Thursday, 29 August 2013 14:59

The Chelko Foundation Makes a Difference

Body painting. Is it different? Yes. Is it sexy? Sure. Is it about more than that? Absolutely. Over the last few years, The Chelko Foundation has brought body painting events to Atlanta and paired this unique art form with their ultimate mission of ending gender bias.

It all began with the man himself, Atlanta artist Paul Chelko. After watching his dear wife Debbie suffer through breast cancer, he was angry at how women were treated in the medical system and in the world. His frustration spurred him toward great things: He started The Chelko Foundation with the lofty, overarching goal of ending gender discrimination and violence toward women. Chelko was an artist, so the foundation tapped into various forms of the arts to further their mission.

Randi Layne, the executive director of The Chelko Foundation, met Chelko in the early '80s when he was painting jeans in the window of Tootsies in Atlanta. Already he appreciated an unconventional canvas for art, and Layne remembers that he had "paint buckets everywhere, just painting clothing—jeans, jean jackets, shirts, everything." She was drawn to his dynamic, engaging personality, and they soon became close friends.

In 2007, when Chelko passed away from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Layne took over his foundation. She was a natural choice thanks to her close relationship with Chelko and the fact that, she says, "Women's issues really speak to me." At first she was a little afraid to tackle such a big goal. She was encouraged, though, when she realized, "[Running the foundation] did for me what we want to do for other women. What it did was empower me." With that knowledge and personal success already under her belt, she forged ahead with Chelko's mission to empower other people through artistic media.

482Cue the body painting scene: In 2010, The Chelko Foundation hosted the first Bodies as a Work of Art competition as a fundraiser. According to the guidelines of the World Bodypainting Association, artists from all over the world have six and a half hours to paint a nearly nude model, who will then walk a catwalk or do a short performance to show off the artwork. The artists arrive having planned out their designs ahead of time, and the models arrive prepared to be transformed.

Now, don't balk at the word "model," thinking that word isn't typically associated with female empowerment. Layne points out, "The bodies that you see on the runway at Bodies as a Work of Art are not all whatever 'perfect' is." Instead, the show is comprised of women and men of many shapes and sizes. And the best part is that once they are painted, their bodies are essentially irrelevant: The art becomes the real focus, and the personal empowerment follows closely behind. "It really does transform a person." Instead of seeing any so-called "issues" with their bodies, "It's just this beautiful image that [the models] see, and they walk away from it a changed person. It's very cool."

Under the direction of Development Director Ken Goldwasser, the Chelko Foundation's work doesn't stop after the show, either. Over the years, they've given significant monetary support to groups and initiatives dedicated to women's issues, like Jaden's Ladder, Susan G. Komen, Women at Risk International, and Eve Ensler's worldwide activist movement V-Day. They also have scholarships and grants that support the arts, which in the past have gone to SCAD or directly to artists themselves.

The fourth annual Bodies as a Work of Art event on September 28 will be a live exhibition of professional body art, along with music and other entertainment. This year, for the first time in this event's history, the artists have been given a theme to depict: "Empowerment." The entire event also raises money for the Chelko Foundation Scholarship of the Arts, Chelko's endowed scholarship at SCAD, and Angel Flight. You can enjoy the night even more in the knowledge that you have given back while enjoying one of Atlanta's most unique and inspirational events.


Bodies as a Work of Art/Living Art America - September 28, 2013

(404) 993-9030 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | |

September 28th, 2013 at 7:00PM until Midnight At the Atlantic Aviation Hangars: 2040 Airport Road, Atlanta, GA 30341

Tickets — $150.00 donation to the Chelko Foundation ($175 at the door) You must be 21+ to attend.

Childhood obesity rates have been climbing for the past 30 years, and by 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Because of this rise in obesity rates, many experts are predicting that this may be the first generation of children that will not live as long as their parents.

In the national ranking by state, Georgia has held the dishonor of coming in second only to Arkansas in rates of childhood obesity. In fact, childhood obesity has become so prevalent that it has been referred to as an epidemic.

The good news is that childhood obesity is also preventable. In order to call attention to this important issue, September has been named Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Schools, organizations and individuals are asked to support the awareness effort with education, activities and distribution of information. The verdict is that from school lunches to snack machines and from family dinners to video games, childhood obesity does not have a sole culprit. This means that attacking the epidemic from all directions offers the best plan of action to elicit real change.

"We've probably seen some improvement or at least stabilization," says Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of child wellness for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. This does not mean that Georgia has reached the finish line, but it does mean that childhood obesity is a problem that can be solved. "It should be encouraging. If we all work together, we can change the way we've been living."



The Role of Schools

For many children, a great deal of eating, exercising and nutrition education takes place at school. Beginning with cafeteria lunches, schools have been making strides to offer healthier options that fall within the ever-changing guidelines of the USDA. "The USDA lunch regulations changed in school year 2012-2013 and included a New Meal Pattern," says Shani Hall MS, RD, LD, food and nutrition area supervisor with Cobb County School District. "These new regulations included calorie ranges for each school level that are in line with the 2010 'Dietary Guidelines for Americans,' mandating daily fruit and vegetable offerings (including an assortment of dark green, red-orange, legumes and starchy vegetables), offering more whole grains and phasing in sodium limits."

The USDA requirements are minimums, and school districts may provide more healthy choices. For example, according to Malcolm Quillen, school nutrition manager for DeKalb County, in addition to incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, schools offer only low-fat and fat-free milk. And while the federal government requires the inclusion of five daily components – protein, vegetable, fruit, grain and milk – schools may offer even more. In order to remain within the calorie requirements for each student, desserts have become rare, and even potentially questionable items have received a makeover. "While you may see bread or you may see pizza, most of these items are made with whole grain," says Quillen. However, even while schools work to offer healthier choices, school nutritionists and chefs often find that the students' palates could use a makeover as well.

Lower sodium limits will be required by the 2014-2015 school year, and these could also prove to be a trial for picky eaters. "This year our focus is testing and implementing recipes with more herbs and spices and fresh ingredients. Healthy food isn't nutritious until it's eaten, so we've always involved students in our menu planning process," says Brittany Slotten, MS, RD, LD, food and nutrition area supervisor with Cobb County School District. "We constantly collect feedback about our menus and test new products and recipes with students." Working with and educating students has earned the Cobb County School District awards from the USDA for creating healthier school environments through promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. The district served more than 80,000 pounds of Georgia Grown produce in school cafeterias during the 2012-2013 school year.


farmers-marketThe Role of Local Health Organizations

Including local produce in school lunches is a great way meals can be healthier and provide opportunities for education. Georgia Organics started the first Farm to School program six years ago and has witnessed exponential growth. During the 2011-2012 school year, 14 school districts across the state purchased local produce for a total of three million meals. For 2012-2013, that number rose to 40 school districts, and Georgia Organics expects to have far exceeded its goal of five million meals that include locally grown foods.

Farm to School programs are multifaceted. They introduce farmers to school nutrition directors so that local fruits and vegetables can make their way into cafeterias, and they educate through gardening, in-class activities and taste testing of new produce in cafeterias. "Kids just don't have experiences eating fresh fruits and vegetables," says Emily Rose, Farm to School assistant with Georgia Organics. "Studies show that Farm to School programs increase fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Teaching kids about food helps them want to try new food."

Although they do a lot of good, Farm to School programs sometimes come with implementation challenges. For a large school district like DeKalb County, the trick is finding enough local product to supply the entire district with the same thing. Many small farmers simply do not produce enough. To solve this problem, Rose has seen districts split menus so that half of the district gets the item one week, and the other half gets it the next week. In another situation, groups of local farmers pooled their kale to have enough to cover an entire large school district.

This October, Georgia Organics sponsors the Lettuce Try It campaign to encourage schools to serve local Georgia lettuce – something the state produces plenty of, but mostly exports.

