Friday, March 24, 2017

Inside the mind of an MD, and... our youngest Howell Board Member: can you see the brain cells firing?


Jessica Zhang is a newly minted MD serving on our Board of Directors. It is amazing how many things she is able to do for the Howell Foundation, all while pursuing her residency in Emergency Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital/UCSF.

The philosophy of life of this young doctor is, quite frankly, contagious.  Taking a preventive approach on the road to personalized medicine is, perhaps, the most important factor in achieving health.  But that is just my opinion!  Read the wise words of Dr. Zhang, who no doubt will become one of THE best doctors!

"My hope is that my future career is filled with sudden and unpredictable accidents – this sounds terrible, but hear me out.

There are two ways to approach medicine.  The first is to react to a problem that already exists; the second is to prevent the problem from occurring. Our health care system approaches health from the first perspective. With increasingly rare exception, health is only addressed after you are already sick. On the other hand, things like seat belt laws approach medicine from a place of prevention. The logic being, that if you prevent a problem in the first place, it can prevent cost, suffering, disability, and death.

I imagine most people think my day (or night) as an emergency room doctor consists of sudden illnesses and unspeakable accidents. Things like broken bones, infections, food poisoning, fevers, dog bites, or gunshot wounds. But the majority of what I see is preventable illness. Or, more accurately, the complications of preventable illness. Almost every shift I have patients with kidney failure from diabetes, lung disease from smoking, and heart disease from decades of high blood pressure and excess cholesterol.  In all, traumatic accidents are probably no more than 10% of my career as an emergency room doc.

The five things I wish for my patient are to: eat a healthy diet, exercise, never smoke, try to lose weight and drink five drinks a week. And yes, you read that right.  Those five alcoholic drinks, if spread over the course of a week, are actually beneficial to your health. Binge drinking is not allowed, but that nightly glass of red wine appears to be helping you.

Lets look at some facts - studies that followed hundreds of thousands of people for decades showed that if you ascribe to all five things mentioned above, your risk of heart disease plummets by 80%.  Heart disease includes things like heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure, and heart beat irregularities.  If you think that’s good, then consider the fact that those same five things reduce your risk of diabetes by 90%, your risk of dementia (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) by 60% and your risk of cancer by 35%.

There is no doubt that it takes effortful intention to do these five things, but it’s a pretty incredible trade off.  The more I understand about the human body, the more I realize the crucial importance of maintaining health and wellness.  As a physician, I hope to see that medicine shifts toward maintaining health and wellness thereby reducing the need of a reactive approach.

My day-to-day job is to treat devastating complications of preventable illness (and the rare traumatic accident).  But my passion projects all focus on trying to stop them from happening at all. The Doris Howell Foundation seeks to educate women about how to achieve wellness for themselves and for their families. By way of direct education or research, it seeks to change our entire approach to healthcare.  I get to be part of that as a board member.  I continue to hope that my future career is filled with sudden and unpredictable events because all of the preventable illness has disappeared.

 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' – proverb by Benjamin Franklin"

With Healthful Wishes

Jessica Zhang, MD
Emergency Medicine Resident at the University of California, San Francisco and Zuckerburg San Francisco General Hospital

Thursday, March 23, 2017

For these young minds, women's health matters!

Dr. Howell (front center) and Dr. Maloy with the 2017 Howell-CSUPERB Scholarship recipients. 


Double the Impact! CSUPERB (California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology) awards a new research grant for each full scholarship the Howell Foundation awards to a CSU undergraduate. A strict protocol is followed in the choice of the students, including review of the students' scholarship applications, and quality of supervision during their research work. This supervision has become known as the "Mentor Program." It is the lifeline to the program's success. Each student must have a qualified mentor to direct and guide them.

The research subjects range from the most basic of life sciences such as cell biology to creating vaccines and testing altered immune reactions. Often the results of the student's research are presented at professional conferences or published in peer-reviewed journals, contributing to the community and the future of women's health nationwide through the advancement of cutting- edge of scientific knowledge.

