October Man of the Month: John D. Phillips, Ph.D.

John-Phillips-SCC-1As part of our celebration of World Stroke Day (October 29) we are pleased to announce that John D. Phillips, Ph.D. is Disruptive Women in Health Care’s October Man of the Month. John, co-founder of the Stroke Comeback Center, is a visionary who saw an unmet need, and helped to create an innovative solution.

John was one of those well-connected Washington insiders, who had served as a deputy commissioner for higher education in the Ford Administration, then served as founding president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and then ran an executive search practice specializing in recruiting college presidents. Then, his hectic workaholic lifestyle came to a sudden halt when he suffered a stroke. During his recovery, he noticed and felt some very large gaps in resources needed for recovery, particularly for people whose stroke had caused communication difficulties.  Working with his speech therapists and others, he co-founded the non-profit Stroke Comeback Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Question:  John, tell us a little about your stroke.

Answer:  Most people who are attacked by stroke suffer the more common blockade stroke — where a clot or constriction in the blood vessel prevents oxygen from getting to the brain, and rapidly kills brain cells until the obstruction is removed. (more…)

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Women’s Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke

Leonard Anne_suit

I am a Science and Medicine advisor for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA). I assisted the Stroke Council in the development of Stroke Guidelines rising from the Stroke Council.  The AHA/ASA develops evidence based guidelines to aid healthcare providers in making decisions on best care practices solidly based on what science we have now.  The AHA/ASA felt it important to define prevention guidelines specifically focused to women and stroke.  These Guidelines were published in the spring of 2014, and the interest in these guidelines has been amazing!  The AHA/ASA Stroke Guidelines are developed by our esteemed group of stroke experts.  These experts are leaders in the field of stroke science.  The AHA/ASA Stroke Council updates these guidelines about every 3-5 years or as we acquire new science that would impact and potentially change the guidelines and care of women in the US.  The AHA/ASA is deeply committed to making sure that the community had what we feel are best prevention practices for the community.


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An Innovative Approach to Stroke & Aphasia Recovery: Part 2, Groups

brookeHOne day long ago I found myself dancercising in the basement of a bingo hall.  This was, to make a gross understatement, way out of my newly single comfort zone. I was awkward at best and going the wrong way at worst, but I was in a group with 200 others trying to do the same thing. I went back, and found a community of people I had little in common with other than this shared experience. I worked harder because I saw them working harder. Soon I knew a few routines and was offering encouragement to newcomers. I was getting more confident; healthier.   You probably have a similar story – a group you didn’t expect to join but pushed you to be better.

Groups are powerful things – little organisms that wiggle and struggle, contract and expand, create and adapt. Those who need a hand get one; those who can lend a hand offer it. (more…)

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An Innovative Approach to Stroke & Aphasia Recovery: Part 1, Life Participation

dswprophotoA1Here’s the scenario:  A 51 year-old woman is having the worst headache she has ever experienced.  Let’s call her Linda.  She is concerned and decides to lie down to see if it subsides.  Alone in the bedroom, she experiences a stroke.  She is conscious but cannot move her right side and cannot call out for help.  Her husband, let’s call him Jim, finds her, recognizes that something is terribly wrong and calls 9-1-1.

She is taken to the local hospital; the immediate question posed in the emergency room, “What time did symptoms occur?”  Jim does not know and Linda cannot answer.  She has been diagnosed as having had a CVA (cerebral vascular accident) or stroke.  An MRI reveals that a clot has traveled to the left side of her brain, but she was not given the clot busting drug treatment because there is a 4 hour window and the time of her stroke is not known.  Linda is stabilized and transferred to the neurological unit.  (more…)

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My Personal Stroke Story

IMG_0794I first shared my story in 2008 as the Passion Speaker for the American Heart Association at the Go Red for Women Luncheon in San Antonio, Texas. And I told my story many times in the next few years to the various corporate partners and in private homes where both men and women had gathered to learn about women’s risk for stroke.

Today, more than 16 years after having a stroke, I continue to tell my story with others as a You’re the Cure advocate in Washington DC. I presented at the Maryland Million Hearts Symposium and on Washington DC’s CBS TV station WUSA9 last winter. You can watch my interview with WUSA9 here.

I am proud to be an Inaugural Member of the Circle of Red for the Greater Washington DC Circle of Red in 2014. (more…)

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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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