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Memorial Day

Who do you remember? Which war? Which peace action? For me, It’s Vietnam. I can still remember reading the posthumous letters, delayed until after death. I can still remember holding sobbing friends. I can still remember dreaming of peace.
Is it worse today than it was back then? Or during Korea or World War II or World War I? I don’t know. I just don’t know. Loss, grief, pain – they are still the same.

I’m an amateur genealogist. Because I’m bilingual (English/Italian), I’ve been volunteering my time indexing Italian birth and death records. So many children died so young that we index of an age of zero. But I bet those children weren’t zero in their families. Loss, grief, pain – they are still the same.

I’ve done quite a few records from World war I. Young men died in so many ways – bullets, bombs, shrapnel, infection, gangrene, dysentery, gas. Perhaps we can pat ourselves on the back and say, “Well, no one dies of dysentery or gangrene or gas in today’s war.” Perhaps. But Loss, grief, pain – they are still the same.

Take time during your much earned holiday time to think about today as well as about yesterday. Is war any better? Loss, grief, pain – they are still the same.


November is a busy month!

November is:

  • COPD Awareness Month
  • Lung Cancer Awareness Month
  • American Diabetes Month
  • Diabetic Eye Disease Month
  • National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
  • National Family Caregivers Month
  • National Hospice Palliative Care Month
  • National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month and
  • National Healthy Skin Month.

Stay Turned –

I’m Back!

Did you know that …

Each year the National Health Information Center issues a calendar of events. January is not only Thyroid Awareness Month; it is also Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. While it can affect anyone of any age, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among people of African-American or Hispanic descent. You can not prevent glaucoma from occurring, but you can treat it.

There are two basic types of glaucoma. Each type has to do with the amount of pressure within the eye. Glaucoma can occur without any symptoms.

The eye contains a thick substance that drains from deep within the eye and is replaced naturally. If the pressure within the eye (intraocular) rises due to poor drainage, the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged. The optic nerve leads from the eye to the sight centers in the brain. Glaucoma caused by increased intraocular pressure is the most common form of glaucoma. Normal pressure glaucoma is not as common.

Normal pressure glaucoma is the name given to optic nerve damage that occurs even when the intraocular pressure is normal. It is more prevalent in women than in men. Other risk factors are: a family history of glaucoma (either type), being of Japanese ancestry and having cardiovascular disease.

Treatment for glaucoma involves eye drops and, occasionally, surgery. Treatment depends on the type of glaucoma. There is no cure for glaucoma and some loss of vision occurs in many cases. However, early diagnosis and continued treatment will minimize loss of vision. Early diagnosis and continued treatment will prevent blindness.

Only an eye-care professional can diagnose glaucoma. Have an eye exam every 2 to 4 years before the age of 40 (35 if you have any risk factors) and more frequently after that. The exam should include checking the pressure within your eyes (tonometry) and looking at the backs of your eyes. Neither of these procedures involves cutting the eye and both are done in the professional’s office.

Early diagnosis and continued treatment: words to remember.

New Year’s Resolution Up In Smoke?

Smoking and smoking cessation are in the news today. Not only is it time for the annual “New Year’s Resolutions”, but President-elect Barack Obama admits to having tried to quit several times with some, but limited, success.


So, for those trying to quit, here’s some advice form the American Lung Association.


  1. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the different over-the-counter and prescription medications to help you quit smoking.

  2. Look into the different kinds of self-help options available to smokers. Visit for suggestions.

  3. Take time to plan. Pick your quit date a few weeks ahead of time and mark it on the calendar. If you can, pick a day when life’s extra stresses are not at their peak, such as after the holidays. Mark a day on the calendar and stick to it.

  4. Get some exercise every day. Walking is a great way to reduce the stress of quitting. Exercise is proven to not only combat weight gain but also to improve mood and energy levels.

  5. Eat a balanced diet, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.

  6. Ask family, friends and co-workers for their help and support. Having someone to take a walk with or just listen can give a needed boost.

  7. You don’t have to quit alone. Help is available. Consider joining a stop-smoking program like Freedom From Smoking from the American Lung Association.


My advice? Try, try, try to quit. You are harming yourself and everyone around you. Can’t quit? Cut down! Then quit from there.

An Italian-American Family Christmas

Holidays are important in all cultures.  I thought I’d share my holiday with you.

24 people around the table.  16 DIFFERENT homemade antipasti.  A pasta course – handmade ravioli in brodo and handmade pizza.  A meat and vegetable course – two DIFFERENT meats and four DIFFERENT vegetables.  A fruit and cheese course.  A dessert and coffee course.

Wine?  Of course!  Sparkling white for the toast, then red, white and rose for the meal.  And soda.  And beer.  And bottled water.

The people?  European born and American born.  Italian, Dutch, Irish, English, Polish, German, Portuguese – in various combinations and mixes.

The conversation?  Politics, relationships, family, religion, finance, health – all spirited, often loud, frequently impassioned, seldom angry.

The location?  New York City, the home of Zia Mary and Zio Emil (both around 80).  Zia Mary is the cook and Zio Emil is the carver.

Buon Natale a tutti e auguri per un anno di buona salute e pace!
Merry Christmas to all and wishes for a year of good health and peace.

Data-Driven Pharmaceutical Prescribing

During the past year I had the privilege of interviewing three medical students from Yale University (  These medical students, along with a former Yale student now a medical resident, founded a clinic in Nepal through their organization, Nyaya Health.  That is unusual for busy medical students.  However, medical clinics are started every day.  But Nyaya Health IS unusual.  It’s goal is to be self-sustaining and transparent.  This is not a do-good-and-run sort of endeavor.  This is not an us-and-them foundation.  EVERYTHING about Nyaya Health is on the Web  ( and Nepalese health care providers were and are part of all decision making.

Today I receive a holiday greeting from Dr. Duncan Maru, one of those medical students.  He sent me an update on Nyaya.  And what an update! 

President-elect Obama, Cabiinet Member-to-be Tom Daschle, and all pharmaceutical companies – take heed.  Here is a model for you to follow.

Don’t just write a prescription.  Study, look at outcomes, heed the data, provide support services as well as pharmaceuticals and – educate. (See Nyaya blog section on low back pain.)

In todays’ climate of financial strain, it’s more important than ever to make that bottom line equal outcome as well as dollar signs.  Nyaya Health has something to teach us.

Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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