Health Expert Dr. Alfred Sommer Has Tips For All Leaders


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Renowned public health expert Dr. Alfred Sommer[1], who will speak at Union College[2] on Thursday, has based big life decisions on his interpretation of that Yogi Berra[3] quote.

That includes the decision that would lead him to the paradigm-shifting discovery that a vitamin A deficiency was not only blinding children in underdeveloped countries, but killing them, too.

Berra’s comment was reportedly made while giving directions to his home, which was accessible by two routes. But to Sommer, it has meant this: Choose one route or the other, and travel it well. Don’t overthink.

“Don’t let it freeze you,” Sommer said. “Take the route that at that moment is most interesting. Forget about where it’s going to lead you.”

Sommer has taken this approach since he was a student at Union College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1963. He’s now dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health and University Distinguished Service Professor[4] of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.

An ophthalmologist and epidemiologist, Sommer was choosing the more interesting route when he embarked on the work for which he is best known, in Indonesia in the mid-1970s. He’d done research abroad before, and he and his wife thought it was time for another adventure.

His data collection, on 5,000 children followed over 18 months, involved vitamin A deficiencies and blindness. But the big discovery came in the early 1980s, while he was in London, looking over the data. He saw, and then later was able to prove, that the children with night blindness were more apt to die.

That eventually led to the understanding that two doses of vitamin A a year, at a cost of 4 cents per child, could save their lives. It’s an approach now taken around the world.

Asked what that feels like the knowledge that his work has saved the sight and lives of millions of children Sommer was gracious but low-key.

“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “But you don’t get high on it. Because there’s always more fires to put out.”

Sommer is a recipient of some of the world’s most renowned medical prizes, including the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, considered the American equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Yet his curiosity and enthusiasm seem to far outweigh his ego. Consider the time, after 9/11, when smallpox was raising fears as a potential new bioterrorist threat. He was chatting with Nobel Prize laureate Joshua Lederberg[5] at the time, saying the government shouldn’t vaccinate first responders against smallpox, because he was sure he’d read a paper about the vaccine’s effectiveness six days after exposure.

He’d forgotten the research was his own.

In the lobby of the Hampton Inn[6] on State Street on Wednesday morning, Sommer had enough stories with interesting twists, turns and life lessons to fill a book which he has in fact written. It’s called “Ten Lessons in Public Health: Inspiration for Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

A lesson he has taken through life was learned at Union, an all-male school in Sommer’s day. It wasn’t a particular class, Sommer said, but his professors’ willingness to let him explore questions outside the established curriculum.

“And there weren’t any girls around, so I could concentrate,” he said.


What: Union College Founder’s Day keynote address: “Health, Genes, Behavior and Environment”

When: 12:45 p.m. Thursday

Where: Memorial Chapel, Union College campus

Important lessons

1. Go where the problems are

2. Get into the field

3. Forget the job description

4. Don’t count on things staying the same

5. Follow most, but not all, of the rules

6. Collect good data even if you don’t yet know what important questions they may answer

7. Remember your humanity

8. Use data to set policy

9. If you think you’re right, keep pushing

10. Take the long view

Source: Ten Lessons in Public Health: Inspiration for Tomorrow’s Leaders by Alfred Sommer


  1. ^ Alfred Sommer (www.timesunion.com)
  2. ^ Union College (www.timesunion.com)
  3. ^ Yogi Berra (www.timesunion.com)
  4. ^ Bloomberg School of Public Health and University Distinguished Service Professor (www.timesunion.com)
  5. ^ Joshua Lederberg (www.timesunion.com)
  6. ^ Hampton Inn (www.timesunion.com)

Original Story Here


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  1. Reply

    Provide Some Health Tips, Home Remedies For Skin, Digestion, Bad Breath, Reduce Cholesterol Etc? Let me share with you what I have:

    Carrot + Ginger + Apple – Boost and cleanse our system.

    Apple + Cucumber + Celery – Prevent cancer, reduce cholesterol, and improve stomach upset and headache.

    Tomato + Carrot + Apple – Improve skin complexion and bad breath.

    Bitter gourd + Apple + Milk – Avoid bad breath and reduce internal body heat.

