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On Leadership – Dr Danny Friedland

February 17th, 2021

Two young friends, both in leadership positions, had explained similar experiences in their work lives this past week that could only be described as job crises. Interestingly, after listening to both of them in separate conversations explain their situations, I was struck by how similar their experiences had been.

Maybe not ironically, this morning, I received the most recent book on leadership written by a third friend, Dr. Danny Friedland. As I sat to read that book, the introductory paragraphs presented a vivid description of a meeting in which I had been a significant player.

As a trustee of a major medical membership certification organization, my role had been to represent that group as they moved into a collaborative relationship with another significant group of medical professionals. This meeting had occurred in San Diego about four or so years ago, and on the morning of what was intended to be the final vote and announcement of this new relationship, due to Dr. Friedland, everything literally “went off the rails.”

Danny who was the chairman of one of the groups and the author of the book I just received, explained in detail what had caused the derailment.  He had had a very frustrating exchange with his 14-year-old son that morning which caused him to question not only his own parenting skills but also his abilities as a leader, a facilitator, and a consultant.  It made him believe that if he couldn’t deal with his own family, how was he qualified to lead a national organization of physicians and other medical experts and professionals.

According to his explanation of what followed, his crisis of leadership evolved into a reactive, survival-oriented, negative sense of self-doubt where his fear of being exposed as a imposter was magnified exponentially in his own consciousness. This resulted in his confronting the leader of the other group in a way that pulled the entire meeting into a negative spiral and nearly nullified the potential partnership.

In his description of what had happened, his frame of mind had devolved into what he described as a reactive mindset that put him in a survival mode. Because he had been experiencing a threat response to the stress of the morning., his feelings of self-doubt were significantly magnified. Since he was not prepared to lead well that morning, his feelings of stress and self-doubt only intensified. As Danny described it, “My ego, seeking power and fighting for control, was in the driver’s seat. And this reactive mindset would soon find its way into the room—and affect everyone in it—taking our collaboration to the brink of dissolution.”

In retrospect, Dr. Friedland analyzed what occurred next.  The other leader called for a break where he, Danny and I went outside to discuss what had happened. It was during that time that he realized his reactive mindset triggered by stress, uncertainty, and self-doubt in others had resulted in the breakdown.

After that break where self-introspection and self-analysis prevailed, we returned to the room and that day, the relationship, and the partnership were all saved. He had moved from a reactive to a creative mindset that, in his words, “of conscious-awareness, self-compassion, and courage lead to growth, inspiration, energy, and empathy, enabling the team to work well together with transparency and trust and become aligned in a shared vision to more fully focus its collective energy to serve others and something larger than themselves.”

Why am I telling this tale? Neither of my young  friends were on the receiving end of a compassionate, self-aware partnership. Both had been bullied, attacked, and denigrated by their co-workers who persisted in their reactive mindsets. In my leadership roles, I’ve had to fire about 50 people, all of whom were incapable of introspection, who always blamed others for their problems, and who were incapable of handling their own insecurities.  You may want to buy Danny’s book, “Leading Well From Within,” and secretly place it on their desks.




From Guide to Good Health

January 19th, 2021

Want Better Health? Look Around You

By Nick Jacobs


As individuals look for ways to improve their healthy, most often the focus is inward: on what we eat, how we breath, what vitamins or supplements to take or by tracking our heart rate, blood pressure or other vital signs.

That’s all good. But when we concentrate only on our bodies for health, we often forget to look outward, at our environment, and what it may be contributing—or detracting—from our overall wellbeing.

One of my first AHA! moments on the impact of environment on health came early in my adult life while I watched my father lose his battle with lung cancer at the young age of 58. For me, one of the most profound outcomes from the experience of watching dad die in the hospital was my repulsion at the surroundings. Rather than being warm and comforting, they were cold and foreboding. There was nothing healing about the environment, and I knew some of my feelings of helplessness were caused by my realization that even then, in 1975, it simply didn’t have to be that way.

A dozen years later, as CEO of a Convention and Visitors Bureau, I saw up close and personal true hospitality and client-centered attention to detail. I marveled at the attention each guest received. I helped train employees on the art—and it is an art—of caring for our guests, who we immersed in an attentive, beautiful, soothing and nurturing atmosphere.

