Sunday, June 29, 2008

Winning AHA's Meritorious Achievement Award

Meritorious Achievement award goes to local doctor
The American Heart Association has awarded Baton Rouge family physician Rani Whitfield, M.D., the 2008 Award of Meritorious Achievement for his contribution to the association’s level of awareness and commitment to minority programs. His outstanding service in addressing healthcare disparities and service to minority and underserved communities has helped the AHA in achieve our goals and enhance relationships between the association and underserved communities.

Known as “Tha’ Hip Hop Doc,” Whitfield serves on various community organizations, is a heart volunteer, was a keynote speaker for power to end stroke kick off in Memphis, and organized Baton Rouge’s first ever “Hoopin’ for Health” health fair in partnership with the AHA, educating the community on stroke and its warning signs. Whitfield is also a board certified sports medicine physician.

The award is conferred annually to four or five individuals who have rendered an important service to AHA in the development of its affiliate programs, not for local accomplishments. Recipients of this award are selected primarily for a specific significant accomplishment or project and have demonstrated leadership in an enterprise or activity of the association.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Troubled Genius of Jimi Hendrix, Bushwick Bill, DJ Screw, Mary J. Blige, Rick James, Ray Charles and more

African-American musicians have made significant contributions to the rich culture of our country and the world. June is Black Music Month, and is dedicated to the recognition of African-American artists who have enhanced our lives through creating some of the world's most treasured music.  

Our musical roots span a diverse means of expression that hark back to the drums and dances of Africa used in rituals and ceremonies.  

When the slave trade began in the 18th century, spirituals sung by the slaves were more than songs of praise and worship, as they often communicated secret messages about escape routes for runaway slaves and other hidden messages. 

 This music and its altered forms still resonate today from the same place that they began within the artist – a soul tortured by the pain and suffering of mental and physical anguish.  

 Despite successful chart ratings, many of our most celebrated musicians have struggled to maintain peace in their personal lives. Uninitiated admirers of the dazzling lyrics and choreography of Dorothy Dandridge, Tina Turner and Frankie Lymon have been made privy to their personal pains in big screen movies that reveal both the artistry of these performers, as well as their dark spirals of being misunderstood

 They were simultaneously lonely, rejected and revered by their country, and reviled by their ethnic brothers for committing that unwritten sin: “making it.” And sometimes they were just plain beaten down by the elusive Cupid, who would aim errant arrows at their bruised hearts. Today we are taking a look at a few of our most beloved artists and their troubled times.


Charlie “Yardbird” Parker (1920-1955)

 Charlie “Yardbird” Parker is considered the one of the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century, and a main contributor to the development of Bebop (modern jazz) in the 1940’s. His style of saxophone playing was unmatched and he worked with some of the greatest musicians in the world such as Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Max Roach, and Miles Davis. 

 His career was significantly impacted by the lack of attention to his music by the main stream record labels. Parker’s battle with drugs and alcohol served to further harm him both physically and economically as he was both banned from the legendary 52nd Street club in New York named after him, Birdland, and also forced him to spend time in rehab for his drug use. In 1954, he attempted suicide after the death of his daughter and died in 1955 from complications of pneumonia at age thirty-four.

 Billie Holiday (1915-1959) 

Billie Holiday is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time. She was born Eleanora Fagan, but later changed her first name to Billie after film star Billie Dove.  Billie was discovered in Harlem, and is most well known for her songs that plaintively cry for the pains and suffering of her Black brothers and sisters as they tried to eke out a living. 

 Songs such as “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit” both recorded in 1939, dealt with disenfranchisement from the American Dream after Black blood had been spilled on the battlefields of WWI, and swinging from trees in the inhumane practice of lynching that was not censured but tacitly accepted. 

 Holiday’s successful music career was marred by several arrests for narcotics use and she battled alcohol abuse as well. She spent a year in drug rehab but was unable to shake the evil lure of her addiction. Before her drug and alcohol abuse related death on July 17, 1959 in a New York City hospital, she continued to tour and wrote a biography entitled Lady Sings the Blues (1956), which was later made into the film starring Diana Ross.

