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Sleep Yourself Thin

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

When you are a parent, you do not always get a lot of opportunity for sleeping.  You do not get a lot of time for yourself in general really.  You have work to take care of, children to manage, and somewhere in there, a body to consider.  The fact is though, with our busy American lifestyles, the health of our bodies simply seems to take a back seat.  Unfortunately, this has caused many of us to become overweight, or even worse, obese and diabetic.  A recent study shows though, that if we could all just find enough regular time to sleep, we might be able to stay slimmer and healthier in general.

Right now, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.  Even more concerning is how many of these people are progressing into diabetes.  The CDC cites diabetes as a health issue for 8.3% of Americans and a whopping 79 million show signs of prediabetes.  While poor diet and little to no exercise are obvious causes for such an epidemic, stress and sleep schedules also play a role.   A recent study by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School in Boston found that “lack of sleep or disrupted sleep patterns…may lead to an increased risk of diabetes and obesity.”  The study involved tracking the effects of disrupted sleep routines in participants by shifting their sleeping time from 10 hours a night, to just 5.6 hours per 24 hour period.  This sleep restriction and pattern disruption caused 32% of participants to have decreased insulin secretion when they ate and lower metabolic rates, which led to high blood sugar levels bordering on pre-diabetic.  If they had continued the study for a year, they estimated that these levels could have caused them to gain about 12.5 additional pounds of body weight in one year.  When you add these conclusions to the hectic lifestyle of working American parents, it is no wonder so many are struggling with their weight.

When we are young, we spend a lot of time fighting our parents over daily naps and early bed times, but once we grow up, we find it even harder to put ourselves to bed.  Perhaps this study will help us hardworking adults realize that it is no use staying up all night stressing about our busy lives, if it only gives us fewer nights to live.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Jobs Should Provide Health Insurance, Not Moral Judgment

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The debate over health insurance has certainly been heated over the past few years, and most of those arguments stemmed from concerns over financing and constitutional rights.  More recently though, it seems they have decided to narrow their focus to something a little more personal for women, and that’s contraception.  Although employers rarely want to know what you’re using your health insurance for due to privacy concerns, some would like to prevent their female employees from using their insurance for birth control.

The arguments behind this have been few.  Some claim that cutting birth control out of their health insurance plans would save money.  While this is somewhat true, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a bit ridiculous.  Birth control is easy to produce and access, and with so many competing contraception options and companies, the price is affordable.  Additionally, when female employees take birth control, they prevent pregnancies, which are much more costly for health insurance plans in the way of prenatal check-ups, hospital stays, maternity leave, and eventually, another family member to add to the plan.  In the long run, employers would actually save money by giving their employees access to contraception.

Money isn’t the only argument though.  There are religious organizations that don’t want to provide birth control to their employees out of religious, or moral, concerns.  Although the foundation of their organization stems from a particular religion, they employ people who are not necessarily a part of that faith.  There are religious hospitals, private schools, and nonprofit organizations for example, who have hundreds of staff members from all walks of life.  They feel that they have a right to impose their moral judgment on all of their employees. If they must abide by the same antidiscrimination laws that prevent them from firing someone because of their religion, race, or sexual orientation, then why should they be allowed to discriminate when it comes to health insurance?

Obviously, as a physician, I believe that the gift of life is precious.  That’s also why I believe though, that women need to be ready to receive that gift.  It takes a huge commitment to raise a child, and even more to develop that child into an intelligent, caring, and well-balanced person.  Our jobs are there to give us the opportunity to provide for our families, both in terms of money and health insurance and in terms of allowing a woman, mother or not, to feel as if she is self-sufficient, contributing and using the talents that she has developed over a lifetime. Mothers especially need an outlet other than their children.  Our jobs have no right to decide when we start that family though and by no means do they have the authority to judge the morality of our decisions.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012


Itasker F. Thornton 1915-1977

I want to take this opportunity to wish all the Moms and the Moms-to-be a very Happy Mother’s Day.  I have delivered 5,542 babies as an obstetrician over the past 40 years and I can’t imagine a better specialty in medicine to practice.  My life has been to share the joy of so many couples who have started a new chapter in their lives by starting a family.

My mother, Itasker Frances Edmonds Thornton, died in 1977 at 61 years of age.  She was too young to die, but she raised five daughters (with the addition of our foster sister, Betty) and encouraged us to be the best.  We started out living in the housing projects of New Jersey. However, my Dad built our home in Long Branch, New Jersey with my Mom serving as his hod carrier in order for me and my sisters to go to a better school and have a chance at succeeding in life.  As teenagers, our mom was the bass player in our all-girl family R&B band known as “The Thornton Sisters”.  We went on to win six consecutive weeks in the Amateur Night contest held at the famed Apollo Theatre, recorded for Atlantic Records and performed at the Brooklyn Fox with Murray the K and his Swingin’ Soireé.   Watch Your Step

My Mom: Top Row - third from the left next to me with the sax

My mom had three years of college at Bluefield State Teachers College back in the 1940s, but the credits were not accepted in the northern colleges when she left West Virginia to come to New York City.  My mother always regretted not getting her college diploma and, I believe, she was the true driving force behind all of her daughters excelling in academics.

Although she had to leave college without a diploma, working with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, I secured her that elusive “sheepskin” and, in 2005, she was posthumously awarded a Doctorate of Humanities from Bluefield State College.  On her diploma it states: “She dared to dream great things and, through those whose lives she touched, great things were achieved.”

Her daughters, with her love and guidance, became successful, independent and accomplished women: an obstetrician, a psychiatrist, a prosthodontic oral surgeon, a Ph. D. and an attorney.  Mom, all I can say is “thank you” for your love and your vision.  I wouldn’t be where I am and who I am if it weren’t for you.  May you rest in peace.  I love you.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.