Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse: Are You Doing Your Part?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412Do you know what your teen is up to when you’re not looking?  What about your spouse, your parents and your friends?  Hopefully they aren’t rummaging through your medicine cabinet to find something they can take to get high. Many of us would never think to use a prescription drug for something other than its intended purpose, or to take something that wasn’t prescribed for us and absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who not only consider this, but act on the impulse to misuse and abuse prescription drugs.  Sometimes they work the system and see a doctor, or multiple doctors, and get the prescription for themselves, but often, they are looking through your medicine cabinet when you’re in the other room, getting them for free from friends or buying them online or from dealers.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem; according to the Centers for Disease Control it is an epidemic.  Just like any addiction, it can ultimately ruin or even end someone’s life.  (more…)

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Breast Cancer Prevention: My “Mommy Musts”

Amber Coleman-MortleyI spend a large portion of my time caring for, looking after, and maintaining the health and wellbeing of others.  Amidst all of the scheduling of my work life and the kids’ respective social lives, the hours of my day quickly evaporate into vague memories of daily routine. Not once do I stop and think about myself, my health and often my own needs.  And why should I?  Like all “good” mothers, my needs come second to theirs.

Recently, my child randomly said to me, “Mom I can’t imagine our life without you”. That gave me pause.  I thought about it and felt the same. Who would do the cooking, the cleaning and all the neurotic yelling about clothes and toys on the floor? That sentence made me think of my mortality in a deeper way. To these little people, I mean something.  Do I respect that?

This moment took me back to when my own mother informed me (a young adult at the time) that she had found a lump and was going in to get it checked.  (more…)

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The Art of Survivoring

janeblackA week from today I will be the keynote presenter at the “Ladies Night Out – Give Cancer the Boot” annual gala for the Springfield Regional Cancer Center (SRCC).  I am flattered and daunted by this opportunity to share my thoughts with an audience of 400 patients, survivors and their champions.  The date of the event falls on the 6th anniversary of my mastectomy – how fortunate I am to celebrate with kindred spirits!

I will open with this claim:  The richest and most profound experiences happen when what we believe to be real and true about ourselves is turned upside down.  (If you’ve seen Brene Brown’s TED talks you know that this is a precious part of the transition process.)

Then I will chime in about my driving force – to attract and to radiate positive energy.  Period.  This is my metric for success. (more…)

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How Social Media Helped Me Through My Breast Cancer Treatment

MandiDisruptive Women previously ran this post in November 2013, but given its message felt it was worth running again during our breast cancer awareness series.

Social media opened a world of connections for me when I was a patient undergoing breast cancer treatment. It became a mechanism where I could reach out to say “hi,” to console, or just to yell out into the world when I was angry.

I actually started blogging about my breast cancer treatment because my aunt kept a blog through the course of her treatment (she was usually a few months behind on updating, so I vowed to be a little timelier when it came to writing posts). It was a great method for updating my really large extended family and I found that writing things down that were emotional for me, helped me process the emotions. (more…)

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Finding My Purpose through My Wife’s Breast Cancer

samIn the spring of 2000 Susan, my wife then of 33 years (now of 48), was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It all started with her annual check-up and her internist saying she felt something “funny” in Susan’s right breast.  She suggested Susan see a breast surgeon.

While I was surprised, I wasn’t alarmed.  It was going to be Susan’s fourth breast biopsy.  Unlike the three previous ones, this one was done as an out-patient procedure in one of the then relatively new surgical centers now found in shopping centers everywhere.  No frozen section this time, just wait to hear what the surgeon found.

He literally skipped into the recovery room to tell us that “it was just scar tissue from the old biopsy site.”  While we still needed to get a lab report, there was no tumor and we shouldn’t worry because it was just old scar tissue, he was “sure of it.”   The call came three days later that the surgeon wanted to meet with Susan and me as soon as possible. (more…)

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Misleading Information about Breast Cancer Screening

kopansThis week we will be running a series on breast cancer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It is unusual to bring concerns about medical publications to the public, but in this case the health and the lives of women are at stake.  It is difficult to criticize one of the most respected medical journals in the world, but when it comes to breast cancer screening, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) appears to have taken an unprecedented, undeclared position against mammography screening and has published a number of papers that have been misleading and not supported by actual facts.  This has created a great deal of confusion and doubt among women and physicians.  Adding to the problem is that the NEJM editors have refused to publish letters of concern about misinformation, and will not even meet with leading experts to discuss these important issues.

