Clinical Research… Why?

The motivation of most anything at the age of 13 is something of monetary value. In 8th grade all I saw was a dollar sign. However, what I gained by taking part in my first clinical drug study for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is something money will never be able to buy.

My first clinical study was in 2004 for a new and improved digestive enzyme for patients with CF. This new enzyme boasted improved capability for nutritional absorption and came with hopes of being able to take less than the usual 20-30 pills per day. The health risk involved was relatively low, but ultimately my family left the decision up to me regarding whether or not I was going to participate. We met with several of the clinical study nurses in addition to my usual staff of doctors so that we could make an educated decision. After almost no hesitation on my end – again, all I saw were dollar signs – we decided to move forward with the study. Although the risk was low, the commitment to the study was high and involved a two-week hospital stay (a first for me) to monitor vitals and the drug’ effectiveness.

For those who are wondering what happened to the study pill, it was never approved by the FDA for use by the CF community. Although it was disappointing to hear, the outcome of this particular story is far from failure. I gained so much more during this study than a few extra pounds and the added convenience of taking fewer enzymes. I built a deeper relationship with my physicians and nurses, I learned more about the disease I live with, and most importantly I contributed to the continued improvement and quality of life for those living with CF.

A few years later I was asked to take part in one of the preliminary drug trials for Vertex Pharmaceuticals who were pioneering what we now know as Kalydaco and Okrambi – I think we all know how these studies turned out.

Clinical drug studies are not for everyone. Several factors such as lack of time to commit to, health factors, as well as many others may mean that now is not the right time for participation in a drug study. However, I feel it is crucial that those who are capable of participating in these types of studies at least consider doing so for the simple fact that we would not have come as far as we have without the select few who have given their time and effort into making it happen. Tremendous organizations like the CF Foundation can raise as much money as they want to, but without dedication from patients willing to contribute in the name of science those dollars are wasted.


What Is Whole Grain?

Whole grain.

It’s one of those healthy buzz words plastered on food labels everywhere to make the food you eat more appealing. But studies have shown the consumption of whole grain foods, versus those with refined grains, can provide a much greater health benefit when properly added to your everyday dietary regimen. Whole grains are high in fiber and contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that, according to the Journal of Nutrition, have been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Whole grains also play a vital role in healthy weight management and gastrointestinal health.

what-is-a-whole-grainBut what exactly is whole grain, and how can we tell if what’s on the food label is accurate?
Well, there are three components to whole grain – the outer Bran, Endosperm, and the Germ. All grains start out as whole grain, but the refining process typically removes the outer Bran and Germ portion to give the grain a better texture and preserve its shelf life. The downside to grain refinement is that what’s left remains only the inner Endosperm which contains mostly complex carbohydrates and only a few of the essential vitamins and minerals. A few good sources of whole grain include Barley, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Rice (both brown and white), Rye, and Corn.

In order for foods to be labeled as whole grain, the USDA requires that at least 8g of whole grain content be in each serving. The US dietary guidelines suggest that at least half of our daily serving of grain be from these whole grains – that comes out to about 3-5 servings of whole grain each day!
Whether you’re trying to shed some unwanted pounds or just trying to maintain the ones you have, a balanced diet is crucial to achieving your health goals. Try to integrate whole grains into your diet, and be sure to always look for the certified whole grain stamp when planning your next meal:

whole grain stamp







Photo courtesy of

Stairway To Seven


Spring – where every day is a balmy 40 degrees, foggy, and there is enough moisture in the air to water a hibiscus. It also means that civilization is beginning to wander back outdoors for some fresh air as the great thaw begins to settle in. For those who work in the city, it means street vendors, spontaneous musical performances, and jumping at every opportunity to get out of the office and enjoy the nicer weather.

Spring also provides an in between period of winter and summer where we come out of hibernation and begin to refocus our free time on being active and getting rid of those unwanted winter pounds. According to a study by Johns Hopkins, the average American can gain anywhere between five and seven pounds during the winter months. Add this to a typical 40 hour work week, family, and other extracurricular activities and that those unwanted pounds can add up rather quickly.

The good news is there are plenty of ways we can integrate daily exercise into our already busy schedules and get back on track to a healthier lifestyle. Did you know, it takes approximately 10,000 steps to burn 1lb of fat? For an average adult standing 5’9”, that comes out to roughly five and a half miles! Couple this activity with a healthy diet and you have the recipe for success.

Here are 5 ways to help integrate a daily dose of exercise into your busy lifestyle and get you on track to a healthier you this spring:

Take the stairs

Stairs are the secret weapon nobody knows about. We see stairs every day and, chances are, we do not even take the time to use them. They are in our offices, parking garages, entertainment facilities, restaurants, etc.

Track your progress

How can we know that progress is being made if we don’t track our performance? There are lots of great tools to help track your daily exercise. Pedometers are a great way to measure the number of steps you take and you can find them at your local fitness store for under $20. There is also a great app for iPhone and Android called Moves that uses the technology in your phone to count steps as well – the best part is, it’s FREE.

Find a buddy

Studies have shown that those who exercise with a partner are nearly twice as motivated to continue with their routine than those who exercise alone. So find someone who shares in your fitness goals and exercise together.

Buy new shoes

It sounds crazy, but who doesn’t love getting some cool new gear? Whenever I get something new I want to use it all the time. So try jump starting your mentality with a new pair of walking shoes. You can get your daily dose of exercise and look good doing it!

Reward Yourself

Exercise requires hard work and dedication. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself after a long week of hard work. Reward yourself with a day of rest or some time off doing something you enjoy.


Photo courtesy of

Sunglasses – Another LaughFest Record

GlassesCreated by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids as a celebration of “laughter for the health of it”, LaughFest is now in its 4th year of operation as one of the Midwest’s largest comedy festival. A 10-day festival featuring some of the largest names in comedy, it has become the winter edition of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids as a large scale attempt to drive economic growth and community engagement.

This year, the lineup for the week-and-a-half long festival is as impressive as ever. With headliner names like Jim Gaffigan, Chris Tucker, Lily Tomlin, Sinbad, and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, it’s nearly impossible to find an evening without five-star comedic excellence.

But big-name headline shows aren’t the only thing going on at LaughFest that makes it worth adding to your to-do list.

As is with ArtPrize, and really anything else you find in the city of Grand Rapids, LaughFest puts a big dose of family friendly fun into the 10-day festival. At the kick-off event held on Thursday, March 6th, the LaughFest community continued their tradition of breaking world records by attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the number of people wearing sunglasses at night. The unofficial number of 1,675 people wearing sunglasses at the LaughFest kick-off party beat the previous record held by Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

A new event to the festival this year is the Clean Comedy Showcase underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The clean comedy showcase brings a refreshing cast of comedians committed to making people laugh without vulgar or crude language.

For a complete list of upcoming events, visit the LaughFest events page here.

As wonderful as an entire 10-days committed to fun and laughter is, it is important to remember the root cause of such a fundraiser – that’s right, fundraiser. The LaughFest fundraiser is brought to the community through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a free


community with a comprehensive educational program, lectures, workshops, and social activities all designed with the intent of helping people deal with emotional health and wellness needs.






Photo Courtesy of Gilda’s Club