Friday, January 13, 2017

The hidden disease that no one talks about: from clutter to dealing with the stigma of hoarding.



Let's face it: how many times, at the beginning of the year, we promise ourselves to clean out the clutter in our closet/garage/storage room/office?  One's new year resolutions might be a bigger problem than we think...  There are a lot of hidden reasons why we clutter, and justify it. Understanding our behavior is only a part of the strategy to tackle the task of decluttering head on.  But at what point does an individual go from clutter to hoarding? How does it affect the life of those around a hoarder? And most importantly, how does the health of a person who is hoarding?

There should't be a way to sugar-coat hoarding. It is as valid a disease as OCD and other anxiety and psychological disorders.  Dr. Sanjaya Saxena, speaker at the Howell Health and Happiness Symposium on January 21st, sheds light on the compulsive behavior called hoarding.  According to Dr. Sanjaya Saxena, (quoted in this article from the Washington Post last year), "Hoarding is 'underdiagnosed and undertreated'.  Though people realize it’s a problem, they never conceive of it as a medical disorder rooted in brain abnormalities.”

His clinical focus is on assessing and treating patients with OCD and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders with medication and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy. His research examines the fundamental neurobiology and treatment of OCD, hoarding and related disorders, using functional and structural brain imaging technologies to understand how brain circuits mediate their symptoms. The goal is to learn why some treatments are effective and how to predict patients’ responses to different treatment options. Some of his recent research explores ways to more effectively treat hoarding disorder and develop novel treatments for this condition.

There is only a small difference between clutter and hoarding.  According to the article written by Sara Solovich, experts agree that a "hoarding disorder is present when the behavior causes distress to the individual or interferes with emotional, physical, social, financial or legal well-being".

The first step in addressing hoarding is by working towards eliminating the stigma that accompanies it.  No, hoarders are not lazy, or loosers for that matter. Here is what is known so far:
  • Hoarding affects 19 million Americans --around 6% of the population
  • Recent research shows that hoarding can be genetic  
  • Research has also shown that hoarding tendencies start during teenage years
  • Hoarding is more present in men than in women
  • Hoarding typically co-occurs with other mental disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and personality disorders.  Alcholol dependence and obsesive compulsive behaviors exacerbate its treatment
  • Hoarding is inversley proportional to income levels 
  • There is a strong co-relation between hoarding and obesity: hoarders are 3 times more likely to be obese
  • Hoarding is not exclusive to objects; although animal and object hoarding come hand in hand  
  • Hoarders are in general socially withdrawn and are older in age
Why should hoarding concern us? Going beyond the inability to care for oneself due to the exacerbated disorganization that keeps anyone from carrying on with the basic, expected activities and behaviors, it represents a serious health hazard; not only because of the disorder itself, but because of the related risks accompanying it.  Examples include having a fire and not being able to escape it, or not being to move in case of an emergency. But the most devastating part of the disorder is additionally having to deal with social and emotional connections with family and friends.

For those with a family member or friend that shows a hoarding pattern, it is important to realize that unless there is a will to change the behavior, the likelyhood of succeding is, well, not there.  Interventionalist teams that address hoarding typically recommend an approach based on trust and respect.  It is important to ask before getting rid of an item, as ridiculous as the item might be.  Intervention teams that address hoarding typically involve the development of strategies that seek behavioral changes:

  • Developing an 'anti-clutter' plan that involves a licensed clinitian or coach that can work on the entrenched belief of collecting
  • Practicing clutter removal to etablish the habit of getting rid of unnecessary items
  • Joining a support group
  • Avoiding the habit of shopping
  • Engaging in other activities that might help mitigate the anxiety of hoarding, such as exercise or meditation

Depending on wether there is an underlying disorder such as depression and axiety, medication might work.

Hoarding is no laughing matter! Learn more at the Howell Foundation's Health and Happiness Syposium on January 21st. It will provide new strategies and tools to uncover your health in one area that is rarely talked about -- clutter and hoarding; including effective coping skills like meditation and exercise.