In 2010 the NEJM published a paper that claimed mammography screening in Norway had had little impact on breast cancer deaths.  The study relied on the premise  that, very few women were being screened before the national screening program began.  (more…)

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Mental Health Care Game-Changers: Technology and Social Networks

Jen Hyatt

Jen Hyatt

The world of health care breeds innovative thinkers, radicals, people who see and act to ‘make things better.’ So why is health care so often not a place of change, but a place of stasis?

Change can be disorientating, and large systems can suffer from barriers to innovations that are hard to break through. And while, with resolve and vision, these can be tackled it is much harder to bring about change that requires a shift in power. This sort of change tends to create fear, often legitimate, that something will have to be lost or given up to enable a change to become embedded. But, by using technology and social networks such changes in healthcare can be realized.


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Teaching Kids How To Deal With Injuries

Amber Coleman-MortleyRecently our 1st grader had a really bad fall.  The fall was so bad she looked like an MMA fighter.  In many ways I wish she were fighting because the story would be a lot more interesting. But alas this was your typical young child meets concrete experience where the score was concrete 100, child 0.  I’m not certain what happened but as I turned to face her shrill scream I saw her face was scraped from top to bottom, permanent tooth chipped and pride destroyed. My heart sank when I saw her, I thought “anything else”. We’d already dump more than $1000 into her mouth from accidents with baby teeth and I thought the dental nightmare had ended with the arrival of her permanent teeth.

It was as though I didn’t react. I flew right into action. I grabbed the med kit from the car and raced back into her father’s house.  (more…)

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The Launch of Disruptive Women UK

I recently received an offer I couldn’t refuse from one of most innovative, forward thinking women on the UK health scene; Jen Hyatt, CEO and founder of BigWhiteWall. The offer was an invitation to a very exciting event; the launch of the UK chapter of a movement called “Disruptive Women In Health”.

And, as a card carrying health activist, how could I say no to a title like that?

After all my journey has been disrupted by my health and I have spent years channelling this into disrupting some of the more traditional health services. I have done this both with my voice, which has become louder with the support of my peers and organisations like YoungMinds, and with technology like WellHappy, which I founded, and BuddyApp who I work for now. (more…)

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An Interview with Kimberly Baxter, Director of the Iowa Accountability Program


Kimberly Baxter

Domestic violence can strike both rural and urban communities, impacting over 6,000 Iowans each year.  And while African Americans only make up approximately 3.2% of the state’s population, the 2011 preliminary Iowa Uniform Crime Report states that African Americans comprise 15% of domestic violence victims and 24% of domestic violence offenders.   In addition, 18% of cases in which the victim was also the offender involved African American victims.

The Iowa Accountability Program (IAP) is doing something about it.  The program—a grant project funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women—aims to improve the judicial system’s response to domestic violence in Iowa.  Recently, the IAP launched a Judicial Training Institute and the Domestic Violence Court pilot program in Black Hawk County.   The IAP legal fellow, Julianne Toia, recently sat down with Kimberly Baxter—Director of the Iowa Accountability Program—to discuss these newly implemented programs and how they will impact the handling of domestic violence incidents in the State of Iowa. (more…)

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Linking Domestic Violence and Chronic Disease: An Issue Missing from the Headlines

With domestic violence getting attention lately due to the Ray Rice video and the newly crowned Miss America Kira Kazantsev’s domestic violence platform, the Society for Women’s Health Research believes it is important to highlight an important subject missing from the headlines.

There has been radio silence about the acute and chronic health conditions that affect women who suffer from this abusive behavior. Black eyes, bruises and broken bones are all what we expect to hear from victims who experience violence at the hand of a loved one.