“The opportunity that the Doris A. Howell Foundation offers is time.  With our scholarships, students can now dedicate the time to conduct the required research to complete their studies; time that would otherwise be spent away from women’s health research” comments Dr. Carole Banka, Co-chair for the Foundation.   All of the students’ research projects are mentored by CSU Faculty.

Together the Howell Foundation and CSUPERB recognize that research experience is critical to recruiting, training and retaining students interested in careers in women's health.  The 2017 Howell-CSUPERB Scholars are:

Norhan Alhajjar (SDSU)
Project: “Characterization of Vaginal Colonization by Staphylococcusaureus”
Mentor: Kelly Doran, Biology

Kim Anh Hoang (CSU, Sacramento)
Project: “Steric Effects in the Computational Modeling of Cyclization Reactions of Enediynones.”
Mentor: Benjamin Gherman, Chemistry

Jennifer Luu (SDSU)
Project: “Genetic Analyses of Mouse Repeats Important in Aggressive Colorectal Cancer”
Mentor: Kathleen McGuire, Biology

Elizabeth Marquez (CPSU, Pomona)
Project: “Effects of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the Severity of Candida albicans Vulvovaginal Candidiasis in Immunosuppressed Mice”
Mentor: Nancy Buckley, Biology

Susana Najera (SDSU)
Project: “Characterization of a Bacterial Two-Component Sensor Kinase”
Mentor: Kelly Doran, Biology

Grace Prator (CSU, Chico)
Project: “miR-375 has opposing roles in hormone secretion with a-cell and ß-cell”
Mentor: David Keller, Biological Sciences

Layla Ramos (CSU, Long Beach)
Project: “Androgen regulation of calbindin expression in the developing mouse cerebral cortex and hippocampus”
Mentor: Houng-Wei Tsai, Biological Sciences

Puneet Sanghera (San José State University)
Project: “The effects of lipopolysaccharide induced inflammation on spinal cord excitability”
Mentor: Katie Wilkinson, Biological Sciences

Matthew Slarve (CPSU, Pomona)
Project: “In Vitro Modeling of Bacterial and Fungal Lung Infections in Cystic Fibrosis Patients”
Mentor: Jill Adler-Moore, Biological Sciences

Rajan Suasin (CSU, Sacramento)
Project: “The Synthesis and Design of Sulfated Glycodendrimers Against Biofilm Formation”
Mentor: Katherine McReynolds, Chemistry

Miguel Tellez (CSU, Fullerton)
Project: “Purification and characterization of a small copper carrier (SCC) from blood plasma - a structural and physiological study”
Mentor: Maria C Linder, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Please join us in wishing them all the success!  For more information on the Howell Foundation's partnership with CSUPERB CLICK HERE.

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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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How are we doing with our de-cluttering resolutions? The difference between clutter and hoarding and the 5 things you can do to follow up on your spring cleaning.



March is here.  'Spring cleaning' is in the air.  So, how are we doing on the 'cleaning-out-our- (fill in the blank)' resolution?

The Howell Foundation invited Dr. Saxena to speak to us about clutter vs. hoarding last January.  More than a behavior pattern, hoarding is now diagnosed as a stand alone disorder --vs. being diagnosed as a sub category of OCD.  You can read more about his research here.

The many faces of clutter vs. hoarding.

To better emphasize that hoarding is not a 'lazy' attitude, Dr. Saxeena explained that what seems normal for us, discarding items of little or no relevant value, is difficult for many.  It is estimated that between 12 and 19 million individuals suffer from a hoarding behavior in the US.

The reason why Americans hoard varies; some have a percieved notion of needing the items (trying to fix an item for a later use or to sell it), others save an item because it may be used some day, and yet others save it because it was expensive.  The strongest characteristic of hoarding is the emotional attachment that accompanies the need to save an item (because it reminds us of someone).