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Sources: 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/real-world-hoarding/
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/01/health/a-clue-to-the-hoarder-s-compulsion-for-clutter.html?_r=0
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/hoarding-is-serious-disorder--and-its-only-getting-worse-in-the-us/2016/04/11/b64a0790-f689-11e5-9804-537defcc3cf6_story.html?utm_term=.4afea6813bb5
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5183092/
http://doctors.ucsd.edu/details/12033/sanjaya-saxena-psychiatry-la_jolla
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15169692
Image by Geoff B Hall - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16393385

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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Honoring the Women you love this holiday season!



Have you considered honoring a loved one with a donation to the Howell Foundation?

Why should you?

Because we ARE different, genetically, anatomically and psychologically. So what leads many to believe that women and men should be diagnosed and treated the same when it comes to our health?

The complexity of gender differences and the greater health incidences a women faces --especially in the latter years of her life-- make women’s health research even more necessary than ever.   And by gender differences I mean going beyond the various roles ascribed to us because of our boobs and vaginas.   As best described by Carol Vlassoff, “Gender refers to the array of socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis.”

We do not have heart attacks the same way.

We do not face stress the same way.

We do not react to Ambien the same way.

We don’t even get depressed the same way!

But we all do have women in our lives.  What are we doing to keep them healthy?

As with most EVERYTHING in our lives, it does take an act of Congress to get things done.  Seriously.    Women’s activism was partly responsible for the National Institutes of Health’s Revitalization Act in 1993 that mandated –and ensured-- the inclusion of women in clinical trials.  Problem is, it was TWENTY YEARS AGO!  And still today, there continues to be a need for gender-specific research, not only at a social (gender) level, but at the physical (sex…no, not THAT one) level as well.  The NIH has now extended its mandate of inclusion of women in clinical studies to the inclusion of male and female animals and male and female cells in basic research.

So what can we do today to achieve women’s health? The answer should be simple:  it starts with research and ends with education.  Some examples?

We ARE kicking breast cancer’s butt; however, we still need help with ovarian cancer research.

When faced with either having a heart attack, or having night sweats, it DOES come to a point where we would rather die than continue living sleep deprived! Hormone therapy guidelines –specifically the prescription of estrogen between ages 50 and 60 - is becoming acceptable again.   On behalf of men –and of course women all over the world, thank you! New research on hormone therapy, just in the past year, has revealed that it is not as bad as it was once thought to be.

Not to sound like chickens, but advancements in the process of freezing women’s eggs gives many facing cancer the possibility of enjoying motherhood.  Go warriors!

Women’s health, however, can’t just stop at the research level.   Get and STAY informed!  Women’s health depends on the knowledge about our own bodies.  It’s about advocating for our own health by keeping up with the wonderful scientific advances that might affect us.

So as to the ‘why’ we should care about women’s health:   Women’s health is family health:  Healthy women, happy family. Personalized medicine needs to consider gender and sex, which ultimately starts with research at its most basic: the cellular level.  By understanding the physiological, psychological and social differences between men and women:

  • Researchers can keep discovering new cures for disease based on the differences between men and women.
  • Doctors can establish the necessary guidelines to treat illness specific to gender and sex –vs. a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 
  • The pharmaceutical industry can develop targeted medications that effectively treat and cure illness in a specific sex-specific manner.
  • Men and women can be informed and become advocates for their own health, and most importantly, their family’s health.   

Understanding women’s health is a win-win for all of us, don’t you think?




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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

                                                                        ###

Is there an intelligent way of aging? The key research findings that say there is!



The old age question remains:  why do some people live longer than others?  Do some of us REALLY want to live that long?

The 'old old' may hold all the answers to longevity.  In order to understand the spike in longevity, investigators from the University of Southern California embarked in a research project back in 1981.  It started with a 14 page questionnaire which was sent to 18,000 people.  14,000 were returned.   The average age was 73, and two out of three people alive were women. The group of researchers wanted to understand what factors affected their health.

Why is this important? More of half of the children born today are expected to live up to 103 years old! It is expected that by 2050, 3% of the population will be over 90!

The most important findings of the study and how to age intelligently back in the 80's included:

1. Of the most common recommendations to lead a healthy lifestyle,  and as to what activities influence our ability to live longer, the results of the study were quite surprising! The factors associated with longevity show that it really isn't a question of who lives longer, but who lives well; including maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

2. One thing is for sure: of those factors that do increase our longevity, turns out surrounding yourself with loved ones is THE factor to consider if you want to age successfully!  Being social helps to live longer!