For some older students, vending machines offer a third option to school lunches and a packed lunch from home, and unfortunately these machines are outside the purview of the county nutritionists. Moreover, the machines do not currently have USDA requirements to meet, but this might be changing. "The USDA recently proposed a Competitive Foods Policy that would ensure that only healthy options be sold in vending machines in schools. If this policy is adopted, then changes could occur as early as 2015," Hall says.



The Role of Parents

Even with the improvements to school lunches, some parents and students still decide to brown bag it. "We tend to pack our kids' lunches a lot," says Michelle Bowers, parent of daughters ages 7 and 9 and chair of the Health & Wellness Committee at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School. "My younger daughter has severe food allergies, so it's a necessity for her." With her older daughter, Bowers uses the school lunch menu as an opportunity to discuss food choices and allows her to choose a couple of school meals a week and take lunch from home on other days. "When she comes home, we talk about what she ate and what she didn't eat."

While children spend most of their weekdays in school, there are many hours outside the cafeteria where healthy choices need to be made. "There's no surprise, we need to engage in healthy behaviors," Dr. Walsh says. "Start with small changes and things that will bring a positive change into your life." There are four simple rules every family can follow: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, drink more water and limit sugary drinks, limit screen time to one hour per day and get active for at least 60 minutes per day. Dr. Walsh also recommends creating habits like putting out a plate of raw vegetables each night before dinner so that pre-meal snacking is filled with high nutritional value.

family-runningSince childhood obesity has so many contributing factors, these solutions like Farm to Table programs and healthy examples of food and fitness at home must work in conjunction to reverse the problem. "I would love for [the cause of obesity] to be one thing because then we could go and fix that," she says. "It's sort of the perfect storm. We have a lot of food. We have a lot of access to food." From parties at school to snacks after soccer games, much of our lives have become centered on food. This availability of food has been accompanied by a reduction in PE classes and recess. The second main component to tackling childhood obesity is to get the kids moving again.

"If we were able to figure out 'energy in and energy out,' we would solve the obesity issue," says Vanetta Keyes, founder and executive director, Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully, Inc. (CHOICES). At CHOICES, parents are encouraged to set the standard. "We want parents to be an example," says Keyes. "You cannot ask your child to go walk because they are overweight, and you stay home and open a pint of ice cream. In order for children to change, they've got to see the adults in their lives as role models. They need to know that someone is there as their cheerleader."

Parent Myia Clay turned to CHOICES several years ago to help her teenage daughter, knowing that the 8th grader's activity level was causing a weight problem. "We wanted to find something that she could be a part of to encourage her to lose weight," says Clay, who appreciated the program enough that she still volunteers with CHOICES. "We increased her activities a bit. It was helpful allowing her to come to herself as an individual and say, 'This is what I need to do.'"

With many temptations readily available, the battle against childhood obesity will not be won overnight, but as awareness increases and schools and organizations join the fight, parents can find the support they need.















The Trailblazers
Paving the way for healthy and active kids


Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully, Inc. (CHOICES)

Each year CHOICES, based in Kennesaw and downtown Atlanta, hosts two expos to bring health education into underserved communities. Those are the areas that need more after-school programs and subsidized activity offerings. At its new location, CHOICES will have a teaching kitchen where they will be able to train representatives who can take healthy practices into more communities. They also offer Camp Diva, a summer camp for overweight girls, and Sisters in the LITE, a 12-week program that teaches girls and women how to sustain a healthy weight by making lifestyle changes.


Camp Strong4Life

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life program combines a fun camp, parent involvement and healthy education for kids struggling with their weight. Families must attend Family Welcome Weekends in the spring and in the fall, while children attend a one-week summer camp where campers participate in traditional camp activities like rock climbing and swimming while also gaining the support of other children struggling with the same issues.


Kaiser Permanente Fit Kids Programs

Kaiser Permanente offers a variety of programs to help get kids to eat healthy, control their weight and stay active.

Snack Facts for KP Kids – This is a one-session hands-on class where kids and families learn together how to prepare delicious meals and nutritious snacks that even picky eaters will enjoy.

Operation Zero Weight Management – This is a program for children ages 9 to 17 that gives them six sessions with a dietitian, chef and fitness specialist and learn about healthy eating, exercise, the relationship between being overweight and diabetes, and reading food labels.

KP Fit Kids & Fire Up Your Feet – To encourage exercise, Kaiser Permanente hosts KP Fit Kids, six-week classes featuring fun, games and lots of high-energy movement. The new Fire Up Your Feet programs encourage families, students and schools to work together to get active by tracking activity during a Challenge Period and earning awards for schools. Even better, most of the offerings are free, but registration is required.


Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP)

ASAP is an entrepreneurial non-profit focused on increasing quality physical activity in schools. The organization will provide $1,000 to 1,000 schools ($1 million total) across the country to help implement one of three innovative movement programs. Any school in the nation can apply for the funding, and seven Atlanta-area schools were awarded monies for the 2013-2014 school year.


Georgia SHAPE

Launched by Governor Nathan Deal, this initiative addresses childhood obesity by providing digital resources at The resources include a fitness directory where people can enter their zip code and a list of nearby fitness programs will be provided. Georgia SHAPE also wants to combat childhood obesity at the very earliest by promoting breastfeeding.


The Recess Rocks

This national initiative offers a low-cost way for schools and other organizations to integrate physical exercise into kids' days with things like "Subject Switchins" and "Hallway Grooves" to get kids moving in a fun way. Recess Rocks provides a free toolkit to implement their positive program in any area.



This after-school program combats childhood obesity in Georgia on the local level by encouraging physical activity and healthier eating habits for Georgia's kids. This initiative is led by the Resurgens Charitable Foundation, whose mission, among others, is to address childhood obesity. Some of PowerUP!'s other partners are the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, fitAtlanta Magazine, and the Georgia Department of Education.


Voices for Healthy Kids

The national advocacy initiative Voices for Healthy Kids aims to address childhood obesity in the hardest hit communities by improving the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages in schools, protecting children from marketing of unhealthy products, and increasing access to affordable healthy foods, safe parks and playgrounds. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association are behind this effort, hoping to reverse the childhood obesity trend by 2015.



Editorial Resources
Active Schools Acceleration Project –
Camp Strong4Life -
Dr. Stephanie Walsh – Children's Healthcare of Atlanta,
Vanetta Keyes – CHOICES, Inc.,
Emily Rose – Georgia Organics,
Georgia SHAPE –
Kaiser Permanente –
PowerUp! -
The Recess Rocks –
Voices for Healthy Kids –

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 20:21

Staying Informed About Prostate Cancer

There are perks to getting older – finally settling into a career, dishing out wisdom to younger generations and having more time to practice that golf swing. But there are cons too, some of which are the rising health concerns as we age. Men in particular have a unique health concern: prostate cancer. Their risk increases drastically as they approach 50, and more than 70 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65. Prostate cancer, the most common non-skin cancer among men, affects the prostate gland and shows virtually no symptoms. "When the cancer is curable, there are zero symptoms," says Dr. Frank Critz, founder and medical director of Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia. "When prostate cancer shows symptoms, it may have moved to your bones and you develop back aches – this is when it's too late."

About one man in six will be diagnosed
with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

- The American Cancer Society

In 2012, more than 241,000 American men were diagnosed with the disease – in the U.S., one in six men will be affected by prostate cancer in their lifetime. "There are 30,000 men that die annually because of prostate cancer – it's a really broad spectrum of disease," Dr. Critz says. "We know that with the slow growing disease, you can have it for 20 or 30 years with no issue. The hard part is determining which treatment to choose when you are diagnosed." Before the anxiety sets in, it's important to know what you're dealing with, and since September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, now is as good a time as any to get educated.

