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Combating Obesity: Octavio Escamilla-Sanchez ’18 at NorthShore University Health Center in Evanston, IL

In the Fall of 2015, for my third co-op, I worked at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston IL as a research assistant for Dr. Timothy A. Sanborn, MD who works with Dr. Lynn Chehab, MD.

Evanston is a close burb North of Chicago, a predominately affluent area. Evanston is home to Northwestern University. I am here during fall and the weather has been pleasant!

The University, proximity to Loyola University, and beach parks gives the area a young lively atmosphere.

The population appears to be heavily interested in sports and exercise. I drive to work and arrive by 06:00 am, and I always see couples or individuals running in the early cold. It appears that biking is part of this town’s culture too with visible bike lanes on the roads. This year the Northwestern football team caused a spark in area after entering the national division one NCAA college football rankings.

The area resembles a typical suburbia. This is evident from the giant mall located in Evanston. The mall contains multiple retail stores, restaurants, and well as cinema theatres.


F U N   F A C T

Dr. Sanborn (MD) and Dr. Sanborn (Ph.D) aka Barbara are siblings!

NorthShore University HealthSystem, founded in 1891, contains four locations in Evanston, Glenbrook, Highland Park, and Skokie Illinois with a total of 981 beds. Evanston is the location where I work. This hospital is also affiliated with the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. One can see residents and fellows throughout the hospital.

The hospital in Evanston aims to deliver the best patient care possible. This care can be carried out a number of ways. One great example is what I learned through a weekly medical grand round (an important teaching tool for healthcare workers) where they explored better ways to detect domestic abuse. I thought this was important and a perspective I have never thought about. An act was demonstrated where they emphasize the role of the nurse to question any potential domestic abuse in the initial contact with patients. The source of abuse can be anything from physical to non-physical forms such as financial control, limited freedom, and patterns of antisocial activity. The nurse then informs the physician so they can offer various forms of help.

Dr. Sanborn, an interventional cardiologist, is part for the cardiovascular institute of NorthShore. The cardiology institute here provides hospital care but is also a large clinical trials and research institute. I work nearby the administrators and secretaries of the doctors, and they always share stories about patients (anonymously) whom had slim chances of survival, and are saved by the trials doctors run. The secretaries explain that many of the patients that qualify for trials have no other options and take the risk.

T H E   J O B

As a research assistant, I help Dr. Sanborn and Dr. Chehab with their current focus in reducing the sugar consumption in 6-12 schools in Evanston. The main source of sugar consumption is through beverages such as soda, artificial fruit drinks, sports drinks, teas, and many others.
This is important because many drinks advertise as healthy with low calories, fat free, antioxidants, natural, vitamin C, etc. Many sport environments and parents prefer Gatorade as a healthy choice, which contains 34 grams for the typical 20 Oz size. This is about 8 ½ teaspoons of sugar. This amount of sugar is much more than what a teen should consume. In this video, Dr. Chehab discusses the hidden sugar in drinks and obesity. An adult male, which is the highest intake, should consume no more than 36 grams of sugar. One soda goes beyond that, and a 20 Oz Gatorade is just enough. For children, this is about double the amount of the recommended intake.
The concerns with high levels of sugar consumption are of course health related. Obesity is a prevalent disease in the US, and arguably, sugar is a major contributor to this disease. One can’t be safe evading obesity by purchasing food or drinks that are fat free and exercise with high consumption of sugar.

There are obvious concerns with obesity; however, individuals that consume high levels of sugar at a healthy weight are also at risk of other diseases including cardio vascular and diabetes. In this recent study, Dr. David Ludwig found that by isolating sugar from the diets of children with severe heart issues, their health improved with in just nine days! The children’s health was so sever, that they could not exercise. Also, the children were allowed to consume junk food like chips with high starch and calories. The cardiac health of the children improved significantly after the small trial.

Ludwig and Friedman, JAMA 2014

New theory proposed by Dr. Ludwig

With this program, Dr. Sanborn and Dr. Chehab hope that the sugar consumption drops. In order to monitor the change in behaviour, the doctors conduct a survey where the students record how often throughout the day they drink a sweetened beverage and water. Along with this sugar intake monitoring, the student’s BMI is recorded and physical capacity assessment. Besides the parents, all the data is encrypted, to avoid bullying amongst the students. This program was demonstrated to all elementary physical education teachers in the district. The plan is to implement it to the curriculum.

My role is to analyze all the data. I compute obesity, overweight, healthy, and underweight percentages. I calculated the percentages for various categories such as age, gender, schools, and meal status (economic demographic). I compiled a presentation for the high school and middle schools. I got the opportunity to present the data analyses to the Evanston Town Ship High School’s wellness committee.

M Y   W O R K   E N V I R O N M E N T

 I work in a small cubicle and don’t have any windows. There is a small amount of racial diversity on my floor, and the hospital tends to be overall diverse. On my floor, there are research nurses, secretaries, and doctors. All research nurses are female. Except one assistant, the rest are female. As for the doctors, most are males. There is only one female physician who is from Mexico on my floor. There is definitely a gender imbalance with the roles. However, as for ethnic and racial diversity, my floor is quite diverse. My coworkers or their parents come from different countries. As for age, most of the secretaries are in their late 40s early 50s. Some of the nurses are young however. This is speaking for a floor with a small amount of people.

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