We are delighted to announce an important addition to Breakthrough. Beginning
next month, a column by Dr. Marrie Richards will appear in each issue. Dr. Richards
will answer general questions about women's health care.
A graduate of Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, she is a general
practitioner with post graduate training in obsterics, gynecology and family practice.
Dr. Richards is interviewed in the following article by Wendy Haskell Meyer,
health columnist and editor of Houston Home and Garden. — ed.
days or less. All for an investment of only
$1.95 in his/her best-seller.
Trouble is, you can't really get all
the answers you need from such sources.
How do you find out where to get good
prenatal care, if you also want to deliver
your baby at home? And where do you
get information about the effectiveness
and safety of the new tampon contraceptive, Encare-Oval? It's been available at
Walgreen's since last fall, but you haven't
seen or heard a word about it from a respected medical source. You feel guilty
about calling your own doctor—if he/she
is available. And, unlike many other
cities, there is no Medi-Facts or Medi-Call
in Houston where you can phone in and
ask to hear tapes on specific medical or
health subjects. And there is no directory available for getting good information.
To add to the frustration, many
women feel that some male doctors—and
it's still hard to find women doctors— are,
if not biased, simply not in tune with women's needs, concerns and feelings.
It's refreshing, then, to find a woman doctor who is not only willing but
eager to answer the questions so many of
us have about staying healthy, and about
our medical problems in general.
Q. Doctor, why a health column by
A. People are asking me questions
all the time, and I think getting answers is
imperative. For one thing, everyone has-
or should have-a natural curiosity about
their body and their health. A person
who is in touch with their body will have
more productive doctor's visits-the person who recognizes her own symptoms
and has some ideas about causes, saves
time, usually saves money, is not as apt to
require unnecessary testing. By the way, a
patient's history is the most valuable
medical tool there is. Finally, she is more
likely to understand what the doctor is
doing. An added plus is that the patient is
not as apt to misunderstand the doctor
and choose to sue for malpractice. Another: if you know your own body, the
less medication you'll be getting. I am
very cautious prescribing pills because
they often create more problems than
By Wendy Haskell Meyer
There's a great deal of hoopla these
days about consumers taking responsibility for their own health. Unfortunately,
the professionals who could support this
cause are generally unavailable. Few physicians have the time to serve as consumer
health advocates or information sources.
They're busy saving lives and paying malpractice premiums-operating in "a system
which functions fairly well for us when
we're sick, but does little to help keep us
well. Consumers want to know more
about staying healthy—but the average
medical institution is primarily concerned
with diagnosis and treatment of illness.
By default, then, the new "expert,"
the non-credentialed, sometimes wise and
sometimes otherwise pop doctor is telling
us how to feel radiantly alive again in 17
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Q. How can we become better informed?
A. For one thing, use your doctor
as a resource.
A. Lots of patients don't make demands on their family physicians. I think
many doctors are willing to help, but
people don't ask: If your doctor is not responsive to your inquiries, &o find one who
is. Perhaps we as doctors have been conditioned by patients who say, "Fix me but
don't tell me about it," and we've gotten
into that mode.
Q. There's a lot of talk about self-
help. Are patients showing interest in it?
A. Yes, lots of them are coming to
me who don't want the doctor to play a
and from city family planning clinics. They
probably get more information from these
sources than from doctors.
The doctor is just one of several tools
you can use to get maximum health from
your body. Good nutrition, good sleep
habits and exercise are some others. Remember, your health is not your doctor's
responsibility. It's yours.
Q. What do you think about the
health food trend?
A. A lot of it is just Madison Avenue
gimmickry. We're really still very much in
the dark about nutrition. It's a relatively new science. Most people eat junk
food—they should be taking a good look
at their diets. I tend to be a health nut and
I'm a vegetarian, but I can't recommend it
for everyone. We should all try to get away
"(Women) ask 'How does my body work?' rather than 'What's wrong
with my body?'That's a good sign."
magic role...take us off our pedestals. A
lot of young people, especially, are asking
me about how to stay healthy-mostly
questions about nutrition, and normal
body function. And women especially are
being very critical of birth control meth-
ods-they want to know all about how it
works, what complications may occur.
They're less willing to go along with what
I say...more willing to use me as a resource
to stay healthy and to ask "How does my
body work?" rather than "What's wrong
with my body?" That's a good sign.
Q. Where are these women getting
their information-for example, about the
dangers of contraceptives?
A. From women's magazines like
Ladies Home Journal, from columns like
yours, from gossip with friends who may
have aborted with an IUD, for instance,
from heavily processed foods and eat more
fruits and vegetables.
Q. What sort of questions will you
be willing to answer in your column?
A. General questions about health
care, facilities, disease processes and normal body functions. Where are the affordable mental health facilities in Houston?
Where can a woman go for prenatal care
if she wants to deliver at home? What
medications are harmful to take during
As for specific questions about an
individual's health, I may or may not be
able to help. If your problem is abnormal
vaginal bleeding, you should most likely
see your personal physician, but I might
talk about the most common causes of
vaginal bleeding. I won't diagnose or
Page 16 February 1978 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH
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