As with many forms of cancer, certain groups will be affected more than others. According to Dr. James Benton, a board-certified radiation oncologist and president of Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia, "Men with a first-degree relative with prostate cancer, and men of African-American heritage, have a 2-2.5-fold increased risk of developing prostate cancer."

The American Cancer Society recently reported that the five-year survival rate for men with prostate cancer is nearly 100 percent, while the 15-year survival rate is 91 percent. However, the survival rate for men with prostate cancer depends on the location or spread of the cancer. Recent data from the National Cancer Institute shows that the survival rate for men with localized cancer, contained just to the prostate, is nearly 100 percent. This rate drops to just 29 percent once the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes, bones, and other organs.

Early detection testing, such as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal exam (DRE), are the most common forms of prostate cancer screening. A PSA blood test measures the level of PSA, a substance made by the prostate gland, found in the blood – most healthy levels are under four nanograms per milliliter. A rising PSA level may indicate the presence of cancer.

Currently, the American Cancer Society recommends men discuss their testing options with their health care provider and make an informed decision. This discussion should take place at age 50 for men at an average risk for prostate cancer, at age 45 for men with a high risk (family history, African-American race), and at age 40 for men with more than one close family member who has had prostate cancer at an early age. The practice of earlier PSA testing is somewhat controversial – some urologists agree with the recommendation to test as necessary, while others feel this should only be an annual screening after a man reaches a certain age.

"The argument is that of all the people who have an annual PSA, a percentage may not have prostate cancer, and they still go through the cost of the testing and a biopsy if PSA levels are high," says Dr. Scott Miller of Georgia Urology. "The second argument is if someone is diagnosed, a lot of prostate cancer doesn't need to be treated immediately, but can be monitored. You don't want to over treat." Dr. Miller says, "However, the death rate is down 40 percent or greater since the introduction of PSA testing. The other side of the argument is that prostate cancer does not really cause symptoms while it is still curable. A PSA test is the only thing we have to detect at a time when [prostate cancer] is still curable. If we eliminate PSA, we don't know what the number of deaths would be."

Know Your Options

Over the last few years, there have been multiple advancements in screening and treatment. Before you decide which option is best for you, Dr. Benton says to ask your primary care physician three simple questions: What should be my PSA value for my age? What is the real risk of screening? What is the benefit and risk of treating prostate cancer? "Of note, there is little or no risk to screening, whether through a PSA or DRE test," he says.

New screening tests are on their way, such as a prostate cancer antigen 3 (PCA3) test, which looks at the level of PCA3 in the urine. There is also a genetic test being developed to look at the DNA of cancer cells to assess the degree of aggressiveness. The treatment options for prostate cancer have improved from rudimentary surgery to advanced and minimally invasive procedures.

According to Dr. Benton, current treatment strategies include open or robotic surgery, various radiation approaches, cryotherapy, hormonal therapy, high intensity focus ultrasound, and immunotherapy. "I suspect in the future, other immunotherapies, biological agents, and possibly genetic management will be available," he says. "At this time, there are a number of therapeutic and diagnostic options on the horizon. Specifically, researchers are studying multi-gene panels to determine which prostate cancers are more likely to be virulent or indolent, and therefore, which cancer will benefit from immediate treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment."

Just this year, Dr. Critz and Dr. Benton, along with Dr. Philip Shrake and Dr. Mark Merlin at RCOG, published the first prostate cancer study of its kind, analyzing 25 years of follow-up data after radiation therapy treatment in prostate cancer patients. The study analyzed men who received I-125 radioactive seed implants followed by beam radiation, and it concluded 73 percent of men who received this treatment had no evidence of prostate cancer 25 years after completion. "It's important to determine how long we should study men after they are cancer free. It used to be 10 years was good enough, and we find now that it's at least 15 years that we need to follow up. Five percent of the patients had cancer come back after 10 years," explains Dr. Critz.

Another important thing to note is patients may also be able to live with prostate cancer, under surveillance and annual check-ups, for years with little to no issue. "The biggest movement right now is the implementation of active surveillance. You don't necessarily have to be treated for prostate cancer if you are diagnosed," Dr. Critz says. "We need to educate the medical profession that there are people out there who can be observed."

When choosing a treatment option or educating yourself on the risks and signs, it's important to know the facts. With all of the information out there, Dr. Miller offers this simple advice: "Any male over the age of 40 needs to know their risk of prostate cancer and needs to know their risk of screening. One size does not fit all." Remember to seek advice from your doctor and most importantly, choose the option that works best for you.

Editorial Resources
Dr. Scott D. Miller – Georgia Urology,
Dr. James Benton – Dr. Frank Critz, Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia,



Clark Howard
Consumer expert/radio personality

When Clark Howard found out he was diagnosed with prostate cancer he was in Shanghai, China. "My wife got a call from the doctor that I had prostate cancer, and she had the unhappy task of telling me over the phone," he recalls. "I was disappointed, but that was about all as I knew I had very early stage. My Gleason score, a measurement of the severity of my cancer, was a 6, which is the lowest score you can have with a cancer diagnosis." Howard admits he didn't know of any family history of the disease, but nevertheless he was quick to start learning all he could about it. "While I was still in China, I found enormous information in medical journals. I read and read and read."

What was the first thing you did after you were diagnosed?

Continued sightseeing in coastal China. When I returned about a week later, I went with my wife to meet the urologist, Dr. Bruce Green and the surgeon, Dr. Nikki Shah.

What type of treatment did you undergo?

After my consultation with them and a follow-up with a cousin of mine, Dr. Skip Holden, who is a urologist in Los Angeles, I entered a program called active surveillance. I have a blood test every 90 days and at first, a biopsy every 12 months. My cancer has shown no growth in these five years, so now I have a biopsy every 18 months.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about prostate cancer?

That treatment must begin immediately. Prostate cancer is unique among all cancers. It comes in more than two dozen genetic varieties of various levels of aggressiveness. Somewhere between 25 percent and 50 percent of men with prostate cancer have a variety that is so low growth that it is likely to have a zero percent chance of danger to your life or life span. The other 50 percent to 75 percent of men (the exact percent is still being debated in science) must move quickly into treatment. The key is knowing which genetic group you are in. New testing can determine with a high degree of certainty which group you are in.

How has your diet changed since you were diagnosed?

I eat a lot more vegetables.  I even eat broccoli, and I hate broccoli but have it at least twice a week.

How has your outlook on life and health in general changed?

I have always had a sunny disposition.  That has stayed the same.  I eat much better and watch my weight like a hawk.  I weigh myself every day of my life.

What involvement do you have in raising awareness for prostate health?

I participate in prostate cancer run/walks, speak to organizations devoted to men's health and have joined the board of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  I have used the microphone to spread the word on my syndicated radio show. I give an update once a year on the air and on

What is your advice to men about this disease?

Don't panic.  If you find out you have prostate cancer, explore all your options.  If you are considered low risk, think about doing active surveillance.

Name something on your Bucket List

I want to go to Iceland and New Zealand.  I have been to every continent except Antarctica.  I always thought I wanted to go there, but they don't have chain restaurants.

Last book you read?

"Hot, Flat and Crowded" by Thomas Friedman

Who is your hero?

I have two:  Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King, Jr.




Jerry Carnes
Reporter with WXIA-TV, 11Alive

When Jerry Carnes was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2008, he was not surprised. "My father was diagnosed the year before with what would turn out to be incurable prostate cancer," he explains. "I kind of suspected it would pay me a visit at some point. The only real surprise was that it would come so early." Besides his father, cancer has also affected his sister's life. "My sister is currently beginning her fourth battle with breast cancer, but she is so upbeat it is unbelievable. If anyone can beat it, she can," he says. For his cancer, Carnes underwent robotic surgery and walked away with minimal side effects and a clean bill of health. "I had surgery and the cancer is gone. I'm really one of the really lucky ones."

What was the first thing you did after you were diagnosed?

