in life. We’ll see if the idea gets any takers Washington. 

As of this last Wednesday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated Family Planning will continue to be refunded. The grant money for the program is called Title X and amounts to 260 million dollars. 

North Carolina is connecting the dots. A bipartisan program, YES let me repeat that- BIPARTISAN program in the state, Carolina Cares, is advocating to expand Medicaid. The fetal and infant mortality in the state is unacceptable and available data indicates that expansion of Medicaid can decrease fetal and infant mortality simultaneously. Care through Medicaid targets exactly what places mothers and infants at risk: poverty, violence, lack of education, nutrition, and prenatal care. 

Several States are considering lifetime caps on Medicaid for those who are not children, pregnant, or disabled. If you are not any of these things, why should you need Medicaid ? The Conservative in me says you wouldn’t since you would simply work and earn and pay for insurance. The Liberal in me says, insurance is expensive, and there will always be people who are just poor, and they need comprehensive medical care more than anyone for them to even stand a chance at a decent life and productivity. 

Several States are leaving the Federal Government behind, and beginning work on their own versions of the Individual Mandate. These include Maryland, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, and DC. As reported previously, even more states have begun or finished work on laws guaranteeing contraceptive coverage for their citizens. 




In the "we already knew this" department, new research has shown that induction may lower complication rates. But the devil is in the details…angels too. It turns out inducing at 39 weeks was associated with less need for C section and fewer complications for mother and baby. However, dates must be accurate and the cervix must be soft and favorable to even consider it. The quality of the study was good and it was presented at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. 

Think only old women lose urine? Think again. One third of women leak urine before thier first pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you think there is a problem. Urine loss may signal infection or other medical conditions. Most of the time it is just de-conditioned muscles and bad habits. 

Ever have preeclampsia ? This disorder, also called toxemia, will go away after delivery. However, mothers who had it either had a pre-existing tendency to high blood pressure beforehand or retain this tendency to high blood pressure afterward. If you had preeclampsia, check your BP regularly and know that you are at risk. I hear they make smart phone connected BP cuffs! 

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a report indicating that as many as 10% of US babies are affected in some measure by fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This has been unearthed by interviewing mothers of neurologically or behaviorally abnormal children. What was once believed to be primary neurological disorders are now felt to be related to maternal alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Likewise, I am very concerned about what we suspect but have not yet conclusively proven about the effect of marijuana on the brains of the unborn. 

Syphilis is on the rise, and herpes on the decline. Both infectious diseases are easy to detect, manageable to treat, and potentially catastrophic in pregnancy. Get screening if you have any doubts. 

Probiotics for babies? Experts are beginning to focus on the neonatal microbiome. That is the group of organisms in and on the baby which are considered to be normal and beneficial. Many of these come from mother, via delivery and breastfeeding. But what if a C section takes place and what if breastfeeding is curtailed? While amateur “seeding” of the flora has been tried, ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) does not recommend it. However, research interest in this topic is increasing. We do know that pregnant women should eat a pre-biotic diet rich in fruit vegetables and probiotic foods such as plain yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, and even Kombucha in moderation. 

Stay tuned next for more exciting news from teh workd of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here on Medical Monday. 


Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Happy new year ! Hopefully this year we will benefit from the upheaval of 2017. Many of us became more political. The issues about which we care came into distinct focus. Perhaps we clarified our priorities. Hopefully health and quality time are high on your list. 

In that spirit, I am going to try to streamline what I hope has already been a streamlined blogging format, and go to what could perhaps be called “ bullet blogging”. Perhaps you have heard of “ bullet Journalling”  or “dot journalling”? I had been doing it for some time without realizing it. Instead of journaling in full sentences and paragraphs, I journal in bullet lists, small graphics and graphs. It is fun, fast, and lets me indulge my visual nature. 

If you have been into any Michaels, Joannes or any other craft store lately, you may have seen prominent displays showing fancy little bound or three ring journals, sticker sets, small format markers, washi tape, and specialized fill pages - all for such enhanced journaling. There are also many cool online resources for bullet journalling. 

I am an incredibly digital oriented person, and so it may seem a surprise that I would be interested in such analog things. I believe that for every person’s life or work management system, there is a particular optimal balance between digital and analog. Everyone one needs a little paper. In my office, I have suggested that my employees keep “ one notebook to rule them all”. Instead of a proliferation of sticky notes and other scraps to get mangled or lost, the one notebook, complete with dates and legible writing, held everything. I gave them some beautiful starter notebooks, and they took it from there. They seem to enjoy it. One co-worker in particular has made hers into what I would call an art form. That is the idea ! It is to take some joy and satisfaction in even the smallest things, like note taking and scratch calculations at work.

And so it has occurred to me to try “ bullet blogging”. It is my hope it will be faster, simpler and easier on the eyes. I’m going to give it a go. 

Policy News 

Via CMS( Center for Medicaid Services) : 

  • 8.7 million signed up for Obamacare, federal health insurance made possible by the Affordable Care Act, likely underestimated 
  • 95% of last years level, despite half the signup period and deep cuts to advertising
  • Final figures due out in March



Employees of the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) and other federally funded health and science organizations were “discouraged" from using seven words in budget reports: 

  • Vulnerable

  • Entitlement

  • Diversity

  • Transgender

  • Fetus

  • Evidence-based

  • Science-based


Two separate letters have been issued from > 300 public health organizations urging the HHS ( Health and Human services) to ignore this. The second letter included signatures from

ACOG ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) 

APHA ( American Public Health Association) 


Blocking the blockers 

  • Last week  Federal Judge in Northern CA blocked the Trump administration’s loophole which let’s objecting employers out of providing insurance with contraception to employees. 
  • The Justice Department is “ evaluating” LOL. 
  • Comment: No one ever has, because of Obamacare, made anyone else use contraception. 
  • Fact: Contraception reduces teen pregnancy and abortion. ALOT. 


Kick the can

GOP has kicked the real budget and real health care bill into January. Stay tuned. 


Medical News


ACOG President-Elect Lisa Hollier, MD MPH, Houston, Texas, brings a new clear focus: the rising maternal mortality in America. 

  • Missouri ranks high is maternal mortality, in the worst ten. 
  • Oregon is creating a special commission on rising maternal mortality.
  • One in four pregnancies in central Oregon are drug affected. 
  • Mississippi has the highest rate of preterm birth, which is high cost in both human and financial terms. The CEO of Magnolia Health in Mississippi is taking aim at this problem. 
  • Infant mortality in Kansas is about three times higher for black babies than it is for all babies. 
  • Dr. Hollier's own state of Texas takes the cake, with the highest maternal mortality this side of the third world. 




Study: Breast pain is not a symptoms of breast cancer. Neither lack of pain nor lack or palpable lumps means lack of breast cancer. Upshot: Get your mammograms ! 

Study: Cervical Pessary may be of use in preventing preterm birth. 

Study: at home STI ( sexually transmitted infection) test kits may increase detection rates. 

Study: Post menopausal Estrogen therapy may protect against some forms of memory loss. 

Study: Income and weight are inversely related for women. This is not true for men. Contemplate. 

FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) plans to increase regulation of homeopathic remedies. Because there are no real studies on these. Contemplate. 

Marijuana update 

  • Mj use in pregnancy has increased in CA from 4 to 7%. In pregnant teens it has increased from 10 to 19%. 
  • ACOG recommends discontinuation of MJ for those who are or who are contemplating pregnancy. For reasons, see HERE: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation 
  • It's clear that we as a nation do not value science. Do we value drug induced relaxation over clear thinking or the cognitive development of our children ? Very little contemplation needed. 

Male Contraceptives ? 

NIH ( National Institute of Health) and the Population Council are sponsoring a clinical trial of a hormonal male contraceptive gel. Don’t expect it on the shelves for at least 5 years. I wonder how the GOP will attempt to regulate male methods of contraception. 

It’s best if you follow up on these leads to put together your view of women’s health care in this country. What I have given you should contain enough key words so you can google your way to the source material. Remember to seek out reputable sources like the NIH, the CDC, ACOG, AAP, APHA, or major academic medical centers like Mayo Clinic or Stanford.

2018 is a new year, and a new approach is needed to ensure the best for women’s health care. Get involved. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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How stable are the ACA Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare)  insurance plans? That remains to be seen. At present there is a bipartisan effort to shore up the so called ACA “marketplaces” . This means that certain lawmakers are trying to find a way to create a realistic budget to fund them. The Affordable Care Act was affordable since the Federal government supplied money to insurance companies to subsidize or pay for part of people’s premiums. 


Let’s roll back a second. Let’s make sure all this terminology is clear. 


Bipartisan= involving both Democrats and Republicans 

Marketplace = the system of insurance companies from which consumers buy health insurance 

Premium= the monthly amount consumers have to pay the insurance company to have insurance and to ensure that their insurance is in force 

Subsidies, aka insurance subsidies = payments from the Fed ( your tax dollars) to the insurance companies to defray (reduce) what consumers pay for their premiums. 