3. It is about engaging the brain! Leisure activities that summed up to 8 hours per day made people live longer, and well!

4.- Exercise, exercise, exercise!  As little as 15 minutes a day goes a long way.  In her research, Dr. Kawas mentions that the ideal time to exercise is 45 minutes a day.  And it doesn't have to happen all at once.  You can take a 20 minute walk, and gardening for another 20 minutes later in the day.

Taking it a step further. 


One of the most difficult and dreaded aspects of aging is dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  Dr. Kawas took her study a step farther.  In 2003, throught the University of California at Irvine, she started the '90+ study', and asked people that were over 90 --and those who still today turn 90-- if she could take a look at their brain from a psychological, physiological and functional perspective to see how it all related to their lives-- including PET scans, MRI, DNA tests and blood samples.  The gift of the participants of looking at their brain after they die is what is giving us the insights of how to deal with dementia and Alzheimer's Disease in the latter part of our lives.

Her research findings continue to impact the medical community today, starting with the fact that aging and longevity are truly a women's issue. She has been involved nationally in aging studies for over 30 years now, and up until recently, virtually all aging studies did not consider women. Biologically, of every species in the planet living today, females are the ones living longer.   Further more, by age 95, there  are now 3 (vs. 2) women alive for every men.

After following over 1,600 participants, out of the 40% living in some kind of sheltered living, about 1/3 were living alone with little to no assistance.  Cognition wise, the individuals in the study were pretty much divided the same: 1/3 had relatively normal thinking, 1/3 had some problems in their thinking pattern, but not enough to qualify as having full blown dementia, and a 1/3 with dementia.

Being that Alzheimer's and Dementia tend to be the two most dreaded aspects of aging, Dr. Kawas mentioned that the ONLY way to find out about the risks of developing either after 90 is by understanding the pathologies taking course in their brain.

The two are clearly not the same.  Dementia is the decline of the mental ability that is severe enough to get in the way of doing what one wishes to do.  As a matter of fact, there are more than a hundred causes of dementia, where as in Alzheimer's there is only one:  plaques found between the dying cells in the brain - from the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid. Read more about Alzheimer's and women here.

If you live past  the age of 90, what is the likelihood of developing  dementia?   The risks are astonishingly high: If you are between 90 and 94 years old, the risk of dementia is 10%; from the ages of 95 to 99, the risk doubles to 20%.  If you are 100+ years of age, the risk of dementia goes up to 40% per year.  But not everyone suffers from dementia in their old age.  Dr. Kawas spoke of a woman who died at 108 that had no signs of dementia!

Even though the risk of developing dementia is high as we age, working on our cognition skills is definitely a strong aging factor, along with others such as genetic suceptibility factors, alcohol and caffeine intake, being social and exercising.

But what are the risk factors of developing dementia as you age?  Dr. Kawas strongly suspects the underlying factors detected prior to being diagnosed with dementia.  Her study revealed that 60% of the patients who had passed that were diagnosed with dementia also had Alzheimer's Disease.  She also discovered that 40% of those with normal thinking had developed Alzheimer's at the time of passing.

But what caught her attention was the fact that, at younger ages, it is very unusual to have an Alzheimer's Disease pathology and stil maintain normal cognition functions, while many older individuals managed to escape the ravagesof the disease.  Finding out how to tolearate the pathology and still have good thinking would be critical at all ages.

Looking at what people had in their brains at the time of death gives her a clue on what it takes to diagnose and prevent dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.  People don't always have just one pathology.  Did you know that if you have microinfarts, you are 4 times more likely to develop dementia? Patients  with hypocampal sclerosis are 10 times more likely, and people with  white matter disease are 13 times more likely to develop cognitive disfuntion and dementia.

"The real heroes of this study are the subjects that so gracefully accepted us to take a look at their brain, especially after they have passed" comments Dr. Kawas.  Her research is making history, and hopefully her findings can help prevent cognitive function illness in the near future!