I took a trip to North Carolina to visit a friend. I had a long drive to reflect and decided it was only proper for me to go public. I started a blog soon after and have kept it going for almost five years now.

Where did you go to find support?

I talked to a lot of people who've endured the same cancer and treatment. There are plenty of support groups out there, including the one at St. Joseph's Hospital where I had surgery. Most of all, I've relied on my family, mainly my wife, and on God.

What was the best piece of advice you received?

Do your research, talk to people who've been through it, and do what makes you feel comfortable. Treatment may not be necessary. There are low aggressive forms of cancer that you can survive for years. My cancer was not aggressive, and I could have picked a "wait and watch" approach. My fear was waiting 20 years before facing a cancer that decided to spread. I'd rather have surgery at 49 than 69. Don't limit your discussions to one doctor or one potential treatment. And include your wife. She'll ask the most pertinent and vital questions. Take her to every single doctor's appointment.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about prostate cancer?

That it's an old man's disease and it's no big deal. There are people in their 30s who've been diagnosed with it.

How has your outlook on life changed?

I've grown closer to God. It's not that I feel I had a brush with death. That's not it at all. It was a signal that I've reached an inevitable stage in my life. The stage where I need to acknowledge that I'm not so strong and that God is the only real source of true strength.

What involvement do you have in raising awareness for prostate health?

I talk, and I write. I've appeared at dozens of events to spread awareness. There's the Blue Ties luncheon every year and the Dash4Dads event at Father's Day that I promote. I'm a board member of the Men's Health and Wellness Center and the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition. The station, 11Alive, has also supported my efforts. They started a campaign called Wear the Gown as a way to spread the word about the dangers of prostate cancer.

What is your advice to men about this disease?

Don't be afraid to talk about it. Ask questions. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. There are a lot of us out there who've been through it, and we'll be honest with you. Just don't ignore it, that's deadly. I know so many men who don't even get yearly physicals and it breaks my heart. Knowledge is key.

Name something on your bucket list.

Do something significant in the fight against cancer.

Who is your hero?

My father.




Ken Stevens
Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition board member

Ken Stevens was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1987, before PSA was used as a detection tool. He went in for an exam and came out with the diagnosis of a lump on his prostate. "They sent me to a urologist who sent me to DeKalb Medical Center for a biopsy. They were done then by finding the target with a Digital Rectal Examination — no ultrasonic-guided technology was yet available," he explains. "The total time I spent at the hospital was three days — now it takes about one hour." After that exam, the results were still inconclusive, so Stevens returned later for more analysis. Eventually his diagnosis was unequivocal carcinoma of the prostate, and the orders were to schedule surgery.

He had a radical prostatectomy in February of 1989. It was discovered after his post-op procedures that Stevens was already at stage 3 in his cancer. Stevens says his first thought about the diagnosis was, "OK, let's get this thing out, and I'll go on about my business." His wife, a nurse at the Shepherd Center at the time, told him that his lack of reaction was because he didn't have a clue about what he was going through. Looking back, Stevens agrees, "Boy, was she right!"

What was the first thing you did after you were diagnosed?

I went to St. Simons and spent a week playing golf.

Where did you go to find support?

American Cancer Society. I had heard lots about BRCa and precious little about prostate cancer even though they had the same statistics. I swore I would strive to change that and volunteered to be a spokesman for the ACS. I've been doing that ever since. That was my support therapy.

What was the best piece of advice you received?

Keep on keepin' on. Spread the word. Talk about it.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about prostate cancer?

Number one on a "Myths about PCa" list is "You will not be able to have sex after treatment."  The myth can become reality if the PCa is found in an advanced stage.

How has your outlook on life changed?

I give thanks every day that I am vertical.  I used to take it for granted.

What involvement do you have in raising awareness for prostate health?

I've been a spokesman since 1990 for American Cancer Society. In 2000, a like-minded group of survivors (seven of us) founded the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition.  Our mission is to promote prostate cancer awareness.  We now number 17 on the board and some 35 to 40 like-minded survivors, all volunteers.

What is your advice to men about this disease?

Talk about it, learn about it and get information about it so that if you find it, you can make an educated decision. Remember that the first answer of this response is that the procedures are changing, and then, so must your knowledge.

Name something on your bucket list.

Get up in the morning. "There is no such thing as a bad day," says Hamilton Jordon, author of a book by the same name.

Last book you read?

"Surviving and Thriving — Candid, Real Life Stories of Prostate Cancer, A Complete Guide For Every Man (And Woman)," written and published by the staff at Midtown Urology.  My story is in chapter 13.

Who is your hero?

Roosevelt Grier, one of the fearsome foursome, a PC survivor, speaker about prostate cancer, and the best needlepoint artist of all time.




Bill Buckley
Member of the Georgia Prostate Coalition/Former 13WMAZ anchor

Bill Buckley was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January of 2012. Buckley had no family history of this cancer, but when his regular doctor saw his PSA rise during physicals over an 18-month period of time, he referred him to a urologist for a biopsy. "PSA testing saved my life," he says. In March of 2012, Buckley opted to have his prostate removed. "'When in doubt, take it out' is the motto I heard a lot, and it was just the best option for me. There were side effects that occurred instantly as a result of the surgery such as incontinence and impotence. And while they lasted longer than I would have liked, I am now fully recovered and thankful that I chose the route I did. I am very fortunate."

What was the first thing you did after you were diagnosed?

I had to decide how I was going to go forward.  I could either fall down on the floor in self-pity, or I could simply realize how lucky I was to have found out early and return the favor by making certain other guys knew to get tested and watch their PSA levels.  Having a "mission" that I felt was worthy helped me focus on others and not on myself.  I remembered a phrase that I grew up with:  "God doesn't give you things you can't handle." I have since added to that, "But, he also expects you to handle what he gives you."

What was the best piece of advice you received?

To be patient. Recovering from surgery is a process. I'm sure the same is true with radiation or any other treatment.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about prostate cancer?

That it "won't happen to me." Too many guys are walking around now, completely unaware that they have the early stages of prostate cancer. One in six will get it. We need more guys to go to the doctor on a regular basis, get tested, and then to know their (PSA) score the way they know their golf score.

How has your outlook on life changed?

I know how much I am blessed to have excellent health care. I have a greater sense of how important it is to take care of myself.  I am still around at age 62 for a reason. I'd like to continue to be a survivor for a long, long time.

What involvement do you have in raising awareness for prostate health?

I have joined the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition (GPCC), a terrific organization that focuses on awareness. It's made up almost entirely of prostate cancer survivors who have a passion for awareness.

What is your advice to men about this disease?

Get regular checkups that include a physical exam of your prostate and a blood test that measures your PSA.  If you are going to have prostate cancer, find it early, while you still have choices (as I did). It's lousy not to have choices other than a dramatic, negative effect on your lifestyle and a shorter life.

Name something on your bucket list.

My wife and I never had a honeymoon when we were married. I couldn't afford it. I want to take her on a trip to Italy.

Last book you read?

"The Dragonfly Effect" by Andy Smith and Jennifer Aaker.

Who is your hero?

My father, who taught me early on in life to get a printed copy of the lab results from visits to the doctor so that I could know the actual results and keep up with them. That advice helped me see the value of PSA testing and played a major role in the awareness and early detection that saved my life.



Men’s Health’s-Health.html


Wednesday, 28 August 2013 18:57

Get a Better Night’s Sleep Tonight

Do you often find yourself lying in bed doing everything but sleeping? Is the digital glow of the alarm clock mocking you as you try to get the rest you need to be productive? When these bouts of sleeplessness become severe enough that they result in a disruption of your daytime activities, you may be suffering from insomnia. If so, then you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of Americans suffer from insufficient sleep or some kind of sleep disorder.

