MAN OF THE YEAR: Mike “Micky Magic” Gomez, Union City. Gomez leads a double life of sorts — as a magician performing at local schools and an Affordable Care Act-certified smoking cessation counselor. Healthy lifestyle tips are regularly incorporated into his act, and this year he commemorated the Great American Smokeout effort by making a cigarette disappear, asking his audience to take a pledge to never smoke, and encouraging them to have their loved ones to go to the Center For Disease Control website for info on quitting.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Anne Bertino-Lapinsky, Vorhees. As a nurse, she didn’t ignore the sudden pain in her right shoulder, followed by numbness in her arm. But though she had no issues with smoking, weight, blood pressure, or exercising, she also didn’t ignore the fact that women die from heart disease mainly because their symptoms tend to be vague. Tests revealed a 90% blockage in an artery, but having caught it so early, Bertino-Lapinsky has since made a complete recovery. We’re grateful for her reminder that female heart attack symptoms can range from cold sweats to jaw pain — and we’re sure that her husband and teenage daughter are grateful, too.
HONORARY JERSEY GUY HONORS: Dan Rector, New York City. He explains, “I grew up with punching bags — from exercise to just taking study breaks, they got a lot of use. When I went away to school, I definitely missed that.” So while at Fordham University, he developed StealthBoxer, a bag that hangs over a closed door and can be easily stored when not in use. With a patent pending, Rector founded Rexus Inc. in Emerson, New Jersey, where StealthBoxer can ordered for no more than two hundred dollars — a fraction of a traditional punching bag setup.
HONORARY JERSEY GIRL HONORS: Maiya James, Philadelphia. Maiya’s sister Mariah lives with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, blindness, and most recently, a fused spine. When the family van used to transport Mariah began acting up, Maiya set out to find a way to get it repaired at no cost. One of her contacts was Dani’s Auto, who delivered the news that the van was beyond repair — and delivered another van as a replacement!
LEAST WELCOME TREND: That Dirty water. The Jersey shore used to be a monument to the effectiveness of anti-pollution regulations, complete with the threat of prison sentences for violators. But this summer, parts of the Shore were closed due to high bacteria levels. Even worse, lead was discovered in more than half the water fountains and taps in Bergen County school districts, and the Environmental Protection Agency had step in and provide water to residents of Bryam due to their living near a dump site. There was a song about loving that dirty water, but it was about the water in Boston — send it to where it’s actually welcome.
MOST WELCOME TREND: Going the Extra Inches for Cancer Victims. Hats off to officer Mike Grochowski of the Jackson police force, and to Kayla Dauria of Seneca High School in Tabernacle, for donating their hair to help make wigs for those who go bald due to medical treatment. While waiting for his hair to grow back, Grochowski hosts coat drives and installs wheelchair ramps. And this year, Dauria and her friend Katelyn Dever talked a dozen of her fellow students (one of them male) into joining them!
DIS-HONORABLE MENTION: Compound Fractures of Medical Ethics. This year, there was a veritable epidemic of investigations into health service providers: A drug distributor was hit with a record fine; UnitedHealth is accused of overbilling by a BILLION dollars; there were confessions to a conspiracy targeting state health benefits programs; a pediatrician was sentenced to three years for Medicaid fraud; a podiatrist surrendered his license due to over-prescribing opioids; the leader of a doctor bribery ring faces deportation. Sickening.
HONORABLE MENTION: Chocolate-Covered Nutrition. Recent medical studies show that chocolate is actually good for you: as a defense against atrial fibrillation (the irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke), plus a source of soluble fiber (which keeps cholesterol down), antioxidants (which can help with sunburn protection), and non-medicinal stress relief. There’s even evidence that dark chocolate during pregnancy results in happier babies. We hereby volunteer to participate in the next chocolate consumption study…