 Teenage Pop Star

 Frank J. “Frankie” Lymon (1942-1968)

 Frankie Lymon, portrayed in the movie Why Do Fools Fall In Love by Larenz Tate, was considered one of the first African-American teenage pop stars.  At the age of 13, Frankie formed the group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and served as the lead singer.  The group’s debut single “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” was a top 40 hit!  He is given credit for paving the way for and influencing the sound of The Jackson 5, Diana Ross, and Smokey Robinson. 

 Lymon lead a troubled life, however. He left the group after just one year for an unsuccessful solo career, and began abusing alcohol and drugs. At the young age of 26, Frankie Lymon died of a heroin overdose.


 Richard Shaw, a.k.a. Bushwick Bill (1966- ) 

Bushwick Bill, born Richard Shaw in Kingston, Jamaica, is no stranger to traumatic life events. This well-known rapper joined the Geto Boys in 1988 making a name for himself, not because of his dwarfism, but because of his unique voice.  As a member of the Geto Boys and as a solo artist, he wrote and performed on three gold and platinum albums.

 In May of 1991, Bushwick forced his then 17-year-old girlfriend to help him commit suicide by having her shoot him. The attempt was unsuccessful in that he didn’t lose his life, but lost his right eye. Bill is now a Christian rapper, and recently commented on R&B singer Houston Summers after his failed suicide attempt. 

 Houston attempted suicide by jumping from a 13th floor hotel room while overseas in London. After being restrained by security personnel and locked in his room, Houston gouged his eye out. It was reported later that Summers had been under psychiatric supervision for bipolar disorder, and has an addiction to the drug PCP.  Said Bushwick, “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else, to force the hand of death.” 

Robert Earl Davis, Jr., a.k.a. DJ Screw (1971-2000)

 Rapper, DJ, and producer Robert Earl Davis, Jr. was born in Bastrop, Texas. As a child he spent time in Smithville, Texas and Los Angeles, California, and began collecting records at the age of five. Davis dropped out of high school to focus on a music career, and in 1989 began his career as a disc jockey. It is rumored that he would spend hours upon hours mastering his trade, working on tapes and developing a handful of artists as he prepared them to perform in local clubs.  

In 1993 DJ Screw became a household name among rap fans nationwide with his album All Screwed Up!  His unique style involved slowing the tempo of songs to half their normal speed or less and mixing it with other music. He would often “screw” music together creating head bobbing beats. DJ Screw opened the Screwed Up Record and Tapes Store in Houston, Texas and a record label. 

 With screw music’s hallucinogenic Hip-Hop style, however, came drug use. Many who listened to the music drank codeine containing cough syrup mixed with soda to “enhance” the effect of the music and their overall experience.  DJ Screw was known to “sip syrup,” and on November 16, 2000 he was found dead in the restroom of his Houston recording studio from a codeine overdose.  

 Rock & Roll

 Chuck Berry (1926-) 

A musician, singer and composer, Charles Edward Anderson Berry is considered one of rock’s most influential and enigmatic figures. Born in a middle class neighborhood in St. Louis, he is given credit for influencing The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. The high point of his career between the ‘50s and ‘60s included over 30 songs that are considered rock & roll classics. 

 In the words of the late John Lennon, “If you tried to give rock & roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” With his guitar, he turned country into rock, and forged the way for other greater rock guitar players. Many call him the Father of Rock & Roll. 

 His life, however, was not without chaos.  At age 17, Berry and two friends went on a robbery spree, stole a car, and upon capture he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  He served three years in a reformatory for young men, and while incarcerated he learned boxing, started a band and singing quartet, and boasted about being intimate with the superintendent’s wife.

 Berry later served two other prison terms - one for tax evasion, and had a run-in with the law in July of 1990 as he was accused of drug trafficking and possession. His estate was raided by the DEA and resulted in the confiscation of marijuana and pornographic videotapes. Charges were later dropped. 

 Berry, now 76, still plays once a month in his hometown of St. Louis at his music club Blueberry Hill in the Duck Room, which is named after his famous “duck walk” that he often performed on stage.

 Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

 Growing up playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle, Washington, it seemed as if Jimi Hendrix was destined for fame. He imitated blues greats like Muddy Waters and early rock & roller Chuck Berry. In 1959 he joined the army and became a paratrooper. He received an honorable discharge in 1961 after an injury and came home to start a life-long career in music. Hendrix played backup to musicians such as Little Richard, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner and Sam Cooke. 

 In 1964, Hendrix moved to New York to further his career, and was “discovered” by British bass player Bryan Chandler of the Animals. In 1966, Chandler arranged to manage Hendrix, and flew him to London where the Jimi Hendrix Experience was created. The band’s first single, “Hey Joe” hit number six on the British pop charts, and the group became an over night sensation. 

 The Jimi Hendrix Experience made its first U.S appearance in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival. Jimi amazed the crowd that evening with his bizarre guitar distortion, feedback, and volume. In that same concert, Hendrix played the guitar with his teeth and set his guitar on fire, leaving the crowd star struck. The group later disbanded, and his performances at Woodstock in 1969 along with his blazing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” are two of his most memorable moments.  

Sadly, Hendrix’ career was plagued with drugs and alcohol. He used LSD, cocaine, and was rumored to use heroin. In September of 1970, Jimi Hendrix died following barbiturate intoxication and inhalation of his own vomit.   

 Rhythm and Blues 

Mary J Blige (1971-)

 From high school dropout to Hip-Hop and R&B diva, Mary J Blige is the ultimate example of success.  Born in the Bronx in 1971, she eventually ended up in Yonkers, New York living with her mother and sister. Blige grew up in what she describes as a drug-infested, crime and poverty-stricken area, where she was molested at the age of five. 

 Before dropping out of high school, Mary J recorded a karaoke version of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture” which made it into the hands of Andre Harrell at Uptown Records. Four years later, Mary J was dubbed the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” and released her debut album What’s the 411?, produced by Sean Combs. The album went triple platinum. 

 In 1999 Mary J went on a tour sponsored by the beverage company Seagram’s. She recalls always having a cup in her hand, drinking large amounts of gin and grapefruit juice. The drinking led to smoking weed and cigarettes, and eventually to cocaine use that could easily have ended her career; all this to mask the pain of abusive relationships and growing up hard without a father figure. 

 Thankfully, Blige’s strong spiritual background, the death of Aaliyah and an ultimatum from then boyfriend and now husband Kendu Isaacs, saved her. Among her list of accolades are winning three Grammy’s in 2005, several successful albums and a recent tour with Hip-Hop mogul Jay-Z.    

 Rick James (1948-2004) 

James Ambrose Johnson, Jr., also known as Rick James, was born in Buffalo, New York. James was the third of eight children and was raised in a strict Catholic household by a single mother. His uncle, Melvin Franklin, was a vocalist with The Temptations, and may have had some influence on his pursuit of music as a career.  At age 15 he joined the Naval Reserve, but when it interfered with his music career, James went AWOL and fled to Canada to continue playing music. 

 When he returned to the States, he eventually served time. After a short run with his band called The Mynah Birds in Buffalo, he traveled to Los Angeles playing bass for several short-lived bands. In 1977, he started a solo career and debuted his album Come and Get It which included the hit songs “You and I” and “Mary Jane.” 

 James became known as the King of Punk Funk, and released two albums in 1979, and the Grammy-nominated 1981 project Street Songs, which included the hit Teena Marie duet “Fire and Desire.” Street Songs went triple platinum and brought James instant fame. Throughout his career, the singer battled with drugs and alcohol abuse.  In the early 1990’s his cocaine use was out of control, and he spent two years in prison after being convicted of assaulting two women.  

After his release from jail and an attempt at a comeback, Rick James suffered a stroke, which ended his musical career. Thanks to comedian Dave Chappelle, James had a few more moments in the limelight, but his health was poor and he died in his sleep on August 6, 2004.

 The family initially attributed the 56-year-old artist’s death by heart attack to “natural causes,” but the Los Angeles County coroner concluded that a combination of nine drugs likely contributed to James' death. The substances discovered in the post mortem autopsy included cocaine, methamphetamine, the painkiller Vicodin, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the anti-depressant Wellbutrin.

 Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) 

Born Marvin Gay, Jr. (the “e” was added later) in Washington, DC, the young and talented singer was exposed to music and mayhem early in his life. His father, Marvin Gay, Sr. was a traveling minister and cross-dresser who often had fits of rage. Somehow young Marvin continued to sing and learned to play drums in his father’s church. 

 Gaye joined the Air Force after high school, only to be discharged after disobeying orders. He returned to DC to continue his singing career with the Marquees and Bo Didley, and later with the Moonglows. It was his introduction to Berry Gordy that catapulted his career. He initially played drums for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, but his vocal talents did not go unnoticed, and he eventually signed his own record deal with Motown.  

After several R&B hits with Motown, Gaye partnered with the talented vocalist Tami Terrell. The duo was amazing, and recorded hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.”  Despite their happy times, Terrell’s health began to decline and it was discovered that she had a brain tumor. After her death in 1970, Gaye became severely depressed and resorted to drugs and alcohol to mask his pain. Despite heavy drug use, he was still able to record one of his most popular albums, What’s Going On, in 1971.  

Issues with Motown forced Gaye to leave the label and sign with Columbia Records.  In 1982 he recorded and released the multi-platinum song “Sexual Healing.”  Gaye’s financial and health problems, combined with a protracted battle against drug addiction and alcohol, resulted in him living with his parents. On April 1, 1984 Gaye was shot and killed by his father during an argument. It was later discovered that his father had a brain tumor.

 Blues/Country Western

 Ray Charles Robinson, a.k.a. Ray Charles (1930-2004)

 Ray Charles is undoubtedly one of the most talented and versatile musicians ever to walk the face of this earth! Born during the Great Depression and raised on blues, country, gospel, jazz and big band music, Ray Charles showed an interest in music at the early age of three. After completely losing his vision by age seven, he was admitted to a state-supported school for the deaf and blind in Florida. There, he learned to read and write music in Braille. 

 After his mother’s death when he was only 15, Charles left the school and traveled with the chitlin’ circuit, playing with dance bands. He began using heroin at age 15 - around the same time he met the young and talented Quincy Jones, who Charles taught to write and arrange music. Ray Charles went from playing in a small trio called the McSon Trio to signing a record deal with Atlantic Records. 

 In 1954 Charles recorded “I Got A Woman,” which reached number one on the R&B chart in 1955. Ray’s successful career had no bearing on his difficulties with substance abuse, depression and marital problems. Charles has a list of awards and honors longer than my arm, however, his greatest contributions to music come from his innovative style and meshing of gospel and secular music. The movie Ray starring Jamie Foxx is a must-see, as it depicts the extraordinary life of Ray Charles Robinson.


George Clinton (1940-)

 Very few people know that funk music legend George Clinton started his career in the 1950’s performing doo-wop music. The former North Carolina-born barber was inspired after hearing pop star Frankie Lymon, and started a doo-wop quintet called the Parliaments in 1955 while living in New Jersey and straightening hair (not cutting hair – “It was more lucrative,” says Clinton).  Clinton left Jersey for Detroit after an unsuccessful career with the Parliaments. He continued to hustle, making records, publishing, and producing. He also began experimenting with LSD. 

 The Parliaments became Parliament, with influences from Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone helping to mold the band into its funky and unorthodox form known today. Clinton would actually perform naked on stage, often under the influence of drugs. Clinton, the front man for both Parliament and later Funkadelic began using crack cocaine in the 1980’s. He was still able to maintain a somewhat successful career – his most well known hit being “Atomic Dog.”  

Considering multiple legal battles and deals gone bad, George Clinton is still in demand, and is often seen or called upon to perform at special events -  including a party by former president Bill Clinton.  

Despite celebrity and fame, many great Black musicians have struggled with illegal drugs, alcohol and mental health issues.  Racism, human frailties, and untreated or unrecognized mental disorders are often culprits in these tendencies. Racism effectively limited opportunities for financial advancement and social acceptance, thus impacting these artists’ abilities to make a living. 

 Conceivably, depression and anger related to those difficulties directed some of these sensitive, creative musicians to the addictive qualities of drugs and alcohol as an escape. The temporary euphoria possibly enabled them to continue their artistic pursuits, dulled the pain of racism, masked mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and briefly suspended the harsh realities of being Black in the music world.

