A Time Traveler?

January 5th, 2023 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

For the past 30 years, I’ve felt like a healthcare time-traveler.

Maybe that was because I took such a circuitous route getting there through education, the arts, and tourism, or maybe it was because I’m a musician whose brain was just wired differently.

Regardless, I’ve spent the past three decades proposing ideas that may or may not someday be implemented.

This afternoon, I ran across an article that I had written a decade ago that began with an idea I had been cultivating for 16 years.

It started with this sentence: Periodically, my life intersects with certain realities that previously did not seem to even be a consideration.

This article was about a potential project that involved the networking of approximately 20 rural hospitals via web connectivity.

The purpose of the network was to create a virtual health system that was not dominated by one super tertiary power, the normal health system model which is an ego-centric model that typically takes away the “Community” from community health care.

The network of small rural hospitals that I was studying had, in order to meet their overnight radiology needs, spent about $21 million for teleradiology connectivity to Australia.

My proposal suggested not limiting this to radiology. With that in mind, I proposed the viability of web based technology for cardiology, dermatology, oncology, and a dozen other specialities via telemedicine.

That very day, I saw an article by Christopher Lawton of the Wall Street Journal, who wrote “Cough, Cough. Is There A Doctor in the Mouse?” regarding the use of web services that allows patients to communicate with doctors via online video, text, chat or phone.

The year was 2009.

The organization I proposed this solution to rejected it as too progressive and today those 20 hospitals are still struggling to provide advanced specialty services.

Meanwhile, as we attempted to navigate COVID-19, telemedicine became not only popular but was also funded by insurance and has become extremely essential and life-saving.

About five years ago, I was tasked with creating an international seminar on integrative psychiatry which was aired on PBS in the Greater New York City area.

We had psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, patients, and patient families who heard medical doctors from numerous foreign countries and the United States describe the incredible progress they had made with patients when they introduced integrative modalities to their practices.

These included music, art, movement, and meditation as part of their treatment plans.

Nothing big came out of that ground-breaking program either.

My next big effort was in pharmacogenomics where scientists test 300 of your 30,000 genes and then can tell you definitively which medications will or will not personally work for you. Twenty years later, that science is just beginning to be taught in pharmacy schools.

These types of rejected ideas have often made me wonder what my purpose was here on this planet. If leadership didn’t respond, if they listened but didn’t act, what good was it to be a thought-leader whose programs were clearly directed toward the future?

Then it hit me. I was put here to plant seeds, to make people think, to explore not what is but what could be.

It was only a few years ago when I offered two programs on Blue Zones at the Connellsville Canteen and Fayette County picked up on that theme and is making progress in this area of healthy living.

Consequently, I’m going to continue to try to get people to look ahead to ideas that could make our lives better, to challenge our status quo, to think positively.

Maybe like Johnny Appleseed who was credited with planting apple trees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Ontario, that vision to plant trees that would flourish after he was no longer there to enjoy them seems like a reasonable plan with a positive outcome.

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Health and Wellness, “The Role of Integrative Health and Medicine in Rural Hospitals”

December 27th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

           Recently, I had been invited to address a selective group of  Deans and Directors from a local university and independent hospital. My presentation was centered on, “The Role of Integrative Health and Medicine in Rural Hospitals,” and it was  based on my work in wellness and prevention. I defined our efforts at both Windber Medical Center (now the Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center Windber) and then nationally with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine.

            Because my goal was to help build a stronger commitment to preventative health and wellness at both organizations, I addressed how a combined effort between these two strong neighboring not-for-profits could foster improved health in their workplace for their employees, for their patients and university students, for the citizens in the communities they served, and finally, for the students in their local school districts.

In the book “Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers” Robert Sapolsky exposes us to the concepts of stress management and biology. When addressing diet and stress management, he gives the example of a young lawyer who decides that “red meat, fried foods, and a couple of beers per dinner constitute a desirable diet, and the consequences are anything but clear. Half a century later, maybe that attorney is crippled with cardiovascular disease, or maybe he’s taking bike trips with his grandkids.”

