MySweet2017Goal: Lee Ann White

Lee Ann White (File photo)

According to National Advisory Board of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health Chair Lee Ann White,

“My goal is to increase awareness of the Laura W. Bush Institute’s efforts to enlighten and inform men and women that gender differences are the key to bridging the gaps in women’s health. In order to achieve this, we must educate current and future health providers to consider each patient’s uniqueness and that means, first and foremost, taking into consideration how gender impacts health and wellness.

“I encourage anyone interested to visit the Laura W. Bush Institute website, to learn more about gender-based medicine and our upcoming Coffee and Conversation event in Dallas on Wednesday, February 15, hosted by the institute’s National Advisory Board.  The topic will be ‘Stem Cells:  Building Block for Human Organs and Tools for Therapeutic Discovery.’”

Laura W. Bush Institute For Women’s Health Symposium Reveals Some Reasons “Y Does X Make A Difference?”

Most of the women who gathered in the Dallas Country Club at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 23, were old hands when it comes to health issues. Women like Annette Simmons, Kelly Green, Jan Rees-Jones, Lana Andrews, Marianne Staubach, Lynne Shelton, Debbie Francis, Aileen Pratt, Caren Prothro, Sharon McCutchin, Kay Hammond, Jan Osborn and Robin Bagwell have raised incredible amounts of money to help combat everything from breast cancer, mental illness and heart disease to diabetes, to mention a few. They have all experienced the personal trauma of family members who have had daunting health issues.

But on this day these women along with 90 others attended “Y Does X Make A Difference?”, a presentation by the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health underwritten by PlainsCapital.

Founded in 2007 at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the Institute focuses on women’s health and sex- and gender-based medicine with three purposes:

  • Research
  • Education
  • Outreach

Since its establishment,  20,000 women who could not afford health care have benefited from the institute.

As the last of the guests were being seated, former First Lady Laura Bush entered the ballroom in white blouse, black slacks, flats and sunglasses. A couple of guests whispered, “What’s with the sunglasses?” to their neighbors. No, Laura was not putting on airs. Rather, the day before she had had cataract surgery, but she wasn’t going to miss this presentation. The issue of women’s health is a priority in her life.

The program got off on a light touch courtesy of Laura Bush Institute Advisory Board Chair Lee Ann White and her husband Alan, Chairman of PlainsCapital.

Lee Ann and Alan White

Lee Ann and Alan White

Lee Ann explained how she got involved in the Institute. “I went to coffee with Debbie Francis and left as president of the Institute.” When she was planning the symposium, Lee Ann realized she need a corporate sponsor. “Then I looked across on the pillow in the bed and there was my husband Alan White, who happened to be CEO of PlainsCapital. I said, ‘Alan, do I have an opportunity for you!’”

Alan, who admitted being a bit intimidated by the room full of women, once again proved that he can hold his own by responding, “Debbie Francis once called me and Barry Andrews to have lunch. And all she wanted was for us to raise $450,000.”

(Later Debbie admitted that after this, it was likely no one would have coffee or lunch with her.)

Before turning the program over to the speakers, Alan expressed his admiration for women like Laura, Debbie and Dr. Marjorie Jenkins. . . “This is pretty amazing.” He ended by saying that when Lee Ann comes home from Institute meetings, “She’s all excited. . . It’s contagious.” Regarding his introduction of the speakers, Alan admitted, “You’d think I’m introducing the speakers because I’m the sponsor. It’s because I sleep with the chair.”

First up was Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center President Dr. Tedd Mitchell, who got to the heart of the matter:  In the past, testing had predominantly been done using men. “One hundred years ago it wasn’t considered ethical to use women for medical research. So the focus was always on male subjects. Whatever works in the male is going to work on the female. We know much better about it today.”

He emphasized the difference between “perceptions” vs. “perspectives” in health care.

The former Medical Director for The Cooper Wellness Program suggested, “It’s easy to see how a researcher who has their own bias before a study has started can take data and twist it into something that when it becomes published seems to confirm a stereotype, seems to confirm a perception that is incorrect.”

He continued, “This is why it’s important to understand the difference between a stereotype. . . a stereotype . . . a cultural stereotype that we create . . . that we have created vs. someone’s life perspective.”