Get the Test

If you're so tired that you're snapping at your family members and dozing at your desk, you may want to consider seeking medical help to get to the root of the problem. Select your doctor based on what you know about your sleep issues—do you snore? An ear, nose, and throat specialist might be your best bet, since you may be having trouble with the physical mechanics of your sleep. "One major sleep issue, obstructive sleep apnea, is treated by ENT doctors as it involves the tongue, soft palette and nasal airway," explains Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallups, a double board certified physician specializing in nasal and sinus disorders. "ENT is the only specialty that can lessen or cure obstructive apnea through surgery. Obstructive apnea can also make reflux worse for those who suffer with it." If you aren't sure what the issue is, a general sleep specialist is a good place to start.

Your doctor will likely begin by having you fill out a questionnaire about your sleep habits and lifestyle. Based on your answers, he or she may order a sleep study. Dr. Parina Shah, the medical director for FusionHealth, says these tests are performed either in a sleep lab or at the patient's home. Your sleep patterns will be monitored, and data on the amount of time spent asleep and awake will be collected. Whether at home or in the lab, a sleep study can accurately determine whether or not someone is suffering from insomnia or sleep apnea.

Once a diagnosis is reached, there are plenty of techniques you can try at home to help alleviate the symptoms. But before you try to make yourself sleepy with a glass of your favorite wine, keep reading. You may be surprised by what saves or sabotages your snooze.

Practical Steps

First, turn off the screens. At least an hour before you want to fall asleep, Dr. Shah says to turn off TVs, laptops, and other electronic devices because "the bright light from them fools the brain into thinking that it's daytime, and it makes it harder for you to fall asleep." So, though it may be tough to part with your beloved e-reader or iPad, go old school and snuggle up with a regular book, magazine, or some other unplugged activity so your brain and body can realize it's nighttime.

Another important factor is routine, routine, routine. "Get up at the same time each day seven days a week, avoid daytime naps, and make sure the bedroom is used only for sleep—sexual intercourse excepted," says Dr. Faisal M. Bhutta, a board-certified sleep and lung disorder specialist at North Fulton Hospital. And, though you may be tempted to add an adult beverage to your bedtime routine, don't. Dr. Shah says alcohol can actually make your sleep more fitful, so stick with some warm (decaf) tea.

If all else fails, don't just lie there counting down the hours until your alarm. If you're still awake after 20 or 25 minutes in bed, Dr. Shah recommends getting up and leaving the bedroom for another dark area until you're sleepy again.

Treatments & New Services

Desperate to reach dreamland, you may find yourself trying everything from traditional medicine to alternative remedies such as acupuncture, herbal remedies or meditation. Dr. Bhutta says the evidence suggesting the success for these is sparse, but adds, "One supplement I do often recommend is melatonin. It is available over the counter in the U.S. and can be quite effective for certain types of insomnia."

If your insomnia is due to sleep apnea, though, board-certified sleep disorder specialist Dr. Ron Alvarez says the effective treatments are usually more medically geared than a simple supplement. "CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, works for virtually anyone suffering from sleep apnea," he says. "You have a mask and are hooked up to a machine that forces air through your throat and opens the airway so you don't stop breathing."

Dr. Alvarez explains that one of the newer treatments involves radio frequency tongue abrasion. The technology has been in place for about 10 years but in the past year or two has become the most popular method of treating blockages that cause apnea. "A probe is placed in the patient's mouth and a scar is created on the tongue, shrinking it," Dr. Alvarez says. "We used to have procedures where we removed part of the patient's palate, but this is less invasive."

He notes that at-home treatments for apnea are successful as well, one of which he calls positional therapy. "A lot of times sleep apnea symptoms are worse when you sleep on your back," he says. "By sleeping on your side or your belly, you can keep the airway clearer." If you constantly find yourself waking up on your back, try this trick: Sew a tennis ball into the back of a T-shirt and wear it to bed. That way, you'll be uncomfortable when you roll onto your back and will stay on your side.

My Sanctuary

In a new poll from 2012, the National Sleep Foundation Bedroom Poll asked Americans about key elements of their bedrooms – the results they found were pretty interesting. When asked what was important for their sleep, about nine out of 10 (93 percent) rated having a comfortable mattress and pillows (91 percent) as important to getting a good night's sleep, followed closely by comfortable sheets (86 percent). It may sound simple, but making sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable can make a big difference. Moreover, use sheets and pillows that are free of allergens that may be affecting your sleep.

At the end of the day, there are several treatments available that can improve your sleep and your overall functioning. You don't need to walk around in a fog because of lack of sleep. If you follow these lifestyle tips, get a diagnosis, and discuss a treatment plan with your doctor, you'll be well rested in no time. Read on for real stories of troubled sleepers.


Editorial Resources
Dr. Ron Alvarez - Ear, Nose & Throat Institute,
Dr. Faisal M. Bhutta - North Fulton Hospital,
Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallups - Ear, Nose & Throat Institute,
Dr. Parina Shah - Fusion Health,


Sleepless in Atlanta
Locals share their trials and tribulations of tossing and turning

The search for a good night's sleep may seem ever-elusive, but take heart that there are things you can do to help improve your rest. These local Atlantans did! Some have improved, while others are still looking for something that works for them.



Bert Weiss
Radio personality on Q100

Bert Weiss' issue with poor sleep began about 10 years ago around the time his first son was born. He admits he tried almost everything to help himself catch more zzz's--herbal remedies, juices, soft music, magnets, bio-rhythms, Ambien, and he finally settled on the sleep aid Lunesta.

"Doctors tell me because of my hours that my circadian rhythms are off," he explains. (A circadian rhythm is defined as a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings. According to the National Sleep Foundation, our internal circadian biological clocks regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.) "They suggest I keep the same schedule on the weekend to help." Unfortunately, this remedy doesn't work for him. "I just can't go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 4 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. I have to have some kind of social life."

Weiss has been to three different sleep specialists, and so far the only thing that has worked has been Lunesta.

Weiss goes on to explain "If I'm off the Lunesta then I'm tired, irritable, and can't concentrate." Weiss attempted to get off the drug cold turkey, but he ended up sick. His general practitioner told him to go back on Lunesta so he could get enough rest for his body to heal properly. Although he has not found a permanent remedy yet, he is still hopeful.



Gene Stewart
Business development consultant

When Gene Stewart noticed he was repeatedly waking up several times during the night and unable to fall back asleep, he tried taking natural supplements like melatonin, but they didn't really work as he had hoped.

"I knew that lack of sleep would eventually lead to other more serious issues, so I had to find out what was causing my sleeplessness," he says. Stewart decided to see Dr. Mark Yanta, who had him complete a sleep study at North Fulton Regional Hospital. The diagnosis was a moderate case of sleep apnea. Stewart was put on a sleep apnea machine that helps his breathing during the night, keeping passageways open for better breathing. "I'm still in a transition mode, but the CPAP machine seems to be making rest better," he says. "It takes a while to get used to wearing a mask at night, but I'm definitely feeling better the next day."

Stewart admits he still gets up at least once per night, but it is now a lot easier to fall back asleep. "I'm not sleeping a full eight hours and probably never will, but the treatments Dr. Yanta prescribed have definitely made a positive impact. I have more energy, which leads to me being more active."



Ana Kewes
FDA consumer safety officer

Five years ago, Ana Kewes was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. The tumor was estrogen receptive, so the chemo she received not only targeted the cancer cells, but also wiped out the estrogen in her system. The treatment put her body into a chemically induced menopause, which led to night sweats, frequent hot flashes, and depression, all of which resulted in insomnia.

The oncologist she was seeing put her on sleeping and antidepressant medication to try to help. Her doctor also prescribed exercise, but she was too weak to do it very much. On top of that, Kewes was snoring. She went to see Dr. Ronald J. Alvarez, who diagnosed her with sleep apnea. "I figured I'm getting little sleep as it is, and on top of that with sleep apnea, it's no wonder why I was tired all the time," she says.

