Healthy Living Houston: Sitting is the New Smoking?

We love modern electronic gadgets that simplify our life, make our work more productive and time at play more fun. And in many cases, these gadgets can help us live healthier lifestyles.

For example, more and more of us are wearing electronic devices that help us achieve our fitness goals by tracking the number of stairs we climb, tracking the calories we eat or tracking our heartbeat rates.

But there is a downside to the increasing number of electronic devices we enjoy at work and at home. When everything is accessible at your fingertips, there is less and less reason to get up from your chair. The result: an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.

Do you Lead a Sedentary Lifestyle at Work?

Our transition to a service economy combined with today’s modern conveniences has led an increasing number of us to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, especially at work.

There are a few exceptions. If you have a job in agriculture, in manufacturing, shipping and distribution or the food service industry, you’re more likely to be standing on your feet at the job.

But more and more of us work all day at a computer with a rolling desk chair with everything right at hand. No need to stand up except take a bio break!

But wait you say! “I work with a tablet.” Well unfortunately it looks like repeated use of smartphones and tablets can contribute to ‘Tablet Neck’ according to this report from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sitting is Bad for You — Even if You Exercise Regularly.

In the last year, more and more health professionals have begun using the expression “sitting is the new smoking” to describe the problem.

What are the consequences of sitting too much? We turn to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine by David Alter, MD, PhD, Senior Scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Key Findings of the Study:

  1. Sitting for prolonged periods of time increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of whether a person exercises regularly or not.
  2. Exercising one hour a day doesn’t eliminate the problem. In other words, even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting remains a separate health issue.

What does Dr Alter recommend?

  1. Every thirty minutes you should take a short (1-3 minute) break and stand up. Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting.
  2. Gradually change your behavior. Try reducing your sitting times by 15 – 20 minutes per day at first. Reduce sitting week by week. Over the long term you should try to eliminate 2 to 3 hours of sitting during a 12 hour day.

Educators are also taking notice. Students seem to benefit from standup desks.

School physical education programs have been on the wane for many years and today’s students populations are more sedentary than in the past. Obesity is an increasing problem.

In response, there have been studies to see if stand up desks can help student performance and weight management. Mark Benden, Associate Professor at Texas A&M, has studied the impact of standing desks on Texas fourth grade students.

Students using the standing desks burned 300 more calories per week than the control group. Overweight students burned up to 575 more calories compared to the students who sat at normal desks.

Teachers in Benden’s study reported better behavior and more focus on learning among the students using the standup desks.

Does Fidgeting Help Students Learn?

Now research is looking at whether encouraging students to ‘fidget’ and move around while in the classroom is actually productive. One chair manufacturer, Safeco, has introduced a desk/chair combination with a built-in swing for students to move their legs around as they sit. Safeco’s Alphabetter desk is designed to encourage student movement in the classroom but minimize distraction to other students in class.

Can standing desks like these help students perform better? It’s possible. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many students (and perhaps boys especially) perform better when they are active. Students diagnosed with ADHD may also benefit from this type of increased physical activity. We look forward to seeing results from upcoming peer reviewed studies.

What about Moving Desks?

The evidence seems to indicate that using standing desks while at work will improve your health. But should you take it one step further and use a desk that can change your seating position throughout the day? What about desks with built-in treadmills?

So far we have not found evidence that the treadmill desks are more effective than standing desks, but they certainly make a statement. Here humorist and commentator Mo Rocca takes a look at treadmill desks at his office and at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Moveable Furniture Designs Now Widely Available for Commercial Applications

Buyers at the largest tradeshow for commercial office furniture, NEOCON, were able to test out dozens of different moveable, reconfigurable seating and work table solutions.

Attendees at the trade show awarded the NEOCON Gold Prize in the category for Tables: Training and Work to a sit-to-stand table designed by Joey Ruiter for BOLD Furniture.

Sit-to-stand table designed by Joey Ruiter for BOLD Furniture

Sit-to-stand table designed by Joey Ruiter for BOLD Furniture

This elegant desk can move from a fully seated sitting position to a full standing desk.

