Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Using Scavenger Hunts To Solve Real World Problems?

In a recent article in the news site "Research & Discover Magazine" titled "DARPA Completes 2nd Field Test of Experimental Nuclear Detection" a scavenger hunt was used to test a network of sensors.

This is wonderful for the enhancement of defense for the country's biggest challenges. With over a 1000 sensors deployed, the challenge is to fuse all of the data together to make sense of the efficiency and challenges that lie ahead in the real-time detection of a threat.  The amount of data coming in from such an exercise (simulation) must be overwhelming.  Further, to process and correlate the data is time consuming.

In a recent post I wrote about the NFL collecting 'big data', a single football game generates a large data set.  The number of sensors (one each players shoulder pad + sensors on the field) should generate a data set of considerable length.  The authors did not specify the size of either data set in each study -- which begs the following questions:

How does the data set generated by a single football game compare the data set generated by the scavenger hunt above?

I wonder if the two organizations are using similar algorithms to mine the data sets generated out of each circumstance (scavenger hunt vs. football game)?

The two different studies obviously generate different amounts of data.  Furthermore, the types of sensors used in each study are probably quite different.  Regardless, each of these studies prove that the future holds a considerable investment into generating large data sets.  Additionally, new graduates of the physical and life sciences would be well-served to have the experience in handling large data sets.

The future is exciting for those working in data science.  As in other fields, as time goes by and problems are tackled, new problems emerge.  If the problems are not tackled, then no new problems will emerge.  In the case of generating and handling big data, correlations might be possible but a lack of computational power might be limiting.

More often the case, a researcher is stuck with a large data set and lacks the questions regarding the possible mining strategies.  In order to come up with possible correlations, scientist must understand the data that is being collected in each study (scavenger hunt vs. football game).   Although, with the help of mining data from social media companies, progress could be spread up exponentially.  This necessitates the need to have more interdisciplinary research.  Otherwise we have a bunch of studies occurring in parallel which might benefit if the researchers would talk to each other about the problems and strategies without giving away proprietary information.

This means that we will be at a point of stagnation -- which is not good.   Fortunately, most scientists find a way to move forward and tackle problems in order to keep pushing the field of research forward.  At the current moment, both DARPA and private organizations like the NFL do not appear to be running out of funding, which is exciting for those of us watching the developments from the 'sidelines.'

Friday, November 25, 2016

Free Speech Is The Least Of President-Elect Trump's Problems Ahead

When I was on Twitter recently I saw the tweet below from President-elect's Twitter page:

Followed shortly by the two Tweets below:


and Saturday Night Live back in full swing with a President-elect Trump impression:

These Tweets seem to suggest a disturbing pattern of the incoming President-elect.  The reason is that the implication is that the leader of the free world is more concerned about personal image rather than upholding very important issues like those of science and policy.  Below are a few remarks about worries and concerns.

Image Alert...Threat Detected!!

As I showed above, the images of the Tweet suggest that we are approaching a disturbing future.  I am usually quite optimistic and still am.  Which is why I chose to write this short blog post to remind the public and President-elect Trump  personal image is 'trumped' by important scientific issues.

One main issue is freedom of speech.  Regardless of whether we are discussing the issue in relation to science or personal belief.  America was founded on the idea of values such as 'free speech' and 'equality.'  We have come quite a ways.  During that evolution, the United States has emerged as the leader of the free world -- i.e. the most developed world.  That is not being pompous in any manner.  We are leading the ways in many ways.  We have obligations based on the infrastructure that we have built up over the generations.

At the same time, we have obligations to keep the momentum going.  At this point, you are probably wondering why I bring all of this up?  Especially, since the news has been broadcasting everything I just wrote about on HIGH VOLUME the last few weeks.  Well, let me explain.

The President of the United States has the 'highest visibility' of any world leader.  World leader folks -- yes World Leader - wow!  With that responsibility comes the 'limelight' -- lots of press.  If we have a President-elect worried about a newspaper reporting ('The New York Times') about the troubles emerging during a transition, then so be it.  That is the reality.  That is their job.  Their job is not to cater to the President-elect to make his image look great.

Recently, the newspaper 'The New York Times' ran the article titled "Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State of Disarray" about the halt of the transition team for President-elect Trump.  The article discussed the upset of the progress with all of the 'wish-wash' behavior centered around the indecision of the Trump team.  But the most important information contained in the article is near the end:

In another delay, Mr. Pence did not sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with Mr. Obama’s aides until Tuesday evening, a transition spokesman said. Mr. Christie on Election Day signed a memorandum of understanding to put the process into motion as soon as the outcome was determined, but once he was ousted from the job, Mr. Pence had to sign a new agreement.

The paperwork serves as a nondisclosure agreement for both sides, ensuring that members of the president-elect’s team do not divulge information about the inner workings of the government.

Teams throughout the federal government that have prepared briefing materials and reports for the incoming president’s team are on standby, waiting to begin passing the information to counterparts on Mr. Trump’s staff.

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials at key agencies including the Justice and Defense Departments said they had received no contact from the president-elect’s team.

In business, the process of hiring and firing is frequent and fine.  When you are dealing with the speed of the government, the firing of an individual (team chief) can bring the process to a halt.  After reading this, excerpt, I was thinking about the first few weeks of previous President's-elect.

Did the same problems happen?

Did previous teams have these issues?

Surely, the process of hiring over 4,000 positions cannot be easy and swift?

This does not excuse the President-elect's behavior of focusing on his image so early instead of critical needs -- like transitioning quickly to get ready to run the nation.

On a slightly different note, the choice of working out of 'Trump Tower' in Manhattan has caused a stir too.  In a different article from 'The Times' titled "With Trump Using Tower as Base, Fifth Avenue Grinds to a Halt" customers of the store 'Gucci' inside his building were frustrated with him already:

“I had to be questioned by three different police officers just to get into this store,” said Ms. Hendrickson, 47, who was visiting from South Orange, N.J., the Sylvie at last in her hand. As she mused on Mr. Trump’s being garrisoned in his penthouse apartment, she wondered why he was not preparing in Washington. “This isn’t a Monday-Friday job,” she said. “This is a very serious job, and you need to spend time in the White House.”

From the first read, the stories are making President-elect Trump out to appear not prepared to make large decisions.  But that is not the case at all.  Holding the highest office in the world requires a person to grow 'thick skin'.  This job will bring strong opposition with tough decisions.  At this point, President-elect Trump appears to be having great difficulty.  Just wait until after the inauguration!

With the Tweets above regarding his image and the ability of 'The New York Times' reporting about critical issues that affect our nation, the time has come for him to concentrate on real issues.  Parading his possible candidates around does not build confidence in the nation in regard to solving critical problems that plague the nation and the world at large.

Science Alert -- Trump Possibly Switching Positions!

On a different note but related to image, over the last couple of weeks, President-elect Trump has eased back on his radical opposition positions toward the direction of the nation over the next few years.  During his campaign, he stated in different ways that he was not a large believer in 'climate change'.   Moreover, that he would divert funding from one direction (climate change regulation) toward another (helping the nation - however that is defined?).  Remember my blog posts a couple of weeks ago -- here and here -- on issues from scientists and the research world -- worth reading.  Recent statements have started to change those views  for the better of science -- I believe.

In an interview a couple of days ago with 'The New York Times,' he changed directions as indicated in the following excerpts below:

Climate Change - Pulling out of the Paris Agreements:

On climate change, Mr. Trump refused to repeat his promise to abandon the international climate accord reached last year in Paris, saying, “I’m looking at it very closely.” Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it” and that clean air and “crystal clear water” were vitally important.