When I entered hospital administration, I immediately tried to create such a healing environment. Unfortunately, my first three CEOs vetoed my efforts, preferring instead to retain institutional green walls and white sheets, curtains, towels and uniforms. None of which were soothing to our patients.

When I became a CEO at Windber Medical Center, I finally was able to create a healing environment unlike any other at least in our region. I drew on my experience, which also included as a musician and former executive director of an art organization, to take a “plain, white canvass” and make it “as close to home as they could get.” In many ways we mimicked a fine hotel, with healing colors, beautiful artwork and music surrounding our patients and their families.

Our palliative care unit looked like the Ritz Carlton, with balconies, a family area in each room to sleep four, a private kitchen, soft lighting, art and wall hangings. Even roving musicians.

Our lobbies, exam and waiting rooms were decorated by the former hotel manager we hired to oversee housekeeping, dietary and maintenance. We had green spaces indoors and out, elaborate fish tanks, more music, soothing aroma diffusers and fountains everywhere. Tranquility was the order of the day. Each piece of brass glistened and our floors had the warm look and texture of highly polished hardwood.

Our waiting rooms had popcorn or bread-baking machines and herbal tea or coffee services. Our breast cancer center offered dark chocolate and tea and featured a fireplace and decorative wall fountain. Each patient received a specially designed Velcro-clad mammography gown that only exposed one side at a time; dressing rooms featured beautiful, hand-painted privacy screens, mirrored lockers and even deodorant for use post-exam. A private elevator for patients took them from the exam room to their physician’s office without the need to change clothes.

About two years after initiating these changes, something unexpected happened: we had the lowest length of stay, lowest restraint and lowest infection rates of any of our 13 peer hospitals. Even with a hospice, we also had the lowest death rates.

The point of all this is that the environment in which you function can have a profound affect on your well-being. This is true not just in a hospital, but at home, at work and really, anywhere you are. Not long ago, it seemed like everyone was talking about feng shui, which has been defined as a way to live in harmony with the principles of the natural world. In his book, “Make the Impossible Possible,” Bill Strickland, CEO of Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program in Pittsburgh, credits the layout and design of his center as essential to the success he has had in changing the lives of literally thousands of individuals, most from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“The beauty we’ve designed into our center isn’t window dressing; it’s an essential part of our success,” Strickland wrote. “It nourishes the spirit, and until you reach that part of the spirit that isn’t touched by cynicism or despair, no change can begin. You can’t show a person how to build a better life if they feel no pleasure in the simple act of being alive.”

One more example: For almost 20 years, spanning two careers, I used to drive through a five-block city area littered with some dilapidated houses that it was hard to imagine anyone living there. And yet, in the midst of such despair, sat one house that from early spring to late fall was encircled by a garden of wildflowers so brilliant that the rest of the neighborhood seemed trapped in a 1950s black & white television show. During an otherwise depressing drive, that house provided me with moment, however brief, of pure pleasure and appreciation. It just made me feel good.

I eventually got to meet the woman who tended and nurtured that garden for more than 50 years. Her name was Twyla, a lovely woman in her 80s. I asked her how she found the resolve over all those years to produce such beautiful flowers. What I didn’t add to my question was, “ … in such otherwise depressing surroundings.”

Twyla’s answer was as simple as it was profound.

“I can’t change how my neighbors choose to live their lives,” she said. “I can’t reverse the employment levels in this city. I can’t erase the pain, hopelessness or sadness brewing in people’s hearts. But what I can do is demonstrate each and every day that a positive outlook, a commitment to excellence wherever you live and a desire to make things even just a little better for anyone who drives by or lives near me is possible.”

She paused, then added, “I just try to give them a little hope through the beauty of my gardens.”

It’s undeniable that there exists a link between body, mind and spirit. The more we nurture one, the greater the positive impact on the other two. You don’t have to wait until your sick and hope you end up in a hospital designed for healing, visit the Manchester Bidwell Training Center (although Mr. Strickland has always welcomed guests) or drive through a blighted neighborhood in hopes of finding a mini-Garden of Eden.

All you need do is examine your own surroundings, those you have the power to change, and make an effort to bring more beauty in your life, through art, music and anything else that just makes you feel good in a positive way.