She was put on a CPAP machine and instructed to use it every night. "It's been a challenge getting used to it, but I'm trying. My goal is to be off the sleeping meds soon," she admits. "I might need to seek further medical care for it, but one step at a time. I still have sleepless nights. But when I can't sleep I get up and read or do a puzzle. Now when I do sleep, at least I don't quit breathing."



10 Reasons for Sleep Deprivation

asthmaAGE – As you get older, you spend more time in lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep and REM sleep, making you feel more tired in the morning.

ASTHMA – If you're asthmatic, you may be waking yourself up with nighttime coughs and wheezes.

DEPRESSION – Depression sometimes manifests as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

DREAMS – Intense, vivid dreams or nightmares may be stressful enough to wake you up and keep you awake.

GERD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as acid reflux, might cause you to wake up because of nighttime heartburn.

MENOPAUSE – Because of hormonal changes, as many as 61percent of postmenopausal women report insomnia symptoms.

pregnantPREGNANCY – Sleep disruption during pregnancy isn't only due to physical discomfort. Hormonal changes have an inhibitory effect on muscles and may cause snoring and sleep apnea.

RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME – This is characterized by uncomfortable leg sensations that are often relieved by movement, making it difficult to lie still in bed.

WEIGHT – Overweight or obese people are at an increased risk for sleep apnea, which can disrupt sleep several times per night.

WORK – If you work shifts rather than a nine to five desk job, your varied schedule can affect your circadian rhythms, causing daytime sleepiness and difficulty falling asleep when you need to.


Information courtesy of The National Sleep Foundation,

For Marianne Baker, fitness and philanthropy go hand in hand. As a certified exercise leader (ACSM), personal trainer, choreographer and the director of group exercise for the Concourse Athletic Club, she is passionate about helping people achieve their fitness goals. She also uses her position to raise awareness for charity organizations that are close to her heart such as Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure, and Toys For Tots with the U.S. Marines. "I really enjoy working with groups that help so many people in so many ways," she says. Beyond teaching Zumba, QiFORZE, TurboKick and other fitness classes, her private company, GroupEx Divas, certifies other wellness professionals all across the U.S. "I want to reach as many people as I can with the benefit of being dedicated to a fitness lifestyle," she says. And it seems she is well on her way to doing just that.

What is your favorite thing about leading a fitness class?

My favorite class is QiFORZE. It is a motivating muscular strength and endurance class that targets every muscle with unique movement patterns. QiFORZE has the fun and sizzle of a cardio class, but it is strength training and suitable for most people of all age groups. All the music is original and composed by multi Grammy award-winning artist Kike Santander. The class has amazing one-of-a- kind movement patterns and original, awesome music. It is also fun, challenging and body changing!

How do you balance home life and work?

When I am at work I focus on key priorities for my job and then have the exact same kind of focus on the personal priorities at home. I give my home life my undivided attention.

Do you have any new projects coming up?

I am developing choreography for QiGNITION (funded by Carlos Slim, ranked by Forbes as the richest man in the world) and the DVDs will launch on television in Central and South America in Q3, then in the U.S. market in Q1, 2014. We will develop and launch new content every quarter.

Best achievement

Becoming a Kilgore College Rangerette and Lieutenant in 1977 through 1979. This is a famous Texas-based college dance line, and it has set the stage for the accomplishments in my adult career.

Best surefire mood booster

Great dinner with friends on our patio.

Best place to vacation

Hilton Head Island.

Best guilty pleasure

Anything chocolate!

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

Working almost exclusively on certifying new instructors and developing choreography for TV and web-based exercise programs. The management team at the Concourse Athletic Club has been very supportive and helpful in all my professional and personal endeavors. I also have the privilege of working with exercise professionals at the absolute top of their profession.

Best advice you'd give your 20-something self about staying healthy

To set common-sense health and fitness goals, then follow a consistent program to meet those goals.

The Administration's official reason for postponing the "Play or Pay" penalties for Large Employers until 2015 is to allow employers more time to prepare for reporting requirements. However, you can't rest on your laurels until then. Whether you are a large (50+) or small (under 50) employer in Georgia, are you prepared for your responsibilities in 2014? This is a checklist with some highlights:

  • Small Employers Only– The Exchange (SHOP) for small employers has been postponed for government run exchanges (Georgia). However, employers can purchase a policy, but employees lose individual plan choices until 2015.

  • Small Employers Only - Maximum deductibles of $2,000 individual and $4,000 family. Maximum Out of pocket limits including deductibles and coinsurance are $6,350 individual and $12,700 family (like HSA limits).

  • Small Employers Only - Small Business Health Care Tax Credit (2010-2013).

  • Waiting period for benefit eligibility – no more than 90 days - (NOT 1st of month following 90 days)

  • If you are partially self funded OR have an HRA you must file and pay the new tax assessment due July 31, 2013.

  • Provide the model notice that contains information about the new Exchange / Marketplace to all employees by October 1st (includes providing to part time employees).

  • Provide Summary of Benefits and Coverage – there are modifications – don't use old ones.

  • Everyone can purchase coverage through the Exchange. You won't be able to use employer money, and you may not be eligible for subsidies, but the Exchange is open to all US Citizens.

  • All Employers subject to COBRA – new model notices have been released and must be used.

play-or-payCall or email me today for a complimentary and confidential review.


Corporate Insurance Advisors, Inc.
400 Northpointe Pkwy Ste. 600 | Atlanta GA


Corporate Insurance Advisors, Inc. is a proud affiliate of Intrepid, Inc. Agency system.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 20:01

The 4-1-1 on Essential Tremor

Tremor is a common condition and leads many people to seek neurological evaluation. While some tremors are due to conditions that can become debilitating or dangerous, many patients have a benign condition known as an essential tremor. In most cases, this is a very treatable disease.

What is an essential tremor?

Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder. It consists of an involuntary shaking usually in the hands, but can also involve the legs, head, or other parts of the body. The cause of essential tremor is unknown, but it does tend to run in families.

Is an essential tremor harmful?

Essential tremor can be very bothersome, interfering with the patient's life and also increase the concern that he or she might have a serious disease. While patients with essential tremor do have an increased risk of developing Parkinson's Disease in the future, this risk is still quite low overall; in the majority of cases these patients do not progress to serious illness or disease.

What should I do if I have a tremor?

See a neurologist who has been trained in the assessment of tremor and other movement disorders. By performing a comprehensive history and physical examination, a neurologist can clarify the nature of your tremor and determine if it is a benign essential tremor or if it may represent a more serious condition. In some cases, additional testing such as blood tests, brain MRI, or PET scans can help clarify the diagnosis.

essential-tremorIt there a cure for essential tremor?

There is not a cure for essential tremor, but there are many oral medications that can dramatically reduce the symptoms. These medications can be used daily or on an as-needed basis and are well tolerated by most patients. In those few patients with severe disease who do not respond to oral therapy, more advanced treatments such as Botox and deep brain stimulation have been shown to be effective.

Calli Cook, MSN, FNP-C
Midtown Neurology P.C.

(404) 653-0039

Calli Cook, MSN, FNP-C, is a Nurse Practitioner at Midtown Neurology. She received her Masters of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 19:36

Health Insurance Exchanges 101

For years, savvy online shoppers have turned to web sites that allow you to comparison shop for the best price on airfares or hotel rooms. You mark the box next to your must-haves—a non-stop flight or 4-star accommodations—and see how the competition stacks up.

While the process is sure to be much more complex, starting October 1, 2013 and continuing through March 31, 2014, millions of Georgians should be able to click their way to health coverage on, the federally-run online Health Insurance Marketplace or, as it is often called, health insurance "exchanges." Small business owners with fewer than 50 full-time employees will have an exchange of their own, the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), to find plans for their employees.