As Sapolsky stated in Zebra’s, “We are certainly aware of the extraordinary amount of physiological, biochemical, and molecular information available as to how all sorts of intangibles in our lives can affect very real bodily events.” My presentation was directed toward the steps we, as education and healthcare professionals, can take to assist our stakeholders in their life-journey.

Because “sustained psychological stress is a relatively recent invention mostly limited to humans and other social primates, we can experience wildly strong emotions linked to mere thoughts.” These fight-or-flight emotions were originally intended to assist all mammals during their lives but especially when being chased by saber tooth tigers. (That doesn’t happen much anymore.)

            The purpose of my presentation was to provide them with the tools needed to help deal with our daily ongoing stressors. It’s all about diet, moderate exercise, non-judgmental social support, and stress management via mindfulness activities. In many cases, we can decide every day in every way what should be worth dying over and, for the most part, determine what types of things knock us out of our homeostatic balance?

            Inactivity can be as harmful as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Obesity kills as many people as smoking which is life-ending annually for over 450,000 people in the United States alone, but stress? There’s no limit to the amount of people who are harming their health and limiting their futures by not learning any type of mind-calming, stress management techniques. It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, the rosary, worry beads, meditation, or calmly nurturing a pet.

            Sapolsky goes on to explain the various “nuts-and-bolts factors” that will help determine which of these outcomes will occur. He explores the liver’s role in the making of cholesterol, the enzymes in fat cells, and potential congenital weaknesses. Then he hits the motherload, which is personality and how we individually deal with the stress generating problems between the mind and body.

            We know that the predominant diseases we deal with today are those resulting from, as the author explains “a slow accumulation of damage—heart, cancer, and cerebral vascular disorders.” We’ve also come to learn the fact that these inflammatory diseases are fed by a “complex intertwining of our biology and our emotions.” And there is zero doubt that “extreme emotional disturbances can adversely affect us.” In other words, “stress can make us sick.”

            Bottom line? Find what stops your amygdalae from pushing your emotional buttons to stop making you think that a tiger is chasing you.

            My former Chief Operating Officer, a former emergency room physician, used to look at me when I was stressed and say, “Everything’s okay. No one died.”  And, indeed, it was, and even I’m still here.

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High Conflict

August 28th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out by Amanda Ripley is a book about the trap of high conflict. It’s described as a guideline to reconnect with our enemies and opponents while allowing us to revive our curiosity as we continue to advance our own beliefs. The book illustrates how people can escape the high conflict characteristics of indignation and recrimination. It is expertly defined as a mind-opening, new way to understand high conflict and help us transform our acts and responses.

         High conflict is that moment in time when discord evolves into good vs. evil, and that is when the conflict itself takes over and our brains begin to function very differently. At the other end of the spectrum, good conflict is the necessary disagreements that force us to become better human beings.

         One of our greatest challenges in the United States is the binary system. It seems that almost all parts of our belief systems are set up in a way that force us to take sides. Be it in a divorce, labor strikes, neighborhood feuds, or our political parties, we are forced into a specific camp, and all those other positive things that connect us and that make us care about each other are pushed aside as the high conflict takes over.

         As a country, we have fallen into this binary trap, one that Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Adams all warned us against, a two-party system. Over 330,000,000 Americans are being pushed to one side or the other, good vs. bad, and we then generalize about either side. We are primarily forced into them vs. us. It’s like a giant gang war where, even if we disagree only about specific aspects of either party’s philosophy, we are in an all or nothing situation, a conflict trap. We know we have much more in common than not, but we become either a Blood or a Crip.

         The most disturbing part of high conflict is its magnetic pull. We get sucked into it, and, not unlike the thousands of animals who died in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, it’s almost impossible to get out. When we fight, we have spikes of cortisol, but when we are in high conflict, cortisol can become a recurring phenomenon that over time impairs memory, concentration and even the immune system. It also contributes to the onset of disease.