There has been little to no attention, however, given to other health conditions, such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma, just to name a few of the afflictions that may develop long after the violence has stopped. In addition to these physical health consequences, there are psychological effects and conditions that women may experience – fear, anxiety and PTSD, all of which may indirectly give rise to other ailments. (more…)

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Highlights from the Disruptive Women UK Launch

Disruptive Women  11Yesterday saw the House of Commons launch of a new UK initiative – Disruptive Women in Health Care.

The group started life in the USA and its founder, Robin Strongin, joined a group of leading ladies from across the health and social care sector as well as business and technology world.

Supported by Big White Wall, a leading mental health resource, Jen Hyatt the CEO described how she came across the group on her recent travels to the America (Big White Wall was part of a recent delegation with Jeremy Hunt introducing UK health companies).

Leaving the audience in little doubt that she was herself a ‘disruptive woman’ Jen encouraged the audience to always ask questions of the status quo and lead their organisations from the front. In the UK over 80% of the non-medical workforce are women – but only 12% of the leadership. (more…)

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Disruptive Women UK Man of the Month


Disruptive Women UK launches today, Tuesday, September 30th in the House of Commons. This post is a part of a series running up to the launch welcoming Disruptive Women UK.

Drum roll please…the first Disruptive Women in Health Care UK Man of the Month is The Right Honourable Aneurin Bevan. As Minister of Health, he spearheaded the establishment of the National Health Service. Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people. He was a Member of Parliament for 31 years and was one of the chief spokesmen for the Labour party’s left wing, and of left-wing British thought generally.

Thanks in large part to Bevan on July 5, 1948, the government took over responsibility for all medical services and there was free diagnosis and treatment for all. Even after being moved to become minister of labour in 1951, Bevan never stopped advocating for health care…shortly after he became minister of labour he resigned from the government in protest at the introduction of prescription charges for dental care and spectacles. (more…)

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A quick guide to health care innovation and the NHS


Disruptive Women UK will be launching Tuesday, September 30th in the House of Commons. This post is a part of a series running up to the launch welcoming Disruptive Women UK.

So you’re officially a health innovator. You have a product that works, so now you just need some people to use it. Broadly, you have two options at this point – to get users to pay for it themselves, or to sell it to a healthcare provider to use with their patients. Selling direct to the public is great if you have the right sort of product, but it might be trickier in the UK than in the USA or in some parts of Europe because there isn’t much of a tradition here of self-payment for healthcare. It might be possible to sell to private health companies or clinics in some form, but this isn’t likely to be an option for most innovators.

This means that most UK health innovators are going to need to try to supply the NHS. Old hands tend to offer doom-laden prophecies at this point, saying that selling to the NHS is absurdly difficult and – more trenchantly – that the NHS is responsible for the failure of many viable, sensible innovations. Is this fair? (more…)

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Are we stuck in a digital cul de sac?

MLF pic

Disruptive Women UK will be launching Tuesday, September 30th in the House of Commons. This post is a part of a series running up to the launch welcoming Disruptive Women UK.

In the UK we have a problem. The big digital movers and shakers – Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon and many others – were founded in America. We are stuck in a cultural cul-de-sac. There are no easy answers as to why the UK does not have the digital confidence of the US, but we must do our best to tackle our low digital self-esteem. One reason is location. The UK is a test-bed for American companies before they go into other markets in Europe. Innovation from US companies is tried out in the UK at the earliest stage. When Google tests a game here before it goes international, it stamps out home grown innovation. My second observation would be about the dominance of the BBC. I believe it is a phenomenal organisation but a great deal of digital innovation in the UK has happened inside the corporation. It is impressive that the BBC develops something as good as the iPlayer so I would argue that this national institution is perhaps our best scale tech business – this presents interesting challenges as well as opportunities.

There are basic structural difficulties with digital development. In the UK we are not especially ambitious entrepreneurs and this is true in the digital world. While the number of startups indexes well with other countries, growing them into global billion pound companies is rare. (more…)

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