Wear the MASK . . . Emotional Intelligence

November 24th, 2020

In an article by Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli titled “Medieval Europeans didn’t understand how the plague spread. The response of the citizens of Florence, Italy wasn’t so different than ours,” I learned what I had thought I’d learn.

Not much in human nature has changed.

One of the worst plagues hit Florence in 1348 some 672 years ago, and when Harlan and Pitrelli recently went there to study it, what they found were the incredible similarities between that ancient, less medically informed time and now.

They discovered that borders were closed, strict rules were put in place —“but only some people paid attention.” They also discovered “there was a proliferation of conspiracy theories where outsiders and minorities were blamed.”

Inns and workshops were closed and some people shut themselves in while others ventured out with herbs, spices, and masks. As the plague continued and death counts went higher, others held fearless denial dinner parties that were attended by fewer and fewer people.

Ironically, the only thing that seemed to work in 1348 was to flee the cities and go to the countryside. We’ve seen exactly the same exodus occurring from our major cities.

One of the challenges of escaping to rural Western Pennsylvania is the proliferation of nonbelievers. It seems their personal philosophy is, “Don’t wear a mask.”  Sure, they still buckle their seat belts, threw away their cigarettes, and are avoiding those 200 calorie cans of soda, but now they walk smugly into public gatherings and say, “I don’t believe in masks. This is just the flu, and it would go away by November 4.”

?They also boldly look at those people scowling at them and say, “America is a free country, and you sheep can do whatever you want.” Then they go on to say, “I’m not wearing a mask, and I’m not going to socially distance myself from anyone.”

Several of these nonbelievers have gone into work and powered their way through what they thought was a little touch of the flu. At work, they spent the day close-talking with everyone and kept their required masks either firmly below their chin or at least below their noses like a bad pair of tighty whities.

?Some of them have held parties for their twenty closest friends to watch football games together while serving finger food and drinks that their unwashed fingers prepared.

?When their cough got very deep and they began feeling like the hydraulic lift at the local Mack truck garage, they went to the doctor without a mask and were quarantined in the parking lot until someone in a hazmat suit came to their car and stuck a Q-tip-type device all the way through their nose and practically up to their brain.  Not long after they found out they have COVID, but they still believed it would be long gone by November 4 because those nearly 220,000 dead are just skewed statistics.

?They then are told the place where they work had to close for business because everyone was exposed to COVID.  Oh, and that party they held? It’s turned into a super spreader event.

?So, now the school district has had to close, too because of one misnformed decision to take no precautions.

?If this were a true story, we would be outraged. Well, guess what?  It is a true story.?

?Here’s the worst part. We don’t know if some of those folks infected by Mr. Super Spreader are even going to live. Did you read that?

?Grandad’s Malibu, the Weber grill and his house might truly be “passed along” to those who survive, but the lives and treasure we’ve lost from collateral damage is a hell of a price to pay for more things.

?Wear your mask.  Seriously. Surgeons, RNs and techs do all day every day.




September 23rd, 2020

COVID vaccine challenge
Published Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:48 PM EDT

Besides wearing a mask, which we’ve known since 77AD protects us from the plague, the other best opportunity for stopping the progress of COVID-19 is through the discovery of an effective vaccine.

Rather than getting COVID via the natural infection pathway, a vaccine could produce herd immunity without harming or potentially killing people.

Thousands of Americans seem to have chosen the risk-it-all route as they go without masks, and attend large, unprotected social events and rallies.

Unfortunately, not unlike playing Russian Roulette with your loved ones and friends, this route is filled with potential suffering and an almost complete lack of predictability.

In an article in Time magazine, Alice Parks recounts how it was Edward Jenner who, in 1790, discovered that infecting people with small amounts of smallpox virus could produce immunity. Today, there are more than 100 vaccines being developed in an attempt to provide us with immunity from SARS COVID-19, and across the world, billions of dollars are being pumped into this effort.

There are numerous challenges to be faced in this effort including those of manufacturing and then distributing the vaccine in a humanitarian manner.

The good news is, regardless of political pressure, the major vaccine makers have already pledged to conduct complete safety studies before submitting their vaccines to international regulators. The not-so-good news is HIV/AIDS has been around for nearly 40 years and an effective vaccine is still not available.

Approximately 132,000,000 people in the United States are living with pre-existing health conditions. Thus, the challenge becomes who gets a vaccine and when. These decisions may literally produce a life and death lottery game.