This is encouraging since his previous position was against the Paris agreement.  Sounds like he is coming around to understand that the wide range of issues that he believes to be able to tackle in a 4 year period are unattainable.  He is coming back to Earth -- slowly:

He displayed a jumble of impulses, many of them conflicting. He was magnanimous toward Mrs. Clinton, but boastful about his victory. He was open-minded about some of his positions, uncompromising about others.

The interview demonstrated the volatility in Mr. Trump’s positions.

He said he had no interest in pressing for Mrs. Clinton’s prosecution over her use of a private email server or for financial acts committed by the Clinton Foundation. “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” he said.

The statement is encouraging for progress ahead.  I like to see that he is open-minded, but wary of oscillating on issues.  The saving grace might be embedded in the fact that he is concerned about his image.  The image conscience might save the nation.  As I wrote on Veteran's Day, I believe that the President-elect has the opportunity to help the nation by helping veterans.  Furthermore, by helping veterans, tough issues like homelessness and mental health issues will be solved.  I still hold that hope of his success in dealing with these two critical issues.

I chose to write this blog for the purpose of bringing to light the obvious:

President-elect Trump should be concerned with issues that plague the nation and the world at large rather than be concerned about his image.  Sure, having a good rapport with the nation is good.  Although, getting the job done is more important.

Choosing to shame the nation on issues of free speech is not a useful use of his transition plan.
 President-elect should not be speaking his opinion on such matters like the actors who exercised their 'free speech' last Saturday night.  Here is the Tweet from his Twitter feed:

Do you want a President who is concerned about his image on Saturday Night Live?

The United States was built on values as I mentioned earlier.  Values like "freedom of speech" or "equality."  Here is what the cast of the New York City Play 'Hamilton' had to say to a visiting audience member -- Vice President-elect Mike Pence last Saturday Night:

“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,” he said to audience laughter. “And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.”
As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say “because this message needs to be spread far and wide.”

There was 'boo-ing' in between the introduction and the message which is below:

“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do,” Dixon said to further applause. “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

Can you fault the actors taking the opportunity to express their concern to the incoming Vice President of the United States? 


Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you reside, science should be a high priority.  As a nation, we should hold our political officials accountable to make our priorities first rather than second.  Each of us has a responsibility to speak out and share our views and concerns.  The office of the President of the United States is currently under a transition.  Hopefully, the outcome of the transition is a nation with a sense of change and purpose to save the world and planet Earth.

So far, there is concern with the turmoil surrounding the President-elect Trump and his image.  Lets put the issues that confront us as a nation first and image second.  Tough actions (climate change that is not favorable) take tough decisions.  We rely on our politicians to stand up and stand firm for our values.  Even in the face of opposition -- which might result in a few (thousands or million) unfavorable Tweets or Social Media posts.

We should focus on the issues that will help society.  Research and development is crucial to growth as a nation.  Lets focus our attention on growth rather than image.

Until next time, Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The NFL Is Collecting Big Data?

Currently, there is a data revolution occurring in the world.  Recent articles in professional journals often highlight the need for science based data degrees.  The hope is to have data scientists migrate often away from the field of science into more lucrative jobs crunching numbers to determine how to increase the number of "likes" and the sort.  Add to that craziness, and you get big organizations like the National Football league joining the party of 'big data' collection.  The question is the following:

What is the NFL going to do with the 'big data' collected?

In order to find out a few of the possibilities, one must continue to read below.  The possibilities are endless, although, the initial reasons are restrictive.

What Is Big Data In Football?

When I read the title of the article on the website "Scientific Computing" titled "The NFL Joins The Data Revolution in Sports", the first question that came to mind is:

What data are they collecting that is not already being collected?

I was confused by the title of the article, since, one would think that a huge organization like the NFL would already have an enormous amount of data.  Think about the gambling industry across the world and their profits on sports.  One would imagine that big data has played a significant role already in generating an enormous amount of profits from big data.  Evidently not.  Hard to believe.

According to the article mentioned, the NFL is just entering the field of "Big Data":

In some potentially game-changing news for the way we understand professional football, the National Football League began the 2016 preseason by placing tracking sensors in its footballs for the first time. The chips are also in balls used in Thursday night games.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen an explosion in data analytics in sports, particularly on the professional level. Technological advances in cameras and sensors have allowed teams, media and fans to gain insight into a bunch of previously gray areas of sport performance, such as the National Basketball Association’s use of SportVU to track every bit of player and ball movement on the floor.

The concept of integrating numbers and analysis into scouting, training and coaching isn’t new. But access to powerful hardware and software has greatly increased the quality and quantity of available data. A nearly insatiable appetite for data on sports has created a sports analytics market that is set to grow from the millions to the multiple billions of dollars over the next few years.

 The amount of data generated during each game would be enormous.  By keeping the sensor limited to the football and possibly the sidelines, the data generated would be reduced too.  Although, with a reduction of data flowing in from the game, the accuracy of the plays suffer too.  The author mentions that the next step would be to incorporate sensors into the players 'shoulder pads' - which would increase the data stream coming in.

Overall, the practice would be transformative to the entire industry.  I wonder how that would change the challenges that referees face during the game.  Currently, during a challenge, the play is reviewed on a closed circuit screen available to the referee and officials only.  With the rise of sensors, now the game can be analyzed by each team in real time.  Although, the technology is not distributed in real time yet.

Any avenue of improvement that the coaching staff can incorporate into the teams training regimen would be greatly sought after.  Currently, teams are exploring both game simulators and drone coverage of their practices to improve overall flow.  The incorporation of data from the NFL offers two great aspects of improvement:

Ideally, data from ball trackers or shoulder pad trackers could serve two purposes for the NFL. First, it can help teams understand player movement and the flow of play more completely, providing coaches a greater understanding on how players are physically performing during plays, and allowing for input from coaches to players on how to fix their technique to increase efficiency or limit exposure to injury, possibly leading to more efficient training and practice.

Second, the data can be used by the league’s media partners, and perhaps its fans, to further explain the game to audiences, particularly on television. By tracking player movement digitally, clearer representations of what makes individual football plays succeed (or fail) can be provided. These data also allow media to break down individual physical accomplishments, such as extraordinary bursts of speed by wide receivers.

The NFL’s plan to release tracking data within 24 hours of a game’s end points to a future in the league where hard data on player and ball movement are integrated into the daily strategic calculations of each coaching staff. This will likely create a rush to innovation within NFL coaching, as each staff grapples with what will likely be a huge amount of data every week, trying to come up with best practices and analytical methods for evaluating and using that data constructively.

Of course, generating a tremendous amount of data means that the NFL along with individual teams that participate need to have the technological infrastructure (computing power, data scientists, etc.) to make meaningful use of the data coming into the organization.  This requires both technology and scientists to handle that technology in a fruitful manner.

That means scientists will be taken away from professional fields in which they were trained to contribute.  Is this good?

NFL Data Science Improves Science Indirectly

There are a tremendous amount of scientists who are interested in sports.  At least, that is my impression after going through the university system in a science driven field -- through an advanced degree program.  The prospect of losing a scientist to the NFL organization at first sight might seem unethical.  Scientists should stick within their field (discipline) right?