Republican concerns at the beginning of the administration change:

  1. Obamacare cost the Fed too much and made taxes too high (via the payment of subsidies to insurance companies) 
  2. Obamacare funded programs that powerful special interest groups opposed, i.e. birth control (via the Contraceptive Mandate) 
  3. Obamacare took away the choice of not having to get health insurance at all. ( Via the Individual Mandate) In other words, Obamacare law via the Individual Mandate required everyone to hold health insurance. 


Democrat concerns at the beginning of the administration change:

  1. Obamacare was not adequately funded and could run out of money if not addressed.
  2. Obamacare needed to continue to fund birth control as a human right and for the social and fiscal improvements it confers, ie. increased education, job productivity, individual savings, better health, fewer teen and unplanned pregnancies, fewer abortions. 
  3. Obamacare needed to continue to fund preventive care and cancer screening since in the long run it prevents serious disease and saves money 
  4. Obamacare need to continue to retain the Individual Mandate since
  • Each person is obligated to contribute to the insurance fund to make it stronger for everyone. The American Academy of Actuaries has gone on record saying that repeal of the Individual Mandate “... would lead to premium increases” and reduce the "incentive for healthy people to enroll and balance out the costs of the sick.”
  • Each person is responsible for covering their own care even if their health takes a downward and expensive turn, and they can only realistically cover it with insurance.
  • Persons who do not hold insurance and who end up getting emergency or unanticipated health care get care whether they can pay for it or not, and their bill is absorbed by everyone else. They are cheating the system. 
  • The ethic of the greater good should inform the Individual Mandate since health coverage enables health care and health care enables broad social benefits of all kinds. 

The deadline to enroll for Obamacare this year has passed. The site for enrollment,, was getting crushed right through until the end, and at one point, customers were instructed to simply leave contact information with the expectation of a call back. Many did not know the time frame for enrollment since the Trump administration cut funds for promotion of the program by 50%. Numbers on enrollment are not yet in. 

There is bad news and good news for CHIP, the children’s health insurance program. The bad new is that it will run out of money by the end of January. The good news is that there seems to be broad bipartisan support for refunding it. A bipartisan group of Governors has also come forwards and requested that the government renew finding for CHIP. The question is, what with all that lawmakers have left undone, and still need to do, will they get to it in time ? Remember, the Federal Government only has a budget through December 22nd, which is fast approaching. 

In medical news, we find a convergence of holistic medicine and technology. A new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology uses app-guided acupressure to relieve menstrual cramps. The results compared this technique with medical therapy of oral contraceptive pills or typical analgesics and the results were significant. 

Sugar and inflammation. I do not know the exact relationship. Let’s talk about excessive sugar. In particular, a new study reveals that pregnant women who consume excess sugar in pregnancy are statistically more likely to bear babies who have asthma later in life. Asthma is an condition of the airways and is believed to be mediated by inflammation. Excess sugar in pregnancy is associated with many more problems, like excess weight gain, and gestational diabetes. 

It is well know that pregnant poorly controlled diabetics have increase risks of serious malformations including spina bifida and congenital heart defects.  In new research, pregnant women with high glucose levels in early pregnancy - even those who are not diabetic, are more likely to have babies with heart defects. The relationship is linear. 

Got your flu virus yet ? I hope so. There are TWICE as many cases of flu this year compared to last. Bottom line: the flu shot is safe and effective in and out of pregnancy. Talk to your doctor. It is particularly risky to skip it in pregnancy since influenza is much more dangerous in pregnant women. 

There is some expected fall out after last weeks publication about a small increase in breast cancer risk with long use of oral birth control pills. Authorities are hastening to point out that while this finding about breast cancer risk was noted, it has also been confirmed that oral birth control pills decrease the risk of uterus, ovary and colon cancer, stabilize bone density and obviously, prevent pregnancy and all of its potential complications. Risks need to be weighed with benefits. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology on the next episode of Medical Monday. I will have to decide what to do for Christmas week, most likely depending on the news at hand. Let's hope the researchers take a nice break for the holidays. The politicians, well, they can just keep working right on through as far as I am concerned. 

Happy Holidays. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obststetrics and Gynecology

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The word must be out that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is alive and well. In the first four days of enrollment, November 1st through 4th, over 600,000 Americans enrolled. That is to be compared to the 1 million who enrolled in the first 12 days last year. This year so far, 22% were new enrollees whereas last year approximately 24% were. These figures do not include enrollees in independent state exchanges created since last year. Insurance companies corroborate that, at this point, enrollment is up compared to last year.

The Congressional Budget Office has revised its estimate of how much the repeal of the individual mandate would it affect the national debt. Initially it was thought that removing the Individual Mandate (the requirement in the ACA that all people maintain some form of health insurance) will result certain number of people not buying insurance through the ACA. Savings would occur because the ACA would not have to spend money to cover these individuals. The initial estimate of these savings was $416 billion. The new estimate of the savings has been reduced $338 billion which still sounds like a lot of savings. 

I wanted to know if these big sounding ”savings" included an economic analysis the savings or expenditures outside of the coffers of the IRS. They did not. The actual letter from the Congressional Budget Office to Richard Neal of the Committee on Ways and Means in the US House of Representatives is here:


It clearly states that while their calculation indicates a savings to the Federal Government by repealing the Individual mandate, it does "not include the macro economic effects of enacting the legislation”. What are “macroeconomic effects” ? These are the economic effects downstream resulting from poorer health and it’s consequences. Have these macroeconomic consequences been precisely defined ? No. But the general trends are clear and overwhelming. Losing health care coverage depresses individual and nationwide economic well being. 

Repealing the Individual Mandate leaves more money in government coffers, yes. But so would something ludicrous like ending Medicaid and Medicare altogether. Data from multiple disciplines shows us that money spent on health care is well spent, and results in a saving in the long term. Yes there is a savings in human suffering, and that is paramount. But if you are the sort of person who only wants to speak in dollars and cents, you too will realize a monetary savings. We as a society will realize higher levels of educational and vocational attainment, less unemployment, and greater individual and national economic productivity if we pay now for health insurance. You’ve heard of pay now or pay later ? This is a perfect example of this adage. We pay for health insurance for all, covering prevention and health maintenance, OR we pay later, in more unemployment, more welfare recipients, and the unreimbursed cost of advanced diseases and disability. So do not get too exited about that $338 billion in savings. It is not going to jump right back into your pocket as lower taxes. 

The state of Maine is currently a battleground between the people and the Governor's office. Despite a popular vote supporting the Medicaid expansion, the Governor plans to stop it based on his department's analysis of fiscal consequences. He estimates the cost of Medicaid expansion to be somewhere between 63 million and a hundred million dollars, whereas the nonpartisan budget office estimates that the expansion will cost 54 million and bring in an additional 525 million dollars of annual federal aid. I always find these large factual discrepancies disturbing because it seems clear that some of them are informed primarily by party politics. It seems to me that some sort of double-blind research could take place using a high degree of computational analysis. With this, a sound human-free estimate could be generated on pretty much any question. I doubt either side wants this though because it would take away their ability to play politics. 

The Massachusetts House has voted 136 to 16 to approve legislation which would protect birth control coverage for women. The law will require health insurers operating in the state continue offering birth control coverage without copayments for prescription contraceptives regardless of changes in federal policy or repeal the Affordable Care Act. The bill also goes further and mandates coverage for over-the-counter emergency contraceptives without a doctor's prescription. The Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker supports this bill. It will be taken up by the Senate this Tuesday. The Senate is expected to approve the measure. 

A House bill under consideration would the eliminate medical expense deduction. About 9 million households or 6% in our country utilize this deduction. This is interesting because this deduction could apply to anyone who pays their deductible. I am embarrassed to say that when I was a new business owner in the 1990s I was not aware that my medical expenses not paid by insurance were tax deductible. I later learned this from my accountant. I still find that a lot of people are unaware of this deduction. My total family out of pocket currently sits at about $5000 and we seem to utilize it every year. I can easily document how much of it we utilize through my insurance company's website where I can access my EOBs (explanation of benefits). I simply submit this information to my accountant and it counts as a sizable deduction. 

Why the federal government wants to tax expenditures related to health I do not know. You would think they would encourage responsible spending of this nature. You would also think that there are plenty of other things to tax. For example, we already tax vices like alcohol, and tobacco. But we could tax them more. I am a strong proponent of vice taxes because they work. Those intent on buying the substances are willing to pay more to get what they want, and those who are on the fence and want to use less say they appreciate the additional financial disincentive which ultimately results in them using less. 

Americans are known for their consumerism. One could argue that we all have far more stuff than we need, and that we are not adequately responsible for repurposing, repairing, reusing, donating, giving, or recycling what we have before we buy something new. What if these such discretionary items were taxed ? What if we made sure that items like food, hygiene products, cleaning products and other necessities like over the counter medications, were not taxed, while so called luxury items, which we do not necessarily need, are taxed. Wait ! We have this already, and in some states it is called a sales tax. It applies to everyone, people can chose to pay it or not, and it does not disincentivize spending on health. Think about it. Government should incentivize individual spending on health and education. In my opinion, this could happen far more than it is. 

