Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Female Physicians Earn Less Than Male Physicians

Per study published in Health Affairs December 2021:

“data from 80,342 full-time US physicians to estimate career differences in income between men and women….. Over the course of a simulated forty-year career, male physicians earned an average adjusted gross income of $8,307,327 compared with an average of $6,263,446 for female physicians—an absolute adjusted difference of $2,043,881 and relative difference of 24.6 percent. Gender differences in career earnings were largest for surgical specialists ($2.5 million difference), followed by nonsurgical specialists ($1.6 million difference) and primary care physicians ($0.9 million difference). These findings imply that over the course of a career, female US physicians were estimated to earn, on average, more than $2 million less than male US physicians after adjustment for factors that may otherwise explain observed differences in income, such as hours worked, clinical revenue, practice type, and specialty”

The researchers looked at self-reported salary data and found that from the first day of the job to the end of a 40 year career, female physicians made less money for the same job. This is a group of highly educated women who are as capable as their male counterparts. They have spent the same amount of money to get through medical school and also put in the same amount of time in vigourous medical training before practicing medicine. The gender pay gap across most industries is narrowing, unfortunately the same can not be said about the health care industry.

Frozen Foods Do Have Benefits

Photo by Devin Rajaram

March is frozen food month and a good time to highlight the many benefits of frozen foods.

  • Frozen foods do not require preservatives because microorganisms don’t grow below 15 degrees F or -9.5 degrees C
  • Frozen foods contain the same amount of nutrition as fresh foods(sometimes even more as fresh food put away in the refrigerator will lose nutrients with time). A 2 year study looked at the nutritional value of fresh versus frozen foods and found in some situations that frozen produce was more nutritious than its 5-day fresh-stored counterpart.
  • Cost is usually cheaper than fresh food
  • More convenient

Some things to pay attention to:

  • If you are freezing food, make sure to use freezer bags, using packaging not meant for freezing will invite bacteria inside
  • Read ingredients of what you get especially for ready made frozen meals. For example, you don’t want to stalk up on high sodium meals.

Garden fresh fruits and vegetables are awesome but not always feasible, especially for those of us who don’t live in tropical weather and have year long gardens. Eating healthy is important and choosing wisely what you eat can go a long way by forming good habits for you and your family.

The Lab Look at Frozen and Fresh Food

Take home message: Keep up with fruits and vegetables and don’t shy away from frozen fruits and vegetables….they are actually really good for you!

What to Do With Dry Skin?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

We have all experienced dry skin at some point or another, especially with cold weather. Now with the pandemic, continuous use of hand sanitizers and frequent hand washing have added to the problem. Dry skin can be one of the most annoying things but being proactive can help.

What is dry skin?

The top layer of skin is make of natural oils and fats which help trap the moisture to keep skin hydrated and soft. When the skin barrier is compromised by insults such as cold weather, frequent scrubbing, etc, hydration is lost leading to dry skin. The skin can crack, look rough, scaly, itchy, red, and literally feel dry. The medical term is known as xerosis or xeroderma.

Some of the causes:

  • Weather-cold, windy weather with low humidity
  • Too much bathing-hot showers, scrubbing your skin too much.
  • Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers
  • Aging-as we age, our skin thins and produces less oil needed to retain moisture
  • Medical conditions-diabetes, hypothyroidism, dialysis patients


The crux of treatment of dry skin is prevention. Here are some things you can do

  • Wear protective clothing-hats, scarves, gloves. Avoid skin contact with wool which can be itchy.

  • Limit water exposure-who doesn’t love their hot long shows and baths….well, limiting shower/bath time to 5-10 minutes or less, bathing once a day, using warm water instead of hot water, and patting dry instead of rubbing dry, can prevent excess removal of natural body oils from your skin.

  • Be picky when choosing your soaps and cleansers-pick a moisturizing soap with no alcohol which is hypoallergenic and preferably fragrance free.

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

    • Throughout the day, all the time, this will hydrate the top most layer of your skin and seal in the moisture. Don’t forget the lips-use those chapsticks!
    • Apply moisturizing cream while your skin is still damp, about one minute after getting out of the shower to seal in the moisturizer
    • Look at the ingredients of your moisturizer, you want to chose something that attracts moisture and also seals in moisture
      • Attracts moisture-Humectants such as ceramides, glycerine, hyalurinc acid, and lecithin
      • Seals in moisture-petroleum jelly, petrolatum, silicone, lanolin, mineral oil ( Slugging is most commonly done with vaseline or aquaphor) Slugging refers to a term of applying a thick layer on the skin.
      • Smooths skin-emmollients such as linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids
  • Drink lots of fluids-this has always been the key to nice, hydrated skin

  • Shave with lubricating agent in the direction of hair growth, moisturize afterwards generously

  • Be mindful of medications you are using-acne medications and retinol cause increased skin cell turnover causing dryness and flakiness

  • Use a humidifier during winter-it can help restore the moisture in the air in your house

  • Finally, don’t scratch, it will only makes things worse…

Of course dry skin won’t just go away, it will take time, but with some effort on your part, you may feel more comfortable in your skin….