What are health insurance exchanges?
The exchanges are a central part of health care reform. Under the Affordable Care Act, all U.S. citizens and people who are legal residents will be eligible for some form of coverage and cannot be turned down because of a medical condition.

The exchanges are just a new avenue to health coverage—employers and individuals can still purchase plans directly from insurance companies or through brokers. In fact, the 169 million Americans covered under employer-funded insurance plans will have little reason to peruse the exchanges' offerings or do anything at all to keep their current health plans.

However, if you are uninsured or purchase your own health coverage, shopping on the exchanges could have an advantage—federal subsidies. will require users to fill out an application to determine eligibility for financial assistance, which can reduce the out-of-pocket cost of health plans and medical expenses. The federal subsidies are only available to those who purchase health plans through

Small business owners could also see savings by purchasing coverage through the SHOP marketplace, which is designed to give them similar power to large businesses when it comes to getting better choices and lower prices for health insurance. Small businesses with 24 or fewer full-time employees may qualify for a tax credit to offset the cost of providing coverage, if they purchase health plans through SHOP.

health-insuranceWhat will the health insurance exchanges look like?
We're beginning to get a clearer picture of what the exchanges will look like. All health plans sold on the exchanges will be broken into four "metal tiers": bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The purpose of the tiers is to make it easier for consumers to understand the cost and value of benefits. These four categories offer different levels of copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.

Every health plan sold on must provide what the federal government has identified as "essential health benefits" and meet new standards related to quality and cost-sharing. So, the offerings in each metal tier will look very similar online, with cost being the most obvious differentiator. But to get the best value, shoppers have to do some research. will provide limited information about each health plan on the site, but the onus is on the buyer to determine what's offered beyond the basic requirements. If you are considering a new insurer, find out how its plans compare to the competition. Each year, the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) and J.D. Power and Associates rank health plans based on a number of factors, ranging from quality of care to customer satisfaction.

What if I need help navigating the health insurance exchanges?
If the thought of obtaining insurance through the exchanges is overwhelming, "navigators" and "assisters" will be available to guide shoppers through the online marketplaces. The navigators will have expertise in eligibility and enrollment options. They cannot be affiliated with insurance companies and are required under law to provide impartial and accurate information. Assisters can provide in-person help and actually enroll you in a health plan.

With coverage effective January 1, 2014 for health plans purchased through the new health insurance exchanges, insurers and health care providers alike are preparing for unprecedented change. Every business and individual will feel the impact of health care reform differently. Now is the time to get educated on the choices ahead.

Kerry W. Kohnen
Kaiser Permanente of Georgia

(404) 364-7000

Nine Piedmont Center,
3495 Piedmont Road NE,
Atlanta, GA 30305

Kerry W. Kohnen is president of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, a health care organization serving 240,000 members through 29 medical centers across metro Atlanta and Athens.

Protecting Your Vision and Overall Eye Health

by Taylor Arnold

eye-1It can be easy to overlook routine eye care, especially if you are already seeing clearly. But regardless of the current state of your vision, it is important to be aware of common vision problems as we age. From difficulty reading fine print to more serious disorders like macular degeneration and glaucoma, knowing what's normal (and what's not) can help you maintain strong eye health.

How Your Eyes Change Over Time
"Eyes develop fastest in the first decade of life," explains Dr. Takeia Locke of Family Eye Care Center. "This is when it is most important to begin good habits for prevention of vision problems later on." During these years, she suggests proper UV protection, good reading posture, a diet rich in zinc, vitamin A and lutein, and avoiding prolonged time in front of a computer.

"Slower changes occur up through age 40, so maintenance is key during these decades," she says. "During the 50s and 60s, the lens begins to lose its focusing ability for reading, therefore, most people by age 50 will be diagnosed with presbyopia." Hormonal changes and systemic diseases may impact your eye health as well, causing dry eye, early cataracts, macular degeneration and many other vascular changes.

"In the 50s and 60s, the lens becomes hazy, or cataract," says Dr. Niraj Desai, a cataract, cornea and refractive surgeon at Milan Eye Center. "With the eye itself, properties change, so even if you don't have cataracts, it can still be more difficult to drive at night. The retina can also change over time and degenerate." During the golden years, most vision-threatening conditions do not have early symptoms, so by this point annual eye exams are crucial.

A Glimpse Into Your Family History
Many vision diseases are genetically linked, so knowing your family history will guide your care. Personal health history such as smoking and high cholesterol impact the eyes as well.

"Vascular disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol really affect the eyes," Dr. Desai says. "In the back of eye, you can have swelling of the retina, which steals your vision very quickly. That's why it's important to have routine exams of the retina, because diabetic eye disease can happen even if diabetes is well controlled."

A family history of diseases like keratoconus can predispose you as well, even though there may be varying degrees of severity among affected family members. "Diseases of the retina, such as macular dystrophies and retinitis pigmentosa, are most often hereditary in nature," explains Dr. Richard Pare of North Fulton Eye Center. "Even some forms of retinal detachment and optic nerve disorders such as glaucoma have a strong hereditary propensity."

In cases where these genetic defects are already known, a patient's risk for disease can be determined with genetic testing. "In any case, an individual with a family history of known eye disease or unexplained blindness would be well advised to have regular, complete eye examinations including a dilated exam of the back of the eye," Dr. Pare says. "Healthy adults should obtain a comprehensive baseline eye examination by age 40. Those with family history of eye disease should begin comprehensive screening exams in their twenties. With early detection, many hereditary eye diseases can be prevented or successfully treated."

Looking Out For Your Eyes Today
"The main environmental factor that affects our ocular health is sun exposure," Dr. Pare says. "Heavy or sustained exposure to ultraviolet light can accelerate formation of cataracts and possibly macular degeneration."

Wearing sunglasses is one of the easiest ways to protect your eyes. "You wear sunscreen for skin, and it's the same principle for the eyes," Dr. Desai says. "Exposure to UV radiation can cause pterygium or pinguecula, which is sunlight-related damage to the white part of the eye."

A colorful diet can do wonders for maintaining your eye health too. "Eat a diet heavy in greens, and go for more pigmented fruits and vegetables, as these can slow down premature aging of eyes," Dr. Desai says.

The Latest Treatment Options
Beyond Lasik, a new surgical option for restoring vision is a clear lens exchange. "The natural lens of the eye is removed before it forms a cataract, and an implant is placed into the eye that allows the patient to see both near and far," Dr. Desai explains. "Lasik only corrects distance – the near vision isn't corrected, so people still have to wear glasses to see up close. With a lens exchange, the artificial lens gives people the ability to see far and near."

Traditionally cataract surgery has been done manually, but today more practices are turning to the laser. "We are the second practice in the U.S. to employ the femtosecond laser to do cataract surgery. ," Dr. Desai says. "With laser, there is more precision, so it is safer. Implants are becoming extremely sophisticated and complex, and they work best when done in an exact fashion." Laser is also cutting down the recovery time from cataract surgery to one week. "The cost difference is patient-specific depending on implants they pick, but not very much," he says.

And today patients have more options than ever when it comes to selecting their implants. "There are numerous lens implants on the market that allow people to have more freedom from glasses and contacts," says Dr. Susanne Hewitt of North Fulton Eye Center. "There are multifocal implants such as Alcon's Restor and Abbott's Tecnis, and accommodating implants such as Bausch & Lomb's Crystalens, that allow people to be significantly less dependent on their distance and reading glasses after lens replacement/cataract surgery. There are several toric implants that correct astigmatism at the time of lens replacement as well.  Also, people who have been successful with monovision with contact lenses can achieve this effect after lens replacement surgery to become less dependent on readers."

Common Eye Conditions

Presbyopia - This is the lack of ability to focus up close and affects such tasks as reading, computer use, cell phone use or any task within arm's length. It is caused by the thickening and hardening of the crystalline lens and can be corrected with reading glasses, multifocal glasses, contact lenses or clear lens exchange.