Not necessarily.  There might be many benefits by losing data scientist to the NFL.  First, the scientist working for the NFL will inevitably have a appropriate infrastructure to handle the large amounts of data coming in.  In science, funding is scarce and often sought out among many research groups.

I have always maintained that in order to improve the funding for science, we need the entertainment industry and the sports industry to get involved (financially and technologically) to boost the ability of science.  Why?  Not all great ideas come from working on science problems in science.

What do I mean by this last statement?

A famous story about the world famous physicist Albert Einstein revolves around generating his best ideas while shaving.  Successful people will often tell stories of ideas which have been generated about their business while performing outside work or tasks.  The shower or shaving are just two.

Additionally, while performing a job outside a given field, a scientist may gain insight into the problems within their field.  This methodology is sometimes referred to as "thinking outside the box."  By tackling problems associated with dealing with large data sets like players in a game, other problems might be tackled using different algorithms.  Can you think of any?  I can.

One such problem is tracking people in real time in a city and finding potential threats (WM -- chemical and biological weapons, etc.).  Sifting through the data to find meaningful answers might improve the governments ability to sift through data to find a threat.  Although, the funding opportunities to develop an algorithm or simulation might be too costly on part of the city.  Therefore, having organizations such as the sports organizations tackling the data regarding player movement within a given region (on field inside a stadium) will inevitably improve our ability to detect a threat.

As most of us know, the entertainment industry is rich in funding and not at a loss for funding such interesting projects.  Alternatively, new algorithms will be made (which are proprietary for the NFL) to tackle the issue of analyzing real-time data.  But the inherent thinking or structure of mining the data is what is critical.  After that is known, then an algorithm could be changed to achieve that specific problem.  This prospect offers a great future to science and society in the future.


The correlations which will arise as a result of data mining real-time player information have yet to be realized.  By the descriptions in the cited article above, we are just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of finding relationships within such data sets.  Additionally, no one knows the benefit or adverse effect the data mining will have on both the gaming (gambling industry) and the NFL organization.

Hopefully, out of such data mining algorithms, safer players (with less injuries, etc.) will result.  Science will inevitably benefit out of the data mining processes that are developed.  I have no doubt about that.  Scientists are interested in sports and already use the industry to approach problems in science.  Even if progress is made on the initial thought process of how to find correlations in the data, I believe that meaningful results will arise from the exercise.  Initial findings suggest that this is the case.  Although, as I mentioned, we are just at the 'tip of the iceberg' in the process.  Stay tuned!

Until next time, Have a great day!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is Disease Or Treatment Different In Women?

As modern medicine moves toward the field popularized by the term "personalized medicine," along the way, the first stop will be gender specific medicine.  At least, that seems likely as the field of medicine continues to evolve and research unveils gender specific treatments and disease types.

Gender Specific Diseases?

Each of us have encountered different statistics in the healthcare field for diseases based on gender.  One such example is the occurrence of cardiovascular disease in adults over the age of 40 years.  For women, the occurrence is 1 in every 2 whereas for men it is 2 in every 3.  The obvious question arises:

Why do these differences arise?

Recently, I was listening to a TED talk titled "His and Hers ... Healthcare" by Dr. Paula Johnson.  The video runs less than 15 minutes in length and is worth watching.

In her talk, she starts off with citing statistics in occurrence of mental illness between men and women.  Which ultimately leads her to the visionary statement of the differences lie at the molecular level leading to "sex differences in each cell".  This is visionary way of thinking.  Before I tell you more about the TED talk by Dr. Paula Johnson and the differences in treatment for men and women in medicine, lets look at Dr. Paula Johnson's TED talk profile.  Here is an excerpt from the page:

Dr. Johnson is the Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology, Chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. As an entrepreneurial leader in medicine, she has built organizations which stand at the leading edge of hospital-based interdisciplinary healthcare delivery, discovery and disease prevention. Dr. Johnson started and grew the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology. This nationally-recognized center, includes an interdisciplinary health care practice model that solidifies the important connection between healthcare delivered to each patient and the health of entire communities.

Read more by clicking the hyperlinked sentence introducing the excerpt above which came from the personal profile composed by the TED talk organization.  I just wanted to give the reader some background on the evolution of Dr. Paula Johnson.  Dr. Johnson introduces through a brief account of the emergence of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) 'Revitalization Act of 1993' -- which was critical to the inclusion of minorities and women into clinical trials.  Here is a summary amended in 2001 from the NIH website:

SUMMARY: This notice updates the NIH policy on the inclusion of women and minorities as subjects in clinical research. It supercedes the 1994 Federal Register notice ( and the August 2000 notice in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts ( It incorporates the definition of clinical research as reported in the 1997 Report of the NIH Director’s Panel on Clinical research. Also, this notice provides additional guidance on reporting analyses of sex/gender and racial/ethnic differences in intervention effects for NIH-defined Phase III clinical trials. The guidelines ensure that all NIH-funded clinical research will be carried out in a manner sufficient to elicit information about individuals of both sexes/genders and diverse racial and ethnic groups and, particularly in NIH-defined Phase III clinical trials, to examine differential effects on such groups. Since a primary aim of research is to provide scientific evidence leading to a change in health policy or standard of care, it is imperative to determine whether the intervention or therapy being studied affects women or men or members of minority groups and their subpopulations differently.

In June 2001, NIH adopted the definition of clinical research as: (1) Patient-oriented research. Research conducted with human subjects (or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens and cognitive phenomena) for which an investigator (or colleague) directly interacts with human subjects. Excluded from this definition are in vitro studies that utilize human tissues that cannot be linked to a living individual. Patient-oriented research includes: (a) mechanisms of human disease, (b) therapeutic interventions, (c) clinical trials, and (d) development of new technologies; (2) Epidemiologic and behavioral studies; and (3) Outcomes research and health services research

Imagine that before the inclusion of minorities and women, all of medical trial data was based on men?

Is that really possible?

Upon the first read, this might be impossible to believe.

Even drug testing?

Yes, this is possible.  I know from direct experience.  Back in 1995, I was taking a polymer chemistry course from an old chemist named Professor Roy Kreiger.  Professor Kreiger had been in industry as a bench chemist before he returned to academia to teach.  During our lecture he told of a weekend which was spent as a bench chemist having an extreme case of feeling nauseous.  Here is the story.

He was working as a bench chemist at a pharmaceutical company.  Over the weekend (during time off), the company offered its employees an opportunity to earn "extra money".  Sometimes he would participate and during other weekends he would not.  The participation would entail taking the experimental medicine over the weekend and returning to work on Monday to fill out a detailed questionnaire regarding the experience.  He did this up until he had a bad reaction.

After vomiting all weekend, he returned to work to report that the voluntary medication caused him to be nauseous all weekend.  When he asked what the experimental medication was that he had been ingesting all weekend, the response was that he was administered a new type of "birth control."

After that experience, he no longer participated in earning "extra money".  Upon seeing the TED talk by Dr. Paula Johnson, I was reminded that there was a time when drugs were only tested on  men.  That time was when Professor Kreiger worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

Returning to the video above, Dr. Paula Johnson provides two distinct examples of physiological differences between men and women in disease.  Below the picture is a description of the differences of the two images by Dr. Paula Johnson taken from her TED talk above.

