ON 9/17/17, I STARTED A FOUR-PART BLOG SERIES ON BENDECTIN, the morning sickness drug that was withdrawn by the manufacturer in 1983 because of exorbitant legal fees it was paying to defend itself in “junk science” litigation. Part two appeared on 9/20/17, and parts three and four appeared on 9/24/17 and 9/27/17, respectively. The series is an edited excerpt from my book, “Starting With Serotonin.” 

IN OTHER RECENT BLOGS (July 10, 17, 24), I’VE EXCERPTED A CHAPTER FROM MY BOOK, “STARTING WITH SEROTONIN,” about thalidomide, the notorious sleeping pill that, when taken by pregnant women in their first trimester, caused severe deformities in the babies subsequently born to them, and how this international drug disaster, which the United States was spared, led to changes in U.S. drug law, the FDA, and U.S. clinical research and clinical trials.  The Washington Post broke the thalidomide story on July 15, 1962, a day I will never forget.

FEBRUARY WAS NATIONAL HEART MONTH. Every month should be National Heart Month. Please check out my heart-newsworthy blogs: On Feb. 1st, I covered atherosclerosis, and on Feb. 8, I explored statin therapy for people who do not yet have cardiovascular disease, but whose risk of developing it is worrisome. My Feb. 15th blog turned into a two-parter about the aging heart; I posted part two, which looked at the aging heart during physical exercise, on Feb. 17th. The Feb. 22nd blog covered the fascinating topic of how insufficient sleep each night might harm your heart, and I concluded the month on Feb. 28th with a blog about the Mediterranean diet and heart-healthy eating.

SINCE FEBRUARY, I’ve looked at fatty liver disease and its prevalence (3/17); body fat as a risk factor for 13 cancers (3/30); effective treatments for acute and chronic low-back pain (4/11); prostate cancer screening (4/15); supercentarians, longevity, and the aging process (4/27); osteoporosis and the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with calcium supplements (5/10); musician-actor Kris Kristofferson’s Alzheimer’s disease misdiagnosis (5/22); the awareness that Alzheimer’s disease patients have of their cognitive deterioration (5/24); normal cognitive aging (5/26); dehydration and its dangers (6/15); and an unusual emergency room disaster that could have been avoided with advocacy (6/17).


Welcome to www.annsjoerdsma.com, one of several places that you’ll find my online voice. The others are on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m a writer and advocate whose second book debuted in December 2015. My publisher is the indie press, Improbable Books.

I am currently working on my third book, hence my delay, sometimes, in updating this website! (And I have branched out into creating my own publishing imprint, called Improbable Memoirs.)

The title of my second book, which I think of as a memoir of medical advocacy, tells you a lot about the subject matter that has occupied my time, attention, and gray matter in recent years, as well as the nature of some of the content that I have covered and will cover in my blog and in the “tidbits” I will pass along on this site: “Our Parents in Crisis: Confronting Medical Errors, Ageist Doctors, and Other Healthcare Failings.”

Parents . . . crisis . . . confrontations . . . medical errors . . . ageism and ageist doctors . . . healthcare failings . . . and protecting the people I (and you) love from the threats I cite in my subtitle. I delve into diseases prevalent in the older population and into the truth about aging.

I invite you to read my blogs, which will give you a sense of the journey that I’ve been on ever since my parents became unable to represent themselves well in a healthcare system that both under-treats (and even ignores) and over-treats (Medicare covers the costs) older people, our nation’s elders. I also address hot medical topics that are of particular interest to older adults.

In early blog postings, I looked at the evolving specialty of genomics; developing deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli after surgery and/or in the hospital; a common test used to assess cognitive status; the Type 2 diabetes epidemic, which is being driven by the U.S. obesity epidemic; the 25 hands-on diagnostic skills that all physicians should have; the GI bacterial scourge, Clostridium difficile; warning signs for cardiac arrest; lung-cancer screening; and errors in diagnosis and their frequency.

Among my tidbits, I consider a person’s 10-year risk of heart disease and stroke; provide a link to an excellent review article in The New England Journal of Medicine about opioid abuse; take up sepsis, ALS, musician’s dystonia, targeted cancer therapies, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and strokes; share a diverting encounter in a hospital elevator; and encourage people within striking distance of Washington, D.C., to consider registering for the spring session of Georgetown’s superb Mini-Medical School. (The mini-medical school is offered in the fall, too.)

The hardcover “Our Parents in Crisis” is available for sale ($27.95, 611 pp., hardcover) on the publisher’s website, at http://www.improbablebooks.com/purchases.html, on amazon.com, and at select bookstores in Virginia and North Carolina. You may purchase the e-book version on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

I previously wrote a biography about my medical-pioneer father that contains the grist for other blog ruminations.

Published in 2008, “Starting With Serotonin: How a High-Rolling Father of Drug Discovery Repeatedly Beat the Odds” opened up new worlds to me. I’m trained in law and mediation, journalism and literary analysis, but not medicine or any other science. I had to learn and speak biochemistry, among other medical languages. For “Our Parents in Crisis,” I studied anatomy and physiology more than I ever had before.

You may read reviews, excerpts, and much more about “Starting with Serotonin” on www.improbablebooks.com. It received the Gold Medal for biography in the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Gold Medal for science in the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, among other honors.

Thirty-five years ago, I set out on a career that I knew would proceed on at least two tracks, if not more. I wanted to express myself AND advocate for people who lack the resources to represent themselves. I wanted to be my introverted writer self, who loves solitude, and also apply my advanced knowledge to benefiting others who don’t have a voice. I have degrees in journalism, English, and law from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As an attorney, I’ve worked for a feminist law organization, a legal aid society, a small law firm, and other attorneys who hired me to do their research and brief writing because they prefer to wing it in court. I developed my writing and editing chops in jobs with three newspapers, a legal journal, and several legal newsletters, and published numerous free-lance articles with other newspapers and magazines. I also mediated conflicts, both in and out of court, and wrote two produced plays.

Sometimes I think it’s been a long strange trip, and other times, I think it all makes perfect sense. I’ve challenged myself, spoken out, grown, and gained confidence, skills, knowledge, and a sense of accomplishment. But I always think of myself as in transition, learning and evolving, and I still love my solitude.

I invite you to check out my blog, my news tidbits, and my books. You can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anngsjoerdsmaauthor/ and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/annsjoerdsma. I really enjoy the brevity and conciseness of tweets. It’s fun, and challenging, to be pointed and pithy for a change.

In 1987, before they hit it really big, magician-illusionists Penn and Teller levitated me at Baltimore’s Center Stage (photo at top; I always volunteer). At intermission of the show, Penn Gillette (the big guy who talks) gave me a Polaroid of the illusion, under which he wrote: “Yo, Ann, how’d ya do it?”

Great line. How’d ya do it? How’d I lie suspended in the air, with no table beneath me, but never leave the table? How’d I achieve buoyancy, but never lose my grounding? How do I, and you, reach outside of ourselves and achieve something greater? Maybe it’s magic or illusion. I just know that, in my case, it begins with words.

(All material on this website is ©2015-17 by Ann G. Sjoerdsma. For reprint requests, please contact annsj@earthlink.net. Thank you.)


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