Remarkable Women 2010: Pictures of Health
Women were the original caregivers, and throughout history their roles have been central to the healing arts and sciences. So, as the health care debate plays out on a national stage, here’s a close-up look at five remarkable women who make health happen.
Dr. Susan Lynch
Photo by John Hession
Most successful women wear many hats, and so does Dr. Susan Lynch. Along with being a physician, a wife and a mother of three, she also happens to be New Hampshire’s First Lady. But for her, all the roles fit together well. Her visibility allows her to take her Concord Hospital medical practice — working with cases of juvenile diabetes and other blood disorders in kids — and use her experience to promote healthier diets and more exercise for families all across the state.
Meanwhile, having a mom’s-eye view of the struggles of getting kids to eat well keeps her humble and focused. Among her jobs as First Lady, she’s a spokesman for Walk N.H., an effort to get schoolchildren and their parents to pledge to walk the length (190 miles) or width (70 miles) of the state.
What first drew you to medicine? The excitement and drama of the emergency room and ICU, the science, the technology all combined with being in a profession where I could help people.
Seems like all the news on childhood obesity is bad. What’s the most hopeful sign? The most hopeful sign is that the recent statistics show a leveling off or plateau in our obesity rates over the last several years; the prevalence is not declining but it is encouraging that it is not increasing as fast as it did in the 1980s and 1990s.
I, personally, remain hopeful because small changes in our behavior can lead to significant results. A few small changes in diet or activity level can translate to a weight loss of 5-10 lbs, and a lower BMI, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol level.
Did you have trouble getting your own three kids to eat well? As a matter of fact, I did. One of my children has always been a challenge — very fussy and not willing to eat or even try many fruits or vegetables. I never gave up trying to expand her taste preferences. Today, as a young adult, she eats quite a healthy diet. My other two children were always more willing to try a variety of healthy foods.
Do you have any living role models, people who inspire you in the kinds of work you’ve chosen? Yes. Mary Louise Hancock, who is nearly 90 years old and a former state senator and former head of the Office of State Planning, is my role model for life. She is a hard worker, has been involved in public service for her entire life and in spite of a variety of health issues, has the most positive outlook on life I have ever seen.
Has your role as a public figure changed your professional mission? No, if anything, my public role has affirmed my commitment to children’s health — especially preventive health.
Your First Lady duties must take a lot of your personal time. Are there any fringe benefits? The fringe benefits come from the gratification of having an opportunity to help New Hampshire families, and especially children. Also, we have such wonderful people in New Hampshire — friendly, hard-working and down-to-earth. Interacting with the public in New Hampshire is a pleasure.
So you met your husband while working at an ice cream shop and now you are crusading for healthy diets. Isn’t that ironic? No, I don’t think so. A healthy diet does not mean never having ice cream — a healthy diet puts treats like ice cream in the proper perspective. Treats are a once-in-a-while indulgence — neither something to deny oneself nor to eat daily.
What do you hope will be your legacy to the state? Legacy! I'm not sure I will leave a legacy. I just want to help our New Hampshire families, particularly children, to be as healthy as they can be. I want to be a voice for New Hampshire's children, reminding adults that we need to do a better job for our kids. They are our future. We need to do everything we can to make sure our children have better and healthier lives than we have.
Here's a healthy meal that kids will enjoy from New Hampshire’s First Lady:
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and diced
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cups of fat free chicken or vegetable stock
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 green peppers, chopped
1 can diced green chilies, drained
1 cup shredded low-fat Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent.
Add garlic, cumin seeds, oregano, jalapeno peppers, salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add beans to crock pot and pour tomato mixture over them. Stir.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
Stir in cooked chicken, green peppers and green chilies and cook on high for 20 minutes.
Serve topped with 2 tablespoons of Monterey jack cheese and 1 teaspoon of cilantro.
Photo by John Hession
When other high school girls were writing the names of their favorite boy bands on their notebooks, Joyce DeLeo was studying the medical illustrations in “Gray’s Anatomy.” That kind of focus has paid off. She’s now the chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Dartmouth Medical School, a beloved and respected mentor and a researcher who is leading a clinical quest for the very roots of pain while seeking new ways to relieve it. Dr. DeLeo directs the Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth. Her lab work seeks to create a better understanding of central nervous system mechanisms that lead to chronic pain including neuropathic, inflammatory, post-operative and low back pain.
What’s your biggest accomplishment or breakthrough? Our laboratory was the first to discover that glial cells (previously thought of as support cells only) play a pivotal role in pain. Our research suggested that modulating glial function may be a novel drug target to prevent and treat chronic pain.