The first example is the difference in plaque build up in the artery as shown below:

Here is the description of the difference by Dr. Paula Johnson of the slide above:

Let's start with heart disease. It's the number one killer of women in the United States today. This is the face of heart disease. Linda is a middle-aged woman, who had a stent placed in one of the arteries going to her heart. When she had recurring symptoms she went back to her doctor. Her doctor did the gold standard test: a cardiac catheterization. It showed no blockages. Linda's symptoms continued. She had to stop working. And that's when she found us. When Linda came to us, we did another cardiac catheterization and this time, we found clues. But we needed another test to make the diagnosis. So we did a test called an intracoronary ultrasound, where you use soundwaves to look at the artery from the inside out.
And what we found was that Linda's disease didn't look like the typical male disease. The typical male disease looks like this. There's a discrete blockage or stenosis. Linda's disease, like the disease of so many women, looks like this. The plaque is laid down more evenly, more diffusely along the artery, and it's harder to see. So for Linda, and for so many women, the gold standard test wasn't gold.

and the second example is a functional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) image of depression in both men and women.  The brain areas highlighted in distinct regions as shown below:

Here is the description of the slide by Dr. Paula Johnson in her TED talk above:

So let's go back to depression. Depression is the number one cause of disability in women in the world today. Our investigators have found that there are differences in the brains of women and men in the areas that are connected with mood. And when you put men and women in a functional MRI scanner -- that's the kind of scanner that shows how the brain is functioning when it's activated -- so you put them in the scanner and you expose them to stress. You can actually see the difference. And it's findings like this that we believe hold some of the clues for why we see these very significant sex differences in depression.
But even though we know that these differences occur, 66 percent of the brain research that begins in animals is done in either male animals or animals in whom the sex is not identified.
So, I think we have to ask again the question: Why leave women's health to chance? And this is a question that haunts those of us in science and medicine who believe that we are on the verge of being able to dramatically improve the health of women. We know that every cell has a sex. We know that these differences are often overlooked. And therefore we know that women are not getting the full benefit of modern science and medicine today. We have the tools but we lack the collective will and momentum.

There are other factors that could contribute to differences in the above images.  Although, overall, there are major difference as shown above.  These two examples are among many that highlight the need to have different clinical trials and treatment for different sexes.  Dr. Paula Johnson makes a compelling case to change the system based on the examples that she uses in her TED talk.  She also points out that the system has yet to change completely -- which is surprising to me.  If differences were apparent, why would we as a society not want to treat everyone equal -- find a treatment for each of us.  This is a bridge toward providing "personalized medicine".

In the paragraphs below, I show an example of private funding, published research, and new research arising which are addressing the differences in sexes with regard to research and development.

In order to change the system, the challenge will take time.  Although, as you will see, progress is being made which suggests motivating evidence of a change.  If you are interested in reading on and looking at the various abstracts of journal articles and books, please feel free to do so.  Additionally, a few foundations and their work are shown below which cast light on the much needed research due to differences in gender.

Today, research with the inclusion of sex and minorities is nowhere where it needs to be -- in terms of taking into account the sex differences of disease.  Why?  Is the cost to expensive?  Do some researchers feel like they are duplicating a trial?  Who knows.

Supplemental Material below:

Organizations Concerned About Gender Medicine

Dr. Paula Johnson highlights in her talk that despite the obvious data from various studies (some of which) introduced in her talk, 60 % of studies are still using either men or rats as test subjects.  Why?  Obvious, the inclusion of women and minorities is still at its infancy.  More discussion and relevancy needs to be brought to the forefront of the decision making process.

How do we accomplish this as a society?

The process could begin with funding projects from private funding.  Part of the money which comes from private funding sources may originate from a foundation.  Below are a couple of foundations which are built to elevate the importance of gender or sex in carrying out research clinical trials.

1) Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine:


To use the study of gender to foster the development of new sciences and improve health care for all patients
The Foundation for Gender Specific-Medicine supports the investigation of the ways in which biological sex and gender affect normal human function and the experience of disease. One of the discipline’s pioneers, Marianne J. Legato, FACP, MD established the Foundation as a continuation of her work with The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University.


1. Support original scientific research in gender-specific medicine:
Each year, the Foundation provides fellowships to untenured, young faculty members with the goal of fostering their interest in gender-specific medicine at the beginning of their investigative careers.  Currently, we award two-year research grants at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and one-year grants at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  However, we are always looking for new scholars.
2. Create an evidence-based set of protocols to guide physicians:
The Foundation is working to assemble a critical mass of evidence-based criteria for optimal gender-specific treatment within each specialty of medicine.  We have finished recommendations for gender-specific care of diabetics and are currently working on cardiovascular disease.

Gender-specific care centers around the globe will receive our completed guidelines.  We will then observe and summarize the impact of these guidelines based on the morbidity and mortality of patients treated according to our recommended protocols.  Columbia University’s Office of Clinical Trials will collaborate with us in organizing and supervising our clinical studies on the impact of sex and gender on the efficacy of new drugs and medical devices.
3. Educate of the lay public and the scientific/medical community:
The Public
The Foundation understands that science does not operate outside of the rest of society, and we consider education a central part of our mission. The interests of the lay public drive medical research and practice. Rather than simply serving as an informational vehicle, the Foundation creates an open dialogue between patients and the medical community. In addition to the many books that Dr. Legato has written for the lay public, the Foundation promotes gender-specific medicine through lectures, symposia, and social media.

The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine is heavily invested in elevating awareness of the differences arising from sex or gender in diseases and treatments.  Columbia University is not a 'unknown' university and stands at the forefront of research in medicine.  Also listed on the page "about us" is the range of organizations that the foundation is affiliated with.  Many are home to Nobel Prize winners.  More and more people are interested in finding out the answer of how much contribution gender or sex plays into the role of disease or treatment.


Below is an abstract for a review of Gender Medicine titled: "Gender Medicine: A new approach for healthcare"


Gender Medicine is a fascinating newly emergent approach of medicine aimed at recognizing and analyzing the differences arising from gender in several aspects: anatomical, physiological, biological, functional, social and in the field of the response to pharmacological treatment. The term gender is to be intended as the definition issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to which gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. Therefore, Gender Medicine deals with a wider area than simply taking into account sex differences, which are merely the biological characteristics that define men and women.
Several studies have demonstrated that the physiology and the psychology of men and women are different and this diversity has a profound impact on the development, diagnosis and treatment of a disease and also on how the patient deals with that pathology. Gender Medicine applies these concepts in order to ensure everyone the best available treatment, with several benefits: it reduces the level of error in medical practice, promotes therapeutic appropriateness for both genders and improves personalized therapies, finally lowering the costs of the National Health Services (NHS), in a long term perspective.
The aim of this project is to drive awareness of this emergent topic. We firstly defined Gender Medicine, by analyzing the contents and by a historical overview, from its first steps to concrete applications, both in Italy and in the international context, thanks to interviews with national and international experts. We then moved to the analysis of clinical features: when, how and why the outcomes of drug therapies are different according to gender? We also described the perceptions of the involved stakeholders (physicians, patients, institutions, etc.) and we finally asked people for their opinion on the topic, through an online questionnaire.