Doulas. By now you’ve heard of them. They are people, usually women, who help pregnant women during labor. They are espoused by all levels of Obstetric care because of their association with better outcomes. However, they are now being utilized in the postpartum period. We are increasingly focused on postpartum depression and its risk factors. We are also focusing on supporting women as they initiate breastfeeding. Postpartum doulas can help with all of this. They can address some of the exhaustion and sleeplessness that new mother experience by helping with nighttime feedings and infant care. They can help with meals and housekeeping. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recently formalized its support for such postpartum care in its recommendations. 

For women, the association of moderate to vigorous physical activity and longevity persists even into old age. A recent study where the average age of participants was 72 has shown that those who log an average of 70 minutes of regular exercise a day had a 70% lower risk of death compared to the least active women who move just eight minutes a day. This research is important to me because I have many older women in my practice who feel certain that exercise consists of a leisurely walk. It is true that you cannot take such patients and insist that they suddenly start a program of moderate to vigorous exercise. But you can recommend that they start gradually with supervision, and work their way up to what is actually appropriate. Is high time to stop treating middle-age and older women as fragile.

In sobering news, new data indicates that women treated for early breast cancer still face a risk of recurrence to 20 years later. This data comes from a meta-analysis including 88 smaller clinical trials. The patients surveyed were believed to be disease free. These are patients who completed five years of post cancer therapy with tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors as recommended. So this study result is an unhappy surprise, but one that should quickly prompt further research, and may even change therapy for such patients in the very near future.

It is interesting to think about this new data in light of the current findings published recently in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. This study revealed that "many breast cancer patients skip recommended treatment after surgery because they lack faith in the healthcare system”. While these patients did not report distrust of their doctors, they reported a general distrust of medical institutions and insurers. These women were more likely to skip follow-up treatment such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation, statistically worsening their outcomes. 

Finally in the we-already-knew this department, the International Journal of Public Health has published a study concluding that sexual harassment whether verbal or physical, can “cause psychological harm”. While this seems entirely within the realm of common sense and conventional wisdom, readers should realize that it is critical that studies like this be performed and published. On the basis of studies like these, tangible harms can be demonstrated in a court of law, and justice can be pursued in a more definite way.


Stay tuned next week for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, right here on Medical Mondays. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Policy News this week is monumental. President Trump signed an “ executive order” which allows small businesses and individuals to buy cheaper less comprehensive policies which do not met the minimum ACA (Affordable Care Act) requirements. Critics have several issues with this legislation. First, it decreases money in the collective pot used to cover anyone with a catastrophic illness for which a large payout is required. Second, it will drive prices up disproportionately, hurting mostly older Americans. 

Perhaps more impactful is the Administration’s decision to stop making federal subsidy payments to insurers. It is effective immediately. The President has further said that it may continue subsidy payments if a bipartisan agreement is made on health care. This last bit may illuminate the whole issue. When I first heard this announcement about cutting of subsidies, I ascribed it to wholesale lunacy. However now I view it more as blackmail. Without subsidies, the insurers will either bail or fail. Then the economy will follow, according to many analysts. No administration wants this. A bipartisan agreement has been impossible to craft, thus far. However, opposition to this move, and even opposition to the President himself may cause a high degree of motivation to compromise. Leading Republicans have called for continuing payments to insurers. As you read this on Monday, I wager you will be hearing fierce objection from both sides of the aisle. 

Hot off the press is an announcement that the current Administration will allow health insurance sales across State lines. Many of us did not realize that health insurance is sold within a given state. Insurers and their plans must be approved within that State and must answer to that State's Insurance Commissioner. Trump and many other Republicans have endorsed this before. They have asserted that, through increased competition,  premium prices will drop across the board. However, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has called this a "myth". They have warned that this will start a " race to the bottom" wherein Insurance Companies will choose more lenient State regulators. Such regulators would require less and less coverage to consumers in order to maximize profits. This would result in healthier people getting cheap policies that cover little, and everyone else needing standard coverage getting steep rate hikes to compensate for the insurance company's loss in revenue. 

Unbeknown to most of us, the insurance industry was the Wild West before the ACA came along. Most of us only knew about insurance in their own State. But, it turns out there were different levels of what was covered, different caps on out of pocket, and different limits to premium prices. That all got more standardized with the ACA. That standardization is now being deconstructed bit by bit by changes like this plan of selling across State lines. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has put forth a couple of deeply controversial issuances. They have issued new rules on contraception. Without data or authority they have stated that “ Imposing a coverage mandate on objecting entities whose plans cover many enrollee families who may share objections to contraception, among some populations, affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way.” Importantly, this sentence uses confusing syntax. The subject of the sentence is “ a coverage mandate”. The verb phrase is “would…affect” the object is “risky sexual behaviors”. Thus the gist of the sentence it, a coverage mandate would affect risky sexual behaviors. Perhaps they meant to say the following: contraception WHICH could, among some populations, affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way. I suggest this because they have taken this position before: that contraception promotes sexual activity, particularly teen sex activity. A mass of available up to date and well derived data indicate otherwise.  For example, no-cost contraception is associated with a decrease in the number of partners. Additionally, contraception is NOT associated in a rise in sexually transmitted infections. Available research data clearly show too that rates of abortion and pregnancy fell among teens, when no-cost birth control was provided. ACOG (American College and Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has voiced it’s objections to the weakening of the contraceptive mandate. They have shed light on the patently false claims of the Administration about contraception. Many States have sued the Administration over the weakening of the contraceptive mandate. 

The second controversial issuance by the Department of HHS, Health and Human Services, has been to define life as “beginning at conception”. It has done so through a strategic plan document. This draft reads “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiative that cover a wide spectrum of activities serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”. Defining life at conception is not arguable in scientific terms. That is because it is a belief. In fact, it is a religious belief. As such, one might ask whether including this language in the strategic plan document of the HHS violates the separation of church and state. Clearly this language was advanced by those whose religious beliefs preclude abortion. 

I do not believe there has ever been a time in history when government has been so intimately involved in matters pertaining to Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Pap smear frequency is again becoming controversial. As usual, the minimalist and government funded USPTF ( US Preventive Services Task Force) has interpreted the available data to mean the need for less frequent screening. They seem to consistently overemphasize the harms of screening (extra false positives, extra office biopsies) and consistently underweight the harms, i.e. more cancer cases. ACOG, various other cancer organizations, and patient advocacy organizations, give less weight to extra false positives and biopsies, with more concern focus on catching cancer early. ACOG still states that paps and HPV testing should go together from 30 to at least 65 years of age, and that for an average risk patient. Smokers, for example, would be screened, even more often. 

In the we-already-knew-this department, a new study shows that epidurals do NOT prolong second stage (the pushing part) of labor. The study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, also show no adverse effects of epidural on mother or fetus. 

Also in the we-already-knew-this department, a new study shows that women who have their fibroids embolized may need additional procedures. In particular, they have a fair chance of still needing a hysterectomy later. These women who go from embolization to subsequent hysterectomy were still better off in terms of complications than those getting myomectomies (removal of the fibroids from the uterus) to begin with. 

Finally for a trifecta in we-already-knew-this department, we feature a new study which indicates that “intensive exercise may attenuate excessive gestational weight gain for obese pregnancy women”. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy increases the odds of gestational diabetes, large for gestational age babies, and need for C sections. Research elsewhere also indicates that exercise in pregnancy also produces many other good effects, such as increased likelihood of vaginal delivery. 

Somewhere between politics and medicine we find people and society, and society has a lot to do with health. This week those in the entertainment industry have been reeling from all the revelations of sexual abuse and misogynistic workplace bullying by Harvey Weinstein. It has been sickening and yet illuminating to read the accounts of the women involved. The victims were abused in various ways. Those that escaped unscathed, had career setbacks by failing to acquiesce. They all suffered the shame and anger associated with such encounters, and even now are having to answer for why they did not disclose sooner, why they acquiesced, why they did not have more sense to begin with, etc. etc. 


It is widely believed that Harvey Weinstein is not the only such perpetrator in Hollywood. It is also well known that Hollywood is not the only industry where this occurs. Although Weinstein's victims were generally celebrities, most victims are not. Yet even these celebrity women were caught off guard and were made to feel powerless and vulnerable. How much more so must the average woman feel, working a standard paying job on which they depend. 

Harvey Weinstein’s methods were outrageous. The vaster number of abuses in the workplace today are far more subtle. They are microaggressions. They are just enough to make you uncomfortable, but not enough make you realize it is abuse, much less move forward to report it. All of this adds up over time, and it takes a toll professionally and personally, and on stress levels, which eventually impacts health. I had one patient who developed certain medical problems. In taking care of her and getting to know her better, it turned out she had an extremely hostile workplace environment. We encouraged her to speak to people at the local department of labor. After a lot of effort and gumption on her part, the case went to the courts, where she prevailed. She emerged empowered and eventually healthy. But it had been years that she had suffered before she understood what she had actually been dealing with and where it fit on the spectrum of normal social interactions. 

Sometimes we do not realize that what we live with may not be normative. Our standard for what is acceptable behavior may be skewed due to a rough upbringing, or a innate tendency to think that we ourselves are the problem. If you think you may be living or working in some kind of an abusive environment, reach out to a trusted physician, attorney, local social services agency, community health center or mental health professional. Life is too short to let your quality of life or health suffer. 