As to what items we hoard the most, Dr. Saxena mentioned a few:
  • newspapers 
  • books
  • clothes 
  • magazines
  • bills/receipts/statements 
  • bags/storage containers
  • mail
  • catalogs 
  • ads
  • notes and lists
  • memorabilia

Hoarding typically co-occurs with other mental disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and other personality disorders.  Alcholol dependence and obsesive compulsive behaviors complicate its treatment.  Other diagnoses that often accompany hoarding include ADHD, PTSD, phobias, eating disorders, kleptomania, social phobia and anxiety/panic disorder.

The difference between clutter and hoarding lies in a couple of things: additional neuropsychological disorders, and the ability to get rid of items in an easier manner.  The first step in addressing hoarding is to work towards eliminating the stigma that accompanies it.  No, hoarders are not lazy, or losers for that matter. Here is what is known so far:

  • 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 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.

The risks of hoarding behaviors can be disaterous to your health, anywhere from the ability to exit a building in case of a fire to hazardous substances accumulated.  Along with the hoarded items, many unexepected or residual items can build up, including rat and other animal feces.  If you suspect a friend or family member has a hoarding problem, find a professional in your area that can guide you in understanding the process of hoarding; both physically and mentally. Remember that hoarding is a neurophysiatric disorder, and that there are specific indicators that can help determine if the problem is hoarding, or an excess in clutter.  Attempts to do a friend or famiy member a favor by cleaning out the clutter can exacerbate the psychological stress if the siuation is a hoarding isue.

Clutter often times has an emotion behind it as well.  It is said that the difference between clutter and hoarding is only one degree.  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."

If this is not the case and, on the other hand, you find yourself dreading walking into a storage area and cleaning it out and do not know where to begin, experts recommend the following:

Have a plan, and stick to it! Mentalize the task.  Set a date.  Set a schedule.  It is easier if you set achievable goals vs. what seems an impossible task!  Decluttering shouldn't be a marathon!  One hour a day either goes by fast, or leads you to continue cleaning away!

Get prepared:  Use this 4-box method to get organized: Sell/Donate, Keep, Throw Away, and Store. It is easier to walk around your home or office with a designated place to place your items.

Removal plan:   Start with small areas and then move to bigger projects.
All of us have a 'junk drawer' full of unused or unneeded items.
Consider your closet and the items you no longer wear or need.
Larger projects?  The garage or the basement.

Clutter prevention:  Clutter is also about getting new itemsor storing new things that have sentimental value.  Think about the need for vs. the sentimental value of an item, where you will store it, how much space it will take.  And most importantly, remember what got your clutter so out of control that you had to spend all this time de-cluttering in the first place!

Make it a habit! Research shows that it takes between 21 and 66 days to create a habit.  Without counting exactly the amount of time, repetition is key.

Alternatively, if you suspect this is a true hoarding problem, we are fortunate to have one of the world's experts in our back yard!  Dr. Saxena is very active in meeting with people to better understand and treat the disorder, and is enrolling subjects in clincal trials.  If you are interested, information about the clinical trials can be found here.

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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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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Soroptimist International of La Jolla is at it... Again!



Celebrating 70 years of educating, empowering and enabling women in our community socially and economically


Second Bucket List Bash to focus on women in the military and their transition into civilian life



If you haven’t heard about Soroptimist International of La Jolla, you are missing out on the wonderful work they do to educate, empower and enable women in our community.  We know that for a fact! After all, the organization was a key component in creating the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research.  We have been partners now for almost 25 years! "The group of women that belongs to Soroptimist International of La Jolla is small in number but immense in dedication and imprint on the lives of women. Twenty two years ago SILJ was instrumental in founding the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women's Health Research and their organization has been our greatest ally in the years that followed. We are proud to be one of the recipients of their generosity and to support all that they do”, comments Dr. Carole Banka, Co-chair of the Howell Foundation.