Foundations and projects which emerge from them are crucial to the emergence and mainstream inclusion of women and minorities into clinical and research trials.  Although, until different studies start to show up in the scientific journals as "published articles" -- the idea will remain at a distance.  Even when the evidence is present.  Below are a few published reviews or papers highlighting the need for inclusion of sex differences in to research that have emerged in the last few years:

1) Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology:

"Sex and gender differences in clinical medicine"


Sex and gender differences in frequent diseases are more widespread than one may assume. In addition, they have significant yet frequently underestimated consequences on the daily practice of medicine, on outcomes and effects of therapies. Gender medicine is a novel medical discipline that takes into account the effects of sex and gender on the health of women and men. The major goal is to improve health and health care for both, for women as well as for men. We give in this chapter an overview on sex and gender differences in a number of clinical areas, in cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases, gastroenterology and hepatology, in nephrology, autoimmune diseases, endocrinology, hematology, neurology. We discuss the preferential use of male animals in drug development, the underrepresentation of women in early and cardiovascular clinical trials, sex and gender differences in pharmacology, in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, in management and drug use. Most guidelines do not include even well-known sex and gender differences. European guidelines for the management of cardiovascular diseases in pregnancy have only recently been published. Personalized medicine cannot replace gender-based medicine. Large databases reveal that gender remains an independent risk factor after ethnicity, age, comorbidities, and scored risk factors have been taken into account. Some genetic variants carry a different risk in women and men. The sociocultural dimension of gender integrating lifestyle, environment, stress, and other variables cannot be replaced by a sum of biological parameters. Because of this prominent role of gender, clinical care algorithms must include gender-based assessment.

The wide range of diseases where sex differences is prominent are so large that one would think that the field of 'Gender Medicine' would explode.  Catchy titles like the following were used to get the attention of professionals in order to get traction.

2)  Clinical Chemistry Laboratory Medicine:

Research Article: "Gender medicine: a task for the third millennium"


Gender-specific medicine is the study of how diseases differ between men and women in terms of prevention, clinical signs, therapeutic approach, prognosis, psychological and social impact. It is a neglected dimension of medicine. In this review we like to point out some major issues in five enormous fields of medicine: cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), pharmacology, oncology, liver diseases and osteoporosis. CVDs have been studied in the last decades mainly in men, but they are the first cause of mortality and disability in women. Risk factors for CVD have different impacts in men and women; clinical manifestations of CVD and the influence of drugs on CVD have lot of gender differences. Sex-related differences in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics are also emerging. These differences have obvious relevance to the efficacy and side effect profiles of various medications in the two sexes. This evidence should be considered for drug development as well as before starting any therapy. Gender disparity in cancer incidence, aggressiveness and prognosis has been observed for a variety of cancers and, even if partially known, is underestimated in clinical practice for the treatment of the major types of cancer. It is necessary to systematize and encode all the known data for each type of tumor on gender differences, to identify where this variable has to be considered for the purposes of the prognosis, the choice of treatment and possible toxicity. Clinical data suggest that men and women exhibit differences regarding the epidemiology and the progression of certain liver diseases, i.e., autoimmune conditions, genetic hemochromatosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and chronic hepatitis C. Numerous hypotheses have been formulated to justify this sex imbalance including sex hormones, reproductive and genetic factors. Nevertheless, none of these hypothesis has thus far gathered enough convincing evidence and in most cases the evidence is conflicting. Osteoporosis is an important public health problem both in women and men. On the whole, far more epidemiologic, diagnostic and therapeutic studies have been carried out in women than in men. In clinical practice, if this disease remains underestimated in women, patients' and physicians' awareness is even lower for male osteoporosis, for which diagnostic and therapeutic strategies are at present less defined. In conclusion this review emphasizes the urgency of basic science and clinical research to increase our understanding of the gender differences of diseases.

3) World Journal of Gastroenterology:

Research Article: "Gender specific medicine in liver diseases: a point of view"


Gender medicine focuses on the patho-physiological, clinical, prevention and treatment differences in diseases that are equally represented in men and women. The purpose of gender medicine is to ensure that each individual man and woman receives the best treatment possible based on scientific evidence. The concept of "gender" includes not only the sexual characteristics of individuals but also physiological and psychological attributes of men and women, including risk factors, protective/aggravating effects of sexual hormones and variances linked to genetics and corporal structures that explain biological and physiological differences between men and women. It is very important to consider all the biological, physiological, functional, psychological, social and cultural characteristics to provide patients with individualized disease management. Herein, we critically analyze the literature regarding gender differences for diseases and acquired conditions of the most representative hepatic pathologies: primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, non alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic liver disease, and viral chronic hepatitis B and C. The last section addresses hemochromatosis, which is a prevalent iron overload disorder in the Caucasian population. This review aims to describe data from the literature concerning viral chronic hepatitis during pregnancy, management during pregnancy and delivery, and new effective drugs for the prevention of maternal infection transmission without significant adverse effects or complications.

4) Journal Atherosclerosis:

Research Article: "Sex differences in cardiovascular risk factors and disease prevention"


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been seen as a men's disease for decades, however it is more common in women than in men. It is generally assumed in medicine that the effects of the major risk factors (RF) on CVD outcomes are the same in women as in men. Recent evidence has emerged that recognizes new, potentially independent, CVD RF exclusive to women. In particular, common disorders of pregnancy, such as gestational hypertension and diabetes, as well as frequently occurring endocrine disorders in women of reproductive age (e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and early menopause) are associated with accelerated development of CVD and impaired CVD-free survival. With the recent availability of prospective studies comprising men and women, the equivalency of major RF prevalence and effects on CVD between men and women can be examined. Furthermore, female-specific RFs might be identified enabling early detection of apparently healthy women with a high lifetime risk of CVD. Therefore, we examined the available literature regarding the prevalence and effects of the traditional major RFs for CVD in men and women. This included large prospective cohort studies, cross-sectional studies and registries, as randomised trials are lacking. Furthermore, a literature search was performed to examine the impact of female-specific RFs on the traditional RFs and the occurrence of CVD. We found that the effects of elevated blood pressure, overweight and obesity, and elevated cholesterol on CVD outcomes are largely similar between women and men, however prolonged smoking is significantly more hazardous for women than for men. With respect to female-specific RF only associations (and no absolute risk data) could be found between preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and menopause onset with the occurrence of CVD. This review shows that CVD is the main cause of death in men and women, however the prevalence is higher in women. Determination of the CV risk profile should take into account that there are differences in impact of major CV RF leading to a worse outcome in women. Lifestyle interventions and awareness in women needs more consideration. Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that female-specific RF are of influence on the impact of major RF and on the onset of CVD. Attention for female specific RF may enable early detection and intervention in apparently healthy women. Studies are needed on how to implement the added RF's in current risk assessment and management strategies to maximize benefit and cost-effectiveness specific in women.

The research has been covered for at least the last 9 years, but remains invisible to the public.  Specific journals cover the field (as is the case in other specialized areas of science).  Although, with the importance arising between sex differences, one would think that the research would be broadcasted to a wider audience.

Journal that is discontinued after running for 9 years is "Gender Medicine" with the last issue highlighting the transition toward the use of genomics in medicine shown below:

1) Publication: Gender Medicine

Research Article: "Mainstreaming Sex and Gender Analysis in Public Health Genomics"


The integration of genome-based knowledge into public health or public health genomics (PHG) aims to contribute to disease prevention, health promotion, and risk reduction associated with genetic disease susceptibility. Men and women differ, for instance, in susceptibilities for heart disease, obesity, or depression due to biologic (sex) and sociocultural (gender) factors and their interaction. Genome-based knowledge is rapidly increasing, but sex and gender issues are often not explored.

2) Handbook of Clinical Gender Medicine :

Book Description:

A new vision to understanding medicine
Gender medicine is an important new field in health and disease. It is derived from top-quality research and encompasses the biological and social determinants that underlie the susceptibility to disease and its consequences. In the future, consideration of the role of gender will undoubtedly become an integral feature of all research and clinical care. 