Stay tuned for more news from the work of Obstetrics and Gynecology her, next week, on Medical Monday. 

Please remember to contact your elected officials to tell them what you think about all of this. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obsterics and Gynecology

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As expected, the Trump administration is planning to roll back the contraceptive mandate. The contraceptive mandate requires that insurers cover costs for contraception without copay. The proposed change in regulation would allow employers to refuse to cover contraception because of religious or moral objections. This change will not go unchallenged, Numerous lawsuits will likely be initiated if this change takes place. 

Those objecting to the contraceptive mandate often cite their objection to certain birth control methods which prevent implantation. However, mainstream authorities focus on the fact that increased contraceptive availability is associated with plummeting incidence of abortion and unplanned pregnacy. 

In other policy news Texas plans to continue funding their task force to determine the causes of their alarming rate of maternal mortality. It is really a shame that Texan’s don’t just save their money and acknowledge the obvious: that increased maternal mortality is directly related to their gutting of health care services to women. At this time, one quarter of Texas women lack health insurance. Data from many quarters tells us that this is a sure fire way to ensure poverty and high maternal mortality for many generations to come. 

Arkansas is racing to the bottom as well. A Federal Appellate court in St. Louis has ruled that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. 

Winning the race to the bottom, is of course the the Trump administration, who has resolved to cut Teen Pregnancy Prevention program funding. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) came out with a swift condemnation of this plan. The current administration supports abstinence only programs, and yet asserts they favor “ evidence based” programs. Sling that medical jargon. 

Lawmakers have prevailed upon the Trump administration to make the Federal Government insurance subsidy payment for August. In fact, it is Republican members of Congress together with Democrats who have convinced the administration to continue payments, fearing a collapse of insurance markets. They believe this will buy time for a bipartisan solution to stabilize the markets. The CBO (Congressional Budget Office ) continues to warn that ending subsidies with cause premiums to rise by 20% by 2018. 

In encouraging news, Oregon has passed law budgeting half a million dollars to expand comprehensive reproductive health care coverage for all its citizens. The law also requires insurers to cover such services with no out of pocket cost. Available evidence tells us that, as a direct result, they should expect decreased rates of unplanned pregnancy and abortion, with increased levels of educational attainment among women, decreasing unemployment statewide, and increased standards of living.

On to the medical news. 

It is time for us to start thinking about obesity in more sophisticated ways. Obesity is a devastating and widespread medical problem. It is also very personal and for that reason it is challenging to discuss and treat. We are now beginning to understand that the causes of obesity include but are not limited to individual habits. For example, poverty and its many causes factor in strongly. We can graph the incidence of obesity on maps and thus understand obesity is part of culture as culture spreads across geography. New research out of the National Institute of Health has revealed that the “ origins of obesity lie as much in early childhood - even prenatally and intergenerational- as it does in an individual’s current behavior. “ Obesity is closely tied to many forms of human suffering and disease, from heart disease and diabetes, hypertension and cancer, to poor self esteem and depression. Further research is necessary, by all means. However to effectively address this serious problem, both patients and physicians are going to have to do better at mustering their courage and talk about obesity in frank and accurate terms. 

You might have noticed my mention of obesity as having a role in increasing cancer risk. Maybe you were not aware of this, since there is not an obvious connection. However, we have always know that obesity is associated with many types of cancers. However, new research from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sheds more light on the subject. It turns out that “ women who eat a lot of high calorie foods may face a slightly higher risk of obesity related cancers - even if they remain thin” The study went on to elaborate that “ women who favored low nutrient high calorie foods had a 10% higher risk of cancer linked to obesity. “ Cancers related to obesity include cancer of breast, colon, ovary, kidney, and endometrium (uterine lining). 

A new study from the Canadian Medical Association has shown that oral cancers related to the HPV are on the rise. Between 2000 and 2012 it is believed that the incidence of such cancers has risen by 50 %. 

Smoking in pregnancy is still a big problem. It turns out that depression in pregnancy makes smoking more likely. This tendency of smoking during depression in pregnancy is on the rise, according to new research published online in the October issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 

HPV and smoking are a bad combination. Did you know smoking greatly accelerates the progress of HPV related disease ? 

HPV has an effective vaccine against it. However, new research indicates that less than half of girls and a quarter of boys are vaccinated. HPV ( Human papilloma virus ) has a vaccine. Humans papilloma virus causes genital warts, precancerous and cancerous lesions of the genitalia and mouth. Vaccines are available for young people from the ages of 9-26 years of age. They have little in the way of known side effects. 

In other virus news, there have been no locally transmitted cases of Zika viruses in Florida yet this year. The same encouraging trend has also been seen in Latin America and the Caribbean. Authorities now believe that those infected develop immunity to reinfection. However, authorities are also concerned that Zika may now be getting transmitted sexually. Work on a Zika vaccine is underway. 

Again, I encourage you all to contact your elected officials about your views on women’s health. Tell them the American people are willing to shoulder their collective responsibility for people's health care and the good of the future. 

Medical Monday: Delayed Edition

Deep in the backcountry of Montana I was able to almost forget about medical politics. However, now that I am back, the time has come to recap events of last week in both medicine and policy. 

Moderate Republicans had hoped to achieve passage of a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act by making scaling down their proposal, making the changes less extensive. However even this “ skinny ” rewrite failed to pass as three Republican Senators Collins of Maine, Murkowski of Arkansas, and John McCain of Arizona opposed the measure. If you ask me it is no coincidence that two of these maverick Republicans are women and the other, Senator McCain, is a cancer patient. Here are three people who understand what is at stake, i.e. health care for women and the seriously ill. 

Also during the week, 148 Democrats wrote to HHS ( Health and Human Services) Director Tom Price objecting to the decision to cut two years of funding from the TPPP (Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program). Again, if someone could explain to me why decisions of this magnitude can be made single handedly, I would be much obliged. 

Texas has passed a bill which requires women to obtain separate addition insurance coverage for non-emergency abortions. It seems to me that this could be a compromise solution in which everyone would get a chance to support what they espouse. Of all the health care controversies, it seems this one is the biggest, and thus the one to compromise on. 

On the other hand, insurance wold become useless as a tool to support the general health and prosperity of the population if we conceded to every anti-vaccine person who refused to pay for coverage which included vaccines, or a Jehovah’s Witness who refused to pay for insurance covering blood transfusions. You could imagine the list would go on, as there are folks who are anti-antibiotic, and anti-mammogram, and yes, those who are anti-birth control. And just as I would advocate compromising on abortion coverage, I would dig in just as firmly on the critical need for birth control coverage, which is I think essential to our stability and progress as a society, not to speak of essential to the health and well being of women and children. 

Here’s a brand new issue: Menstrual Leave. This is is policy which allows a worker to take a paid day off during her period. Such leaves are in place in several countries including Japan and Taiwan. However, many experts feel that this has the potential to retard women’s progress in the workplace. The notion that work performance suffers during menstruation is a fallacy, and this policy plays into it. If a women’s period is so heavy, painful or otherwise debilitating that she need stay home from work, then she should seek consultation with a Gynecologist. 

In medical news, it turns out that some perinatal exposures may last through several generations. A new study in mice has shown that exposure in pregnancy to environmental pollutants results in offspring with increased asthma risk for up to three generations. 

For your we-already knew-this report of the week, new research has demonstrated that a brief daily run helps protect bone mineral density in women. Indeed brief bursts of any high intensity exercise will do it, increasing bone by about 4 %, which may not sound like much but is considerable. 

In exhilarating and awe-inspiring news, we have CRISPR. If you do not know this acronym, you should. It stands for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. Basically these are short segments of DNA which read the same way in one direction or the other. In nature, they are used as part of the immune system of various creatures. In technology, they are useful for editing genes. 

The MIT technology review has reported on original research at Oregon Health Sciences University where researchers have edited DNA in the viable human embryos as a way of preventing disease. It is interesting to note that while the federally funded National Institutes of Health does not support studies involving CRISPR in human embryos, the US National Academy of Sciences has “ opened the door to such research providing that the work would address serious inherited diseases.”


And with this momentous news we conclude this delayed edition of Medical Monday. See you next week. 


Medical Monday:Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Historically a new President is evaluated at the 100th day in office. This day comes next week, and for this reason there is a special emphasis on trying to get a Republican health bill pushed through next week. The various key features of the new proposal must please not only moderate Republicans but hard line conservatives. 

Anxiety remains over whether or not the Trump administration will continue to pay health care subsidies to insurance companies. These government subsidies to insurance companies is what allows them to offer coverage to their ACA clients at such low rates. This last week, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners indicating that these are “ ...essential for keeping insurance markets stable next year”. Last Tuesday health insurance representatives met with Trump administration officials but received little assurance that the subsidies would continue. House speaker Paul Ryan indicted he would consider continuing the payments until the end of the year to avoid “…disruption”. 

In the common sense department, a new study has confirmed that paid medical leave is associated with higher breastfeeding rates. The ACA stipulation that businesses of a certain size provide time and space for breastfeeding has also been associated with increased breastfeeding rates. 