Be Mindful of Your Food Choices

The study talked about is from Nature Food published in August 2021 by environmental health scientists from the University of Michigan. It looked at different food and the minutes of life that are potentially gained or lost when we eat them.

Again, the message remains to be mindful of what we eat and make smart choices! And don’t forget to laugh!!!

Foods That Can Increase Your Lifespan

This study published in PLOS Medicine February 8, 2022 looked at the affect of replacing a diet of processed food and meat with a diet consistent with fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. The Norway research team used existing data from more than 200 countries and territories from the Global Burden of Disase Study.

Some take home points:

  • Eat more nuts, lentils, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Eat less processed food and red meat
  • The earlier the diet is started, the more the benefit and will increase your life span the most(sometimes up to 13 years), but even starting at an older age will increase your life span
  • It may be hard to start this diet overnight, but you can start with baby steps. Start by incorporating a handful of nuts a day, picking a blackbean burger over a cheeseburger, or incorporating something like lentil soup to your meal plan for the week…..after all Rome was not built in a day, but it did eventualy get built.

25% of U.S. Adults Not Active Enough

“More than 1 in 5 adults is inactive in all but four states, according to new state maps of adult physical inactivity prevalence released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For these maps, physical inactivity for adults is defined as not participating in any physical activities outside of work over the last month – activities such as running, walking for exercise, or gardening.”

CDC released updated maps of America’s high levels of inactivity on January 20, 2022 and found that 25 % of U.S. adults are not active enough to protect their health.

This CDC study called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was conducted from 2017 to 2020 by telephone. Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Vermont were the most active states whereas the Southern states had the most inactivity noted.

What is really interesting about this is that this is prepandemic and we can only wonder how much worse the numbers got during the pandemic. It is also interesting to note that the southern states with the better weather in the winters fared worse than other states.

The take home message is that inactivity can lead to chronic illness such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, etc. This in turn can lead to more serious issues such as strokes and heart disease.

Make your health a priority. Make time for some sort of activity, be it a walk, jog, gardening, at home exercises,or something else. Something is better than nothing. Even 10 minutes a day can make a BIG difference.

Standing Desks Do Have Benefits

Photo by TheStandingDesk

It can be hard to get that well needed activity our bodies require with long working hours. More and more people are getting standing desks, whether it be an add on to the work place or an adjustable sitting to standing desk. Standing desks provide health benefits that not many know about.

How long should you stand at a standing desk?

It is best to alternate between sitting and standing about every 30-60 minutes. Research shows that for every one to two hours sitting, it is ideal to spend about one hour standing.

Some of the benefits of standing desks

  • Improves posture, helps in lower back and neck pain
  • Helps keep your muscles and joints moving
  • Burns calories-men burn about an extra 0.2 calories per minute by standing and women an extra 0.1 calories per minute while standing as compared to sitting
  • Improves mood and energy levels
  • Improves mental focus and therefore work productivity
  • Can improve longevity by preventing sitting disease and all the bad outcomes associated with being sedentary. Standing has been linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes

What are the drawbacks of standing desks?

Standing desks can cause some leg and foot pain(because you are standing for longer periods of time), but some comfy shoes and/or a memory foam/antifatigue mat to stand on will help.

It may be nice to start pondering if that standing desk is something that would work for you, but the main take home point is to make it a point to take every opportunity you can to get up and stand or walk around to prevent sedentary behavior.

What Is Flurona?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Flurona describes infection with Covid and influenza at the same time. With more stricter masking guidelines last year, we were lucky not to see as many concurrent infections. Both the flu and covid infection spread via aerosol particles and can spread via cough, speaking, sneezing etc.

The symptoms are the same for both and overlap, including cough, runny/stuffy nose, weakness, muscle aches, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste and smell.

So, why is it important to be careful and prevent catching it?

As we know, both covid and influenza come with varying natures of infection and more serious infections with either can lead to hospitalization and death. Now, imagine, having them both, this could prove to be even more dangerous.

What can we do to prevent infections?

What we know works! Get vaccinated for both, wear well fitting masks, keep your distance from others, avoid crowds, stay in well ventilated places(open windows if need to) and keep up with hand hygiene.

Dry January

Photo by Ruud de Peijper

Dry January actually began as a public health initiative in the UK in 2012. Dry January challenge means no alcohol for the month of January and more people have taken it on over the years. More Americans report drinking more alcoholic drinks since the start of the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

Even abstaining from alcohol for a short duration will have health benefits.

  • Improve sleep
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Improves metabolism
  • Contributes to weight loss
  • Improves immune function
  • Decreases cancer related growth factors
  • Improves insulin resistance
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Skin will look better
  • Improves mood

Some things you can do to make sure you complete the challenge:

  • Keep alcohol away from your sight
  • Try a substitute drink
  • Have a buddy who is also in for the challenge to keep you on track
  • Remember, if you lapse for a day, start it up again the next day.

For all of those that have tackled on “Dry January”, keep on with it, you are also getting in those health benefits. More than anything, this will give you a glimpse into your drinking pattern and how much self control you have.