Who sticks to the healthy habits we’re all encouraged to observe? Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, you know the drill. I try, but it’s tough. Take eating. Recently I plopped down after work with a box of cashew crunch — watching a MASH rerun for the umpteenth time — and nearly called it dinner. Later I rustled up a salad and the remains of a chicken breast, but what I really wanted was the rest of the cashew crunch.
“Being good” gets old. Still, as tedious as healthy habits can be, the alternatives are worse. Stuff your body with junk and you’re sure to pay the price. But whether we bring illness on ourselves or fall prey to afflictions that can strike any human, we’re fortunate to have a host of doctors to treat and often heal us.
This issue’s “Top Docs” marks the eighth consecutive year that we have partnered with the New York-based Castle Connolly research group to identify some of the best physicians in the Memphis area. Through a process that screens tens of thousands of nominees, Castle Connolly selects the doctors most highly regarded by their peers. We publish the survey — which this year includes 93 physicians in 43 fields — as a guide for readers and to salute the quality of Memphis’ medical practitioners.
And that quality doesn’t end with those on this list. My husband spent nearly a year and a half under the expert care of several specialists. Though he died in March, he gained precious months I’ll always cherish, thanks to the wisdom and compassion of his heart and kidney doctors. And almost every time we saw those doctors or their staff, I felt their compassion towards me as well. Witnessing the level of care they provided — whether they made the top list or not — stirred my gratitude for Memphis’ medical community. Sure, most of us could tell a tale about an unpleasant experience with a doctor. I certainly could. But putting one or two aside, I give those who tend me and my loved ones a 10 — and a heartfelt thank-you to boot.
Back to unhealthy habits. We all know smoking causes countless physical ailments, among them Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which results in clogged and inflamed airways and leaves sufferers gasping for breath. But did you know Tennessee claims the third-highest COPD rate in the nation? On page 64, Erin McCoy relates the story of 57-year-old Helen Cleaves, who started smoking at age 12. “I used to be so vibrant,” she tells McCoy. Today her life is all about “trying to breathe.” One of my sisters suffers from COPD and can’t kick the nicotine addiction. Too many times I’ve seen her collapse into a chair after only brief exertions, heard her wracked by coughing spells that leave her drained and panting. This sister once played golf, rode her bike for miles, and could smack a softball to kingdom come. I’m glad our magazine is helping bring this illness to the forefront.
On a happier note, we offer Amie Vanderford’s marvelous photo essay that illustrates her trip to Honduras with a medical mission team. For two weeks she followed volunteer surgeons and other medical workers with Memphis’ own International Children’s Heart Foundation. As they evaluated youngsters with congenital heart disease and repaired numerous defects, these tireless professionals gave many families hope and their children a future.
You’ll find our usual columns in this issue as well. Vance Lauderdale recalls the venerable Bellevue Drive-In; Leonard Gill reviews Take Down: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda, by former intelligence expert Philip Mudd, who now lives in Memphis; and Anne Cunningham O’Neill leads us through Jack and Sandra Joneses’ garden with its pool, greenhouse, and Old World charm. Since a large part of this issue is dedicated to healthcare and those who provide it, we hope if you’re ailing and need direction, “Top Docs” can guide you toward relief. Meanwhile have a safe and happy summer. And steer clear of temptations like cashew crunch.