 Check me out in the June issue of Ebony discussing my take on the state of Hip-Hop!  Special thanks to my big brother Eric Whitfield, jazz saxophonist for his help with this piece.  He is a walking textbook when it comes to music.  

 (c) 2008 Rani Whitfield. Published June 17, 2008 at

Monday, June 16, 2008

Comic lovers anticipate ‘The Legion of Health’

Young adults, teens, and pre-teens in Baton Rouge eagerly anticipate next week’s release of The Legion of Health comic book series volume one: Fed Up!. Created and edited by local family physician Dr. Rani Whitfield, the debut comic rivals Marvel comics in quality and message.

Fed Up!, which is scheduled for a Baton Rouge release on Tuesday, June 24, brings Tha’ Hip Hop Doc, a doctor, warrior, teacher and hero, and his team of muscle-bound, super-intelligent health advocates with super human powers to protect the human race from members of the Dungeon of Disease.

Representing Western medicine, fitness, nutrition, spiritual health, alternative medicine, research, and mental health these heroes battle SSPs (Symbiotic Supernatural Parasites) with colorful allusions in this comic world.

Tha’ Hip Hop Doc’s nemesis, Bad Heart, a sickly but shrewd and manipulative villain, will stop at nothing to destroy his foes, The Legion of Health. The comic series delivers critical messages on obesity, poor eating habits, physical inactivity, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and STDs packed with imagery and action.

Whitfield, who is also a board-certified sports medicine physician, said he designed the three-book comic series to reinforce positive health values using an ingenious, artistic package that is most popular among youth and young adults.

“The obstacle in the past with health comic books is that they were not of industry standard, and physicians were not actively delivering the messages to the youth,” said Whitfield. With that, Whitfield and comic artist Greg Nichols, took Whitfield’s Hip Hop Healthy speeches and created The Legion of Health. The series has been thoroughly researched and is a recommended teaching tool.

Tha’ Hip Hop Doctor and The Legion of Health series is currently available online for purchase at

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Baton Rouge physician, Grammy winner BeBe Winans add voice to the Power to End Stroke campaign

More than 100,000 African Americans have a stroke every year and are almost twice as likely to have a stroke compared to Caucasians.

But stroke is avoidable. For this reason, the American Stroke Association initiated the Power to End Stroke campaign including me and Gospel artist BeBe Winans.

As you know, I returned to my hometown of Baton Rouge after graduating from medical school and began championing health awareness by frequently taking health-conscious messages to local schools, organizations, conferences, and prisons. Dubbed “Tha' Hip Hop Doc,” I've taken the cue from many of you and decided to made good use of this newfound "fame" in joining the ASA Power to End Stroke campaign.

Last month, I joined BeBe Winans, the impassioned tenor who has won four Grammy Awards, to add voice to the campaign.

Both BeBe and I are concerned about the alarming number of lives ended as a result of a stroke. And, what's most troubling is the fact that a stroke doesn’t have to be debilitating or deadly.

If more people know their risks, control risk factors—such as high blood pressure and diabetes—and work with their doctor to eliminate or manage your risks, they may prevent stroke.

If you know the warning signs and get prompt medical attention, rehabilitation and survival are possible—even probable. But many people don’t know what to look for or what the risks are.

BeBe and I took the camera to urge you and other Americans to call the American Stroke Association at (888) 4-STROKE or visit Stroke to learn signs and risks of stroke. The Power to End Stroke campaign is supported nationally by the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi Pharmaceuticals Partnership.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Diabetes: Lil Boosie Speaks Out and Gives Back

Diabetes: Lil Boosie Speaks Out and Gives Back

It was funny how I met Torrence Hatch, a.k.a Lil Boosie. I was participating in a parade in Baton Rouge, LA and I saw one of my father’s former employees, a friend of the family, and someone that I love like a mother. 

 “Doc, it’s T-Pam!  Throw me some beads.”  Ms. Pam Sterling (T-Pam) is one of the most beautiful people in the world with a heart of gold. She is also one of the few people in this world who was not/is not intimidated by my father. “I need to talk to you. I want to bring my nephew in for an appointment. He has diabetes!” 