    Orange + Ginger + Cucumber – Improve Skin texture and moisture and reduce body heat.

    Pineapple + Apple + Watermelon – To dispel excess salts, nourishes the bladder and kidney.

    Apple + Cucumber + Kiwi – To improve skin complexion.

    Pear ( without Alcohol ) & Banana – regulates sugar content.

    Carrot + Apple + Pear + Mango – Clear body heat, counteracts toxicity, decreased blood pressure and fight oxidization .

    Honeydew + Grape + Watermelon + Milk – Rich in vitamin C + Vitamin B2 that increase cell activity and strengthen body immunity.
    Papaya + Pineapple + Milk – Rich in vitamin C, E, Iron. Improve skin complexion and metabolism.

    Banana + Pineapple + Milk – Rich in vitamin with nutritious and prevent constipation.

    1. Reply


      To avoid diseases like hepatitis and Typhoid, eat 5 basil leaves everyday.

      For tooth ache, keep a clove on the affected area.

      Have a mixture of gingelly oil and egg, for 3 days, for menstrual disorders.

      You will get a great relief from menstrual pain , if you have a gooseberry daily.

      Boil the leaf of Malabar nut, squeeze its juice and add egg white. It subsides cough.

      Eat the powder of dried ginger and cumin with sugar for relief from cough.

      Have the mixture of mustard paste and honey for good relief from cough.

      For a good relief from cough, mix equal quantities of basil juice, honey and ajwain juice and drink on an empty stomach.

      Are you suffering from urinary infection? Drink a glassful of water with a pinch of cardamom powder.

      Chew some cumin and sugar for relief from stomach pain.

      Have a mixture of lemon juice and honey when you are suffering from cold.

      If you have bad breath, drink at least five glasses of water in the morning.

      Stop nose bleeds by putting a few drops of pomegranate juice into your nostrils.

      For nagging cough and chest congestion, boil 3 cups of water with 2 fresh betel leaves and 4 crushed peppercorns, till the water is reduced to half. Strain and drink every morning and night with a teaspoon of honey.

      For relief from toothache.. Take two basil leaves, a grain of salt and a pinch of pepper powder and press against the affected tooth.

      For minor rashes on the skin.. add few basil leaves in your bathing water before you bathe.

      To get a fair baby, Mothers can drink saffron added to milk during pregnancy.

      For fever and cough of children, give some honey mixed with water.

      The juice of carrot and tomato, mixed with a little honey is good tonic for children.

      A teaspoon of the powdered pomegranate skin taken with water early in the morning will not only purify the blood but also will serve as a good de- worming agent

      Chewing raw guava leaves is an excellent quick fix for diarrhoea

      If you are suffering from acidity, drink a glass of water with a piece of jaggery dissolved in it, after meals.

      Drink basil water everyday, it helps in keeping throat infection and cough at bay.

      For good Health

      Add vegetables and fruits in your diet chart.

      Drink 12-16 glass of water daily.

      Avoid excess eating of fried things.

      Try to buy meat which contain less fat.

      Avoid excess sugar in tea and coffee.

      Slice vegetables into big pieces, so that it won’t loose vitamins.

      Body care

      Mix six-teaspoon petroleum jelly, two-teaspoon glycerin and two-teaspoon lemon juice. Apply this moisturizing lotion at least twice a week if you have dry and flaky, arms and legs
      Peel and grate a cucumber. Squeeze the juice to this, mix half-a-teaspoon glycerin and half-a-teaspoon rose water. Apply this on sunburns, leave it for some time.
      If you have cracked heels, melt paraffin wax; mix it with little mustard oil and apply on the affected area. Leave it overnight. After 10 or 15 days, your heels will become smooth.
      Massage your body with a mixture of coconut oil and any of your favourite scented oils like lavender or rosemary.
      For rough palms, use a mixture of glycerin and limejuice in equal proportion.
      For cracked heals, massage the foot with coconut oil and keep the foot in warm water for some time. Wipe the water off the feet and apply a mixture of hibiscus flower(10), Henna (1 handful) and juice of half a lemon. when dry wash it off.

      Remove scars on your hands and feet by rubbing them with lemon peel.