The Time article cited researchers from CUNY’s School of Public Health’s computer simulation that calculated if 75 percent of the world’s population were immunized, to control the ongoing pandemic, vaccines would need to be about 70 percent effective. Any of us who are regular recipients of the annual flu vaccine know that some years it’s effective and some years it’s not.

Consequently, we will be faced with arguments over the world’s current state of nationalism combined with America’s anti-vaccination movement. Plus we still have the challenges of discovery, manufacturing and actual implementation.

Oh, and there’s one more speed bump in that the United States has chosen not to join the other 172 countries of the world in the COVAX initiative on international unity for epidemic preparedness innovations originated by the World Health Organization.

If we prioritize our high-risk populations which include health care employees, first-responders, people with pre-existing conditions, and the elderly living in group environments, and then add critical workers such as teachers, food growers and service providers, people in group homes and the incarcerated, we finally end up getting the vaccines to our most precious hope for the future, young adults and children.

In short, none of this is going to be easy. One batch of improperly manufactured polio vaccine in the 1950s resulted in thousands of children being accidentally infected with polio. and because there are so many variations of vaccines being developed, there is also the risk of triggering excessive immune responses that could end up being more harmful than helpful.

Finally, and this is one more example of the broken public health system in this country, any plans for massive immunizations will be dependent upon public-health initiatives that are appropriately supported and resourced.

Keep in mind many of our states have been seeking leadership, supplies, direction, and funding from the federal government since March. At about $35 per dose and in most cases the vaccines require two doses, herd immunity is not likely to be achieved either quickly or in a cost-effective manner.

One thing is clear, however. An effective plan needs to be implemented to stop this out of control COVID transmission and to produce a clear pathway to normalcy. We need to get back to normal through a national strategy.



Getting to the Point of Acupuncture

June 5th, 2020
Western Pennsylvania Guide to Good Health

By Nick Jacobs
Let me get right to the, uh, point, on acupuncture: while this practice has been shown to be a safe, effective method to reduce pain, hasten healing and even kick some nasty habit for many people, it remains an under-used form of medical treatment.

Despite countless studies regarding its effectiveness, acupuncture remains shrouded in mystery for many Americans, who often view this key component of traditional Chinese medicine as too antiquated, too painful, too simple or too mysterious to offer any real or long-term positive health improvements.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. While acupuncture might not prove effective for everyone, it is providing pain relief and other benefits for an increasing number of individuals. In fact, more than 19,000 papers have been written about the efficacy or effectiveness of acupuncture.

In a recent Time Magazine article titled “The Mystery of Acupuncture,” author Jeffrey Kluger said, “The World Health Organization has declared acupuncture a useful adjunct for more than 50 medical conditions, including chronic stress.”

Kluger also said that the National Institute of Health (NIH) agrees with this opinion and has endorsed acupuncture as a potential treatment for migraines, menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, tennis elbow, nausea from chemotherapy and more.

“The fact the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics have embraced acupuncture and groups like the AMA have gotten states to designate acupuncture as an essential health benefit is more than significant,” Kluger said. He added that more than 3.5 million adults and 80,000 children use acupuncture in the U.S. annually and that the military is using it for PTSD, pain disruption and an assortment of ailments, not the least of which is lower back pain.

As someone who once suffered regularly from bouts of lower back pain, I became alarmed when I saw statistics on lower back surgery that were less than encouraging, showing the procedure as sometimes as low as 30 percent effective. For me, osteopathic manipulation, exercise, weight loss and, yes, acupuncture, have all been medical gifts that have worked beautifully for me over the years.

Possibly the most powerful potential use for acupuncture is in the treatment of addiction. Considering that more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, acupuncture is one possible alternative to OxyContin and other addictive pain drugs.

So why wouldn’t someone suffering from debilitating or chronic pain give acupuncture a try?

For some, hesitation is caused by ignorance, exacerbated perhaps because someone—maybe even a medical professional—ridiculed the practice, perhaps even labeling it “woo-woo” medicine. Yet simply explained, traditional Chinese medicine describes acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force thought to travel through the body’s pathways, also called meridians. Very thin needles are inserted along these pathways to “rebalance” energy flow. Western practitioners see these points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue, perhaps with the added benefit of boosting a body’s natural painkillers.