A Desk that Reminds You to Move: The Kinetic Desk by Stir

Maybe you need a more active reminder to change your seating position throughout the day. That’s the thought behind the Stir desk, invented by ax-Apple engineer JP Labrosse who is now the CEO of Stir. The Stir desk has an ‘active mode’ that decides on its own when you need to change seating positions. Before moving it gives you a subtle tactile alert — then a motor moves the desk surface up or down. Check out the video to get an idea of how it works:

A Cheaper Solution: Potato Sack Races at the Office

It doesn’t take a lot of money to modify an IKEA desk to sit higher so you can stand as you work. Hopefully your version will look more elegant than this one. But what about moving desks or desks with treadmills? Are they worth the money? Until we see some conclusive studies, we’re not sure and they can be quite expensive.

Looking for a cheaper solution? You may find inspiration from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Here she challenges Jimmy Fallon to a Potato Sack Race Race in the White House.


Try Our Roasted Eggplant Baba Ganoush

This month we feature another Mediterranean recipe. Baba Ganoush is a dish that comes from The Levant region in modern day Lebanon. Its original name in Arabic is بابا غنوج — which roughly translates into English as ‘Pampered Papa‘. It’s created from  eggplant puréed with olive oil, tomatoes, onions, and spices.

The version we’re going to make today features roasted eggplant and tahini — making this a spicy variation of Baba Ghanoush sometimes called Moutabel, or متبل in Arabic, which means ‘spiced‘. You can serve this with triangles of pita bread or toasted bread as a delicious appetizer.


First a few words about tahini. What is it exactly? As you might guess, the name is also Arabic in origin; it comes from the verb طحن , which means to grind. Tahini is actually a paste made of ground sesame seeds; it’s often available in the “international foods” section of the grocery store. Manufacturing tahini is an interesting process: sesame seeds are soaked in water and then crushed; the bran sinks while the kernels float to the top where they are skimmed, toasted and ground into an oily paste.


Tahini is exceptionally rich in minerals, including copper, zinc, iron, manganese and selenium. It’s also good source of calcium and protein, amino acids and omega-3 and omega-6 oils. Once the Tahini packaging is opened, keep it refrigerated.


Now onto the recipe. One of the more popular versions of Baba Ghanoush can be found in food blogger David Lebovitz’s recipe book My Paris Kitchen.


Lebovitz’ first big break in the food world was landing a job at Alice Waters famed Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. Here he discusses his 2014 book My Paris Kitchen in this Google Talk video.


Here is your shopping list for Baba Ghanoush (Makes 6 – 8 Servings):


Main Ingredients Quantity
Eggplants (round ‘globe’ variety) 2 medium (2 lbs or 900 g)
Tahini (sesame seed paste) 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 – 120 ml)
Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed if available) 1/4 cup (60 ml)
Garlic Cloves 2 to 3, finely minced
Ground Cumin 1/4 teaspoon
Kosher Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Parsley Leaves (fresh) 2 tablespoons
Olive Oil (optional) 1 tablespoon


Prepare the Eggplant

There are three ways to get the smoky taste; try the method that you’re most comfortable with and best fits your kitchen set up.

Method 1: Stove Top Charring

First, preheat the oven to 375F. Lebovitz suggests pricking the eggplants a few times, then placing them directly on a gas burner flame (in the style of heating a tortilla or searing skin of a Mexican chili) turning them until they are quite charred on the outside. Five minute is enough unless you want really smokey flavor, in that case up to 10 minutes. Then transfer them into the oven onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft. Remove and let cool.

Method 2: Broiling then Roasting

Once again, preheat the oven to 375F. The Inspired Taste blog suggests broiling the eggplant on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil for a couple minutes on all sides. Then roast them in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes to ease handling.

Method 3: Grill and Steam in a Bag

Simply Recipes has a different method using a grill and paper bags. Preheat the grill. Poke the eggplants with a fork and rub the outsides with little bit of olive oil. Grill over high heat, turning the eggplant to cook each side until it blackens. Then put the eggplant into paper bag, close it up and let eggplants steam for 15 to 20 minutes.