Defining the role of gender in medicine requires a broad perspective on biology and diverse skills in biomedical and social sciences. When these scientific disciplines come together, a revolution in medical care is in the making. Covering twelve different areas of medicine, the practical and useful Handbook of Clinical Gender Medicine provides up-to-date information on the role of gender in the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and management of a wide range of common diseases.

The contributing authors of this handbook are all experts who, in well-referenced chapters, cogently and concisely explain how incorporation of gender issues into research can affect the medical understanding and treatment of heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, pain, violence, and malaria among other conditions. This intriguing and unique medical textbook provides readers with a valuable new perspective to understand biology and incorporate gender issues into the different branches of medicine.

And last but not least, an emerging field (little late after 20 years) is the International Society of Gender Medicine whose mission is stated below:

Aims of the IGM
The specific purpose of the society is to establish and develop gender medicine in an international context by promoting gender –specific research in basic sciences, clinical medicine and public health. This is based on the insight, that the two sexes may have different experiences of the same disease: they may present with different symptoms, respond differently to therapy and tolerate/cope with the disease differently.  The pathophysiology of disease may also vary as a function of genetics, epidemiology and biological sex/gender.
Therefore, the society will aim to:
1) Advance the understanding of sex/gender differences by bringing together scientists and clinicians of diverse backgrounds;
2) Strive to implement gender in the medical curriculum, prepare and allocate gender-specific learning materials, curricula and gender trainings for instructors
3) Promote gender-specific public health issues such as  information for persons, institutions and organizations in the area of gender medicine
4) Facilitate interdisciplinary research on sex/gender differences in basic and clinical frameworks
5) Encourage the application of new knowledge of sex/gender differences to improve health and health care
6) Cooperate with other professional and international societies of gender medicine and similar scientific organizations
7) Encourage and support the creation of professional organizations dedicated to the promotion of sex/gender medicine GM
8) Encourage and support international cooperation, collaboration and education among professionals working in the field sex/gender medicine.
9) Organize international meetings and congresses on relevant topics
10) Assist in the publication of position papers and guidelines in credible scientific journals and textbooks

There is a strong need for a society like the International Society of Gender Medicine to exist.  Healthcare professionals should gather together to explore the emerging field.  As mentioned earlier, the field of Gender Medicine is relatively new.  The most probable cause for the infancy of the field is the lack of 'gender specific care' or stigma associated with a 'non-binary' gender classification.

As highlighted in the abstracts of the emerging articles, research and development is making apparent the need to include minorities and women into trials and clinical research design.  The path toward "personalized medicine" involves dealing with the wide spectrum of gender types that compose our society today.  Using the pre-historic 'binary system' (male or female) classification is no longer valid.  More important is to understand the gender differences that actually arise in our society today and have been around for quite sometime -- just not recognized.

Until next time, Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why Doesn't Pre-Regulation Of Consumer Products Exist?

Consumer products flood the marketplace and the screens on the devices that we carry with us on a daily basis.  This begs the following question regarding safety of consumer products released on the market:

But why are there more regulations regarding the safety of such products?

I really do not know the answer to this question.  If you are a reader who does know the answer or can shed some light on information (websites, books, journals, etc.) on the subject, please leave a comment.  At this point you might be asking yourself the following question:

Why is he concerned with the regulation of consumer products?

The reason is due to an article I read today about the efficacy of 'supplements' in 'The New York Times' article titled "Studies Show Little Benefit in Supplements".  Specifically, the excerpt that produced the thought was the following regarding regulation stated below:

The passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 opened the floodgates to an industry that can bring these products to market without submitting any evidence to the Food and Drug Administration that they are safe and effective in people. The law allows the products to be promoted as “supporting” the health of various parts of the body if no claim is made that they can prevent, treat or cure any ailment. The wording appears not to stop many people from assuming that “support” translates to a proven benefit.

After 1994, sales of a very wide range of supplements skyrocketed, and because the law allowed it, many continued to be sold even after high-quality research showed they were no better than a placebo at supporting health. The government can halt sales of an individual product only after it is on the market and shown to be mislabeled or dangerous.

 The law seems to open up the door to the 'wild west' of supplements to which the world is exposed to.  A few years ago, I remember listening to a radio show where the regulator said of this law that the consumer is exposed to literally "whatever the manufacturer decides to put into the product.  The consumer could be buying dirt in a gel coating."  I was appalled to say the least.

This puts the safety and efficacy of a consumer product on the consumer.  Which, if the last sentence of each paragraph in the excerpt are picked out for the stand alone inspection below translates to:

The wording appears not to stop many people from assuming that “support” translates to a proven benefit.

And ...

The government can halt sales of an individual product only after it is on the market and shown to be mislabeled or dangerous.

I don't know about you, but I get a tingly feeling running down my spine when I read either sentence.  I can say that I as a consumer have confidence in the manufacturer that they would operate on 'good faith' to make a reliable product.

As I study more, I become more aware of how gullible I have been.  Although, the solution to such a matter involves the following question:

What alternative is there?

Education to start with.   In the case of supplements or vitamins, many consumers do not realize that the important active compounds (vitamins) in a supplement (some of which) are not digestible in the human body.  Therefore, you take a pill or drink a drink and pee the minerals and vitamins right out the other end.

Understanding that you can get the same nutrition from different fruits and vegetables along with with other food is crucial to the safety and health of yourself and your family.  Many manufacturers play on the inability of the consumer not to pay attention or ask questions about the efficacy of their product.

I will leave you with this thought.  Education can take you only so far.  At some point, you do have to live with the understanding that toxicity is a spectrum.  Every compound is a degree (a data point) on the spectrum of toxicity.  Although, the more education that you put forward toward understanding the consumer products and their effectiveness versus adverse effects, the better off you will be!

So, go educate thyself!

Have a great day!

Friday, November 11, 2016

What Do The Election Results Have To Do With Veterans Day?

The election results have been tallied and the President Elect has been determined to be the Republican Nominee Donald Trump.  During his campaign, Donald Trump promised to restore dignity for our veterans by re-working the Veterans Administration System and take care of our soldiers.  These promises sound wonderful to a soldier in uniform.  As a result, this might have raised the amount of votes tallied from military soldiers.

After processing the election results, today -- which is Veterans Day in the United States allows us a day to reflect on the future with the election behind us.  Specifically, the state of the nation while paying respect to the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those who have served our country -- of which I am one (US Air Force 1996-2000).  The following question can be entertained:

Where are we headed as a country with the current military?

I would like to make a few comments on the matter based on the information which has surfaced over the last few months -- in addition to the months ahead.

Happy Veterans Day!

I am a veteran.  I served my country proudly in the US Air Force from 1996-2000.  I often think of that time of service.  Especially, when I interact with my brothers and my sisters (military friends).  My tour of service was very good.  I worked hard and played hard.  I had the opportunity to visit areas of the world that most Americans will never get a chance to visit.  Examples include military bases in the Middle East in the middle of nowhere.  The primary mission was to generate F-16 jets for "peace-keeping missions" -- i.e., enforcing the no fly zone on either end of Iraq.

Why am I telling you all of this information?

Especially when I just wrote a blog post about the second suicide attempt of Pfc. Chelsea Manning leaking information?