Or perhaps your hesitancy is more basic: the thought of little needles dotting your body like a pincushion sounds gross and painful. Yet this fear, while understandable to a degree, is overblown. The needles couldn’t be any smaller or less noticeable. Patients most often report very little to no discomfort, especially when balanced against the pain relief they gained.

But what of any risks associated with acupuncture?

Any risks are minimized if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner who uses sterile needles. Since one-time-use, disposable needles are now common practice, risk of infection is minimal and most common side effects include soreness, very minor bleeding or bruising.

As is true with many treatments, acupuncture might not prove effective for everyone. But given the potential it offers, why not give it a try?

In many articles and speeches, I often quote the book Change or Die by Alan Deutschman, who suggests many of us would simply prefer the latter rather than change. Sound unbelievable? Just consider that every day we are inundated with advertising, political narratives and scientific positions that encourage us to remain loyal, to continue to behave in a certain way, even though we should question if doing so is in our best interest.

I recall a conversation I had with a scientist who told me that hydrogenated fats were the biggest medical experiment perpetrated on mankind without our knowledge. Yes, it prolonged the shelf life of food. It also created an inflammatory disease that was harmful to half a million American annually.

So maybe, when it comes to our individual health, we need to be more open minded and willing to try options that, while showing positive impacts, veer just a little from the usual path of suggested treatments.

The point is, acupuncture is a valid option to consider to relieve pain and encourage healing. Even if it’s done incorrectly, it releases endorphins. And that’s a good thing.

What have you got to lose by giving it a try?

Nick Jacobs is a partner with SMR, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He is a founder of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member and officer of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine and served on the Executive Committee of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium. A former hospital CEO and founder of two genetic research institutes, Jacobs maintains a website,


Deadly Political Game

May 13th, 2020

Washington is not focusing singularly on this virus as the enemy. COVID-19, SARS-2 Coronavirus should be a unifying factor for our country. Our political leadership is not seeing this tragic pandemic as a way to help us move our public health response more efficiently and quickly to accelerate our efforts to provide economic relief to all of those who need it.

Instead of working together for us, they are working overtime on tactics to divide Americans even more. Democrats are being portrayed as evil pessimists while Republicans are being identified as anti-virus militants, the liberators of our depressed economy.

Under the “Are you kidding me?” category: According to the AP, more than 70 people tested positive for coronavirus since the April 24 rally at the Wisconsin state capital. Michigan is working on legislation that may limit the carrying of AR-15s inside the State Capitol building.

Also in Michigan, a security guard was shot and killed by a family for attempting to enforce the “you must wear a mask policy” before entering an open establishment.

Several weeks ago, a lawsuit that may or may not go anywhere was filed against Fox News for violating the Washington State Consumer Protection Act because their national celebrity broadcasters falsely stated multiple times that the coronavirus is a hoax. At the same time, even though we all know the virus can be deadly 14,000 heroes have signed up to be voluntarily infected to assist in vaccine studies to help expedite the creation of a vaccine.

What do we know about this disease? Obviously, not as much as we don’t know.

Physicians in London, New York and elsewhere have reportedly seen an increase in children suffering from symptoms emulating Kawasaki disease with inflamed hearts. They have also identified numerous other unusual symptoms including the weakening of the heart muscles and disrupting its critical rhythm.

COVID-19 attacks kidneys so seriously that now, instead of a shortage of ventilators, we are seeing a need for more dialysis equipment. Besides the attacks to our nervous system that destroys taste and smell, the disease sometimes makes its way to the brain. If that’s not enough, 20 to 45-year-olds are suffering 50 percent higher than average numbers of strokes or are dying from blood clots due to inflamed blood vessels.

According to an article by Lenny Bernstein and Ariana Eunjung Cha, “It can begin with a few symptoms or none at all, then days later, squeeze the air out of the lungs without warning.

It picks on the elderly, people weakened by previous disease, and, disproportionately, the obese. It harms men more than women, but there are also signs it complicates pregnancies.”

We also have seen articles like this in the CDC where “the effects of COVID-19 suggests a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.”

Throughout this, however, our president is continuing his battle against the Democratic governors by saying they are holding their citizens hostage while at the very same time due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the West Wing of the White House, three of America’s top health professionals are quarantined in their homes.