         There are plenty of individuals who have become very rich by feeding conflict. These conflict entrepreneurs and fire starters like Alex Jones who made $800,000 a day could not care less about us, our beliefs or our future. They care only about their income and power. Like the military-industrial complex, there is a conflict-industrial complex that benefits tremendously by keeping us separated.

         The other things that pull us into high conflict are public humiliation, false binaries, the human tendency to blame other people’s behavior on natural character flaws, and the always present truth that the problem is never the problem.

         By some estimates, 38 million Americans stopped talking to a family member or friend due to the current politics of the United States. The book points out platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and their trolls, plus media sensationalism as fire starters that fuel endless conflict loops by design. They convert outrage into profit. But there was much more to this than just those areas mentioned. “Technological change, demographic shifts, globalization, badly regulated markets, and rapid social change have caused waves of anxiety and suspicion. Humans do not seem wired to manage change at this pace.”

         In summary, these are a few ways Ripley suggests to begin to get out of high conflict. Use looping, a form of interactive listening technique where the listener reflects back what the person seems to have said to check to see if the summary was correct. Magic ratio – remember that a five to one ratio of positive interactions between people will significantly outweigh the negative. Use mediators who ask these types of questions. Imagine your lives ten years in the future, visualize the kinds of relationships you want to have with your kids and with each other. Find new purpose and new goals.

         “Remember that anger holds out the possibility for resolution, but hatred’s logical outcome is annihilation.”

         Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi in the 13th century said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

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Guest Post Dr Dan Handley

July 6th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

I attended a video conference tumor board today as a guest observer.

If you don’t know what a tumor board is, it is an interdisciplinary team of professionals that can include oncologists, geneticists, and others such as pharmacists, nurses, genetic counselors, bioinformaticists, and anyone else who can help by providing their professional expertise.

Tumor boards systematically examine cancer patient histories, current clinical test results, and any other relevant information. As a team, they come together to propose the optimal treatment and support for patients based on the latest scientific information.

These are consummate professionals who are dedicated to understanding each patient’s unique situation and work together to provide the best care possible with the best outcomes combining their respective areas of expertise. It’s amazing to see such communication and cooperation. That’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth.

I understood all the underlying science since that is what I’ve been involved with for so many years in laboratory research, and it’s now what I teach, Not being an oncologist myself there were some learning opportunities for me on some of the clinical details. I am an information sponge, though, so I’m delving deeper into the clinical literature to make sure I understand anything that wasn’t completely clear to me.

Despite some people’s uninformed cynicism, we have thousands of dedicated professionals working together both on the scientific front and the clinical front in synergy to cure each person’s cancer if possible, prolong quality life, and at least minimize suffering. And along the way, gathering all of our understanding towards finding a way to cure as many cancers as possible.

It’s an honor to be involved in this continuing endeavor with so much promise and progress, and even more, to have students who want to participate in this amazing transformation of medicine into the 21st century.