He went on to say, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. We’re living in a different world than we did 20, 50 or 100 years ago. A large part of what the Laura Bush Institute is all about is making sure that when health care providers of tomorrow are engaging with their female patients, they’re doing so on the level playing field. . . that they’re not applying. . . I should say they’re not misapplying to them information that is valid for men but not so for women. The opposite is also true.”

Next up was internist Dr. Janet Tornelli-Mitchell, who spoke about menopause and how hormonal therapy has changed since 2010.

Starting off with the basics, Janet explained the three stages of menopause:

  • Perimenopause — This stage is a time when a natural, gradual decline of hormones takes place. It can occur as early as the 40’s or even as late as the 60’s. The norm is in the 40’s and 50’s. Symptoms can start occurring at this time. A woman’s hormone level can be tested as normal, but it doesn’t mean she is not in this stage.
  • Menopause — It’s a transitional time. It is not an illness or a disease. Menopause is defined as the lack of a menstrual cycle for 12 months in a row.
  • Post-menopause — On the 13th month of not having a period, the post-menopausal stage begins.

In the old days when life expectancy was short, the post-menopausal might last 10 or 15 years. Today women may spend half their lives in the post-menopausal stage.

The cause of menopause is due to aging, surgery (i.e. hysterectomy), chemotherapy, radiation, etc.

She stressed time and again that each woman’s transition is different. Thus each woman must work with her doctor to decide on how to handle the developments and symptoms, like “hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, teeth loosening, gums receding, breasts dropping.” As Janet put it, “It sounds terrible, but there are things that can do done.”

Touching on hot flashes and night sweats, she told how the sudden burst of heat can last a few seconds to 10 minutes. “Most women experience hot flashes and night sweats. It can go on for four to 10 years. African and Hispanic women tend to have longer and worse night sweats. Heat, alcohol, smoking and stress can effect night sweats and hot flashes.”

Regarding sexual discomfort, official findings report that 10-40% of women report vaginal symptoms. Janet suggested this number was probably higher because “women are reluctant to report this situation.”

In discussing the 2002 study that sent shock waves throughout the health care world about hormonal therapy, she reported that a December 2013 report by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists had made the following recommendations:

  • Hormonal therapy should not be used for primary care for osteoporosis or heart disease
  • Hormonal therapy is the most effective treatment to handle hot flashes
  • There are alternative methods (i.e. gels, vaginal creams, etc.)
  • In utilizing hormonal therapy, lower doses are recommended.
  • Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, smoking alcohol are recommended.

As time was running out, she addressed the issue of what types of medications/preparations should be used. She suggested that a patient ask the following questions:

  • Who makes it?
  • Who supervised its manufacturing?
  • Is it the lowest dosage possible?

The final speaker was Professor/Director and Chief Scientific Officer/Associate Dean of Women in Health and Science/Mrs. J. Avery “Janie” Rush Endowed Chair of Excellence in Women’s Health and Oncology Dr. Marjorie Jenkins, who in addition to addressing diet and nutrition, stressed the importance of sleep. Women have more disturbances in sleeping and tend to sleep less leading to depression, eating more, etc.

While many women claim great weight gains due to menopause, Marjorie reported that only five to seven pounds result from this transition. In addition to sleeping less, there is a tendency for women to be less active. Once over the age of 50, a woman needs to move 10,000 steps a day.

She surprised some in the audience by reporting that in the United States, the average person consumes 600 calories of sugar a day resulting in a country of sugar addicts. Even artificial sweeteners add to the problem.

Addressing fad diets and programs, she admonished the group that healthy weight maintenance is the result of a lifestyle, not a diet. That lifestyle requires sleeping more, eating less and exercising more. As she summed it up, “The body achieves what the mind believes.”

Following the three doctors, outgoing Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance talked to the group about the importance of the Institute and the information resulting from it.

For your consideration, here are some factoids that were provided:

  • Women are six times less likely than men to be referred for a needed heart transplant.
  • Until 2008 males were left out national osteoporosis guidelines.
  • Females are more likely to be affected by eating disorders, panic disorder and depression.
  • Women are more likely to die after a heart attack within one year.
  • Men are twice as likely to die from a hip fracture than women.
  • Women are more likely than men to go to a nursing home after a stroke.
  • Males are more likely to suffer from Autism and APHD.
  • Women are less likely to receive approved Alzheimer’s treatments after diagnosis.

Imagine what discoveries will be made in the days and years ahead thanks to more research and distribution of information.