So, we have to ask: What’s at stake here? Manufactured political divisions are now impacting aid for states as well. This is not a red or blue discussion. The opponent here is not us individually, not members of any party. The victims are members of the human race caused by the real enemy, COVID-19.

No one wants the economy to remain closed. Governors on both sides are attempting to balance the death-over-money equation, but the necessary arrows for the COVID quiver have been slow to arrive, and the needed instruction and supplies from the federal government have become an economic stand-off.

We all want freedom from our enemy. Stop the politicizing, and stop feeding these political war games, or we’ll die.


Things are gonna change

April 22nd, 2020

Things are gonna change after COVID

According to the medical examiners, the primary underlying conditions leading to death in the victims of this pandemic are hypertension and diabetes, chronic conditions brought on by environment and diet.

The fact that COVID is disproportionately impacting marginated communities should not be a surprise to anyone. A healthy public depends upon diet through fresh, healthy foods which are more expensive and in “Urban Food Deserts” almost impossible to find or afford. Plus, health is also related to the environment (think Flynt, Michigan), and sustainable employment.

We have produced so much vulnerability in the U.S. through our current circumstances that analyzing this disaster without properly taking into consideration our pre-existing health care crisis is, in itself, a crisis. Would we scrutinize this differently if we looked at our current system more holistically?

We have huge disparities in both our healthcare system and our public health system. We have been preparing for another pandemic since 1918, yet we were woefully unprepared for even the most basics of PPE, available ventilators, and ICU beds.

In an article titled “Disasters, Capitalism, and COVID-19” by Vincennes Adams, Naomi Klein describes disaster capitalism as a form of economics that responds to disasters in ways that promote “free-market, for-profit, corporate solutions.” She says, “It may succeed in creating company profits but ultimately fails in terms of democracy, fairness, and justice.”

She describes the Hurricane Katrina disaster as being caused, in part, by the privatization of the Army Corps of Engineers and the oil industry’s erosion of protective wetlands. The highest death tolls, financial, and material losses affected the most vulnerable social and economic groups. During the recovery, private sector contractors rewarded themselves richly while ordinary people were left to make it on their own.

I’m watching this same phenomenon unfold today with Community Health Centers across Pennsylvania as they try to get the needed Personal Protection Equipment. Wealthier health systems, States, and the Federal Government can buy the large quantities required to meet the corporate criteria for these purchases while the marginalized become further marginalized.

Why aren’t the flu, viral colds, heart disease, cancer and diabetes deaths considered disasters? It’s because of the immediacy of death with COVID. The author suggests: “Imagine how U.S. health care institutions and government responses might change if cancer, heart disease, and diabetes were framed in the same language and sense of urgency as COVID-19.”

According to the author, It’s because these diseases are “an outcome of allowing corporations to sell deadly, heart-disease producing foods and barely regulating cancer-causing chemicals at all.” This country has always had a very hard time determining the differences between the value of corporate profits vs.human life.

The article references a “pandemic industrial complex,” which, like the military industrial complex uses the disaster to form a framework in which government and financial resources are mobilized to leverage free market investing in the next big outbreak.

Global warming has contributed to fires, floods, hurricanes, and now unique viral mutations. The new prognosticators of these disasters are computational and zoonosis biologists, epidemiologists and geneticists.

What they have been able to point out to us is not necessarily the coming disasters as much as the pre-existing vulnerabilities, and they’ve been able to do it in ways that also predict capitalistic disaster as well.

If our population were more health conscious, had better access to health insurance, and was less influenced by the free capitalism that continuously promotes products that are detrimental to our health, a disaster already created by a capitalist free market, would this be a different set of analytics?

Is COVID-19 the disaster, or is our real United States disaster the lack of a functioning health care safety-net for our most vulnerable? The primary question we should be considering is: can we change that future for our kids and grandkids? Wuhan, China reopened today after 10 weeks, but nothing is the same.



March 25th, 2020

This is getting serious

When I was still running a hospital in 2008, the H1N1 virus was beginning to get a foothold internationally. We had numerous workshops and meetings regarding this potential plague, and the impact it could have on our region. It was a very sobering time, but nothing like what we’re experiencing now.