In that post, I mentioned that each service member agrees not to talk about their specific jobs during a given tour.  Well, so far, nothing of importance has been said on my behalf.  The reason why I speak about general tours/deployments/trips on which I was sent was to convey the importance about the current and past military members serving our country with distinction and honor.  There are a whole lot of prior military brother and sisters walking this great country who have contributed to the security and present day status of the country.

To them (Veterans) we each owe respect!

Travelling around and congregating today to think about veterans can be good and meaningful.  Typically, this involves hanging out at a family members house (watching a holiday game) on TV and periodically mentioning veterans.  Please if this is the case, do not be too lazy to stand up during the performance of the national anthem before a game (and yes even if the game is on TV or at a distance).  Or maybe the day involves hitting the shopping mall to participate in purchasing a new consumer product with astronomical savings in the name of Veterans Day Sales.

What is not typically highlighted and noticed by the general public are the large number of veterans that are walking/roaming the streets with mental illness.  Furthermore, not a whole lot of attention is being paid to the failed Veterans Administration System -- whose responsibilities include offering treatment to visible and non-visible diseases (physical and psychological).  Many veterans will be travelling around today unnoticed and without help with their disease that plagues them.  If you know of any veteran who is struggling - please let them know that help is available.  There are organizations across the United States whose mission is to restore dignity and hope to their lives.

Last night I was listening to the podcast "Unbeatable Mind."  Commander Mark Divine interviewed Nathan Fletcher who is the director of the "Three Wise Men Foundation". Here is a quote from the interview that leaped out of the speakers at me regarding veterans and suicide:

"Over 70% of the veterans who commit suicide never asked for help from anybody..."

WOW.  Unbelievable.  Nathan Fletcher attributed a large part of that was due to the pride and mindset of Veterans that do not ask for help.  They just power through the problem or self-medicate.  Through his foundation of working with veterans, he is changing the mindset of veterans who suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The common problem associated with seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD are the potential stigmas that go along with the diagnosis.

Although, I would argue that as more and more people (military and non-military) are seeking treatment for traumatic events in their lives, the stigma is disappearing while the frequency is increasing.  Therefore, thinking of the traumatic event as a starting point from which to grow from is removing any stigma associated with the term altogether (which is both admirable and genius too).  He is coining the term "Post Traumatic Growth" -- awesome.

The work of foundations such as "Three Wise Men Foundation" and other veterans groups: "Ride 2 Recover", "Wounded Warrior Project" are superstars and extremely successful at rehabilitating veterans through injecting exercise and changing the mindset and practices.  If you are having trouble finding an organization for getting a veteran help, type into a search engine like Google the phrase "Veteran Support Groups" and numerous support groups will appear after scrolling past the advertisements.

What emerges from this work are soldiers who are given a purpose in life.

This is great.  Although, more work needs to be done in total to help veterans around the US.

President Elect Donald Trump Promises To Help

Returning to the introduction of the blog post, we now have President Elect Donald Trump who will have to deal with the issues that I described above.  Recently, I wrote a post about the top 20 science issues that the next president will have to entertain.  Actually, in that post, I 'copied and referenced (reformatted) the original questions from the nonprofit foundation "ScienceDebate" which represents 56 organizations.  The 56 organizations are made up of 12 million scientists.  

Why do I bring these questions up?

A couple of the top 20 questions has direct connection to the veterans suffering from mental illnesses and/or are homeless.  The first question has to do with mental illness:


Mental illness is among the most painful and stigmatized diseases, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates it costs America more than $300 billion per year. What will you do to reduce the human and economic costs of mental illness?

President Elect Donald Trump's Answer:

This is one of the great unfolding tragedies in America today.  States are reducing their commitments to mental health treatment and our jails are filled with those who need mental health care.  Any mental health reforms must be included in our efforts to reform healthcare in general in the country.  We must make the investment in treating our fellow citizens who suffer from severe mental illness.  This includes making sure that we allow family members to be more involved in the total care of those who are severely mentally ill.  We must ensure that the national government provides the support to state and local governments to bring mental health care to the people at the local level.  This entire field of interest must be examined and a comprehensive solution set must be developed so that we can keep people safe and productive.

I will be the first to admit that I did not vote for Donald Trump.  With that being said, I believe very strongly in democracy and in the electorate.  Therefore, the majority of this great nation have stood up and decided that he is our best candidate.  In light of this, lets look forward at where the future takes us -- especially with this critical question of mental health care and our veterans.

By the sounds of the answer that President Elect Donald Trump has given, there will be support to our veterans who have mental health issues along with other non-veterans who suffer too.  I truly hope that this is the case in the near future.  Any support that he can throw (in terms of funding, motivation, etc.) will truly help the country re-prioritize our values toward taking care of ourselves first -- which seems to have been lost.

There are such a large amount of  veterans who have not received any help.  The statistic of 70% is one such example which needs dire attention.  Additionally, transitioning a veteran back into society is importance too. These two factors alone probably contribute greatly toward the ability to have an operational veteran who has been "of service to our country" and continues in the civilian world to be of service to our country.

One devastating point to mention in the podcast "Unbeatable Mind" which I forgot to highlight is that untreated illnesses also result in "self-medication".   Whether that be with the use of alcohol or drugs is of a major concern for our veterans and other citizens of this nation.  Currently, a major problem exists with an 'opioid' addiction hitting the United States in extremely large numbers.  This brings us to the second of the 'top 20 science issues' above which deals calls into question a solution for this growing epidemic:


There is a growing opioid problem in the United States, with tragic costs to lives, families and society. How would your administration enlist researchers, medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies in addressing this issue?

President Elect Donald Trump's Answer:

We first should stop the inflow of opioids into the United States.  We can do that and we will in the Trump administration.  As this is a national problem that costs America billions of dollars in productivity, we should apply the resources necessary to mitigate this problem.  Dollars invested in taking care of this problem will be more than paid for with recovered lives and productivity that adds to the wealth and health of the nation.

The answer above causes concern to me.  Actually, next week I will write a post about part of the reason why there is an issue with opioid use.  Part of the problem lies on the side of the pharmaceutical industry.  Stay tuned.  Regardless, there is a major issue that needs to be addressed as a nation.  This problem can be couple to mental health issues.  Funding needs to be available address treatment and prevention.


Part of the problems plaguing veterans is the inability to transition back into civilian life.  The solution to this lies within all of us.  Some lies within the families (in comprehensive care) to motivate getting help and seeking out resources for transitioning back into civilian life.  As I mentioned above, there are many useful and successful resources available to veterans in order to lead a healthy and productive life.

President Elect Donald Trump can do some great if he can stimulate the economy and get jobs going again.  Veterans need work to do to feel useful -- just like every other American citizen.  Although, veterans are highly motivated workers who have a unique perspective about the world which can be extremely useful to a team.  Industries across the board should welcome them to the workforce and utilize their strength and build upon their weaknesses.

Industries across the board suffer from the inability to tell the public what experience that they are looking for.  I work in a university and often I will hear outsiders say "Colleges and Universities are not producing a quality worker for us."  The solution is simple: Just tell us what you want!

As for the veteran leaving the service and transitioning back into civilian life, I am reminded of the news from an article titled "Veterans: Silicon Valley's most overlooked talent" that states:

Green, who eventually landed a project manager role at San Jose-based Cisco, said tech companies aren't doing enough to help the thousands of service members who are entering the civilian workforce every day.

“Tech companies have all these veterans initiatives. But often, they’re just sound bites and spin," Green said. “I went to Apple just to meet with someone and they said the same thing — just apply online. A lot of doors were closed in my face.”