 “No problem T. You know I got you,” I replied.

 Within two weeks, Lil Boosie showed up my office with his mother Connie Hatch and T-Pam, and the friendship began.

 As popular as he is in the Baton Rouge and all over the country now, Lil Boosie is no different than the 3.2 million African-Americans age 20 and older in this country who are living with this diabetes. 

 Diabetes!  I hate that word, especially as it relates to African-Americans. Here are some other shocking numbers that may explain my disgust with the disease which can cause blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart disease and stroke, and irreversible nerve damage: 

 African Americans are two times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites

25% of African Americans ages 65 to 74 have diabetes

One in four African-American women over age 55 have this disease

 Time to learn more about the disease that is take the limbs, life and love out of our country like a serial killer.

 It took a while to pin Lil Boosie down for this interview. He is constantly on the grind and hardly ever sits still. My video man, photographer and good friend, Sean Griffin and I pulled up at Lil Boosie’s home around 6:30pm three days before Easter. There were two U-Haul trucks in the driveway and bicycles all over the front yard. 

 T-Pam met us at the door. When we walked in, large bags met us and were being filled with clothes. Boosie was speaking to a film crew and waiting on Foxx and Big Head, two of Trill Entertainments finest, to arrive so they could finish shooting the last scene in his movie Ghetto Times at his home.

 “Doc, come meet Mike,” he shouted out.  I walked into the kitchen looking out at his newly built swimming pool and there, sitting at the kitchen table was one of my favorite comedians, Mike Epps.

 “This is my doctor Mike,” he said. I couldn’t help but laugh and think about all the crazy roles Epps has played. Epps wanted to stay for the interview, but was getting ready for his tour, so he left shortly after we met. I kissed Lil Boosie’s mom and all his beautiful aunts on the cheek, shook hands with all the boys, kicked it with Heavy D (his favorite Uncle) for a minute, and played with his beautiful daughter.

 Finally, Sean and I headed upstairs past the beautiful playroom and through the home theater (off the chain!) to his home studio to discuss our serious topic.

 Whitfield:  Man, I really appreciate this. First of all, I come to the crib, pull in the drive way, and you have about 1500 bicycles out there and clothes all over the house… What’s going on with that?

 Lil Boosie:  We have an Easter Egg Hunt and give away. I’ve been doing this every year in honor of my boy Ivy who was killed. He used to do this community event and I’m going to keep it going in his honor. We give away like $20,000 dollars worth of bikes, $15,000 dollars worth of clothes, $15,000 dollars worth of food like BBQ and crawfish; the finders of the silver, gold, and platinum egg get $250, $500, and $1000. 

 We just giving back to the community. [Last I heard, he spent well over $55,000]  The kids have to bring their grades out on Sunday morning. If they are good, they get a bike.  If they are not so good, they probably still get a bike. If they are terrible, they get a toy.  T-Pam and momma ain’t that nice. [laughs] Really, I’m just doing this for blessings and to make other people smile. I’m blessed and I’m happy. I got the money to do this and it needs to be done.

 Whitfield:  The word is that they will have children with disabilities at the event and some kids that never had a bike. Man, that’s a beautiful thing. Now you said “it needs to be done”.  What needs to be done? You mean uplift the community?

 Lil Boosie: Yeah, I’m really doing this for the community showing my supporters I have a heart and love for all those who support me.

 Whitfield: Real talk!  When I talk to the young students and the older folks in the community, many of them don’t know “the real” Lil Boosie; they don’t know about all of the good things you do; too much emphasis on the negative.

 Lil Boosie: Yep!  I’m going to do me though Doc. Can’t worry about the haters.

 Whitfield: So let us get to what we really came to talk about - diabetes!  It’s killing African-Americans!  Not only is it killing us, but also it is a major cause of disability.  You have been diabetic for how long? 

 Lil Boosie: I been diagnosed with type one diabetes four and a half years now; I got diagnosed when I was 20, and you know it’s been a struggle for me. As the years go on though, I learn more about the disease and I get better with it, you know.