One of our research scientists had begun to dig into the history of the 1918 flu, and the results of his work were beyond eye-opening. My internal expert told me of the mass graves in the Central City area where roads are still not permitted to be built, and the outcries from undertakers because they had been prohibited from servicing the dead.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was also caused by an H1N1 virus, and that pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, but its most chilling trait was the high death rate it caused in healthy adults.

Because I was informed by our Windber scientists, by expert epidemiologists from the academic universities, and by state health department officials, our preparation for a pandemic was very real, and I began loudly beating warning drums.

We jumped on preparation as if it were truly going to be life and death for many. As it turned out, this viral attack was contained in a very efficient manner, and although from April 2009 to November 2009, 3,900 people did die in the U.S. from H1N1, that was 1,000 less deaths than have occurred in the past few weeks in Italy which is more than five times smaller than the United States.

When I heard the “Don’t worry. Be happy,” spin that was initially coming from several news shows and the national press conferences downplaying this disease that was definitely coming our way, my blood ran cold. What if they were wrong? This was potentially a life and death scenario that was being pushed aside like a regular flu.

Then the numbers started coming in from places like China, South Korea and other Asian countries, and I knew it was beyond real. My scientific friends confirmed the potential lethality of this virus that was jumping into humans, and we had no known ability to stop it or fight it off and no chance for a vaccine for at least a year or 18 months.

This bat-based flu is a form of another disease; it is actually SARS-2. The Chinese shared RNA and DNA information as well as the general medical records of those infected with the world almost immediately. That information gave us a head start on vaccine discovery. Had we had the sophisticated infrastructure in place that existed pre-H1N1, this information might have already saved thousands of lives, but now is not a time for blame or finger pointing.

Consequently, today we have senators and representatives, celebrities, and loved ones suffering from COVID-19, all non-essential businesses are shut down, and our government still hasn’t made a decision that will help those suffering both physically and economically. Plus, we are still way behind the curve on NP-95 face masks, ventilators, gowns, COVID-19 tests or ICU beds to care for the sick, and we’re three months into this plague. Could we have been more aggressive?

Do I have the answers? No, but Russia has controlled it. Shanghai and South Korea have controlled it, and we have not. My advice? Believe in science, pray, keep a safe distance, and hope you don’t become a statistic.


Acupuncture why not

February 19th, 2020


Accupuncture, why not?


Published Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:15 PM EST

In a recent article in Time Magazine, Jeffrey Kluger wrote “The Mystery of Acupuncture.”

In the article he said the “World Health Organization has declared acupuncture a useful adjunct for more than 50 medical conditions, including chronic stress.” He went on to write that the NIH (National Institute of Health) also agrees and has endorsed acupuncture as a potential treatment for migraines, menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, tennis elbow, and nausea resulting from chemotherapy and more. “The fact the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics have embraced acupuncture and groups like the AMA have gotten states to designate acupuncture as an essential health benefit is more than significant.”

Kluger went on to say that more than 3.5 million adults and 80,000 children use acupuncture in the U.S annually. The military is using it for PTSD, pain disruption, and an assortment of ailments not the least of which is lower back pain. With all this information and these overwhelming statistics, why aren’t more of us using acupuncture?

If it’s fear of needles, you’re uninformed. These needles couldn’t be any smaller and less noticeable. As stated in the article, “The analgesic impact of a tiny needle is more than worth it.” The real beauty of this ancient Chinese practice is even if the practitioner doesn’t do it perfectly, it can’t hurt you.

Probably the most powerful potential use for acupuncture is in the treatment of addiction. Considering that more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain is one possible alternative to OxyContin and other addictive pain drugs. Of course, spinal manipulation by a physician trained in osteopathic medicine, a DO, or a chiropractor, plus yoga, and potentially non-addictive cannabinoids are also being used.

There have been more than 19,000 papers written about the efficacy of acupuncture, and recently I saw statistics on back surgery that were less than encouraging. According to recent studies, back surgeries are sometimes as low as 30% effective. Moreover, having been personally a regular sufferer from back pain, osteopathic manipulation, exercise, weight loss, and acupuncture have all been medical gifts that have worked beautifully for me over the years.

The question then becomes, why not? Why aren’t you trying acupuncture? Is it because you don’t understand how it works? Is it because some medical professional has indicated it is “woo-woo medicine?” Or is it because you’re afraid of the tiny little needles?