To be able to support social and economic empowerment for women in their community programs, Soroptimist International of La Jolla will be hosting the Bucket List Bash on May 13th.    Now in its second year, the proceeds will be used to support Veteran and Active Military Women. The emphasis of this program includes volunteering and hands-on mentoring to promote successful transition to civilian life in order to meet the unique needs of military women.

“Soroptimist International of La Jolla is known for our ability to identify and support needs in our community - by our hands on participation, leadership and monetary contributions. When we work together to support a group, we exponentially make a difference in the lives of women in our community”, comments Diana Hill, 2017 President for the organization.  “Military women give so much of their lives so the rest of us can have the freedom we enjoy today!  The least we could do is help them transition into our community”, she concludes.

So make sure you register and help celebrate both, the organization’s 70th anniversary and the women who serve in our military:  
When:  Saturday, May 13th
Where: La Jolla, CA.  
Time: 6:30 PM  

Take a look at last year’s Bucket List Bash and watch the video of the event!
For more information please contact:
Anseth Richards
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About Soroptimist International of La Jolla:
Soroptimist International of La Jolla (SILJ) is a club within the Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), a global women’s organization whose members volunteer to transform the lives of women and girls. SIA members number over 80,000 in 130 countries and territories. We are particularly committed to providing women and girls access to the most effective path to self-determination and success: education.   ​Clubs participate in the Dream Programs. These programs ensure women and girls have access to the education and training they need to reach their full potential.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A sea of red ... (and chocolate)! During heart health month, 3 research projects that prove dark chocolate is the food of the Gods

  
For the Howell Foundation, things couldn't have turned out better.  February 3rd was 'Go Red for Women Day', the Heart Health Month awareness campaign was once again reminding women about the risks of heart disease,  and we had invited Dr. Taub from UCSD to present her latest research on cardiovascular disease.  And she might just pretty well have given us the greatest tip of all: knowing that we can take care of our heart while making our lives a little more pleasurable with chocolate... dark chocolate!

Dr. Taub is a general cardiologist and believes that prevention is the new frontier in cardiology.  She is also is a huge believer in chocolate.  Her research focuses on the beneficial effects of dark chocolate and going back to basics; nutrition, controlling our cholesterol and managing our blood pressure -- which is simple, doesn't cost a lot of money, and requires little effort.

It is clear that the benefits of cacao are now recorded in history as perhaps one of the most reliable ways of preventing heart disease.  Going beyond the recorded history of ancient civilizations such as the Mayas and the Aztecs, research conducted with the Kuna Indians back in the 60's on an island off of Panama further explains the values of dark chocolate. Researchers found that the health of the Kuna was not necessarily related to a set of genetic factors, but to a beverage based on cacao extract that lowered not only cardiovascular disease , but other illnesses as well. Coincidentally, when any of these indians moved to mainland Panama, breaking the routine of having a cacao-based beverage had consequences to their health.  

In today's world, the effect of cacao has proven to have a significant influence on our health. The active ingredient in cacao, epicatechin, can decrease blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity,  decrease the formation of platelets, decrease the incidence of stroke, improve kidney function in aging patients, and reduce our bad cholesterol.  As the saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding" -- dark chocolate pudding, of course!

  • Among all the health consequences smokers have, endothelial dysfunction is perhaps one of the most relevant.  The thinning of the lining of arteries leads to higher blood pressure, more plaque formation and adherence to the artery, and other dysfunctions --such as clots-- that can lead to stroke.  A study showed that when a group of smokers where given epicatechin, the diameter and thickness of their arteries had improved, and the compound had minimized its deterioration.  During the process, researchers discovered the role nitric oxide had on the arteries.  Turns out that the higher the level of nitric oxide we have in our bodies, the more protected our arteries become.  The reason why exercise is so relevant to our health is the production of nitric oxide. 
  •  Another research project consisted of giving dark chocolate to patients with heart transplants; only to discover that the diameter of the arteries had increased, which is a good thing, as it meant more blood flow to the body.  At that point, science was showing 'real science' behind the benefits of dark chocolate.  Further research showed that, in a provoked heart attack in rats, those with epicatechin had a smaller episode of heart failure than those who did not receive a dose of the compound.  Epicatechin, in fact, was reducing the size of heart attacks. 
  • Taking all the scientific facts she had researched, both on tests conducted by herself as well as the research of others, she set out to examine the effects of dark chocolate in a small group of patients with diabetes and heart disease.  The health of this group of individuals was serious, and most of them had a plethora of pills to take.  A skeletal muscle biopsy revealed that not only had their condition been controlled, but that epicatechin was also having a positive effect on the body's cellular powerhouse, the mitochondria.  