 Whitfield: You take pills and you are “on the needle?”

 Lil Boosie: Yeah, I’m taking a pill called Actos and I’m on that 70/30 also.

 Whitfield: So you are talking about insulin when you say 70/30?

 Lil Boosie: Yeah, the needle Doc. Have to give myself shots at least twice a day and check my sugar as well. 

 Whitfield: You have to check your sugar and give yourself shots every day? So how do you deal with needles on a daily basis?

 Lil Boosie: It gets old, but I know the importance of taking care of myself. You know really I just keep fresh alcohol pads and I have to alternate spots on my body where I give myself insulin injections. I use to get knots under my skin that were painful, so now I go to my arm one day, stomach the next…

 Whitfield: What’s the difference in type one diabetes and type two diabetes?

 Lil Boosie: Well basically I have type one, which happens, in general in younger patients.   [Type one diabetics] don’t make insulin, which helps bring down your blood sugar.  Older people in general get type two diabetes; they make insulin but the body can’t use it properly.  That’s the way I understand it.  If I’m wrong, then blame yourself ‘cause you told me. [laughs]

 Whitfield:  I’m a damn good teacher. [laughs]  So, do you ever have days where you say, I’m tired of this, I’m not dealing with this, I’m not going to eat right or exercise?

 Lil Boosie: [smiles] Yeah man, I have days when it’s like all falling down on me. If I like go two to three weeks of taking care of myself, that one day I slip, I might get sick. You know I have to really be on it and the lifestyle I have - this lifestyle I’m surrounded by, you know, I feel like I need more people around to help me with this. It’s hard Doc. You know those couple of nights I had to call you when I’m on the road feeling bad; sh*t man, I was down. But it’s all good when I take care of myself.

 Whitfield: How does it feel to be young, Black, living with diabetes and being able to speak out about it to young people?

 Lil Boosie: At first it was like, how am I going to accept it? But now I talk about the disease and motivate other diabetics to take care of themselves and prolong their lives.  It’s like a blessing; at first it felt like a curse, but now, to me it’s like a blessing.  It’s millions of people with this disease and I’m a big influence to a lot of people. So, if I can help people to live longer by talking about it, then I’m going to keep doing it.

 Whitfield: Do you think it is important that artist speak out about health issues? 

 Lil Boosie: I think it’s very important!  Especially when it comes to Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop influences children and adults. I feel like if you have the position or the power to make people listen to you, you should do it in a positive way with your music and your voice.

 Whitfield: What’s next for Lil Boosie?

 Lil Boosie: I got my album coming out called Return of Boosie Badd Azz; I got my movie coming out Ghetto Stories; I’m shopping clothing line deals, I just ain’t got the check yet [smiles and laughs]; waiting on somebody to cut the check; and I’m just working harder than every body. 

 I got my own in-house studio, putting out mix tapes. I’m doing my own publishing and producing my own music. Right now I’m just ahead of the game ‘cause I’m on demand for shows. I get a lot of show money. 

 Whitfield: That’s what’s up! Who is your favorite artist in the game?

 Lil Boosie: Ice Cube! See how I’m doing movies? Look what Cube did. Yeah, he was doing gangsta rap, but he was also using his mind. He didn’t just rap his way through it he used his mind.

 Whitfield: Yeah, Cube did and is still doing his thing. He has a new album coming out.  I’m still tripping on Mike Epps in your kitchen, that’s a funny dude. [laughs]  Well homie, anything else you want to say to those with diabetes and to those who are trying to come up in this music game?

 Lil Boosie: I know this, diabetes is not HIV; it’s not AIDS. Take care of yourself, keep your sugar under control, and you can live better and longer. Keep your head up and take pride in your self. Don’t feel like you are alone with diabetes. God has blessed you, so take pride in your self. 

 As far as music, you got to be dedicated. You got to want it more than anybody. You have to be talented and use your talent; learn how to put music together, learn how to carry yourself around people, and learn and live like you are a superstar. Believe that sh*t!  Plus there is stuff you can’t do when you get to this level. Listen to those around you who have been in the game.

Check our Dr. Whitfield with Lil' Boosie at

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sleep Apnea: The Silent Killer

Sleep is a basic human need and is important for our mind and bodies to function normally.