We have a new study on marijuana in pregnancy. According to a new large survey based study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda Maryland, US teen girls are more than twice as likely to smoke marijuana if they are pregnant. The rates are at 14% versus 6% in those aged 12-17. The ratio is reversed if all ages of pregnant women are considered. In that case, 4% of pregnant women smoke, versus 8% of non pregnant women. Researchers speculated that pregnant teens use marijuana medicinally to treat nausea. However, others have opined that risky behaviors such as marijuana use and teen pregnancy run together. 

Currently no specific pattern of malformation (anatomic or structural) has been uniquely associated with marijuana use. However, sustained use of marijuana has been associated with a trend toward decreased birth weight. Additionally, reported childhood effects of marijuana use in pregnancy include lower scoring on verbal and memory testing, and difficulty analyzing and integrating specific cognitive processes.

Some authorities believe that the use of pot by any kind of teen is more dangerous than use for adults. This is because there are more consequential impacts on the teen's still developing brain. According to Dr. Seth Ammerman at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital,  just telling teens about the risk of pot may be enough to get them to quit. 

The Trump administration has announced they will follow through with the $485 million dollar grant approved last year to fight the opioid epidemic. 

The Trump administration has also extended the “Veteran’s Choice Program” which enables some veterans to receive care from local doctors and hospital rather than travel to VA hospitals for their care. 

Breast implant linked lymphoma is again in the news. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has identified 359 women with a rare cancer called ALCL or anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It seems to occur with women who have had textured rather than smooth implants. Though over 350 cases have been identified, the incidence is very low at about 1/30000 women with textured breast implants. Those with implants should seek regular annual exams and mammograms making sure that their caregiver knows about their implants. 

A recent review in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed a problem. This is a problem that could be 100% solved, and that could help patients with any disease that they are treating. The problem is medication non-compliance. Studies show that 20-30% of medications are never filled, and that of the ones that are, 50% are not taken or not taken as prescribed. It goes a long way to explaining why some patients don’t get better or relapse. The reasons are many from cost, to wanting to “be natural”. Patients may believe need for medication reflects weakness. They may avoid it since they don’t want to be reminded of their disease. Solving the medication compliance problem would save over a hundred thousand deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

By now most of you know that Serena Williams is pregnant. Perhaps you don’t know she won the Australian Open while being so. A recent editorial in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology highlights the fact that healthy pregnant women need not curtail their exercise. This is in line with the ACOG Committee opinion document on physical activity and exercise in pregnancy. Recommendations are that pregnant women engage in aerobic exercise for 35-90 minutes 3-4 times each week. Those with any high risk factors should consult their doctors first. By the way, Serena wasn’t the only one to compete at this level; eighteen pregnant women have competed in the Olympics. 

Earth Day and March for Science have recently taken place. In an unprecedented move, 25 medical organizations including ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) issued a joint statement for March for Science. They stated that they are issuing a “….nonpartisan call for the appreciation of scientific evidence, education and investment”. 

Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here on Medical Monday. 

Wellness Wednesday: Help for the Elves

Are you that truly time strapped gift giver with the finite budget ? Have you been reading all that advice about scaling back this holiday ? Are you tired of the materialistic holidays, the stress, and the excessive spending ? Here is some SMART advice to help you through. SMART means specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Instead of saying, I’m going to do better this year, have a SMART plan for getting your tougher gifts done. 

They say the best things in life aren’t things. Here are some: 

Home made paper or gift certificates for activities with YOU ! Examples: 

  • a movie
  • lunch out or lunch in 
  • a hike in the outdoors 
  • spa day 
  • craft day 
  • joint workouts 

Here’s athoughtful gift for that person who has enough “stuff” : A donation to their favorite charity, cause or advocacy group, (usually able to be made online). You can send a card or a decorated email to announce the gift. 

For those who would like to give, but are perhaps late on mailing things to faraway relatives, ebooks and audiobooks come to the rescue. You can send an inexpensive but special ebook instantly even on Christmas eve and be right on time. is my go-to for the instant gifts. Your recipient can read them on any device, not just a Kindle. Kindle apps are available on virtually all platforms including the desktops PCs and Macs, as well as Android and IOS. Your gift can combine an ebook and an experience if you gift the book and buy one for yourself, then propose that you and even a faraway friend can read it “ together”. is my source for ebooks since I am a member. This service is certainly worth looking into, especially if you ever have long commutes, flights, or road trips. 

For an even more economical gift, you can send music, even just one song, or an app, as a gift. These too are electronic, and thus accomplished at your desk in the wink of an eye. 

It’ s the small things that count. So send valuable information ! Most of us have a recipe or two that is special to others. Write it up with nice paper or digitally with graphics, and send the recipe or a collection of them as a gift. 

Other small things include thumb drives - perhaps one filled with your best photos of activities you and your recipient have shared. Tie it with a ribbon or some twine and you have a very easy, very economical and very special gift. 

Making celebrations and gift giving is fun but can be overwhelming. Get inspired, and stretch a little, but do not stress or worry yourself. That would be missing the forest for the Christmas trees ! 

Enjoy these last few days before Christmas ! 

Wellness Wednesday: Making and Giving

There is a good book called “ The Five Love Languages” which I recommend. My husband and I read it together long ago. It turns out that our love languages are very different and this understanding helped us. One of my primary love languages is gift giving. As such, it is hard for me to understand people who say they cannot figure out what to give. My problem is editing my gift giving plans. 

This post is approximately 25 days until Christmas. That, in my mind, is enough time to come up with several clever, inexpensive gifts… Homemade gifts… before Christmas. I am taking a stand here and recommending that you consider home made gifts this year. You could save money, and really touch the heart of the recipient all at the same time. 

You may assert, and I have heard people say, that they have no artistic talent. This just hurts me to hear, as I believe it to be uniformly false, and one of the worst forms of self talk. I think with the resources that we have these days, Pinterest, magazines, and the internet at large, there are instructions for everything. Pro tip: Search " best DIY gifts". The key is to keep it simple and heartfelt. The other key is to stretch just a little each time, and you will learn more and more. Pretty soon you will be making stained glass windows. 

Here are some other keys to making and giving: 

  • Be kinds to yourself and keep your sense of humor. 
  • Prepare your time, your workspace, and your supplies before beginning. 
  • Establish a budget and stick to it. 
  • Read through all the instructions first !
  • Be prepared to goof up and fix things. 
  • Enjoy the process. 
  • Consider the pros and cons of doing it yourself, versus together with a supportive friend. 


Here are a few ideas for categories of home made or home assembled gifts. You know your own skill set and will be prepared to build on it. You also know your recipient. Trust yourself and move forward.


Made Things: 


Wearable Gifts:

  • e.g. infinity scarf of some special fabric
  • colorful rice filled heat packs with essential oil 
  • felted wool hats and mittens from shrunken thrift store sweaters

Edible Gifts: 

  • e.g. flavored salts and sugars 
  • holiday foods in nice containers, including baked goods in festive ceramics, or treats in exotic jars
  • jerky, jam, dried herbs

Assembled Things:

Themed gift baskets and “kits"

  • movie night basket with gift cards and popcorn
  • bath basket - with oil or fizzy bombs
  • garden baskets- with new gloves and seeds
  • art basket - with supplies 
  • cooking themes; Try going by country, i.e. Italian, French, Mexican, Cajun, Japanese, etc. 
  • knitting or crochet kit
  • crafting kit 
  • fishing kit
  • hunting kit
  • sports related kits 
  • workout kit 


Don’t worry if your gift is not perfect. Just take care that it reflects the connection between you and the recipient. 

Making and giving is a soul growing exercise. Give it a go this year. 

Wellness Wednesday: Being Proactive

I found myself a little out of my comfort zone this week. I was working on a little app for the App Store, and I am new to developing. I had done my due diligence, reading, and going through the tutorials. And yet, things were just not working out how they were supposed to. I got a little down about it. I got a little mad about it. Tech support sent me a lame email back not really addressing the questions I had clearly asked. I put the project aside for a couple days. I thought, maybe this is just not my thing. Then Monday morning rolled around, and thought, I am going to wend my way through the phone networks of Apple Computer and find someone who can help me. Three layers deep, I did. The person I reached was amazing. She agreed that I had done all that I should have; She took on my cause and bumped it up the chain of command. Ultimately the advice she gave me worked. I looked back on the incident and realized how silly I was to have gotten discouraged. Only when I got proactive and reached out, did things get better. 

Proactive is the opposite of reactive. To be proactive is to be psychologically healthy. It means being the one who takes the steps to make your life what it is. It means to be responsible for one’s self, one’s thoughts, actions and circumstances. It means to be self-determined. 

To be reactive, on the other hand, is to be a victim of life. You life is determined by other people and other factors. What you do is a reaction to other factors which have happened “to” you. You may feel out of control or like a victim. 

Wouldn’t anyone want to be proactive ? You may want to become a proactive person. And yet, until you adopt the mindset and behaviors of being proactive, it would be very difficult. 

How do you become a proactive person ?



The first step is to realize that you are responsible your own well being and success.  Life hands people circumstances which range from good, to bad to ugly, and yet, mindset is the main determinant of how people feel and how they do in life. Remind yourself you are empowered in your life. Pin a pin, put up a poster, or do what you need to do to train yourself to remember this. 