      Eye care

      Dip wads of cotton in a chilled mixture of cucumber and potato juice. Keep this on your eyelids for 15 to 20 minutes and gently wash it off. Apply a little baby oil.
      For long eyelashes.., apply a thin coat of castor oil every night. It strengthens lashes and cools your eyes.
      Massage a few drops of coconut oil around the eyes to get rid off dark circles.

      To reduce puffiness of your eyes, grate a potato; tie in a cloth and place the cloth over your eyes for about 15 minutes.
      Add a small pinch of salt in water and wash for bright and sparkling eyes.
      Mix tomato juice and lemon juice in equal quantity and apply around the eyes. After 30 minutes wash it off with cold and hot water alternatively.
      Make a paste of sandal wood and nutmeg. Apply the paste around the eyes before sleeping and wash it off in the morning.
      Crush a cucumber and take the juice. Add a little rose water and apply around the eyes and wash it after 30 minutes.
      Place cotton wool swabs dipped in cold milk on closed eyes for removing dark circles.

      Lip Care

      You can mix one-tablespoon cranberry sauce juice with two tablespoons Vaseline for a delicious home made lip balm.
      Apply the juice of lemon skin for avoiding black colour of lips
      Massage your lips with coriander leaf juice for soft and rosy lips.

      *Sorry I forgot the name of this Indian site ! ! ! !

  2. Reply

    What Are Some Health Tips? Or healthy habits/things to do?

    example: exercise, drinking lots of water….etc.

    1. Reply

      Health tips…hmmm….
      never pet a rattle snake o.O’

      lol ^^

      im not really a health nut, but i guess to key words would be “discipline” and “balance”
      imply both of these factors to eating and exercising, and you’ll be fine ^^ .

      though..as i said..though i try to keep fit to a certain extent…im no health fanatic :p. so..perhaps my words isnt the best…

  3. Reply

    I Need Dieting/Health Tips? I am only a teen, and I’m trying to train for soccer, but I need help with my diet. I don’t like ANY fruits or vegetables. I also don’t like any beef. The only meat I eat is turkey and chicken. I am a bit addicted to junk food also. I always try foods like fruits and vegetables, but I just can’t get myself to eat them. I workout a lot, so Im not overweight, but Im really concerned with how my diet is effecting me with my stamina and all. Do you have any tips on how I can eat healthier and get my body healthier? For example: If I were to squeeze the juice out of fruits and drink that with no added sugars or anything, or drinking vitamin water or whatever. Please help! Thanks

    1. Reply

      Perhaps you could try The Great Australian Diet discussed below.

      Created by Australian health guru Dr John Tickell, the Great Australian Diet is touted as a return to natural foods and natural eating patterns. Tickell, an obstetrician turned sports medicine specialist, claims that after travelling the world and studying foods, he has discovered several simple rules which can help anyone lose weight healthily.

      He describes the Great Australian Diet as “anti-Atkins, anti-CSIRO” and emphasises the importance of carbohydrates in the diet, saying that the “two most important foods we eat -fruits and vegetables- are carbohydrates”. Dr John also criticises the low GI diet because, he says, it frightens people off eating carbs.

      The Great Australian Diet is actually rather complicated, and may not be as easy to follow as Dr Tickell seems to think. First of all, he replaces the glycemic index with the HI, or ‘Human Interference’ factor. This means that foods which have been highly processed, such as salami, white bread and white rice, are considered unhealthy, and are replaced by unprocessed alternatives- raw and lightly cooked vegetables, fish, especially deep water fish and sardines, and small amounts of lean meat. 2/3 of the diet should be composed of vegetables and fruits, and 1/3 ‘bonus’ foods, which are essentially lean proteins, and after the initial two day cleansing period, which is very low calorie, 15 different types of plants should be eaten every day.

      Since no calorie guidelines are given, and only vague instructions to eat 4 or 5 nuts and so on, this may be the downfall of many dieters. After all, its pretty easy to forget how many nuts, seeds and grains you have eaten. It may also be hard for people on busy schedules to keep to such a demanding diet, since eating out is restricted really to grilled fish and an occasional steak and vegetables.