Mix the Ingredients Together

While the eggplant is cooking, you can mix up the other ingredients — except the olive oil and parsley which are set aside for a garnish at the end. If you’re a big fan of tahini, use up to half a cup, but for most people, a quarter cup is fine.

Once the eggplants have cooled, you can slice them open in half, drain the excess liquid and scrape out the pulp flesh.

If you’re a fan of food processors or blenders, now’s a great time to purée the eggplant pulp with the other ingredients. Otherwise, you can mash the mixture together with fork.

Serve your Baba Ganoush

Garnish the Baba Ganoush with parsley leaves and a little olive oil. Serve with pita bread, crackers or toasted bread.

This recipe will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days; some say it tastes even better the second day.



Decoy Protein Foils HIV Virus in Monkey Study

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have presented a paper in the journal Nature, titled AAV-expressed eCD4-Ig provides durable protection from multiple SHIV challenges, which outlines a novel approach to treating the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

The new approach has protected four laboratory monkeys over a year-long period from repeated exposure to an HIV variant used in lab tests called SHIV.

How does it work? The new treatment tricks the HIV virus into beginning viral replication with a custom decoy protein that is designed to mimic CD4 lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell, commonly called T cells) that are produced by the immune system to fight infections.

What normally happens in HIV viral replication is the virus attaches to a receptor on the surface of the CD4 cell, this in turn exposes a second receptor, the CCR5 receptor. Once the HIV virus successfully attaches itself to both the CD4 and CCR4 receptors it undergoes a shape change that allows it to inject its RNA into the cell.

Once its RNA is injected into the white blood cell, the cell essentially becomes a factory for rapidly reproducing more and more HIV virus. If not controlled, the viral replication leads to progressive destruction of the immune system that eventually results in Acquired Immune Deficiency or AIDS.

The image shows the part of HIV – shown in beige – that attaches to two receptors, CD4 and CCR5. Scripps Research Institute scientists and colleagues developed a drug candidate that binds both sites simultaneously. The drug includes part of CD4 (red), connected to a mimic of CCR5 (green). These parts are connected by a conserved piece of an antibody (gray). Because the inhibitor binds both sites simultaneously, it binds tightly and triggers the virus to change its shape, blocking HIV-1 more effectively than any currently available antibody therapy.

The image shows the part of HIV – shown in beige – that attaches to two receptors, CD4 and CCR5. Scripps Research Institute scientists and colleagues developed a drug candidate that binds both sites simultaneously. The drug includes part of CD4 (red), connected to a mimic of CCR5 (green). These parts are connected by a conserved piece of an antibody (gray). Because the inhibitor binds both sites simultaneously, it binds tightly and triggers the virus to change its shape, blocking HIV-1 more effectively than any currently available antibody therapy.

Interrupting this HIV replication has proven difficult. Part of the problem is that there are not one but three major strains of HIV: the main family, known as HIV-1, which is responsible for the majority human cases of the disease; HIV-2 and finally SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) which affects monkeys.

In turn, each of these different strains have their individual variations caused by genetic mutations. Because the HIV virus mutates rapidly, small mutations in the receptor sites have made it difficult to make a vaccine or find a universal antiviral treatment that addresses all the HIV strains and corresponding genetic variations.

That’s one of the reasons that the monkey study conducted by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, along with researchers from Harvard, Princeton, Rockefeller University, the University of Southern California and the Pasteur Institute in France is a potential breakthrough. Their novel approach of using a decoy protein, seems to be potentially effective against all different HIV strains.

Michael Farzan is a professor at the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute.

Michael Farzan is a professor at the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute.

“Our compound is the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far,” said TSRI Professor Michael Farzan, who led the research effort. “Unlike antibodies, which fail to neutralize a large fraction of HIV-1 strains, our protein has been effective against all strains tested, raising the possibility it could offer an effective HIV vaccine alternative.”

The decoy protein binds to two locations on the HIV virus at the same time. This triggers the HIV virus to begin replication, but unlike normal cells the unique Y shape of the decoy protein doesn’t allow the HIV virus sufficient contact area to do any damage.