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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

                                                                        ###

Howell's Community Engagement Initiative focuses on weight gain prevention and meditation

Jessica Hawks, doctoral candidate and Dr. Hala Madanat


The Howell's CEI holds more than "Fresh 15"... mentoring and leadership skills in a real-world setting are included! 

Dr. Hala Madanat presented the results of Howell's CEI research grant focused on preventing gain weight in women starting college -- also known as 'freshman 15' -- at our last luncheon in November.

But it wasn't only about the ways to prevent weight gain, it was also about providing and being able to train researchers in a 'real world' setting; including an in-depth understanding on leadership and mentorship for the researchers involved.  The project included 3 undergraduate students, 4 master's degree students, and one doctoral student.

The study was divided into 2 arms; one included coaching and nutrition; the other without any kind of intervention at all.  The study would take place during a 12-week period; and participants were tested to identify the markers at the beginning at at the end of the study.  No surprises, really.  Turns out the coached group showed no additional weight gain, reported less stress, and their cholesterol levels where pretty much the same.

Her conclusion?  By establishing proper eating habits and teaching young women the value of nutrition, young women can identify destructive patterns, such as eating due to stress, or eating based on social, environmental or emotional cues.

Dr. Hala Madanat is an associate professor of health promotion at San Diego State University. She is a medical sociologist with a strong interest in the role of culture, traditions, and western influence on health. Her research focuses on the impact of westernization on diet and nutrition, with an emphasis on US immigrant populations. She is currently working on developing nutrition education programs for US immigrant populations in San Diego, especially with those from the Middle East.

As SDPRC’s Deputy Director, Dr. Madanat is involved in developing and giving trainings to public health professionals both locally and across California. She also leads the organization and development of the annual training conference for community health workers/promotoras, community organization staff, and academics on obesity prevention in Latino communities.

The "fresh 15" are no more! The Student Health Services Program at SDSU is asking that this project become an established program that continues to train incoming freshmen women howto stay healthy trough nutrition.

Not only did attendees to our November Luncheon learn about the results of last year's CEI Grant, but had an opportunity to meet this year's recipient and a little of the work she will be focusing on.  



Meet Dr. Mary Barger, this year's Howell CEI recipient. She will be working with underserved women and meditation techniques to reduce stress with her research project title "Reducing Insomnia in Homeless Women with the Mantram Repetition Program"

The fastest-growing segment of the homeless population are women, and families headed by women. The Mantram Repetition Program (MantramRP), a portable meditation-based program, teaches the frequent, silent, intermittent repetition of a self-selected word. The portability of the MantramRP allows women to use the intervention anywhere and anytime. Improving insomnia and physiological and psychological stress symptoms could improve overall health, potentially lowering use of costly care. The ease of teaching the intervention allow for its incorporation into existing homeless program nationally.

Dr. Barger has an extensive career in women's health.  From USD's website, Mary Barger is an Associate Professor of Nursing in the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. She completed her doctoral education in epidemiology from Boston University’s School of Public Health. Her focus is perinatal epidemiology and she completed her dissertation on cesarean births and their complications on mothers and their infants. She received her Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in maternal and child health and nurse-midwifery and her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Stanford University.

Dr. Barger has been the Director of two nurse-midwifery education programs: the UCSF/UCSD Intercampus Graduate Studies Program and the Boston University Nurse-Midwifery Program. In these positions, she has educated nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, medical students, and residents. During her teaching career, she has practiced full scope clinical nurse-midwifery. In addition to teaching nurse-midwifery students at Boston University, she also taught maternal and child health and community needs assessment to public health students.  Most recently, she taught quantitative research methods to doctoral nursing students and midwifery coursework to masters nursing students at the University of California Sana Francisco.

                                                                               ###

About the Doris A. Howell Foundation: 
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community. 

                                                                              ###

Monday, December 19, 2016

The hidden disorder that no one talks about and the health consequences it brings.



Let's face it: how many times, at the beginning of the year, we promise ourselves to clean out the clutter in our closet/garage/storage room/office? What about the stress that comes with just thinking about it? Feeling the neck pain from turning away from your new year's resolution? How can we beat this unnecessary stress?

WHERE DO I BEGIN? Am I on a path to hoarding?