Droopy eyelids - These are usually caused by ptosis or dermatochalasis. Ptosis can be caused by the age-related weakening or stretching of the major muscle that lifts the eyelid called the lavation muscle. Dermatochalasis is an age-related decrease of skin elasticity, allowing the skin of the eyelid to loosen and sag. When there is a loss of vision associated with droopy eyelids, insurance usually covers the blepharoplasty surgery, which involves the removal of excess skin and fat causing the drooping of the eyelids.

Dry Eye Syndrome - This occurs when the eye does not produce a sufficient amount of tears, or when the tears are not of the proper consistency to wet the eye normally. Treatments include prescription eye drops, over-the-counter drops, surgical cautery or silicone plugging of the tear drainage canals to slow down the drainage of tears into the nasal canal.

Flashes and floaters - These are caused by the liquefaction of the vitreous gel located deep within the eye. They can also occur when the vitreous capsule detaches from the retina. Floaters can be annoying but are usually not a cause for alarm and are a natural consequence of age. Flashes of light can be a more serious symptom caused by retinal detachment, migraine headaches or a by product of the vitreous merely pulling on the retina.

Cataracts - A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which causes decreased visual acuity. The lens of the eye is made of proteins arranged in a precise manner, but as we age, the proteins can clump in a random manner, rendering the lens opaque instead of transparent.

eye-2Macular Degeneration - The macula is the center of the retina, and this tissue can break down with age, causing a loss of central visual acuity. The two main types are classified as dry and wet macular degeneration. There is no real curative treatment for dry macular degeneration, but a healthy diet and nutritional supplements can slow its progression. Wet macular degeneration is characterized by hemorrhages in the macula area that can cause permanent vision loss. This is treated by injecting therapeutic agents into the back of the eye that reduce abnormal blood vessel growth and subsequent bleeding. New genetic tests can predict the likelihood of developing macular degeneration.

Glaucoma - This disease is characterized by progressive damage to the optic nerve inside the eye and is usually associated with an elevated intraocular pressure. It often has no symptoms during the initial stages, and only a qualified eye doctor using advanced diagnostic equipment can diagnose it during the early phases. The first sign is often the loss of peripheral vision, but as the disease progresses it can lead to blindness.

— Information courtesy of optometrist Dr. Alan Hymowitz

Over 40 Eyes

It's an exciting time for patients over 40, particularly now that presbyopia can be managed with clear lens exchange surgery and with increasingly accurate digital lenses. "Lens materials are getting thinner and more lightweight, so comfort should not be an issue," Dr. Locke says. "Now we even have contacts targeted for early or emerging presbyopes (age 40-50)."

According to Dr. Pare the use of oral antioxidants or "eye vitamins," is gaining popularity as well. "Their effects have demonstrated a slowing of the progression of macular degeneration, but their ability to actually prevent eye disease is less understood and less demonstrated with controlled clinical trials."

Most experts still agree, however, that glasses are the gold standard for improving vision non-surgically. "Decreasing near vision after age 40 is caused by physiologic changes to the lens inside the eye and the muscle that works to change the focus power of the lens," Dr. Pare says. "While it is problematic for most people, it is rarely due to any pathologic condition. Some oral medications can exacerbate this condition, but it is most often addressed with the use of reading glasses or bifocals."


Editorial Resources

Dr. Niraj Desai – Milan Eye Center,

Dr. Susanne Hewitt and Dr. Richard Pare – North Fulton Eye Center,

Dr. Alan Hymowitz – Eye Haven of Atlanta,

Dr. Takeia Locke – Family Eye Care Center of Atlanta,

The unstoppable Elaine Sterling sets a new standard in beauty education

What can you accomplish with a hope, a prayer, a credit card and six students? Well, if you're Elaine Sterling, quite a lot actually. This was how the South African native started The Elaine Sterling Institute School of Esthetics (ESI) in Sandy Springs, a school that houses both a learning facility and a spa.  As I wait to speak with the visionary behind ESI, I notice a lone Betta fish, staring aggressively at me from his bowl in the middle of the table. These fish are known for their fighting temperament and I idly wonder if he was chosen on purpose as a warning? Or maybe he is a mascot? I don't have time to ponder this further as Sterling comes striding purposely through the doors, an easy smile on her face and her hand outstretched in greeting. It's hard to imagine this confident woman was ever anything but successful.

Rocky start
The road that got Sterling from being an out-of-work esthetician to running her own school was definitely paved with challenges.  A short time after arriving in Atlanta, her marriage fell apart and Sterling found herself in a strange country, divorced and raising two children.  But she had a skill in her arsenal – her esthetician degree.  She knew she could do something in the beauty field, so after getting the accreditations for working in the U.S., she began her career. In the beginning, she worked three jobs to make ends meet. After working as an esthetician, she became a sought-after trainer for Spa Sydell and began teaching others. Then, at the age of 35, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "The cancer was really a gift," Sterling recalls. "It changed me. It made me stronger and bolder. When I finished my radiation, I made a decision to change my life. I was not going to be afraid. I didn't know that my school would be successful, and everyone thought I was crazy when I opened it. I didn't listen to anybody, because I knew I had a vision and a dream."

Path full of promise
Today that dream is a reality and has paved the way for others to achieve their goals of working in the beauty field. "The beauty industry – and education – is really about empowering women," Sterling says. "It's giving them a hand up, not a hand out." The students that fill the rooms at ESI are diverse in age, background and culture, but they have one thing in common: the desire to fulfill their dreams. Many students come to the school because they want to change careers, reinvent themselves or simply start over in a field that has always called to them. Sterling explains that the majority of the students are on their second or third career, and only five percent are just coming from high school. "Women can really design a career for themselves (here)," says Sterling. "They can add it to their existing career; they can still be a mom if they want to be and work part time, or they can do it full time." As an entrepreneur and trained esthetician, Sterling creates a unique learning environment for her students. She knows first-hand both sides of the business and is able to pass that knowledge on.

Graduates of ESI get hands-on training experience and can earn a variety of accreditations and certifications including the ITEC (International Therapy Examination Council) from London and the CIDESCO (Comité International d'Esthétique et de Cosmétologie) from Switzerland. These certifications make it possible for students to work at spas outside the U.S., which opens up a world of possibilities. Beyond the education students get at ESI, they also receive job placement assistance. "I always tell my students, if you're not as good as or better than me when you graduate, then I have failed you," says Sterling. "So that is my goal is for them: to be brilliant."

elaine-sterlin-1Success achieved
Even with the ever-changing economy and its ups and downs, Sterling believes we are slowly coming out of the recession. She comments that there is always a need to help people learn new skills. "We're changing women's lives by educating them, giving them the skills, and empowering them to really create their own destiny.  Whether it is direct sales, or spa, or doctor's office, equipment sales, education, whatever it is, they can really create their niche." She notes that no one is retiring at 65 anymore and she hopes to still be working into her 80s. "I think working keeps us young, keeps us connected, and keeps us inspired," she says.

Sterling believes that part of achieving success is to never stop learning. "Fifteen years ago, there wasn't much on the Internet, and I had to teach myself and find somebody to train me," she notes. "Now the students have access to so much information that I didn't have. So, grab onto that information and never stop learning." Sterling admits that even after so many years in the business, she is still educating herself. "I'm still going to class, I'm still learning and that is what made me better, faster, stronger than everybody else, the fact that I kept going to class, I kept pouring (knowledge) into myself, so I was able to give back to the industry."

Maybe it's her bravery in the face of the odds she's overcome or her unapologetic way of discussing her successes, but like that Betta fish, I can see that nothing has dulled Sterling's fighting spirit.  She believes in what she is doing and sees her school having a positive effect on the people that walk through its doors. "I want the students to have the opportunities that I had, I want them to get the top jobs, and to never give up on their dreams."