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit

June 15th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

In the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a down-on-his-luck private eye, Eddie Valiant gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon to investigate a scandal involving Jessica Rabbit, the wife of Maroon’s biggest star, Roger Rabbit. But when Marvin Acme, the owner of Toontown, is found murdered, Judge Doom vows to catch and destroy Roger. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s time because the country is currently going through a similar experience with the Former President, Donald Trump. Our country may be Marvin Acme, and the January 6th committee Judge Doom, but who is the real villain?
Trump has had some horrific luck during his lifetime where, even though he questionably inherited, many millions of dollars from his real estate-mogul father’s estate, there are those who have analyzed how those funds were used and claim his life would have been better, he would have been wealthier, and even more positively perceived by everyone if he had just invested that inheritance and lived comfortably from the interest generated.
If you look at his history of failed businesses, it’s a lot longer than even his history of failed marriages. I’m sure just paying off his ex-wives, his other misadventures with the ladies, and his myriad lawsuits from not paying contractors and craftsmen for the work done on his various bankrupt buildings, he could have lived luxuriously forever. Stack on top of that the failed Trump Airlines, Casinos, University, Steaks, the Trump Game, Trump Mortgage Company, Trump’s Corporate Communications Company, Trump Travel Site, Trump Tower Tampa, Trump mattresses, Trump Vodka, and even Trump Cologne. Per Forbes, “Trump claimed that his brand and brand-related deals were worth some $3.3 billion. Forbes valued his brand at less than .04% of that amount.” And went on to say, “Trump has repeatedly stood for half-baked schemes, shoddy work, and sketchy characters.” The poor guy just can’t catch a break.
Unlike Eddie Valiant, however, the former twice-impeached, disgraced president had been exposed to a philosophy of living from, among others, his famous Pastor, Reverend Norman Vincent Peale and other mentors and influencers such as his attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Roy Cohn, chief counsel to the infamous U.S. Representative Joseph McCarthy. Philosophically, he believes whatever the outcome is, never admit defeat. Not unlike Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propogandist who succeeded Adolf as Chancellor of Germany for one day before he and his wife committed suicide, after poisoning their six children with cyanide, Trump discovered you can win over the masses by using provocation to bring attention. There was a link between all of these men that seemed to inhabit our former president’s psyche. If you do fail, never admit you failed, which was Rev. Peale’s “Power of positive thinking” on steroids, Then, make sure there are people upon whom you can place blame even if you have to fictitiously create them, and Goebbels’ if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it no matter how ridiculous it is.
Well, the January 6th Committee is carefully unpeeling the Trump onion by using not only his closest advisors, appointed leaders, and former allies, but also his oldest daughter and her husband to demonstrate what he knew, when he knew it, and how he selectively chose to ignore them. He did this to perpetrate the greatest scheme in American History by refusing to secede power and step down as President through igniting the ire of the masses via his “big lie” about a stolen election. According to the witnesses, he skillfully used his accusations and provocations to generate a quarter of a billion dollars designated to defend his presidency but instead spent it on his hotels, and to elect and buy candidates who would be loyal to him.
We don’t know how this real-life movie will end. Will Judge Doom or Merritt Garland press charges? Will autocracy replace democracy? In this case, it’s up to you.

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Baby De’Avry

May 30th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

As I sort through my thoughts, I look down at my hands and remember how small they once were,

When my Mom would hold on to each one of them tightly and happily swing me around.

Just like every young kid, my whole world was still new, filled with laughter, with love and with her.

She would hug me and hold me, and sometimes she’d scold me, but then kiss away every frown.

As a small child I knew that my mother would love me and always would help my light shine.

And when I got scared, or felt bad, or was angry, her love like a blanket was there.

It was great to be wanted, to feel that deep comfort, to have such an innocent time,

To be swaddled in light and be filled with contentment with not even one tiny care.

When I saw yesterday that nine shots had been fired just a block from my last Pittsburgh home,

I thought first of Uvalde, the Tops store in New York, then my mind went geography bound

To the 213 mass shootings we’ve witnessed that happened just this year alone,

And I feared for the lives of my neighbors and friends, When I saw a young mom on the ground

Holding Baby De’Avry and crying for help as she cradled her son to her chest.

Her small child was the victim of a gang drive-by shooting, a repetitive story too long.

And like so many others whose names we all know, he was taken, his soul put to rest.

Yes, her baby was just one more senseless victim, collateral damage, so wrong.
So now we must do everything that we can do to stop all this carnage and pain.

Like thinking and praying, and loving and caring, but most of all taking strong stands,

To work with our towns and our government leaders because this is really insane.

