By Peter Revenaugh, MD
I spend hours every week staring at videos of people trying to smile. We interpret a simple smiling face in a split second, and based on the symmetry, make many assumptions about a person.
I am a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, with expertise in treatment of disorders of the facial nerve. The facial nerve controls the 46 tiny facial muscles that allow an array of nonverbal communication and emotional expression. Nearly everyone takes those 46 tiny muscles for granted, until an accident or illness suddenly alters their facial expression and how they interact with the world. New techniques that allow us to reconstruct a smile also remind us that a simple smile can change a life.
The face is the most important means of social communication. In less than 100 milliseconds — an eye blink takes 300 — humans can see a face, decide whether it is among the thousands stored in our memories and form an opinion. Mere millimeters of facial asymmetry can attract the attention of others and affect perception.
Responding to symmetry
In the animal kingdom, more symmetric animals are better at attracting mates, as their symmetry is thought to signal genetic quality and developmental stability. In humans, the research is more robust, if not creepy. Human body symmetry has been correlated with increased female fertility and male sperm numbers, and more symmetric faces were universally regarded by countless study groups as more attractive. But facial perception studies also show that we subconsciously regard faces with less symmetry as less honest, less employable, less trustworthy, less optimistic, less effective, less capable, less intelligent and less popular.
By Jonathan A. Myers, MD
Receiving a medical diagnosis that requires a surgery is a scary thing. A flurry of questions arise. Where should I go to seek medical attention? Which surgeon should I see, and what type of procedure do I need? A barrage of advertisements from TV, radio, newspapers, billboards and the Internet come pouring in, as does advice from friends who may have had a similar diagnosis. The situation can be overwhelming.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an inguinal hernia, for example, you may wonder: Is it better to have open surgery, for which you probably will need only local anesthesia with sedation? Or a minimally invasive procedure, which requires general anesthesia but may lead to slightly faster recovery with less pain and scarring? How do you weigh the risks and benefits?
Helping patients do just that is one of the most important parts of my job. As a general surgeon, I treat a wide range of conditions that require surgery. Over the past 20 years as a medical student, surgical resident, minimally invasive surgical fellow and now attending surgeon, I have seen a lot of procedures emerge and become mainstream, considered the standard of care. I’ve also seen many that seemed promising but are no longer in existence because they have proven ineffective, obsolete or even dangerous.
Bradley Hinrichs (right) and Rush CEO Larry Goodman, MD
By Bradley Hinrichs
During the more than 40 years that I have worked at Rush University Medical Center, a huge shift has taken place in attitudes towards and treatment of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexuality or sexual identity (known collectively by the acronym LGBTQ). We have seen this shift in nearly all parts of society, and I have seen it first-hand at Rush as well.
As Rush and much of the rest of the country celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month in June, and as I prepare to retire at the end of the month, I find myself looking back with pride at what Rush has accomplished to advance equal treatment for our LGBTQ patients, employees and students, and looking forward with hope at the work we still have to do.
‘OK to be yourself’
When I began working at Rush in 1972, I wasn’t “closeted,” but I chose not to talk about or address the fact that I was gay with my colleagues. It simply was more comfortable that way, as I perceived that while my fellow workers were not necessarily bigoted or overtly prejudiced relative against the LGBTQ community, they also seemed to me to be fairly straight-laced and conservative.
Therefore, I didn’t make my sexuality an issue at work, which was a fairly standard practice for LGBTQ people in the ‘70s. By the time the decade was ending, however, I had partnered with another gay man, who also happened to be a Rush employee. We didn’t try to hide or not be honest about our relationship and our lives. I was generally pleased to learn that in nearly all cases, our colleagues at Rush were not shocked or offended by our personal relationship, and that it didn’t adversely affect my working relationship with them.
By Kim Williams, MD
We are just two weeks away from the inaugural International Cardiovascular Nutrition Summit, a conference that Rush co-founded to provide a unique, unbiased educational platform for colleagues to learn more about the growing body of literature that supports nutrition as a foundational pillar of cardiovascular medicine. The leading experts will review the research that clearly demonstrates the power of nutrition to prevent, suspend and reverse atherosclerotic heart disease. We have come a long way in prevention of cardiovascular disease, but we still have a long way to go. Improving our lifestyles with diet and exercise will help us get there.
I never realized the power of nutrition until a patient’s success in reversing an alarming condition motivated me to investigate the research. The patient underwent a nuclear scan that revealed very-high-risk findings — a severe three-vessel disease pattern of reversible ischemia. The patient came back to the nuclear lab six months later. She had been following Dean Ornish, MD’s program for “Reversing Heart Disease,” which includes a plant-based diet, exercise and meditation. She said that her chest pain had resolved in about six weeks, and her scan had become essentially normalized on this program.
Personally, I thought I had a healthy diet — chicken breast (no skin, not fried) and fish — but a simple Web search informed me otherwise. This diet was high in cholesterol, and I apparently was a dietary cholesterol hyperresponder. When I got that LDL result, I looked up the details of the plant-based diet in Ornish’s publications — one- and five-year angiographic outcomes and marked improvement on PET perfusion scanning — small numbers of patients, but outcomes that reached statistical significance. So I changed that day to a plant-based diet and within six weeks my LDL cholesterol level was down from 170 to 90.
By Marilyn Wideman
Rush University Medical Center is well-known in our community, but our community engagement remains one of Rush’s best-known secrets. To recognize and celebrate this work, Rush is hosting our inaugural Community Health Improvement Week.
All members of the public are welcome to join us between May 4 and 7 for a series of panel discussions, poster presentations and a keynote and awards session. You can register to attend the events here.
While Rush cares for patients from throughout the Chicago area, and even throughout the world, the main communities we serve are our neighbors on Chicago’s West Side, where Rush chose to remain even after other hospitals left during social unrest in the 1960s. This community includes the East and West Garfield Park, North and South Lawndale, and West Side and Lower West Side and West Town neighborhoods.
These are neighborhoods that struggle with high rates of poverty, crime, and the disparities in health that accompany them. Working amid these neighborhoods ensures that we at Rush see these problems, and our community engagement has developed in response to them.
Samer Al-Khudari, MD, an ear, nose and throat/head and neck surgeon at Rush, traveled to Lebanon earlier this year to help Syrian refugees who fled their nation’s three-year civil war.
Over five days in February, Al-Khudari and a team of other physicians did just that, performing more than 35 procedures and screening more than 100 patients with medical needs ranging from tonsil problems to facial deformities and trauma.
Here’s a collection of photos from his visit. Read the full story.
By Rachel Loftin, PhD
Although it is a crucial topic in health care, people are often reluctant to talk about the sex education needs of people with autism spectrum disorder.
While typically developing people learn a lot about sexuality and romantic relationships from their peers, teens with ASD are much less likely to have friends who talk about these topics. Many people with ASD do not pick up on unwritten rules for how to behave in social situations, and sexually charged interactions are particularly challenging to understand.
The social differences in ASD can limit the amount and quality of the sexuality information acquired and can make it challenging to understand the complex dynamics of intimate relationships.
When people with ASD unwittingly break social rules, they can put themselves at risk for victimization or may be misconstrued as sexually deviant or even predatory. Unfortunately, these situations sometimes result in legal action. Even when problem behaviors are not illegal, inappropriate sexual behaviors can limit employment and inclusion opportunities with individuals with ASD.