A new year is about new beginnings; the opportunity to take care of the issues that might be bothering you, stressing you and flat out making you unhappy.  The Howell's Health and Happiness Series will be celebrating its first symposium on January 21, 2017.  Its line of renown speakers promise to deliver a clear understanding of clutter and hoarding, as well as the tools to take control of your habits before they take control of you, and your health:
  • Are women more prone to OCD than men? 
  • Are women more at risk to become hoarders than men? 
  • What effect does clutter have on your health? 
  • Are you aware of the differences between men and women when dealing with stress? (C'mon!  You HAVE heard Dr. Banka talk about it!) 
  • What effect does exercise have not only in our stress levels, but in our overall health?
  • How can meditation be used as a tool to relieve stress?   
Our Health and Happiness Symposium is meant to provide you with the understanding behind why we feel we need to save everything and anything that crosses our paths, how to manage the stress that comes with it, how to let go, and how to manage our stress in other difficult times throughout our lives.  It will provide new strategies and tools to uncover your health in one area that is rarely talked about -- clutter and hoarding; including effective coping skills like meditation and exercise.   So save the date, bring a friend, get a massage, and share the happiness!

When:           January 21st, 2017
Where:          The McMillin Center at Liberty Station (Bldg. 177)
                      2875 Dewey Rd.,
                      San Diego, CA  92106
Time:             8:30 - 11:30 

Program:
8:30-9:00        Registration and light breakfast
9:00-9:45        Dr. Sanjaya Saxena: Do you have a clutter problem or are you a hoarder?
9:55 -10:10     Laura Sepulveda: Using Pilates to Reduce Stress
10:10-10:25    Break and massage therapy to reduce stress
10:25-10:40    Dr. Jill Bormann: Using mantram meditation to reduce stress
10:40-11:15    Dr. Carole Banka – Health and happiness consequences of stress and its management

Cost:           $25.00. Online registration IS REQUIRED.

Meet our speakers:


Key Note Speaker:
Sanjaya Saxena, MD
Professor and Director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders Program
UCSD School of Medicine 
"Do you have a clutter problem or are you a hoarder?"


Dr. Saxena received his Bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College and his medical degree (Alpha Omega Alpha) from University of Minnesota Medical School. He did his psychiatry residency at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, then completed a research fellowship in neuroimaging in neuropsychiatric disorders, receiving a Charles A. Dana Foundation Scholarship. He was on the faculty of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences for nine years before coming to UCSD and the VA San Diego Healthcare System in November, 2005. In 2006, he became the Director of the UCSD Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) Program. He also created San Diego VA Anxiety Disorders Clinic and directed it for four years. From 2010-2015, he served as Director of UCSD Outpatient Psychiatric Services. Dr. Saxena has been elected into Best Doctors in America every year since 2005, and into Castle Connelly’s and US News & World Report’s America’s Top Doctors every year since 2008. Dr. Saxena is also heavily involved in teaching psychiatric residents and medical students at UCSD.

His research focuses on the neurobiology and treatment of OCD, Hoarding Disorder (HD), and related disorders. He has received awards and grants from the American Psychiatric Association, American Neuropsychiatric Association, International OCD Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Saxena serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the International OCD Foundation and was an advisor to the DSM-5 Workgroup on Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders. He and his colleagues developed the diagnostic criteria for Hoarding Disorder, which is now listed as a separate diagnosis in DSM-5. His research has garnered attention from local, national, and international media.



Jill E. Bormann, PhD, RN, FAAN is a Research Scientist and Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. She is also on faculty at the University of San Diego and San Diego State University schools of nursing. Her interest in spirituality and health has led her on a journey to study the health-related benefits of the ancient spiritual practice of repeating a mantram. She will present tips on how to integrate a mantram into your life for health and wellbeing.

Dr. Bormann’s research has focused on Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adults living with HIV/AIDS, family caregivers of Veterans with dementia, healthcare employees, first-time mothers and homeless women.  There is growing evidence that the Mantram Repetition Program is an effective approach to symptom management that is invisible, inexpensive, non-pharmacological, and complementary to mainstream medicine.