You were a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. What did you learn there? It taught me how privileged it is to be a scientist and work with scientists from around the world. I still remain in contact after 25 years with many of the scientists I met at Max Planck Institute, including my Ph.D. mentor, Peter Schubert. We have continued to actively collaborate together on glial modulating agents over the past 15 years. I also met my husband in Germany and now our children are 16 and 18. So in many ways, this experience shaped my life.
You have many roles — administrator, mentor, professor, researcher — how do you balance all your work and your personal life? I do a better job at this some days over others. I try to be organized and focus on a single major project at a time. About 15 years ago, I attended a workshop on Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This changed how I prioritize my tasks and goals with a major focus on the “big rocks” instead of time-wasting minutiae. My most important rocks are my family.
What keeps you motivated to keep working and researching? The opportunity to work with young, talented scientists who will become our future leaders in biomedical research is the most gratifying part of my career.
If you could give a piece of advice to students interested in following your footsteps, what would it be? Stay focused on your research and do not be deterred by small set-backs or even major failures. If you are successful in your science, other opportunities will come your way. If you try to do much, too early in your career, you will not gain the reputation it takes to be a leader in a given field.
What is the best thing about your job? Seeing new data at our weekly lab meetings and sharing the excitement of novel findings with our team.
What is the hardest? In these difficult economic times, it is difficult to balance budget cuts with the desire to expand and enhance our research enterprise. Navigating funding success is a large stress in our careers. Without funding it is not possible to do research and have a team of talented scientists. Receiving good news about a grant appplication is the best thing that can happen to us in our field.
How does your research help people? We hope to discover and develop a novel, non-addictive drug without untoward side-effects for the treatment of chronic pain.We are in its infancy of understanding how glia modulate neuronal function. Further elucidation of this interaction in normal and pathological states will have a hugh impact on how we can target these cells for the treatment of a host of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic pain, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
Three historic women of science Dr. DeLeo would like to make a little more famous.
Judy Frank, M.D., was a role model and mentor to so many of us at Dartmouth Medical School. She should go down in history books as the most passionate neonatologist who worked unselfishly and tirelessly to improve the lives of so many of us.
Joanne Moore, Ph.D., first woman chair of Pharmacology and my chair when I was a Ph.D. graduate student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, inspired me to work hard and to be a humanist. I wish she knew that I followed her footsteps.
Henrietta Lacks (August 1, 1920–October 4, 1951) was the unwitting donor of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were cultured by George Otto Gey to create an immortal cell line for medical research. This is now known as the HeLa cell line. As a researcher I had heard of HeLa cells for years but until a book by science writer Rebecca Skloot was published, I had no idea where these cells came from. The book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” is a must-read for any scientist, student and woman.
Photo by John Hession
Carol Leonard says the Universe has never been gentle with her. She says some are “called” to be midwives. She, on the other hand, was “smacked upside the head” when, during the natural birth of her son in a hospital in 1975, her hands were literally tied down. She knew then that women needed better birthing options. She went on to become the state’s first certified midwife (in 1982), and was the founding mother and second president of MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America) where she helped oversee the renaissance of the profession. She was purportedly the first Westerner to deliver a Soviet baby in Moscow in 1990, right before the USSR collapsed. This was filmed and aired on “20/20” with Barbara Walters. She carries on the fight to this day and, in 2008, she published an award-winning and very readable biography, “Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart.”
What is the advantage of delivering at home? Familiar surroundings, your own comfy bed, familiar people — strange hospital personnel are not going to be watching you give birth. Also, your own favorite nightgown, not the hospital johnny with your bottom hanging out in the breeze in back. Then there are the not-so-obvious reasons. The hospital is a place for sick people, people with contagious diseases. Healthy childbearing women are not sick.
Are there disadvantages? Certified midwives are allowed by law to carry the same medications and equipment that are commonly available in hospital delivery rooms — except that it is illegal for us to induce or augment labors with Pitocin. Most transfers to the hospital are not an emergency but are for stimulation of a “stuck” labor — one that is taking too long. Also, we don’t carry medication for pain. None. Midwives use water in birthing pools for that.
How is modern midwifery different from that of earlier times? Actually, I’m hoping that the hallmarks of good midwifery in past times are still of foremost importance today: compassion, skill, intuitive knowing, honesty. Midwife means “with woman,” which to me means doing everything in your power to protect and guide and maintain the safety of the birthing woman.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in three decades of practicing midwifery? Trust — trust in the process and trust in the woman’s ability to birth with the innate wisdom of her own body. Trust that for the most part, I should just sit on my hands.
What’s left to be done? Wow. I’d have to say that every childbearing woman in the U.S. should have access to high-quality midwifery care, whether in the hospital with the care of Certified Nurse Midwives or at home with Certified Professional Midwives.