Also central to the process of being proactive is to understand your starting point. This requires honesty with one’s self about one’s present state. It is like talking a good hard look at the balance sheet of your life. What are the assets, and what are the liabilities ? Only then can you realistically plan for going forward. Train yourself to honesty. 



To be responsible is to be accountable for yourself. In literal terms, you are the accountant of your life. You have the ability to set a budget, or a goal, and work backward to meet it. You are more than dreams and talk. You have real steps to realize your plans. You may even use the so-called SMART goals. (Click HERE to learn more.)You are reliable to others and to yourself. Train yourself to take regular inventory or your life. Train yourself to use SMART goals. 



When you use SMART goals, you will get used to the idea that big goals are achieved with small steps. Furthermore, you will get used to taking small steps. Many people who haven’t realized their goals are simply not used to taking steps outside their normal routine. Being proactive means training yourself to get used to taking new and different steps as part of a larger, realistic plan. It also means training yourself to get used to the fact that meeting goals proactively takes time.  



When you become proactive in your life and start to take steps toward realizing your life goals, you usually encounter obstacles. These may derail or discourage you temporarily. This is natural. However, the proactive person must have resilience. This is the trait which embodies the best response to adversity. With resilience, the problem is acknowledged, analyzed and the steps of the plan are reworked. They are iterated, and reiterated.  With resilience, one has to train oneself to keep a flexible positive attitude, along with the idea that continual reiteration is part of the process. 



In everyday life, being proactive is easier said than done. Everyone feels pressured, angry or frustrated at times. These are small everyday examples of being reactive. Sometimes even bigger situations like peoples' jobs or relationships are the result of being reactive rather than proactive.  Learning the emotional and communication skills associated with being proactive is no easy task. 

During challenging encounters, the natural reaction is fight or flight. Proactive communication requires acknowledgement of these reactive feelings, but not acting on them. Simply pausing, and breathing is an essential first start. In that moment, the feelings of anger, frustration or sadness are acknowledged and set on the back burner. Then a constructive response can be proactively made in accordance with the speakers highest and best ideas.

A proactive person also knows she has the right to defer. She can take time to think about things, calm down, or gather more information. She knows how to say these things the right way. She uses responsible closed loop communication. Responsible communication uses "I statements”, i.e.“ I think”, ,”I feel”, or “I need” or “ I want”.  In this way, you speak for yourself. You may not be listened to, but at least you have spoken up for your self, and your statement has the weight of authenticity which may well continue to sink in after the conversation. 

Closed loop communication has to do with listening well. When you speak, you are obliged to listen. Listen with full attention until the speaker is finished. Then use another “ I statement” , which is “ I heard….” then repeat back a nutshell version of what you thought you heard the speaker say. This is especially useful for challenging or complex conversations. It honors both the speaker and the listener and greatly reduces the chances of misunderstanding. 

Train yourself to breathe, pause, use "I statements", and closed loop communication. 

So you see that being proactive is a training process. Nobody has a charmed life. But everyone can use the methods of responsibility, honesty, accountability, action, resilience and communication to be more proactive and move toward the life they want. 

Wellness Wednesday: Travel Insights

I am in black and with me is Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH of

I am in black and with me is Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH of

Although travel is often arduous, it has the capability to be really invigorating. Travel is meant to refresh both the body and the spirit. 

I travel seldom. Often, when I do, it is for a specific reason such as a conference. Nonetheless, it gives me perspective on the destination and on home. I also learn things about myself. Here is a sampling of my insights from a recent trip to Stanford Medx. 

  • I worry before a trip and invariably come to find that my worries were largely unfounded.
  • Every time I travel, especially the day I’m supposed to depart, I'm reluctant to leave home and have strong feelings of missing home. However, by the time I change planes, I am very glad I went and I get excited for the destination. Toward the end of the trip, I'm anxious to depart, and love arriving at home.
  • I romanticize my destinations yet ultimately find that they, like all places, have advantages and disadvantages.
  • I sleep more when I am not at home since I do not engage in the endless list of things to do at home.
  • I feel better when I sleep more as many people have told me I would.
  • I am becoming increasingly selective about what I eat.  I am therefore becoming more careful about bringing food, especially snack foods, with me.
  • I am more determined than before about finding new ways to keep up on my workout while I travel.
  • I drink more and hydrate better when I am away and I feel better because of it.
  • I am still reserved at the beginning of a big interactive conference. I then realize partway through the conference that there is no reason not to approach anybody, including the main speaker, that I find interesting. When I do approach people with reasonable points or questions, they are uniformly receptive and share generously.
  • I never bring enough business cards. And in a related vein, my business cards are boring. I need some new ones.
  • I sometimes get the “ I am not worthy“ feeing when I meet people of towering brilliance and accomplishment. It does not take me too long to realize that this is a waste of energy. However, it still happens. Thankfully, this feeling does not paralyze me, and it makes me want to do more. These negative feelings are eclipsed by my gratefulness at getting to meet such people.
  • I am afraid of “ losing” the cool people I meet on my trips, so I have become more thorough about getting their complete contact information, often including pictures. The funny thing is, everyone else seems to be doing the same thing.
  • I used to disdain Twitter, but now I get it. I don’t know if this was one of the original intended uses, but I quickly learned to do as others were doing and tweet out key points from the lectures, including helpful hashtags and relevant twitter handles. The twitter stream from the sometimes concurrent presentations in one conference could thus be shared by all who were interested, regardless of what presentation they attended or, regardless of whether they were present at the conference at all. I was enthralled by the idea that we were creating a crowdsourced collective impression of the conference available live in the twitter sphere.
  • When I travel to places where I have lived before, I feel a pleasant sense of continuity from past to the present. I also get a sense of longevity, as though life is reasonably long, and that you are free to do many different things over the decades.

Traveling inspires me to do more and be more. It makes me appreciate both home and the destination better. If I go back in time by going back to a place I’ve lived before, I gain understanding and compassion for my younger self.

Traveling can be expensive and challenging to arrange. However, I believe that it is worth it.


Here are some older posts I wrote about travel: 

Travel Wellness

Travel Food

The Structure of Travel




Wellness Wednesday: The Importance of Neighborhood

Right now I am in the middle of something big with my neighborhood. We are rallying and banding together to prevent the development of a huge water bottling plant in our agricultural and research oriented riverside neighborhood. Yeah, I know ! Outrageous isn’t it ? More on that later. 

I am learning what good people I have around me. I have truly been blessed. My neighbors are educated, considerate, flexible, and well spoken. They are from old to young. They come from a variety of economic and social backgrounds. They have a wide range of politics. But one thing’s for sure, we have some shared values. Those include feelings of stewardship for good soil and our pristine aquifer. 

It goes deeper. I have a sense of having a neighborhood of people who would help me if I had a flat tire. I have seen random busy people stop their cars to help shoo someone’s cows back into a pasture. I would never worry about my kids walking to school. But not everyone has these types of advantages. 

A Rand foundation report called “ Neighborhoods and Health”  indicates the following:

“ Just as conditions within our homes have important implications for our health, conditions in the neighborhoods surrounding our homes can have major health effects. Social and economic features of neighborhoods have been linked with mortality, general health status, disability, birth outcomes, chronic conditions, health behaviors and other risk factors for chronic disease as well as with mental health, injuries, violence and other important health indicators."


Did you know, for example, that heath habits or disease habits are contagious ? That’s right, things like obesity, smoking, or on the other side, jogging and gardening are contagious too ? Neighborhoods can influence health in this way. 

Even the physical layout of a neighborhood can have its effects. Are there sidewalks, playgrounds and good lights ? A “ bad neighborhood” where it is not safe to walk or play outside severely constrains people’s ability to be active. It keeps people inside with the shades drawn, and bad behaviors like drinking can potentially go unchecked because there is no social accountability.  Such a lonely hostile environment greatly contributes to people’s stress, and of course stress truly contributes to many disease processes. 

Green spaces in neighborhoods turn out to be especially important. These serve as places to congregate and places to play. They also expose people to nature in places where it may be scarce, and research tells us that exposure to nature is beneficial to health in specific measurable ways. Please see my 2015 post on Nature and Health HERE. I remember being delighted with the particulars of what I unearthed when I did the research for this post. 

Here is a strange, wondrous and reproducible statistic:

An increase of ten additional trees on a city block on average, increases self reported health equivalent to a $10,000 annual increase in income or being 7 years younger. That’s right, adding ten trees to your block will add seven years to your life, at least from your perspective. The health they are talking about here is “cardiometabolic conditions” such as heart disease and diabetes. Several studies have tried to determine how this works. It seems to start by getting people outside, more active, with lower stress and lower blood pressure. More green space also seems to help reduce aggression and crime. 

What about the food environment of a neighborhood ? Is there local food ? Is food grown and sold ? Are there bars, grocery stores or convenience stores ? There is such a thing as a “ food desert” and I don’t mean dessert. A food desert is place which has nowhere to easily get healthy affordable food. The food environment has a huge obvious effect on food choices and health. 