Laura Sepulveda, owner and trainer at Gotham Pilates in La Jolla, is a graduate of NYU with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Dance Therapy/Dance Education. She began her career as a fitness trainer in New York City. She has been a guest trainer at Rancho La Puerta. She is certified to teach general fitness, dance (tap is her favorite) and yoga, but her current focus is Pilates. To quote Laura, "Dance is the language of my life. It has been my therapy, my escape, my savior..." Her reverence for movement in all forms is contagious.


Carole Banka, Ph.D is currently Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine.  She received her Ph.D. from UCSF School of Medicine and did postdoctoral training at UCSD School of Medicine and The Scripps Research Institute. She has held faculty positions at The Scripps Research Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine where she was Director of Women’s Health Research. Her areas of research include heart disease, fat and cholesterol metabolism, menopause, breast cancer and reproductive biology.  She was a co-author on the American Heart Association’s seminal “Evidence-based guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention in women: 2007 update”, one of her 40 publications.  Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DOD breast cancer program), the California Breast Cancer Program, the California Tobacco Program and the American Heart Association.


                                                                                    ###

About the Doris A. Howell Foundation: 
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community. 

                                                                  ###

Friday, December 2, 2016

December 2nd is Doris Howell Day!



“I realized how little women knew about themselves, when you would ask a woman where she got her medical advice for herself and her family, she would say, ‘I ask my husband,’ ” she said. “Well, how does he know about what’s best for you?”

Read the full interview here.

For her 90th, and in recognition for her relentless pursuit of women's health, the City of San Diego honored her by declaring December 2nd as Doris Howell Day. Under the premise that women's health is family health, she has dedicated over 20 years in making sure women are informed on the latest research in women's health to become their own health care advocates.

The organization, set up in conjunction with Soroptimist International of La Jolla over 20 years ago, is focused on 3 key areas.  



The scholarship program was intended to get young graduate and post-graduate researchers excited and into the field of women’s health.  So far, in 20 years, it has proven to work!  According to Dr. Thinzar Helmi Lwin, "The Howell research scholarship fueled my interest in science and cancer biology.  It led me to great mentors who guided me into the medical field during my time at UCSD.  I have since finished medical school in New York and am now a surgical resident training at Mt Sinai Beth Israel in NY. I am very appreciative of the Howell Foundation for giving me the opportunity to get started in biomedical research which helped me to get where I am today!"

We are very active in the community with 5 events per year –our Luncheon and Evening Series programs-- that present the latest trends in women’s health.   We seek to inform and empower women to be their best healthcare advocates when discussing their health.   The feedback has always encouraged us to present only the best.  Just this year, our speakers included researchers of the stature of Dr. Claudia Kawas, from the '90+Study',  Karen Possemato from Illumina on the advances of genetics for personalized medicine, Dr. Dorothy Sears with simple lifestyle changes for improving women’s health, authors Hilary Stokes and Kim Ward on the path to happiness, and Dr. Sonia Sharma, with her research on the genome 10,000 experiments at a time: applying genomic approaches to understand autoimmune disease in women.

Our Community Engagement Initiative seeks to partner with post graduate research and community organizations to promote women’s health research that can impact and improve women’s health throughout the community.  Just last year, Dr. Sandra Soto presented the findings of the Howell Foundation’s first Community Engagement Initiative “For our Health”.  The aim of the study was to pilot test the impact of a physical activity intervention on the physical activity practices of pregnant Latinas.  Partnering with WIC, a social support approach was utilized to develop an intervention that targeted individual, social, and cultural influences on physical activity in pregnant Latino Women.  The continuation of this study is now in NIH’s hands for further funding. 

As to what Dr. Howell Feels on the work the Foundation does to improve women's health?

“Take the research that is being done, translate it, and put it into practical use. It’s not who you are or where you’ve been. It’s where you are going that counts .Please take it seriously because we have no way to go but up, no way to go but success, no way to go but needed.  It is filling that need that I hope our Foundation will constantly try to do as its mission; and so far I believe we’ve succeeded.”

Here are some suggestions on how you can continue to help beyond #givingTuesday:

Become a Friend of Howell.  Your small donation or full scholarship award  can help us achieve BIG things; among them, helping young scholars achieve their education goals and dreams!
Attend our events.  Spreading the word with family and friends  or participating with sponsorships  allows us to catch up while enjoying wonderful food and perhaps a great glass of wine.
Donate on behalf of your organization.   Women –and men-- in your company or foundation will have the opportunity to learn more about the women in their lives.   If you’d prefer, we can visit your location and talk about the latest in women’s health research through our speakership services.
Consider us in your planned giving efforts.   Celebrate the life of  the women who mean the most to ensure the legacy of  the women and men in your life.