      But the Great Australian Diet is much more than just an eating plan. Dieters get points for watching the sunset, hugging their children and other ‘coping’ activities, and use gentle exercise techniques to strengthen trunk and arm muscles. Walking is also part of the diet, which claims over 91 days to re-educate the body into natural rhythms. One of the selling points for me at least, is the resting weeks- after each three weeks on the diet, there are two weeks when you are allowed to eat freely, and recuperate. However, although it seems pretty healthy, the Great Australian Diet is never going to be voted easiest diet of the year.

      You can see further details in http://au.search.yahoo.com/search?p=%22the+great+australian+diet%22&fr=ush-ans

    • Hg
    • February 27, 2014

    Do These Health Tips Actually Work? 1 apple / day – no doctor
    1 lemon / day – no fat
    1 cup of milk / day – no bone problems
    3 ltrs water / day – no diseases…

    Also what are some losing weight health tips?

    1. Reply

      No, these health ‘tips’ are actually myths. It’s all very healthy to do that, but no.

      To lose weight, all you can really do is exercise more and eat healthy and try to keep your calories at around 1600 a day. It’s good to drink homemade lemonade that tastes pretty sour and not sweetened very much- it’s good for your metabolism. Tea is good, fruits and vegetables are good. It’s a great time to get active because it’s summer and you’ll sweat more, which is awesome for your body to flush out toxins and such. I like making fruit smoothies and adding spinach or kale (you can’t taste it and it’s so good for your body- not to mention filling). When you snack during the day, only snack on ‘raw’ foods like fruits and vegetables, or maybe a few almonds.

      Good luck!

  4. Reply

    What Are General Health Tips? What type of diet, how much sleep, how much exercise, etc.

    don’t tell me it depends on the individual because i’m looking for general tips for everyone

    1. Reply

      8 hours of sleep each day minimum

      play ball or sport 3 times a week. you can also go to a gym and do some cardio [run or bicycle]. or go to a swimming pool. what i suggest is get a subscription to a local gym. that means you will go there every week.

      stay away from sugars, animal fat, or industrial food. eat lean foods : beef, turkey, chicken, brown rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, olive oil. reduce coffee amount. get as much as fresh water as possible. that means bring a bottle of water with you all times.

      of course, if you smoke, it is the good moment to try stopping. let people know about your goals. if you drink hard alcohol, stop also. however, red and white wine is good for you so a glass once in a while is great, for these parties.

      eat slowly. if you eat too fast, try to appreciate what you eat.

      go to the countryside every 6 months.

      stay clean and shower everyday.

      laugh. smile. jump. play like a kid every once in a while.

      have true relationships [true, scientific research shows that peace of mind is healthy for the body too]

      added today 17th: go to dentist every 6 months, and do a general health check with a doctor every year

      final point: scientific research shows that the only way to live longer is to eat less everyday [meaning you need to have that light hungry feeling after a meal] and sexual abstinence. I am not sure everyone wants that though, it is sure monks live longer, but it is “healthier” to live life at its fullest

  5. Reply

    Tips For Shopping For Health Insurance?? I have no clue about shopping for health insurance but i just go married so they kicked me off of my mom’s… any advice would be greatly appreciated!!! I’m gonna need something with maternity and dental anyone have any good policies or companies you recommend?

    1. Reply

      The best way to attain health insurance is through employment.Buying individual health policies are not only expensive but they also have limitations that larger groups don’t have.Blue Cross Blue Shield has an open enrollment every year for individual policies but the deductible is extremely high around $2500-$3000 yearly.If you buy insurance through an employer they not only pay half the premium the yearly deductible is a lot lower $250-$500 yearly.There are allot of companies out there that say they offer health insurance but it falls short of adequate coverage.The true tell tale to any policy is its exclusions.You should always read the exclusions before buying any insurance product.There are a few companies that underwrite true major medical policies.Blue Cross Blue Shield,Aetna and United Health Care are Three of the largest most reputable insurers.Make certain for the coverage you are looking for you are buying a Major Medical Policy and not anything else.Do not fall for Aflac or an accident plan as Medical.Do not fall for the Hospital Indemnity plan either.If you look at the three companies I mentioned you should find what you need at a premium of course.

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