Our country must find every possible way to stop wiping this blood from our hands.0BAC6CD4-49A7-41BB-A1DA-4C39569F97A2De”Avery

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Shut the Front Door

May 25th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Think before you speak or just ‘Statazit’

Nick Jacobs

Columnist

As a kid, we were never allowed to say ‘shut up.’ My Italian grandmother would, however, sometimes playfully say statazit (Sta ta zeet) to my grandfather. Yeah, in Italian slang that meant ‘shut up,’ or her English translation, ‘Shut up-a u face.’ But if I ever said that in public, my Presbyterian-Quaker mother would literally end that expression with a swift kick to the pants.

Depending on who or why you say it, ‘Shut up’ can be fighting words, but gosh knows there are several times a week where it is a suppressed response. Statazit, however, is sometimes a fun way to get around being punched.

When you hear a young childless person say something like ‘I believe all kids should always eat whatever they want like gummy worms, chocolate cookies, and soda pop.’ The correct response from anyone anywhere who has any understanding of diet essentials would be, ‘Statazit.’

There was a time when we, as human beings, understood there were areas of experience and expertise about which we had little or no knowledge. That lack of knowledge rendered us as unqualified to express our opinion about the subject.

For example, I don’t know how one goes about preparing a meal that includes beef bourguignon. In fact, I’m not even sure what’s in that recipe except beef and whatever bourguignon is. Consequently, I’m not willing to consider stating my opinion about how to prepare that dish. That, however, is no longer a problem. People now continuously loudly shout out their ideas about things about which they have no knowledge. It’s like some type of arrogant ignorance.

Short of a replacement for the named devices below, I’m not an expert on what it takes to fix the garbage disposal, garage door opener, or for that matter, the front door. Therefore, you will never hear me criticizing or belittling someone who has fixed or replaced any of those things correctly multiple times.

Here’s my point. If we can agree that individual human beings are capable of developing skills from training, repetition, guidance and education that are not skills we have had the opportunity to develop in our lifetimes, we should also be willing to admit they have some deeper understanding of certain subject areas that we don’t have.

That is not a serious idea to comprehend.Do you, for example, know what complex mathematical formulas it takes for an engineer to design and build a skyscraper? No? Then, ‘Statazit.’

Why is it we are being consistently inundated with people on both sides expressing their usually baseless opinions about things they don’t understand, or about things that require knowledge they don’t have? The majority of those topics are not only complex, they are also figuratively and sometimes literally brain-busters.Yes, of course we have the right to free speech, but we shouldn’t expect society to pay for the consequences of our incorrect decisions, decisions that can both harm us and others around us for life. If you’re not sure about something, just ‘Statazit.’

Here’s the bottom line. Go to a hardware store and look at their large selection of filters. We have filters for a good reason. They protect us from dirt, germs, dust, polluted water, and other potentially harmful elements. Unfortunately, they don’t have filters for our words or our thoughts and therein is where the problem lies. Take one second and think before you speak. It’s an amazing way to appear sane, to keep from getting punched, or from having your car keyed. Sure, you can have opinions, but do some serious homework before you choose to die on any particular hill.

Just take a step back once in a while and consider what you’re passionately screaming about. It could be that you should just ‘Statazit.’ Of better still, carefully say it under your breath because someone might understand Italian and give you a Will Smith whack across the mouth.

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Guide to Good Health

May 4th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »
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The Integrative Journey

March 28th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

 

After having returned from the Ornish Coronary Artery Disease Reversal program in Sausalito, California, my life, my mental health, and my view of healthcare had been changed forever. Having previously been selected as the CEO of a traditional hospital that, like all hospitals, was all about sickness, I now realized I had new tools in my toolbox, new arrows in my quiver, and new eggs in my basket. . . you get the idea.

That workshop had taught me that there is no one right way to go through life, to achieve a better quality of life, to deal with health issues, and to survive this journey. I came home armed and informed that sickness could be stopped or reversed, and this concept did not just apply to heart disease. There was significant evidence that Type 2 diabetes, some autoimmune diseases, erectile dysfunction, some prostate cancers and other diseases could be positively impacted by diet, exercise, stress management and group support.