Have you ever heard of a Ciclovia ? A Ciclovia is a open street programs that closes major roads to motor vehicles so they can be used exclusively by bicyclists and pedestrians. Ciclovias are being studied in large urban centers like Los Angeles in an effort to increase physical activity and sense of community in urban areas. 

What about sense of community ? What does that do ? This goes back to my original description of our neighborhood. It involves trust. There is trust and accountability in the continuity of these neighborhood relationships. Dan Beuttner, in his book Blue Zones, speaks of the decade-spanning friend groups of Japanese women, the “ moai” and their role in promoting the extreme healthy longevity of these women. The trust and connection of these long relationships provide a basis for the best things in life, such as celebration. 

These neighborhood relationships also uphold us when the going gets tough. I can remember nearly 27 years ago, I was between med school and residency, when I was pregnant with Forest. I had preterm labor and was put on bedrest. I was living in this same rural neighborhood, but in a tiny aging cottage which has since been torn down. I had a four year old, and my husband worked long days. Neighbors I barely knew, from newly married young women to aging matriarchs arrived with casseroles and pies. When it snowed, the drive just got plowed. These people became friends, and some have since passed. But their kindness left a permanent mark. 

In my search of Pub Med, which is the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, I found a fairly recent article stating “ The study of neighborhood health effects has grown exponentially over the past 15 years. “ Do not think for a minute that this is not real science nor that there are not real monetary and human resources being devoted to it. 

Neighborhoods affect the physical and mental health of their constituents. One study from the Archives of Psychiatry introduced me to some useful terminology as they highlighted the effects of neighborhoods on health. “ Concentrated disadvantage” was strongly associated with mental health problems for children. On the other hand, collective efficacy (the ability of neighbors to work together) and organizational participation mediated the effects of concentrated disadvantage on the effects of children. 

My neighborhood is demonstrating collective efficacy and organizational participation at its best. We have got our Facebook and Twitter pages for our cause and a great many of us plan to show up at the County Commissioners’ Office  to register our thoughts on the matter. I anticipate the group will bring some scientific and oratorial firepower to bear. 

It turns out that bad neighborhood environments generate their own vicious cycle and good neighborhood environments generate an even stronger virtuous cycle. Understanding this dynamic gives people a handle on how to make things better, no matter where they are starting from. 

How do you make things better ? Twenty two years ago I purchased an unconventional poster to decorate my office. It was shrink-wrapped, and backed in cardboard. When my practice got going, we had it framed and glassed. I still see its message every day. It is by an artist named Karen Kerney, and I will share it with you through an Amazon link. It is titled, “ How to Build Community”. It is for everyone who does not yet have a nice neighborhood to live in. It was ahead of its time. The folk wisdom it contained has now been largely validated by the science on neighborhoods and health.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Wellness Wednesday: Back to School 

Parents all over the world are experiencing one of the biggest transitions of the year: back to school. Whether you have grade schoolers, high schoolers or kids bound for the university, it is bound to have a big effects on your routines of daily life. And that in turn, has effects on your health and the health of the family. 

Summer can be a relaxing time when people are more physically active. Or it can be hectic with guests, vacations, and the routines can go out the window. Take a moment to assess your summer. Determine how you would like to capitalize on the transition back to school. 

For families with kids of any age, getting back on a good sleep wake schedule is key. Start at least a week early. Get back on a good meal and snack time schedule. You should be on that schedule anyway ! 

Sit down with kids of any age and go over their school supplies. Let kids have as much independence as possible in picking their supplies. These are important expressions of individuality. 

For university students, sit down and discuss finances. Establish a realistic budget regardless of where the money is coming from. Make sure they know how to balance a bank account and look up any card balances. Discuss expectations well in advance. 

For school clothes, don’t go crazy. Start by asking kids to tidy up their room and go through their things. Younger ones will need help with this, but let them do as much as they can by themselves. Encourage them to get rid of as much as they can, but go through it later yourself for things you might need to keep for younger children or other kids whom you know. Establish a habit of giving to Goodwill, and likewise, regardless of your finances, teach kids that it is reasonable to check second hand stores for things they might need. This should be given a air of boho environmental cachet, as well as frugality. After that, establish a budget and go shopping, but just get basics until your child reinvents themselves again for that year. 

Make it easy for kids to stay organized. Have an area such as a mudroom with hooks and cubbies for kids to put their things. Additionally, each child, whether large or small should have a desk area of their own if at all possible, even if they have to share a bed. This can be organization central for them. Consider having a family wall calendar, so everyone can see what family activities are coming. 

Teaching kids early on to have a routine will save them tons of stress. There are routines for sleep, eating, exercise, homework, after school activities, family time and play. Teach kids by example. Make sure you have good habits yourself. Then everyone will have a productive, low stress, enjoyable school year. 


Food Friday: Pre and Post Work Out Food and Drink 

Young attractive woman doing exercises for the triceps.jpg

This is actually called nutrient timing in the hallowed halls of medicine. When I initially started looking into this, I found a number of sources calling it bunk, and just as many others touting it earnestly. I wanted to get to the truth of the matter. 

To understand the rationale for pre and post workout food and drinks, one must understand the concepts of catabolism and anabolism. These are the two basic metabolic modes that the body can be in. 

Catabolism is the state of breaking down.

Make no mistake, all exercise is, by design, a teardown or at least a strain, on body parts. What makes exercise more than just trauma is that it is done in such a way to be just enough strain to stimulate new growth, or anabolism. Moreover, it is balanced between upper and lower body, as well as between flexor and extensor muscle systems of the body. Exercise is a well designed program of strategic strains on the body so as to stimulate a growth and strengthening of the systems. 

Anabolism is a state of building up that one will hopefully achieve in the aftermath of exercise. 

Clearly this state of anabolism is resource requiring, even resource intensive. We need certain amounts of water, carbohydrates and fats for energy, and protein to build body parts. 

Review of the literature reveals a shortage of good studies on the effectiveness of pre and post exercise supplements. However a number of general insights can be gained. 

  • Gains after exercise are greater when exercise is in initiated in a non fasting state. 
  • A meal should not be closer than 1.5 to 2 hours before a workout. 
  • The so called post exercise window when one can benefit from this supplementation is not as small nor as soon as was previously believed.
  • To maximize anabolic effect, pre and post meals should be separated by no more than 4 hours. 
  • Good nutrition spread throughout the day also supports continued anabolism. 
  • The post exercise interval is more important than the pre-exercise interval, but supplements at both times appears to confer some benefit in optimal anabolic gain and have little risk. 
  • Carbohydrate is needed as well in the post exercise interval in order to replace glycogen, but the carbohydrate need is met by meeting the normal daily requirement for carbohydrate distributed throughout the day. 
  • Protein supplementation pre and post workout should be about 0.5 g/kg of Lean body mass (LBM) For example, a 50 kg person would consume 25g of protein a couple hours before a workout and a couple of hours after a workout. 
  • Pre and post exercise supplements seem to confer a greater percentage gain in the untrained versus the already trained. 
  • Pre and post workout supplements need not be expensive or prepackaged. Protein powder in milk will do nicely. 

Good for you if you are interested in both fitness and nutrition. Now you can leverage them both for some serious gains. Ladies, remember, muscles do not make you look big. They make you look toned and sleek. And they burn more calories than fat. Best yet, they let you do fun things like carry backpacks, ride horses and play sports. 



Wellness Wednesday: Sleep Hygiene with Sketches

It is summer in the far north and the days are long they stretch into the night. Farmers work until 11 pm and dinner is at about 9pm in broad daylight. Then the evening comes, and by 11 pm you feel the evening is just getting started. A movie is chosen and whoops, you are up way too late, especially since the sun comes blazing in shortly after 5:30am. 

So I though I would take this opportunity to share with you some sketches I did for my wellness reminder cards that pertained to the importance of good sleep hygiene. Each card will hopefully remind the user of a key principle, with the image on one side, and the reminder on the other. 

1. Adequate Restorative Sleep 

With few exceptions, adults need 7-8 hours of sleep. You should wake, almost spontaneously, and feel rested. That is the meaning of restorative sleep. 



2. Consistent Wake Time

Having a consistent wake time actually helps you fall asleep properly at bedtime. 





3. Consistent Sleep Time

Once you get in a routine, you will start to get sleepy at the right time. 





4. Correct Sleep Environment

The room should be dark, quiet and cool, without electronics or snoring people. 






5. Medical Evaluation of Necessary

Most major hospitals have a Sleep Center or Department of Sleep Medicine. There is now the recognition that sleep health underscores all health. Rigorous studies can be done to assess sleep problems, and treatments are available. 



To learn more see our webpage on sleep HERE

Next week on wellness Wednesday we will continue with more wellness reminders. 

Nighty Night !



Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Habit Formation 

Healthy habits are the basis of peak wellness. Heathy habits are something we can develop. Whether the healthy habit is taking vitamins, being grateful, exercising, or eating fiber, the practice only works if it is done over and over for extended periods of time. This repetition is achieved through habit formation. 

What does science say about how habits are developed ? 