Was midwifery illegal prior to 1982? No, not illegal, actually. New Hampshire was considered an “a-legal” state in that there was really nothing on the books pertaining to midwifery or out-of-hospital childbirth. But I was pretty paranoid about the specter of “practicing medicine without a license,” so I worked closely with DHHS very early on to get midwifery recognized as a viable profession and to create a licensing program.
Are there still legal obstacles to practicing? No. N.H. has always been a fabulous state for the profession of midwifery. Our state is very proud of her midwives and has demonstrated that repeatedly with broad enabling legislation. N.H. was the ninth state in the nation to legalize midwifery and was the first state in the U.S. to create a completely autonomous board: the N.H. Midwifery Council. I was the first chairman of the council in 1999.
How did you overcome resistance to midwifery by the traditional medical community and have you overcome it completely? Yes and no. Many older M.D.s had historically never worked with midwives. I had to suffer through my fair share of “witch doctor” comments and other mean-spirited forms of ridicule. But our constant good outcomes proved them wrong. The younger, new, hipper obstetricians today are very used to working with midwives in various practice settings.
“Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart: A Midwife’s Saga”
Carol Leonard has written a book about her experiences as a midwife and as a foremother of the modern midwifery movement. Titled “Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart: A Midwife’s Saga” [Bad Beaver Publishing, $15], the beautifully written memoir traces her career from her start as a young midwife in the mid-1970s — when midwifery was in a legal gray area — through her time as a national leader in the struggle to reclaim the profession of midwifery in the United States and beyond. Along the way, she tells us the age-old story of childbirth through the eyes of her many modern-day patients, who deliver their babies in the comfort of their home. She also shares her grief about her husband’s death. It is, as she says, a “story of love, loss and deep dedication to birthing women.”
Her title comes from a quote by Aristotle that Leonard loves: “A midwife should have a lady’s hands, a hawk’s eyes and a lion’s heart.”
Besides, she notes, her last name, “Leonard,” means lion-hearted.
For more information visit www.badbeaverfarm.com.
Photo by John Hession
In January of 2003, Pubali Campbell was at a crossroads. She had spent two years taking multiple leaves of absence from a “toxic” work environment to spend time with her dying father. She was ready for a new chapter in her life. In February, out of the blue, she received a call from a beloved uncle with an idea that would help her turn that page. The uncle just happened to be Bikram, the founder of a form of yoga based upon a routine of postures performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. The Bikram “hot” yoga, with its lack of religious associations and its focus on weight loss and wellness, was opening the practice of yoga to thousands and swiftly growing in popularity across the country. Her uncle challenged her to open her own studio in Manchester. It was a huge leap; she would have to quit her job and enter a rigorous physical training regimen just to prepare for the actual teacher training. “I thought about it for all of one night and accepted the challenge,” she says. “The rest is history!”
What’s so great about Bikram yoga? In one word: empowerment. Every aspect of this yoga practice, from the philosophies behind it to the manner in which the classes are conducted, empowers its practitioners.
What lessons can we learn from a 2,000-year-old practice? First and foremost, that anything that has been around for this long is worthwhile to explore! Yoga is anything but “new age.” Next, the importance of paying attention to the journey from A to Z — not only getting to Z and what happens once you get there.
Have you witnessed any remarkable transformations in your students? In my time here I have seen people lose dramatic amounts of weight and go from being so tight they couldn’t kneel to easily touching their toes and sitting cross-legged. Students have healed injuries, gotten off sleeping pills, managed migraine headaches, have stopped smoking and have conceived babies after years of difficulty. It goes without saying that the students who have experienced these “yoga miracles” put considerable effort into their health. One has to practice regularly and have good habits outside of the yoga, too.
What’s the reason for using the same poses each time, as opposed to a varied routine? Well, think about tennis, for example. People who play tennis practice the same elements of the game over and over again. The backhand, the forehand, the overhead, the serve, etc. The postures may be exactly the same, but the person is constantly changing. And this is how you make and mark progress.
Why must it be so hot? Three reasons: 1) Safety — the body stretches more safely and effectively in a warm environment. 2) Sweating — we believe that there are great benefits to sweating. 3) Mental challenge — because such a large part of the Bikram philosophy is training the mind to be stronger and more tolerant. We believe that the heat adds another layer of challenge that helps build tolerance, patience and breath control.
Why no Omm … at the end of practice? The Bikram yoga philosophy believes that the perfect balance of a sound body and mind is the epitome of well-being. Since cultivating this balance can be a lifetime process, our classes are dedicated only to the strengthening of the physical body and mind. So, Bikram yoga does not incorporate any spiritual elements into the practice.
How would you rate yoga as a way to get in shape? Every yoga class has a different outcome and approach. The relaxation-based classes help people learn to calm their nerves, lower the heart rate, blood pressure and stress. The more physical classes help people with improving literally every system of the human body, the most obvious being the cardiovascular, muscular, skeletal, immune, nervous and respiratory.