Green said he faced a common problem experienced by veterans re-entering the civilian job market: the difficulty of relating his Army experience to the business world.

Tech companies like Cisco, Google and LinkedIn all have veteran-focused initiatives, from hackdays for veterans to workshops and training events aimed to help veterans transition to civilian life.

But these efforts are still not enough to help veterans compete on an even playing field in uber-competitive Silicon Valley, said Green.

Green believes that while individual companies’ veterans initiatives are important, they are not very effective on their own. He encourages companies to come together to better explain to veterans what they are looking for in terms of talent and how to best translate skills from the military world to civilian jobs.

“Companies need to join together to explain to veterans how to translate their skills, what training is needed and what the options are,” Green said. “That will help vets be more competitive in Silicon Valley.”

Mike Dougherty, another Army veteran, said hiring managers often did not see the value of his military experience to the business world.

Dougherty, who most recently served in Iraq as a lieutenant colonel, is the director of North American manufacturing and operations for Cisco. He also went on two combat deployments to Bosnia in the 1990s.

“I told them about being a platoon leader going into Bosnia with the 1st Armored Division across the Sava River,” Dougherty said. “And the hiring managers just said, ‘What does this have to do with this job?’"

After reading this excerpt along with the anecdotal account which I give regarding students leaving the university setting, the blame seems to be on the side of industry.  Today's spectrum of available jobs requires more specificity in the job description.  Further, industry should come together with both academia and the military to explain how to better recruit a worker from either setting.

Regardless of who is to blame, hopefully the next President Elect Donald Trump can bring back jobs and bridge this ever widening gap in the job force.  He is the first truly business minded President without political experience.  I sincerely hope that he makes good on his words regarding veterans and making America great again.

I hope that everyone has a great Veterans Day celebration.  Be safe and think about the issues at hand.  Above all, be thankful and grateful that you are not in a war zone or hostile area today.  There exists a soldier who is thinking of you peacefully celebrating.  Take a moment to thank them -- even if it is in spirit of mind.

Until next time, Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What Happened To Being Yourself Instead Of Ivanka Trump?

Living just outside Los Angeles (California), I am well aware of the cost of image.  Hollywood is adjacent to my community and I get a full 'whiff' of the need to conform to an unattainable image.  Furthermore, a majority of residents in my city drive to the mall just over a mile away (sometimes just a block away).  I ride my bicycle to the train station and take the train to work.  This lifestyle is counter intuitive to the majority of residents surrounding me.  Enough said.

What ever happened to being yourself?

In the brief post below, I talk about one of the most strangest revelations of the current election cycle.  The revelation revolves around a growing trend of women seeking out to look like one of the Presidential Candidate's Daughter.  A few women have been spending quite a bit of money to look like Ivanka Trump.  First, I will start with an experience close to home and then move onto Ivanka.

Face Lift?

I use the scientific term "against entropy" for a good reason.  Over the course of our lives, the shape of the human face becomes round.  For this reason, many people consult a plastic surgeon to alter the shape for a few years at most.

How do I know this?

A few years ago, my mother decided to get a face lift.  All of her life, she has wanted to get a face lift to remove the "turkey neck" -- the excess skin underneath a person's neck along with the sagging skin in her cheeks.  At least that is the reasoning that she gave me to have the procedure done.  On top of these reasons, my parents are divorced and both happily remarried.  My father is a surgeon -- who is very opposed to cosmetic surgery -- unless certain circumstances arise (burn victim, disfigurement, etc.).  Given his opinion on the matter, I could see why she had never had the procedure done before.

Upon getting the procedure done, there is a process of healing from having the muscles cut and stretched to be sewn back together.  The healing process requires lots of rest and recovery checkups with the plastic surgeon to ensure the healing process is going well.  Watching my mother go through this process left a sour taste in my mouth toward the procedure.   Overall, the process appears to be extremely painful for results that are eventually going to be reversed.  What?

Yes, eventually, the process will be reversed.  On top of the direction of aging dictated by the genes that each of us are given, I mentioned that each of our faces turn round -- as we age.  Remember, the first paragraph?  Therefore, the process is not good forever.  That is why plastic surgeons are wealthy on top of first time clients.   The length of time is years in between though -- not to worry.

Ironically, before finishing up this section, I must tell a short story.  During one of the follow-up check ups with my mother's plastic surgeon, I learned quite a bit.  First, that as we age our faces turn round.  Second, that my mother's plastic surgeon was trained by my father -- what?  Yes, after my mother's check up was finished, the physician, Dr. Robert Hardesty asked me how my father was doing?  I was taken back.

Turns out that my father trained him how to operate to perfection while working at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Loma Linda, California.  That was the reason why my mother trusted him so much.  He was trained by the best.  I guess he went onto do what my father did not want to do.  A year after my mother's surgery, I was engaged and had an engagement party.  Time had past since my parents divorce.  The party was at my mother's house.

Late to arrive as usual, my father greeted my mother -- but before my mother said to him "Hello, I am Mike's Mother, How do you know Mike?"  He replied, "Hello, I am Mike's father..." and suddenly, they both broke into laughter -- embarrassing to say the least.  My father had gained a few pounds along with obtaining a "rounded face" while my mother had had the "face lift".  They were married for 25 years before divorcing.

What does this have to do with women seeking to look like Ivanka Trump?

Hang on, I am getting to that part of the post.

I Want To Look Like Ivanka Trump!

Out of all of the outrageous news bites that have surfaced during this current election cycle, none is more strange than the following piece of news.  In a recent video, I found while surfing social media, a story on the YouTube channel for 'ABC News' titled "Women Get Surgery To Look Like Ivanka Trump" -- introducing the new trend of a few women seeking to look like Ivanka Trump.  Here is the video below (which is less than 7 minutes in length and definitely worth watching):

While watching the video in amazement, I am dumbfounded that the look these women are seeking is of Donald Trump's daughter.  She has a "rounded face" which is one of the most sought after 'attributes' after her breasts and lips.  Amazing.  If that is what makes them happy then so be it.

Why can't we be happy with ourselves?

Our genes are programmed to deliver what our ancestors had?

These are your origins?

Would you want to look like someone else's daughter?

Strange to say the least.  In fact, each of the women above will have the same features as Ivanka in a few years as they age -- according the advice from my mother's plastic surgeon.  Why speed up the process? 

I am amazed at the length that a person will go to seek the approval and looks of another person.  After seeing the video, I thought of another amazing story of a husband who sued his wife for $100,000 dollars for deceiving him and having ugly children.  What?  Yes, you heard it correctly.  The man then filed for divorce and won everything after the wife admitted to undergoing over a $120,000 worth of plastic surgery.  Here is the video below:

What a terrible man he is.  Although, one must ask themselves if they would have been honest with their husband in the same situation.

Should a male or female feel compelled to reveal any plastic surgery done prior to marriage?

One would think that each of them would have seen childhood pictures or high school pictures prior to marriage.  Maybe not.  Maybe they just rushed into marriage without inquiry.  Who knows?  Strange, isn't it?


What can be learned from the stories so far?

How about following the advice of my father (a surgeon who trained a plastic surgeon):

Just be yourself and let your genes lead you to a happy life!

Being yourself will be cheaper, last longer because you are not fighting your genetic code and more refreshing.  Why?  Because being yourself is like being no other person.  You are unique -- promise!

Until next time, Have a great day!