So as to the ‘why’ we should care about women’s health:   Women’s health is family health:  Healthy women, happy family. Personalized medicine needs to consider gender and sex, which ultimately starts with research at its most basic level: the cellular level.  By understanding the physiological, psychological and social differences between men and women:

  • Researchers can keep discovering new cures for disease based on the differences between men and women.
  • Doctors can establish the necessary guidelines to treat illness specific to gender and sex –vs. a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 
  • The pharmaceutical industry can develop targeted medications that effectively treat and cure illness in a specific sex-specific manner.
  • Men and women can be informed and become advocates for their own health, and most importantly, their family’s health.   

As the year comes to an end, consider us in your giving efforts.   Your contributions are tax deductible, and the women in your life who have unfortunately been touched by illness will certainly appreciate it!  

Donate towards the gift of health.

Visit www.howellfoundation.org to learn about the many ways you can give! 


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The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to scientists researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, researchers, and authors to convey the timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that will create women’s health awareness and advocacy in the community.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

For caregivers, the top 4 must-knows for senior care.



"What do you do when the phone rings at 11:00 at night, and it is the Emergency room telling you your parent fell, broke her hip, will have surgery and be discharged within a couple of days?", asks our own Cheryl Wilson, CEO for St. Paul's and Board Member of the Howell Foundation as she kicks off her presentation at the last Howell luncheon.

According to Dr. Kawas, also a lecturer at the past Howell Luncheon, research is showing that half the children born today are expected to live past 103.  An estimated 2 million people in the US is over 90.  By 2050, it is expected that 3% of the population --around 6 million individuals-- will be part of the 'oldest old' segment of the population.

That means that the need for care giving will also exponentially grow.

Are you prepared?

Cheryl Wilson, CEO, St. Paul's
Working with senior citizens gives Cheryl the opportunity to share the most important things to make sure your loved one is taken care of well into their old age.  Her suggestions?

1.- Have a plan!

Having a conversation with your kids is always difficult, especially when dealing with issues that make a parent vulnerable.  We as 'kids' are used to see our parents strong and taking life head on. Eventually, we grow up and go on our way, and our parents are settled in to live the rest of our lives.  Or so we think...

What is for sure is the clearer the information about what to expect as caregivers and what our family member wants and needs is crucial.  If your parents have not talked to you about what they want in their old age, make sure you have information on their funeral arrangement, their lawyer and their financial planner. What would they like to do if an accident were to happen?  How are they expecting to be taken care of? What about DNR and advanced directive? Should we go into wills and trust funds, or do you want to take a breath?

But seriously, what happens when you do get that call? Around half of patients are discharged to a nursing facility that was not the first choice. Is it accessible?  What if it is too far away? Does it have the rehab capabilities your loved one needs?  Should you be thinking of home instead, and how will you manage?

Kill those 'what if's" and make sure instructions are in your plan! Talking about future care matters!

2. Engage, engage, engage! Much has been published on the efficacy of inter-generational programs, where young and elder interact in social settings as a means to stimulate seniors.  Some of the most interesting programs include music, singing and activities that stimulate the brain.  Cheryl is optimistic about all the research taking place with Parkinson's disease and babies... yes, you read correctly.  Apparently, the shaking diminishes when a Parkinson's patient holds a baby in its arms!

3. Nutrition, with a social component. People are social beings by nature, and nothing is better than a meal in good company!

4. Exercise.  Research shows that stretching every day after 80 goes a long way.  Other forms of fun exercise include walking, swimming and dancing.  Going places gets you your vitamin D, so make sure you wear extra sunscreen.

There is much more information to consider when becoming a care giver. Communication and being informed is only the first step.  If you are in the process of becoming a caregiver, make sure you talk to your doctor's team and care providers to plan for the best care for your loved one!  

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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to scientists researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, researchers, and authors to convey the timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that will create women’s health awareness and advocacy in the community.

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