Unlike normal HIV treatments, “when antibodies try to mimic the receptor, they touch a lot of other parts of the viral envelope that HIV can change with ease,” said TSRI Research Associate Matthew Gardner, the first author of the study along with Lisa M. Kattenhorn of Harvard Medical School. “We’ve developed a direct mimic of the receptors without providing many avenues that the virus can use to escape, so we catch every virus thus far.”

“This is the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of work on the biochemistry of how HIV enters cells,” Farzan said. “When we did our original work on CCR5, people thought it was interesting, but no one saw the therapeutic potential. That potential is starting to be realized.”

The next step in evaluating this approach is to test whether the decoy protein can stop the virus from replicating in monkeys already infected with SHIV. If successful, it would represent a therapeutic treatment of HIV in the animal model.

If that proves successful, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says the testing will move from the animal model to testing in humans.


MyFitnessPal can help improve your Houston State of Health

MyFitnessPal was acquired by Under Armour for a cool $475 million dollars.

MyFitnessPal was acquired by Under Armour for a cool $475 million dollars.

In our last edition, we reviewed the health and nutrition app Lose It. This time we are going to take a look at MyFitnessPal, a competitor to Lose It. It’s an app that we recommend to our patients if they have not already begun using fitness tracking software.

But before we get into the specifics of how the product works, we’d like to take a moment to talk about why Houstonians need to pay attention to their health at work and at play.

Earlier today we attended the Houston and Harris County 2015 State of Health Conference, hosted by the Harris County Healthcare Alliance. The Alliance brings together around 60 different key area healthcare organizations who come together to produce a comprehensive annual State of Health report which measures health trends among Houstonians and identifies areas that need improvement.

You can check out the report at

Key Findings in the Houston 2015 State of Health Report:

  • We are facing an epidemic of diabetes in Houston. 10.8% of adults reported a diabetes diagnosis.
  • 64.6% of adults in the Houston area are overweight or obese.
  • Since 2010, new HIV diagnoses have decreased to 1,242 per year, as of 2013. 42% of all HIV/AIDS cases in Harris County are among men who have sex with men.
  • Syphilis spiked to 11.6 cases per 100,000 people in Harris County during 2012.
  • Houston’s air quality is improving.
  • The top five causes of death in Harris County in 2012 were (in descending order) cancer, heart disease, accidents, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease.
  • Mental health remains a major concern in Harris County.
  • Tobacco use has dropped from 21.7% to 13.9% in the 10 year period from 2002 – 2012.

MyFitnessPal is Officially Big Business: Under Armour Acquisition

As we pivot to talk about the features of MyFitnessPal, we should first take a moment to talk about the company’s unexpected recent sale to Under Armour.

As you can imagine, health and fitness trackers have become big business. So it’s not hard to imagine that MyFitnessPal, which has more than 80 million users, was snapped up by Under Armour, the upstart sports clothing and lifestyle company. The price they paid for the company may shock you however: $475 million dollars. Somewhere someone wants to pay a lot of money for your private data.

The MyFitnessPal deal was actually one of three acquisitions in a row by Under Armour; they also acquired the Danish startup Endomondo — a virtual fitness coach app with 20 million registered users — for $85 million and MapMyFitness, an industry-leading GPS-based fitness tracker.

What’s Next for the MyFitnessPal App?

We can’t be sure will happen with MyFitnessPal. Mike Lee, the Co-Founder and CEO, sent out a vaguely reassuring message saying that MyFitnessPal will still be free to use and that you will continue to own your own data. He emphasized that Under Armour will never sell your data to third parties.

However, given past history, change is likely to come one way or another as Under Armour pursues its aggressive growth strategy. One possibility is that it will roll everything into its 24×7 fitness dashboard, called Under Armour RECORD.

If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Well, what I really want is an Apple Watch with its health tracking features, so I’ll just wait for that to come out,” then we have a heads up for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to geek websites (like MacRumors) which predict the new Apple Watch probably won’t have the health tracking capabilities that were touted when it made its public debut last Fall.

