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Labor Day - September 3, 2014


Dear Patients,


I hope the Labor Day weekend was enjoyable for you and your family.


Influenza Vaccination


Influenza vaccinations will be given beginning in late September.  I continue to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and will be using the trivalent vaccination again this year.  Timing of when you receive this vaccination is important.  You may notice that local pharmacies and grocery stores are actively promoting and advertising to get your flu shot now.  There is no rush to vaccinate this early.  Typically, influenza begins to appear in late November until mid-February.  Receiving your flu shot too early will lead to a premature peaking of your protective antibody and will limit its effectiveness.  Like so many things in life, timing is everything!  Accordingly, I recommend that you get the flu shot between late September and late November. This will allow levels of the protective antibody to peak at the expected time of an influenza outbreak.


Every year, influenza accounts for at least 200,000 hospitalizations and more than 40,000 deaths.  Prevention of influenza starts with a flu shot.  In addition, use common sense practices of frequent hand washing and covering your mouth and nose with the inner part of your elbow if you cough or sneeze.  Influenza is quite contagious and spreads easily; during the first 24 hours that you are infected, you are shedding the virus without any symptoms.


Feel free to stop by the office any time beginning September 22 until the end of November, from 8:30 AM until noon, Monday through Friday, to get your flu shot.  Alternatively, if you have an appointment scheduled, we will be happy to immunize you then.


For further information, please feel free to view my video from Columbia Matters using this link:



Vitamin D and Dementia


I am constantly asked for advice regarding vitamins and supplements, and I depend on reviews of the medical literature and scientific evidence to make recommendations to you.  In general, if you eat a healthy diet with 5 servings of vegetables and fruit on a daily basis, you likely do not need most vitamins and supplements.  Nonetheless, as in the past, I continue to recommend that all of my patients take a vitamin D-3, 1,000-2,000 units per day.


Vitamin D plays an important role in allowing the body to absorb calcium from the diet.  Additionally, it seems to be important for our immune health by decreasing our risk for viral illness as well as cancer.  If you get more than 15 minutes of direct sun on a daily basis, you will generate a reasonable amount of vitamin D-3.  There is a conversion of an inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D once exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Most of us, however, rarely get that much daily exposure for a number of reasons: sun intensity varies throughout the year and by location, and clothing and sunscreen diminish the direct effect of sunlight.


Just recently, an article was published in the journal, Neurology, advocating adequate vitamin D levels to decrease one’s risk for dementia and Alzheimer disease.  This is the first time I have seen this information.  Reducing your risk for cognitive decline is, of course, multidimensional.  Here is a link to this article:



For obvious reasons, most of us fear cognitive decline and dementia.  A healthy lifestyle is our best defense. You might enjoy my most recent Columbia Matters video on Memory Impairment and Dementia at this link:  



So what’s up with your book?


As many of you know, I have been trying to finish writing a book that gives practical advice for attaining and maintaining excellent health.  I am not sure about the title just yet or the exact timing of it's completion.  I am optimistic that it will be completed sometime very soon, so stay tuned!


Canine Update


After the loss of Silver in March, our 10 year-old Old English Sheepdog, we paused for a couple of months and then, in late May, we rescued Maggie, an 18-month Old English Sheepdog.  She joins our 14 year-old Old English Sheepdog, Cutha.  Maggie is a spunky, active girl.  She keeps us busy and loves to bother Cutha!  Thanks to Diane for steering me to this canine YouTube video; I hope you enjoy it:



Re-Enrollment Information


So here we are, 75% of the way into 2014.  I hope it has been enjoyable, healthy and happy for you.  I also hope you have found my practice and staff to be accessible and helpful for all of your health needs in the office, after hours, in the emergency room, and at our local hospital, Howard County General Hospital.  We strive to give you personal, individualized attention at all times.


You will receive re-enrollment information by mid-November.  We will be asking you to complete the form and return it with your payment by December 12.  Please note that payments will not be processed until after January 1, however, this deadline will allow me a small window of time to determine whether or not we can accept new patients from our wait-list.  As you know, it is important to me to keep my practice small and manageable.  There will be no changes in the fee structure this year.  We do ask that your return everything in a timely fashion.


The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting article entitled “What Ails American Medicine” (Saturday/Sunday, August 30-31, 2014).  The last paragraph of this article really resonates strongly with me:


“What’s most important to me as a doctor, I've learned, are the human moments. Medicine is about taking care of people in their most vulnerable states and making yourself somewhat vulnerable in the process.  Those human moments are what others--the lawyers, the bankers--envy about our profession, and no company, no agency, no entity can take those away. Ultimately, this is the best hope for our professional salvation.”


Wishing you good health,




Contact information:

During normal business hours, please call my office 410-910-7500

After hours, please call me on my cell 443-324-0823.





Harry A. Oken, M.D.

Clinical Professor of Medicine

University of Maryland School of Medicine

Office: 410-910-7500  Fax: 410-910-2310

To view my previous newsletters, go to http://www.harryokenmd.com/Newsletters.htm