As Americans in one of only two developed countries that permits advertising of pharmaceutical products on our air waves, we had been carefully trained, pruned, mentally shaped and, if you will, brainwashed to believe in the “heal to the pill” method of care. We get sick, go to the doctor or hospital, are prescribed pills, and move on. Or we get a shot, or get the offending body part cut out, and life goes on, or not. Those were the options previously permitted on the proverbial healthcare menu.

It was only a few years later when the chief scientific officer of a major drug company explained his world to me like this, “You don’t understand the pharmaceutical industry. We’re like the movie business. We only want the blockbusters. We want to give you a pill that you’ll have to take from the time you’re five until you die at 75 or 80 that will never make you better. It will just help control the symptoms.”

In 1987, I was working toward another Masters Degree at Carnegie Mellon University, and our epidemiology professor challenged us to find something that would significantly alter the health, lives, or future of at risk people in our hospital’s catchment area. I decided to have our physicians give pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines to our at-risk senior population.

When I told my CEO of that plan, he suggested I present it to the primary care physicians at their monthly meeting. I boldly stood in front of a room full of internal medicine and family practice physicians and made my pitch. You would have thought I asked them to bring in their first born child to be assassinated. I was very nearly strung up. I heard cries like, “How are we supposed to pay or bills? How can we pay off our loans? What am I supposed to do, pull my kids out of college? Treating those patients is how we make our livings.”

Ironically, in 2017, I found myself in front of the leadership of a major health system with 125 cardiologists, and I informed them we were going to enter into the coronary artery disease reversal program. The spokesperson for the group put up his hand and said, “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, do we really want these people to get better?”

Bottom line, we have created a medical industrial complex that is dependent upon sickness, and what I had learned in California was, “Yes, we’re all going to eventually die, but why not give your body a chance and live as healthy as you can for as long as you can?”

Interestingly, the Ornish program was not yet being offered in many places in the country, and when I asked if we could bring it to Western Pennsylvania, there was a long pause on the other end of the line, and Dr. Ornish asked,”What do you want?” He explained that he was working on a licensing project with our local Blue Cross, and I was not going to be able to bring it into my hospital, but that didn’t stop me.

We worked out a deal with some local churches to bring elements of the program that were available to the public just to test the water. Within weeks, we had heart disease participants in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s doing stretching exercises, meditation in whatever form they selected, nonjudgmental group support, and vegetarian covered dishes to church halls and basements.

The amazing thing about this program was that people who were suffering from angina pectoris (chest discomfort) found relief in sometimes less than a few weeks. They were no longer living in fear of dropping dead, and more importantly, they were taking control of their life without having to be afraid of the outcome. It was giving their bodies a chance to do what those bodies are so great a doing, healing.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished, and those non-believers, or those individuals who were potentially most negatively impacted by a health and wellness program began to identify me as a zealot, a fanatic, a vegetarian warrior. I was openly mocked at board and physician meetings when I ate my specially prepared vegetarian meals, and when I started holding meetings on the indoor track we had created with our new wellness center, those who would not benefit from my new found center for wellbeing went on a mission to discredit these ideas.

At one point the powerful head of a local Baptist Church began to take steps to have various conservative sects actually picket our hospital for teaching yoga and trying to take away the souls of our participants. (Their interpretation of yoga.) One of our powerful physicians sent emails on a regular basis to our staff with the intention of discrediting me and my programs for wellness and prevention. It was not unlike Salem, Massachusetts for a few years. Then something incredibly powerful occurred.