Three Easy Poses
Bikram does not recommend practicing its specialized poses outside the hot room, but Campbell says the following poses can be used to good effect independently or together by someone wanting to try yoga at home.
1) The first, Savasana, is done lying on the back. Heels together, toes out to the side. Arms close to the body, palms facing up. At home, the eyes can be closed. Breathing should be slow and deep. In and out through the nose.
2) The next, Ardha Kurmasana (half tortoise pose), is similar to a child’s pose. Start by kneeling. Arms over the head, palms together, thumbs crossed. Gently stretch up to the ceiling, and slowly come down to the floor with a strong abdomen. Once down, relax the abdomen and stretch, gently, the arms forward, hands/palms staying together.
3) The last, Pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose), you do by lying on your back. Bring the right leg up, hold the leg with your fingers interlaced a couple inches below the knee. Gently, pull the leg a little out to the right and then towards the shoulder. Outside of the hot room, just do a gentle stretch. Switch legs. Then, bring both legs up and hold the legs with arms interlaced a couple inches below the knee. Relax the abdomen and let the legs gently push the abdomen. Keep the chin down.
Photo by John Hession
When AnnMarie Morse’s daughter Michelle, a full-time student at Plymouth State University, was diagnosed with colon cancer, her doctors recommended that she cut back her college course load during her treatment. This meant she would either lose her insurance or would have to pay C.O.B.R.A. premiums, about $550 a month (not including co-pays). As a parent and a teacher, Morse felt that students should be allowed a brief medical leave during which they could concentrate on their health needs without jeopardizing their insurance. With the help of some legislators and backed by a number of medical and professional organizations, Morse took the issue to the N.H. Legislature. On June 22, 2006, New Hampshire became the first state to pass Michelle’s Law. Since then, 10 other states have passed some variation of the law. On October 9, 2008, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 2851, making Michelle’s Law a federal law, effective one year later.
Were you ever inspired to work for political change before your fight for Michelle’s Law? I always liked politics and thought about running for local positions but felt I didn’t have the name recognition or the political backing, so I never ran. However, I was always involved in the parent-teacher groups as an executive officer when my children were in elementary school and junior high school.
Do you remember the specific moment when you changed from a worried mother with a sick child into an activist for insurance reform? Throughout Michelle’s illness I wore both hats. The day Michelle passed away, I was no longer the mother of a sick child, just an activist. Michelle was my hero and inspiration to never give up. She never gave up her fight to beat cancer so I couldn’t give up my fight to change a law.
There must have been lots of tough moments. I heard some cruel and harsh things. I was told that since Michelle was leaving school that I could take the money being used for her tuition and pay the C.O.B.R.A.
Three weeks after Michelle passed away an acquaintance saw me in the grocery store and said that I must be feeling much better now. I told her that it will be a lifetime of healing. People who we thought were our friends slipped away. Then we met others who have become good friends.
How did you feel when President Bush signed the law back in 2008? I called the White House and asked how I could be there and hoped to be present at the White House for the bill signing but President Bush was not available. Needless to say, I was disappointed. However, the bigger picture was getting a law signed. Senator John Sununu called me on October 9, 2008, at 9:45 a.m., and told me the good news. I was very happy that no other college student and his or her family would have to face the decisions that our family and Michelle had to make.
During the recent debates over health care and insurance reform, has anyone called you for advice? I had the honor of serving on Congressman [Paul] Hodes’ advisory insurance committee. It was a great experience and I was able to learn from so many others. Since I am not an expert in the health care field I looked at it from the standpoint of the “everyday citizen.”
Would you name a role model, someone who inspires you in the kinds of challenges you’ve taken on? Michelle was my role model and hero. She battled her illness with grace, dignity, perseverance and concern for others. They say that children learn from their parents. I can say that I learned from Michelle.
Do you have any other legislative battles you’d like to fight? None that I can think of right now, but you never know.
You worked on this law for a long time. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in all those days? Never mess with a mom who is passionate about a cause.
AnnMarie Morse’s 15 tips for someone who wants to change the world for the better:
1. Be passionate about the cause.
2. Take on a leadership role.
3. Be a good student; learn as much as you can; let your brain be a sponge.
4. Find others who support your cause.
5. Have a “can-do” attitude.
6. Show your enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is contagious.
7. Find your supports; establish a team, start local and expand.
8. Be organized and prepared.
9. Gather your facts and information. You have to become the expert.
10. Be kind. “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”
11. Network, network, network.
12. Set up face-to-face meetings. It is harder to say “no” to your face than via the phone, letter or e-mail.
13. Expect the unexpected. You may need to use a different strategy, so have a plan “B.”
14. Fight with grace, courage, dignity and perseverance.
15. Never give up.