Maybe it is because you’re concerned it might be harmful in some manner? If you could be assured all these are really non-issues, what else would prevent you from trying this?

I’ve often quoted the book “Change or Die” which examines the thesis that many of us would rather die than change. I’m sure this idea sounds incomprehensible to many of you, but think about it. We are inundated every day with advertising, political narratives, and scientific treatises sponsored by organizations, businesses and associations that want us to remain loyal to their financial interests.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a scientist who once told me that hydrogenated fats were the biggest medical experiment perpetuated on mankind without our knowledge. It prolonged the life of food on the shelves while killing half a million Americans each year from inflammatory disease.

Industrial farms, Big Pharma, the soft drink and snack food industry all have their stakes firmly planted in the ground, or more specifically in our brains, with millions or billions of dollars of advertising to indoctrinate us over the years.

One of Jerry Seinfeld’s routines talked about food from his era, including boxes of chocolate chip-filled mini cookies that were sold as cereal.

We Boomers all remember hydrogenated margarine that sat on the table all day without refrigeration, those wonderful Twinkies, and, of course, physicians who were featured in ads endorsing the health benefits of cigarettes.

Try acupuncture. It really can’t hurt you.


Mountain Goats Woodpeckers and Football Players

January 16th, 2020

What do mountain goats, woodpeckers, and football players all have in common? Head butts. Why is it that a woodpecker can pound his head millions of times and not suffer from debilitating brain injuries, and while, we’re at it, what about rams? Heck, even their name identifies what they do.

There have been numerous studies of woodpeckers to attempt to determine what the differentiator is relative to brain injuries and their natural assignment of beating holes in trees with their beaks. These beaks, if you haven’t noticed, are attached to their heads which is where their tiny little brains hang out.

Woodpeckers have to peck pretty hard to get the bugs and insects they’re after. It was originally believed they had a special bone-like, foam material between their brain and their skull, but after dissecting a few deceased woodpeckers, according to MIT professor, Lorna Gibson, it was clear they did not have any foam lining. She and several other scientists dug in and found woodpecker facts.

The woodpecker is absolutely the headbanger of the bird world. They also peck to profess their love and to layout their territory. Their pecking speed would absolutely produce a concussion for a human. They bang their beak at 15 mph between 700 and 12,000 times a day, at up to 20 times per second. That, my friends, is a lot of pecking.

They have thick, strong neck muscles which contract just before their bill hits the surface. This allows some of the force to dissipate down through the bird’s body which protects the bird’s skull from the full blow. They also have unequal upper and lower beaks which lowers the force of the peck from hitting the brain.

Another shock absorber is their tongue. Woodpeckers have tongue supports that wrap around their brains, and work as a safety harness. Plus their brain weighs only two grams and is tightly fit in the skull.

That configuration keeps the brain from banging around inside the skull. Because their tails help brace them against the tree and their toes also are built to brace them, you can say they’ve found the proper pecking posture.

In spite of all the protections Mother Nature provides for them, woodpeckers do get brain damage, but they also have an accumulation of a protein called tau which actually protects them from suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like the chronic traumatic encephalopathy that our football players get.

Because of these studies, all kinds of technological and safety advances have been implemented in sports equipment, but it is believed that the presence of tau in woodpeckers is a protective adaptation, because in moderation, it works to stabilize brains cells.

Tau is typically found in human patients with brain diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to traumatic head injuries. Consequently, it is now up to scientists to discover why tau is good for woodpeckers and how that protein can be adapted to protect football players and others from brain injuries.

Rams, on the other hand, typically bash their heads together at a speed ranging from 20 to 40 mph without injury. How do they do it? Rams have strong, flexible horns that absorb much of the shock of the collisions, in addition to a physical anomaly that slows the blood flow from the head to the body.

Scientists studying football players in Colorado discovered that football players at higher altitudes had 30% fewer head injuries. Their hypothesis is that higher altitudes increase the volume of fluid in the cerebral venous system which provides another layer of protection.

So, maybe the solution is to equip football helmets with horns, to genetically modify the players’ toes, tongues, neck muscles and cerebral blood flows, to make sure only those players with smaller brains take or give the hits, and for goodness sake, to move all of the teams to the mountains.

Or maybe we should study the impact of tau?