I was, for only the second time in my 30+ year career in hospital administration, invited to have dinner at a physician’s home. At that dinner, I was seated beside our local congressman, John P. (Jack) Murtha. The host’s wife did not know what to prepare for my meal so she gave me a large white plate with two egg whites on it. When the Congressman saw it, he asked, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I carefully explained my experiences in California with heart disease reversal, meeting patients who had successfully stopped and or reversed their disease, and how well they were living. He leaned back and said, “We’re spending a billion dollars a year on heart disease in the military. Maybe if you got to Bethesda or Walter Reed and find someone who would work with you, I might be able to help>”

We knew that his 25 plus years in Congress had given him some seniority, but what I didn’t realize was that he was in charge of the subcommittee on appropriations for the department of defense. His committee was responsible for well over $300B dollars of government spending. Well, my board chair was a former Navy airman and he flew me to Bethesda where we met with and were politely turned down by the Navy. A few months later when I was in D.C. for a meeting, I got in a cab and, without any knowledge of military life, command, or structure, I showed up at the front door of Walter Reed Army Military Hospital which became Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda several years later.

When I walked inside, I saw hundreds of soldiers, family members, and medical personnel, but I didn’t have an appointment. Consequently, I walked up to the first white coat I saw, explained who I was, where I was from, and who had suggested I come there. Serendipitously, he was the only physician who had ever received a federal earmark and it was about $75M from Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska to create a center for the study of prostate cancer. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Follow me.”

After meeting with a Walter Reed cardiologist, I went home, wrote a white paper, and several months later we established two Ornish Centers, one at Walter Reed and one at Windber with a grant that was made possible through Congressman Murtha. The reason you need to understand this back story is that without these grants, there would have been no way a hospital our size could have supported a program featuring integrative medicine.

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The OTHERS

February 4th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

When I was a little boy, I remember hearing a loud explosion, looking out our kitchen window and seeing a cross burning in front of the Catholic church. My mom, a daughter of the American Revolution whose relatives had been in the U.S. Congress, attorneys, and military officers, and my dad, a first- generation Italian born to immigrant parents, told me not to be afraid. They told me it was just people who liked to celebrate on Friday nights. (By setting off dynamite and burning crosses?)
By the time I was a teenager, this home-grown terrorism toward Catholics had reached a new peak as the first Catholic was elected president, and the United States traditionalists said that the pope would take over running Washington. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and John F. Kennedy became one of the most beloved presi- dents to serve our country.
As an adult, I once asked my mother if she ever knew anyone who was in the Ku Klux Klan, and she very ca- sually said, “Only my dad when he was very young.”
Growing up it was not unusual to hear derogatory
from some of the teachers toward the students. Consequently, I began to treat my non-white students from the Philippines and China, or the African American, or LGBT very special.
I was their guy because, as a musician, I didn’t see differentiators and didn’t care. All I wanted to know was how they played their instrument.
My liberal approach to these minority kids became so obvious to them that one of my gifted African American students came into my office one day and said, “Mr. Jacobs, I need to tell you something.” She went on to say that her friends desig- nated her to be the one to tell me to stop treating the Black kids so differently. She said, “Mr. Jacobs, we just want to be treated the same as everyone else.” That girl was 13 years old, but she taught me a lesson that has lasted for my entire life.
As the president of a re- search institute with brilliant scientists from all over the world, and as a student at one of the most diverse schools in America, Carnegie Mellon, I saw first-hand that intelligence, ability, and more importantly work ethic, drive,
and ambition was not limited to only one race.
The only thing one has to do is watch some of the reality TV shows to see messed-up people, and that’s not race- based. There are gifted, kind, and not-so-kind people of all races.
That statement “of all races” is really where the problem begins. There truly is only one race, the human race, and liking people be- cause of skin pigmentation, hair texture, eye shapes, or any other differentiator should be a nonstarter for any of us, but hatred is definitely taught.
Some of the absolutely most beautiful people in this world are amalgams of all races, colors, and creeds. So, if you’re a hater, look in the mirror and try to determine what it is you hate. It may be looking back at you. Oh, and do 23andMe genetic testing. You may be a part of one of the races you hate.
As Albert Einstein said, “What a sad era when it’s easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”

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