The tech rumor websites claim that the upcoming first generation Apple Watch won’t come with either the blood pressure nor the blood oxygen level sensors, due to problems with inconsistent measurements. The reason? Problems due to natural variations in skin dryness and arm hairiness (!), arose during product testing, resulting in inconsistent measurements. Too bad.

How MyFitnessPal Works

With all the caveats out of the way, let’s dig into how MyFitnessPal works.

First, download MyFitnessPal for your iPhone or iOS device from the Apple Store or for your Android device from the Google Play website. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the software on your smartphone, start by creating your new account.

Next you’ll be asked to set up some fitness goals.

At this point, we actually recommend you make a visit to Dr. Brewton to discuss appropriate exercise and nutrition goals appropriate for you. For most people, a gentle weight of loss of pound a week is a reasonable goal. Based on the results of your visit with Dr. Brewton, you can set up your personal weight loss and fitness goals inside the MyFitnessPal software.


By setting a weight loss goal, MyFitnessPal calculates your calorie requirements to help you achieve your goal.

By setting a weight loss goal, MyFitnessPal calculates your calorie requirements to help you achieve your goal.


In a nutshell, what MyFitnessPal does for you is count calories. While this is something you could do by hand (or by using things like ‘point-based’ systems, which is how  WeightWatchers works), the main advantage of using a software program is it’s a faster, easier way to count your calories. And it It even gets even faster and easier as the software learns your favorite food items.

For example, if you eat packaged food from the grocery store, you can use your smart phone to photograph the UPC symbol (aka ‘bar code’) and MyFitnessPal will access its online database to retrieve the food’s calorie count, nutrition and serving information.


As you add more records to MyFitnessPal , you can speed up your food diary entries by copying foods from previous meals and then editing the quantities to match what you are eating today.

As you add more records to MyFitnessPal , you can speed up your food diary entries by copying foods from previous meals and then editing the quantities to match what you are eating today.


If you eat out at popular chain restaurants, many of the menu items are likely to be accessible directly through MyFitnessPal. What’s you’ll soon learn is that most restaurant meals and prepared foods tend to have very high calorie counts as well as high sodium levels. You’ll soon realize that even one restaurant meal a day can use up most of your available calorie budget, leaving you hungry the rest of the day.

Of course MyFitnessPal is not a magic bullet. It just serves as a convenient guide that helps you keep your daily calories intake just slightly below a threshold of the calories that you burn through the day.

To get the optimum health and fitness benefits, you’ll also need to do more than just limit your calories. You’ll need to eat better, more nutritious food with a high-fiber content. In time, you’ll see the benefit of cooking more and more of your meals at home using raw ingredients like high-fiber fruits and vegetables, rather than eating out at lunch or dinner.

Fortunately, you can enter your individual recipe ingredients into the software and it will calculate the total calories for you based on the sum of the individual recipe ingredients — as well as the relative percentage of fats, proteins and carbohydrates .

In general, you’ll want to make sure that each meal has at least 20% protein. Adding nuts like raw almonds, unsalted pistachios or Chia seeds to your meal can help raise the protein level — without adding a lot of fat.


MyFitnessPal displays the nutrition breakdown of your daily meals.

MyFitnessPal displays the nutrition breakdown of your daily meals.


As you get with the program, you’ll start to do a better job planning your day food-wise. If you’ve never counted calories before, you’ll be in for a real shock that some foods — particularly pasta — are very calorie intensive, while most fruits and vegetables are not.

You’ll also come to appreciate how exercise, like a fast-paced walk for 45 minutes, burns up calories — allowing you to eat a little bit more; this feels great on day when you are close to going over your daily calorie budget.

We encourage you to make an appointment with Dr. Brewton and discuss your fitness and nutrition goals, then give MyFitnessPal a try. Many of our patients really like using it and have gotten good results, and we hope you will too.


It’s Time to Get your Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Vaccine

During the last half of 2014, the Ebola virus crisis in West Africa practically consumed the 24×7 cable news airwaves. Fortunately, the epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia seems to be fading and Ebola is disappearing from news coverage as fast as it first appeared.

