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January 12, 2015



Dear Patients,


Okay, the holidays are over and it's return to business as usual.  We've been back to work for almost 2 weeks; hopefully back to better eating and a regular schedule that includes exercise and time to reflect and relax.  Take a moment to contemplate your health, fitness and life goals for 2015. Consider writing them down and look at them once a day to stay focused. 


It's Flu Time


Influenza is here!  This year's flu shot may not have given us the level of immunity we hoped for.  Nonetheless, it was worth the "shot" for several reasons.  An annual flu shot helps to increase our antibodies for future strains that may evolve, so the more you are immunized, the more likely you will be able withstand other influenza strains down the road. 


It is especially important during flu season to be careful in public places.  People who are infected by the flu may excrete the virus for 24 hours before experiencing symptoms, so try to avoid shaking hands and touching railings or other surfaces while in public places.  Remember to wash your hands frequently and consider keeping some sanitizer gel or wipes with you if you travel.  Also remember to cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze.  All of this might feel a bit bizarre, but it's better than the flu!


If you do experience flu symptoms, be sure to rest and drink plenty of fluids.  Use acetaminophen for the aches and fever.  Isolate yourself until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.  An antiviral prescription drug called Tamiflu, if taken within 48 hours of infection, may decrease the duration of the flu.  Tamiflu is not a cure, but it may decrease the duration and intensity of the flu process.  So, if stricken with a flu-like illness, feel free to call me and we will decide if you might benefit from the medication.


Some Thoughts to Consider


As many of you know from my prior newsletters, I try to take a moment every day to make sure my own compass is pointing me in a meaningful and grateful direction.  Most days, I exercise in the morning.  Lately, I have been going for runs with Maggie, our 2 year-old Old English Sheepdog.  For me, exercise is a form of relaxation.  Sometimes, I think about a problem, sometimes I let my mind wander, and sometimes I get into a place known as “the gap."  The gap is the space between thoughts; it is a tranquil, calm space to be.  Regardless, I always emerge from my exercise feeling better and ready to take on the challenges of the day.  


A few days ago while running, I encountered a shattered glass bottle on the pavement.  I quickly maneuvered Maggie laterally onto the grass and, as I did, right in front of me was a huge pile of dog poop.  Again, I maneuvered and narrowly avoided it.  Then, I contemplated this rather banal event, and I thought of it as a metaphor:  put one foot in front of the other, keep moving forward, and – if you see trouble ahead – move out of the way!


My stream of consciousness then shifted again to one of my favorite authors, Lee Childs.  Childs has written nearly 20 books with the same central character, Jack Reacher.  Reacher is a retired Army Major who was in the Military Police and, even though Reacher has left the service, he continues to serve others in his own way in these novels.  Anyway, in his latest Reacher novel entitled Personal, Childs talks about four things you need to be.  So here they are:


  ~ Unconventional
  ~ Hard-working
  ~ Alert at all times (in other words, pay attention!)
  ~ Mindful; think laterally as well as linearly.

I cannot claim to be perfect at any of these, but I continue to strive to achieve them.  


I hope you enjoyed a healthy and happy holiday season.  I recently saw Pippin on Broadway and want to leave you with this video to enjoy.  Pippin is about one man’s journey to be extraordinary; don’t we all want to be extraordinary?  




Wishing you good health,




Harry A. Oken, M.D.

Clinical Professor of Medicine

University of Maryland School of Medicine

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