Nov. 27, 2006

Cornell researchers in New York City tackle pesky pounds and persistent pain at separate events

"If you eat more calories than you burn, you have to gain weight. You can't escape the first law of thermodynamics any more than you can escape gravity," said Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, to almost 400 women over 30 attending the Weill Cornell Women's Health Symposium, Oct. 11. The symposium is in its 24th year.

At the panel discussion, "The Real Skinny: Dispelling the Myths About Weight Control," attendees learned about societal, gender, psychological and commercial theories and trends in weight gain and loss, while viewing slides of the very round Venus of Willendorf (a 22,000-year-old sculpture of what used to be considered the ideal woman), juxtaposed with current populist female imagery.

Notebooks and pens were noticeably poised at the arrival of the slide "Diets: What works and what doesn't." The next slide said, "Most don't," and the pens went back down as the women heard that there is no magic pill or trendy diet plan that leads to sustained weight loss.

Instead, Rosenbaum asserted: "Exercise and diet are the heart of weight loss therapy." He added that such lifestyle changes can even overcome a genetic predisposition.

Panelists also included Dr. Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of New York Presbyterian Hospital; Dr. Orli Etingin, director of the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center; and Dr. Scott Goldsmith, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, also at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Issues of chronic pain

"An Unwanted Guest" was the title of a slide showing prescription bottles at the third annual Cornell Institute for Translation Research on Aging (CITRA) Conference, Oct. 16, at the United Jewish Appeal Federation's headquarters in Manhattan. The caption below the photo asked, "Is this all modern medical science has to offer; pills and patches, little electrical gadgets, a surgeon's knife. Cover it up or cut it out, aren't there any other choices?" The slide show was an overview of issues related to the everyday life of older adults living with chronic pain. Other issues discussed at the one-day conference, attended by about 80 people from dozens of agencies spanning the five boroughs, included religion and chronic illness, race differences and chronic pain, and pain-coping skills.

CITRA unites researchers from Cornell's Ithaca campus with geriatricians and psychiatric researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. According Karl Pillemer, co-director of CITRA, "New York City is a living laboratory for applied research on aging."

Brenda Tobias '97 is director of Cornell-New York City relations. The CU in the City column appears monthly. To suggest an item for coverage, e-mail Tobias at NYC@cornell.edu.