The brain is designed to form habits.  New behaviors or tasks can be challenging. Over time, the brain “chunks” small possibly difficult behaviors into automatic routines which becomes easy or even effortless. This is a habit. Habits are adaptive and have helped us survive. Habit formation is our brain’s way of automating certain key behaviors, so more conscious attention can be paid to novel situations.  If we understand how this works we can form new habits at will. 

What do we need to form new habits ? 

In simple terms there are three steps: 

  1. Cue
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

This is called a habit loop. These are well explained in Charle’s Duhigg’s book "The Power of Habit”.  The cue triggers the routine, and the routine triggers anticipation of the reward. For example, my exercise routine is cued by changing into exercise clothes. From there, I go downstairs to workout, and the reward is the endorphins and the satisfaction. There is no doubt that at first, it is hard to link the steps. But it becomes easier with each cycle. To be realistic, it takes somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months to form a new habit. 

What about bad habits ? They too have cues, routines and rewards. Basically, they have to be understood in terms of their rewards, namely, what you get out of it. In many cases, smokers smoke to get a moment of peace in a busy day. This is obviously legitimate. However, the cigarette is unhealthy and chemically addictive in addition to being behaviorally addictive. It turns out we should not exactly delete bad habits since this leaves a void. Instead we are better off to overwrite them with good ones. To illustrate, a smoker could use patches to wean down on the addictive nicotine, while overwriting her smoking habit with a healthful tea drinking habit. Perhaps to make it more engaging, she would brew the tea from loose leaves. Her reward would be the moment of peace, the taste, smell, and mental clarity that followed. 

My subject in this post are the cues. In simple terms, they are reminders of health habits. I decided to expand my set of reminder cards to include not only the subject of nutrition, but also the subjects of sleep, exercise, communication, and creativity. I believe these are some of the elements in total peak wellness. Here are my cue phrases so far. 


  •      Adequate restorative sleep 
  •      Consistent wake time 
  •      Consistent sleep time 
  •      Correct sleep environment 
  •      Medical evaluation if necessary 


  •      Start easy and short 
  •      Warm up
  •      Cool down 
  •      Value initiation over endurance 
  •      Good gear 
  •      Eat for exercise 
  •      Hydrate for exercise 
  •      Tunes for exercise 
  •      Podcasts for exercise 
  •      Exercise daily 
  •      One break day per week 
  •      Stretch after exercise 
  •      Buddy exercise 
  •      Track your exercise 
  •      Explore HIT 
  •      Include yoga 
  •      Mix it up 
  •      Use good form 
  •      Consult professionals 


  •      Get inspired through people travel and media 
  •      Find your styles 
  •      Express creativity in your personal space 
  •      Make a space for your creativity
  •      Take time for hobbies 
  •      Take time for Travel
  •      Take time for recreational reading 
  •      Pick a hobby and learn it well
  •      Share your creative work


  •      Always work
  •      Honor work in and out of the home 
  •      Chose meaningful work 
  •      Become expert at your work
  •      Give work boundaries in time, space, and thought
  •      Do you best at work 
  •      Communicate effectively at work
  •      Reach out often at work
  •      Play as a team 
  •      Ask for appropriate compensation


  •      Breathe and think before speaking 
  •      Use Honesty 
  •      Use courtesy
  •      I statements
  •      Precision of speech
  •      Closed loop communication
  •      Listen more than speak 
  •      Listen actively
  •      Repeat back clarification 
  •      Acknowledge others’ point of view
  •      Build common ground


You can find nutrition reminders HERE discussed in a prior post. I plan to devote a few wellness Wednesday’s to the development of these reminders or cues. 

For more reading :

Food Friday: Family Dinner

It’s summer and the kids are home. Why not take advantage of their company and get serious about some awesome family dinners ? Sounds like fun, right ? But it’s much more. According to a considerable body of research on the subject, family dinners are important to well being. (Reference:

Family dinners are associates with the following findings: 

  • Better academic performance 
  • Higher self esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience 
  • Lower risk of substance abuse 
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy 
  • Lower Risk of depression 
  • Lower likelihood of developing an eating disorder 
  • Lower rates of obesity 

Let’s think about why. 


The family dinner is a testing ground for the performance of a family group as a team. And yet, pulling it together to make a family dinner is not all that hard. It is within most every person's or every family's reach. Engineering the family dinner is an exercise destined for success. Most people are grateful when someone makes them something to eat, no matter how simple. It is a primal act of caring, usually free of strings, that one person does for others. Thus a dinner is easy to produce and easy to accept. 

Children and teens can and should help prepare the dinner, even if is just setting the table. They learn preparation and cooking skills, and they learn to pitch in. They also learn that if they don’t pitch in, they will stand out. 

The family dinner is a time when most families put aside conflict, since conflict at the dinner table just doesn’t work. The ritual and the food cause us to make a deliberate change in our behavior for the better. We cease to be isolated individuals and come together to make something more, a family or a even a social group. Thus, it is very hard for someone to be lonely at the table. At the table, it is graphically obvious that you come from somewhere, and that you have a place. 

Our family table has extended into the adulthoods of our children and to the younger cousins and their friends. We are very lucky in that regard. Most of them have gone off to college and have come back, bringing spouses, girlfriends, friends and grandchildren in tow. They have each developed family table specialty skills. Echo bakes and is an award winning amateur chocolatier. Forest is lately enamored of our Instant Pot, a cool pressure cooker, which enables you to make impressive meals with little planning or tending. Geri does veggies and my son in law does smoked meats and salads. Vale is smoothie man. Hanna my niece is a cake decorating expert. They are all serious students and professionals, but they have all come to be serious foodies too.

Stepping back, I see that no matter what their fancy, the whole thing is one big shared hobby, and when we do food, everyone is pretty happy. A happy hobby. Moreover, while it was simple and easy when they were little, they have, on their own, leveled up, as the gamers say. They relish the acquisition of skills needed for their culinary hobbies, and that gives them social confidence. Finally, they relish the presentation of their dishes to others. The “ breaking of bread” has always been a bonding experience and in a family this is nothing but good. 

Think about all this this summer, when your kids are around more, and hopefully you have a little more time. All you have to do is start something fun in the kitchen. Put your heart into and it and invite others to join in the process of creation. It will take on a life of it’s own.  

Food Friday: Kitchen Gadget Heaven

I have a kitchen gadget fetish. But I am not ashamed. Food…including the taste, the process, and the nutrition, is very important to me. It is worth my time and money. I have my priorities. Over time, I have learned what I really need in the way of kitchen gadgets. I would like to share my thoughts with you, so you don’t end up spending your money on stuff you don’t use. 

Good kitchen equipment is nice, but not essential to delicious healthy food. Many memorable meals were made in tiny European kitchens or over an open fire by a river with very little in the way of gadgetry.

Some basics as needed, and most can be obtained at your local goodwill store. Moreover, parents and family are usually willing to part with older serviceable items like blenders, thus making it possible for them to get the latest greatest model. Use your ingenuity, save up some money for nice things, and place food and food preparation high on your list of priorities. Food is a critical part of your health and cuisine a delightful part of your social life. 


Must have

  • dishes
  • flatware, i.e. knives, forks, etc.
  • all purpose glasses, for hot and cold, the ideal being for both, i.e. Picardie glasses (repurposed jam jars for cups, anyone ? )
  • saucepan
  • frypan, nonstick
  • ladle
  • spatulas
  • knife set
  • usable cloth napkins
  • pitcher
  • roasting pan
  • covered casserole pan, stove to oven
  • potholders
  • dishtowels
  • cutting board
  • cookbooks or internet access
  • set of preparation bowls
  • measuring sets: quarts, cups, teaspoons and tablespoons.


Nice to have

  • serving dishes and utensils
  • table wear such as table cloths
  • toaster
  • blender
  • hand blender
  • slow cooker
  • sushi roller
  • yogurt maker
  • ice cream maker
  • air popcorn popper  
  • dedicated freezer
  • panini press
  • waffle iron


Objects of Desire

  • barbeque or grill
  • Cuisinart food processor
  • Kitchenaid Mixer
  • Vita Mix Blender
  • wood burning pizza oven
  • pressure cooker

My new favorite gadget is my Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. It is the opposite of a slow cooker. It is a fast cooker, but the result is the same: tender flavorful meat from inexpensive cuts, and rich well developed sauces. For a long time I had the great idea to set food cooking in the slow cooker before I went to work, and when I returned 8-9 hours later, it would be all nicely done. Well, that did not materialize for a variety of reasons. I failed to prep the night before. I worried about burning the house down when I was gone. I didn’t want to leave it overnight, or I thought I might not come home as planned.

When Michelle Tam of turned me onto the Instant Pot, I knew it was a match made in heaven. I could come home from work anytime and have a thoroughly cooked hearty meal ready in thirty minutes or less. Last night I spent 15 minutes of prep time on a brand new recipe,  threw raw chicken thighs in the instant pot with sauce and onions, and 15 minutes later I had steaming fragrant lemongrass coconut chicken that seemed like it had simmered all day. Everyone was intrigued and there were no leftovers. 

Cooking is one of the best hobbies, along with fitness. I have prepared a little collection for you to illustrate just how I feel about the the tools of the cooking trade. Enjoy !