Sleepiness due to a lack of adequate sleep is a big problem in the United States and affects children as well as adults. In general, children and adolescents need at least 9 hours of sleep each night to do their best, while adults need approximately 8 hours of sleep each night. There are many reasons for inadequate sleep such as anxiety disorders, use and abuse of certain stimulants such as caffeine, medicines for weight loss or attention deficit disorder, and alcohol abuse to name a few. However, there is one problem that, if not addressed, can be a cause of many health related issues. A disorder that often goes unrecognized because it’s happening while the victim thinks he is resting.

This silent killer is called sleep apnea.It is estimated that there are 18 million people in the United States who are living with diagnosed cases of sleep apnea, but many more are undiagnosed.

We all are familiar with National Football League legend and hall of fame honoree Reggie White, actor John Candy, comedian Rosie O’Donnel, and best-selling author Anne Rice. Each suffered from this often missed and under-treated disease.Maybe if more people understood the relationship between sleep apnea, being overweight, and how they all relate to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes, they would live longer and healthier lives.

Sleep apnea, in its simplest definition, means that a person’s breathing is interrupted while he is attempting to get some Zs. Some individuals will not breathe for 20 - 30 seconds before “coming up” for air. The family and significant others describe the sleep of these individuals with terms like, “loud snoring, restlessness, gasping for air, and sounds of choking”. Most patients complain of daytime fatigue and falling to sleep or dozing off while at work or driving.The short term problems are obvious and range from being kicked out of bed by your spouse, losing your job or killing yourself or another driver. The questions I’m often asked are, “How does sleep apnea happen” and “is it treatable?”

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form and is caused by a blockage of the airways. This usually occurs when the tissues of the neck and throat collapse during sleep. In CSA, there is no airway blockage, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe during sleep.There can also be a mixed picture where both central and obstructive sleep apnea exist together.

Risk factors for sleep apnea include: being male, being overweight, being over the age of 40, having enlarged tonsilshaving a large neck size (greater than 17” in men and 16” in women), or having a family history of sleep apnea.

When a person with sleep apnea stops breathing, the body has a reflex that will wake them up. The patient does this all through the night and rises the next morning feeling tired and sleepy. During these periods of apnea (which means not breathing) the body is deprived of oxygen to the brain and tissues.The response is an increase in red blood cells, that carry oxygen, and over time the blood gets thick and sluggish. If blood flow to the brain or heart is not adequate, a heart attack or stroke can result.To diagnosis sleep apnea, my patients are referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and sent for a sleep study or polysonogram (PSG). The ENT specialist will evaluate the patients for correctable causes of sleep apnea. If the soft tissue in the throat is too thick, the septum in the nose is deviated, or other facial abnormalities exist, these can be surgically corrected.The sleep study is designed to detect other causes of sleep disorders, like restless legs syndrome, and to guide sleep specialist in treatment regimens for the disease. A PSG involves going to a lab and sleeping. Sounds easy, but with electrodes over your body and someone analyzing your sleep, it may be a little uncomfortable.

Once the diagnosis is made, conservative treatment options include aggressive weight loss, avoiding sedatives like codeine, alcohol, and sleeping pills, smoking cessation (smoke increases airway swelling), and avoiding sleeping on your back. If attempts at weight loss are unsuccessful, surgical procedures are often considered. A consultation with a board certified surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) is the only way to go. One of the most common non-surgical forms of treatment includes wearing a mask at night that will keep the airways open. This treatment is called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

The mask covers the nose and mouth while you sleep, and is connected to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air, maintaining an open airway. Special dental devices can be designed to keep the airway open as well as the surgical procedures mentioned earlier.There is even a medication called Provigil that some physicians use to treat the daytime fatigue and tiredness, but this is usually in combination with CPAP and good sleep hygiene. Many people are resistant to using their CPAP machine, and although cumbersome, it could very well save your life.

If you have any of the signs and symptoms above, see your physician right away, improve your sleep, and get back in bed with the one you love.

For more information on sleep apnea visit (c) 2008 Rani Whitfield. Published May 2008 in New View magazine.