In its place, we’re confronted with another deadly public health outbreak — measles — except this time it’s not in far off Western Africa, it’s right here at home.

What’s especially frustrating is that domestic measles infections were practically eliminated back in 2000, but since then the number of cases has risen significantly, particularly in the last nine months. As a result, there has been much discussion about parents deciding to opt-out of vaccinating their children. We disagree with these opt-out decisions — there are only a few exceptional medical cases where children should opt-out of vaccinations for diseases like Measles, Mumps and Rubella.

This past February 10th, the United States Senate conducted a hearing to understand the reason for plummeting vaccination rates in our public health system. They took testimony from Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, MD, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Dr. Schuchat is a highly qualified spokesperson with direct experience in public health emergencies. She led the CDC’s Anthrax Emergency Response Team when the congressional office mail was targeted after the 9/11 attacks. She also conducted studies of the meningitis vaccine in West Africa, led emergency public health actions to control the SARS crisis in China and the H1N1 flu virus response in 2009. She also led the federally-funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program.

Dr. Schuchat speaks to US Senate Inquiry about Vaccination Rates in US.

Dr. Schuchat speaks to a Senate Inquiry about vaccination rates. Click to view the Senate hearing.

If you’re a movie buff, the fictional character of Erin Mears in the 2011 film Contagion was loosely based on Dr. Schuchat. British actress Kate Winslet reportedly consulted with Dr. Schuchat as she prepared for her portrayal of the character.

In her congressional testimony, Dr. Schuchat spoke about how we may be victims of our own success. According to Schuchat, today’s young parents generally don’t have direct experience with devastating diseases like polio, measles, mumps and rubella. As a consequence parents in some micro-communities have let child MMR vaccination rates (for measles, mumps and rubella) drop as low as 50%.

Such low rates fail to protect young children under the age of one — who cannot be vaccinated — from exposure to these devastating diseases. It’s only when vaccination rates start to reach 90% or more — a phenomenon known as herd immunity — kicks in to protect un-vaccinated infants.

Dr. Schuchat also addressed a Lancet study, which linked vaccines with the onset of autism. She reminded Senators that this study had been thoroughly discredited and the researcher had his medical license due to misrepresentations. Nonetheless, she acknowledged that many young parents continued to avoid vaccinations based on misinformation from this discredited study.

As an aside, Dr. Gary Brewton reminds us that we should always be cautious when reading articles published in the Lancet, as it’s not a peer-reviewed medical journal.

What does Dr. Gary Brewton advise for his Adult Patients?

Dr. Brewton’s practice is adult primary care, so the following applies to adults only. If you had a measles vaccination when you were younger, evidence indicates it will continue to provide you with sufficient protection.

However, adult patients should be particularly concerned about the current outbreak of Pertussis, (more commonly known as Whooping Cough epidemic) which is not getting enough media attention in Dr. Brewton’s view.

In the first eight months of 2014, the CDC reported that there were over 17,000 new cases of Pertussis in all 50 states — an increase of 30% compared with the same period in 2013.

Now is the Time to get your Pertussis Vaccine.

All our adult patients should get what is commonly called the Tdap Vaccine, which covers Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis. There are two available brand names for the vaccine, Boostrix® and Adacel® — either one is OK to use. Tdap Vaccines are widely available area pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. Rather than come into our office for the Tdap shot, we recommend you go directly to a pharmacy to get the vaccine.

Roger Morey of the CDC Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch (MSPB) in the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) performing DNA sequencing on pathogens like Bordetella pertussis which causes Whooping Cough. Photo courtesy CDC/ Maryam I. Daneshvar, Ph.D.

Roger Morey of the CDC Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch (MSPB) in the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) performing DNA sequencing on pathogens like Bordetella pertussis which causes Whooping Cough. Photo courtesy CDC/ Maryam I. Daneshvar, Ph.D.