So after all the evidence of how dark chocolate is beneficial to our health, why is it considered a "bitter truth"?  Dr. Taub recommends having a couple of pieces of dark chocolate consisting of 70% or cacao or more.

If you think about it, however, it should be more of a silver lining. It is a matter of it being an acquired taste.  Bottom line is that dark chocolate is not only healthy.  If it is the food of the Gods it should be, therefore, SACRED. And it is honestly, quite necessary!

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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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Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 here we come!

2016 was a busy year for the Doris A. Howell Foundation; all focused on promoting the need for women's health research and the consequences of the lack of it has in women's health.

2017 wont be any different!  We are very excited about our outreach efforts, our growth and the wonderful research that is being done because of the kindness of our donors!

Click on the image, read about our efforts and join us in making sure we continue to keep the women we love healthy!

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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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Thursday, February 23, 2017

During Heart Health Month, the 5 things you can do year-round to protect your health.



We think and talk a lot about how symptoms of heart attacks differ in women, and that is a crucially important topic. As cholesterol medications become more widely used, atherosclerosis is predicted to decrease leading to a decrease in heart attacks. Furthermore, rapid emergency treatment of heart attacks means fewer heart attacks are fatal or debilitating.

On the other hand, we do not devote as much time to discussions of heart failure.  "Almost 6 million Americans are living with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to support the other organs of the body.  Heart failure appears to strike men to a greater extent than women, but it is still a serious consideration in women", comments Dr. Carole Banka, Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Medicine at UCSD School of Medicine

Did you know that:
  • More American women die of heart disease than of all forms of cancer combined? 
  • Most women do not know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women? 
  • Many of the risk factors for heart disease in women (high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inactivity and smoking, for example) can be reduced or eliminated?

Even though there are effective medications and life style changes that may slow the progression of heart failure, early detection is important. Heart failure signs and symptoms are similar in men and women, so make sure to discuss any of these with your physician:
  • Shortness of breath during exercise or when you lie down
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Signs of fluid retention including swelling in your legs, ankles and feet; swelling of your abdomen and sudden weight gain from fluid retention
  • Increased need to urinate during the night
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Nagging cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
  • Nausea and lack of appetite and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness or confusion
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack

The tips for lowering your risk for heart failure will sound some-what like a broken record-- you have heard them all before; but once again:
  • Eat well 
  • Exercise 
  • Lose weight 
  • Monitor blood pressure and treat it if necessary  
  • QUIT SMOKING!

The tunes of the women and heart health record seem to be making a difference, however! According to "Go Red for Women":
  • Nearly 90% of women have made at least one healthy behavior change.
  • More than one-third of women have lost weight.
  • More than 50% of women have increased their exercise.
  • 6 out of 10 women have changed their diets.
  • More than 40% of women have checked their cholesterol levels.
  • One third of women have talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
So keep dancing to the record of heart health and women! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!


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About Carole L. Banka, Ph.D: 

Carole L. 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.  Dr. Banka has received numerous awards for her public speaking on women’s health issues and gender differences in health and disease, including the “BRAVO” Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners and the “Women of Achievement Award” from Soroptimist International. In addition, she has received a Leadership Award from 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.

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Sources:  American Heart Association's goredforwomen.org
In Collaboration with Carole Banka, Ph.D