If you don’t follow this advice and end up getting a case of Pertussis (Whooping Cough), you are in for a three-month long ordeal. For the first week or two, the patient will experience what appears to be a common cold — with a cough. In the second stage of Pertussis — which can last from one to six (or even ten) weeks — patients will experience numerous rapid coughs, followed by the characteristic ‘whoop’ sound as patients gasp for air. Patients report being exhausted after these extensive coughing fits.

The third, convalescent stage of Pertussis lasts for about two to three weeks. During the gradual recovery period, patients remain susceptible to secondary respiratory infections.

To learn more about Pertussis, please visit or contact our office if you suspect you have been exposed.

Big Changes Coming to Houston’s Museum District

One of the reasons we love having our doctor’s office in the Houston Museum District is that there’s always something new and exciting happening in the neighborhood.

This month, as we take a look at our updated event map for the Houston Midtown, Montrose and Museum District neighborhoods, there are a couple of important changes coming we’d like to make you aware of.

Feb - March 2015 Event Map for Houston Midtown, Houston Montrose, Houston Museum District by Dr Gary Brewton.

Click the image above to view a printable PDF version of our Feb – March 2015 Event Map for Houston Midtown, Houston Montrose, Houston Museum District.

(To see our exclusive event map, click on the image above to download a printable PDF version — it’s a perfect addition to your refrigerator.)

First, we’d like to offer our congratulations to the Russian Cultural Center on Bissonnet. They’ve got some great news. Instead of moving away from the Museum District, they announced they are able to stay in their present location thanks to receiving enough generous donations for a down payment to purchase the building they have been leasing. Check out their current exhibitions and help support their ongoing renovations by shopping at the Russian art and craft shop located within the Center.

February – March Local Events to Note

As we enter the tail end of Winter and start thinking about Spring, there are many new programs and events starting up in the coming weeks.

  • Tai Chi has returned to the grounds of the Rothko Chapel on Thursdays at 5 p.m.
  • The Menil Collection welcomes a new exhibition of French drawings in a show called Becoming Modern, which opens on February 27th.
  • The Czech Center Museum offers a free movie night on March 13th.
  • The Health Museum has a brand-new permanent exhibition called the DeBakey Cell Lab which opens on March 27th. It looks like great fun for kids of all ages!
  • Be sure to climb to the top of the new McGovern Centennial Gardens, kitty corner from our office and check out the view!
  • The 2015 Miller Outdoor Theater season kicks off on March 20th with Spencer Davis.

The Big News: Major Expansion of MFAH Kicks off This Summer

Starting this summer, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) starts construction on their ambitious master plan to transform their existing collection of buildings into a more cohesive campus setting.

The new MFAH master plan calls for erecting not one but two major new signature buildings, plus a new conservation center for the museum curators and a new campus-wide landscaping plan to tie it all together.

Sketch of new Glassell School of Art building, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Image courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

Sketch of the new Glassell School of Art building, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Image courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

To make room for an all new structure, the existing 35-year old Glassell School of Art building — known for its mirrored glass block exterior along Montrose Boulevard — will be knocked down at the conclusion of this Spring’s school semester.

During the planned two year construction project, Glassell’s art classes will be relocated to a temporary location in the Texas Medical Center.

Rendering of interior new Glassell School of Art building, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Image courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

Rendering of interior of the new Glassell School of Art building, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Image courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

The new, replacement Glassell School of Art building, which was designed by Steven Holl Architects, will be a modern L-shaped structure, constructed of sandblasted vertical precast concrete panels set at dramatic angles. The exterior landscaping will extend from the ground level upwards to a stair-stepped amphitheater — which will continue upwards to a spectacular roof garden. At the street level, there will be a new café and art supply store for students and for the public.

Exterior landscaping rendering of new Glassell School of Art building, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Image courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

Exterior landscaping rendering of new Glassell School of Art building, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Image courtesy Steven Holl Architects.

Starting in 2017, the parking lot to the east of the Lily and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden will be transformed into the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. This major new expansion of MFAH will be dedicated to post-1900 art collections. Also planned for construction nearby is the new Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation.

We’ll have a further update on these changes plus the new landscaping plan for the MFAH campus in our next edition.