• Phoebe Kannisto(CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y.) -- One family in Cheektowaga, New York donated more than 17 feet of hair to an organization that helps kids in need.Phoebe Kannisto along with her six sons -- 10-year-old Andre, 8-year-old twins Silas and Emerson, and her 5-year-old triplets Herbie, Reed and Dexter -- ventured to a local hair salon, Hizair Hair Salon, to do the big chop.The family, which also includes Kannisto's husband of nearly 11 years, Eric, and their 2-year-old daughter Marah Taylor, later donated the hair, which totaled approximately 17 feet, to Children with Hair Loss, a non-profit organization that helps children with medically-related hair loss.Kannisto, who has donated her hair since she was a teenager, decided to get her children involved in 2015."Three years ago a friend of mine lost her son to cancer and he was also a twin and very similar in age to my twins," she recalled to ABC News. "So on the first anniversary of his passing my three oldest sons donated their hair in his memory and that’s kind of how it started."Kannisto said although her younger children "have a simpler grasp on the concept, they understand that they’re helping sick kids who don’t have hair and can’t grow hair."And because it's a family affair, they're already gearing up for their next donation as Kannisto's youngest child -- 2-year-old Marah Taylor -- wants to donate."We promised her we'd all go again so she could do it with us," the mom added with a laugh.Kannisto said it's imperative for her to donate to kids who are fighting cancer, in particular, since her husband is a cancer research scientist."Cancer hits close to home for everybody," she said. "Everybody knows someone who’s affected by cancer."
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  • HYWARDS/iStock/Thinkstock(HEARTLAND, Tex.) -- A Texas bride received a life-saving kidney transplant just one week before walking down the aisle.Anu Philip of Heartland, Texas, underwent surgery on March 19 and was married on March 25. The 28-year-old had been discharged from the hospital 24 hours before, she said."Everything was planned and we did not expect a kidney at all," Philip told ABC News. "It gave me more life to actually enjoy. Now I can travel, have children, and that was actually my main concern. I'm happy that my husband doesn't have to experience daily struggles that I was going through in taking care of me."When she was 9 months old, Philip had renal failure and was diagnosed with minimal change disease -- a disorder that results in abnormal kidney function, according to the Mayo Clinic.On Dec. 6, 2011, while Philip was studying at Criswell College in Dallas, her kidney failed. She was then placed on a transplant waiting list in 2012, she said.Three years later, Philip met her now-husband, Jeswin James, through a family member.James proposed on May 5, 2016, and the couple set their wedding date for March 25, 2017. But a week before, Philip got the call that she had matched with a donor at Medical City Hospital in Dallas.One day later, she received the transplant.Dr. Matthew Mulloy, surgical director of adult and pediatric abdominal transplants at Medical City Dallas Hospital, said Philip's surgery was successful."She's young and otherwise healthy and she got a donor who was also a young, healthy donor," Mulloy told ABC News. "The difficult part was the time constraint for us. What she and I had talked about was that the challenge would be to get her in and out of the hospital quickly and for her to make it to her wedding. ... In this instant, my recommendation to her was to not pass on this donation."Mulloy said the normal recovery time for a transplant patient who does not experience complications is three to seven days."We had a week," he added of Philip's procedure. "[I said], 'As long as you're willing to walk down the aisle and not do any dancing afterward, I think you'll be just fine."Mulloy said Philip's story highlights the essential need for organ donors, especially in April, which is National Donate Life Month, he said.Jeswin James, also 28, said he is grateful to the donor's family for the gift that was given to his wife."Before the wedding, she was on dialysis for the past five years, so every day when she woke up, she very tired, very weak," James told ABC News. "After the transplant, she's energetic. My wife, she's healthy, she happy, she's full of life."Philip said she has written a thank you letter to the donor's family and hopes to meet them someday."I am thankful or their selfless giving," she added. "Whoever they lost, they gave me life."Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • LuckyBusiness/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Doctors have long known that genetics can predispose some people to gain weight despite a healthy lifestyle while others seemingly never gain an ounce no matter how much they eat. A new study sheds light on how people can counteract their genetic makeup, even if it's in their DNA to put on more weight than others.Researchers from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of Copenhagen and other institutions conducted a meta-analysis examining 60 past genetic studies to see if physical activity could mitigate the effects a genetic predisposition to weight gain."Decline in daily physical activity is thought to be a key contributor to the global obesity epidemic," the authors wrote. However, they explained that genetic make-up may also play a role in weight gain for people who are not physically active.They screened for 2.5 million genetic variants in 200,452 adults and also separated the subjects between those who were physically active -- about 77 percent -- and those who were physically inactive, about 23 percent. The researchers then looked at different markers that would indicate if a person was overweight including their body-mass index, waist circumference and hip-to-waist ratio.They found those with a genetic variation that predisposed them to gain weight -- called an FTO gene -- had the ability counteract the effects that gene through exercise. By looking at the data they found that those with the FTO gene who were physically active were able to reduce the weight-gain effects associated with the gene by about 30 percent.Dr. Goutham Rao, chairman of Family Medicine and Community Health at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said this type of research is key in helping patients better understand their weight and health."Despite that sort of bad luck of having a genetic predisposition to obesity if you are physically active ... you're not going to reduce risk of obesity entirely but you reduce it significantly," Rao said.The mechanism that leads to people with FTO to be predisposed to gain weight is still not fully understood, but Rao said it's key to give people encouragement that taking healthy steps has an effect even if they haven't reached their goal weight."The message is to be sympathetic," Rao said. Explaining he tells frustrated patients, "if you weren't doing your best you would weigh a lot more and be much less healthy."Dr. Kevin Niswender, associate professor of medicine, molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the study took on the "really interesting question" of if people can counteract their genetics through their lifestyle."This study definitively confirms that lifestyle has an impact," he said.During their research the team also discovered 11 new genetic variants that likely predispose a person to weight gain and they said more may be found through similar studies."In future studies, accounting for physical activity and other important lifestyle factors could boost the search for new obesity genes," said Mariaelisa Graff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the lead author of the study. "To identify more genes whose effects are either dampened or amplified by physical activity, we need to carry out larger studies with more accurate measurement of physical levels."Niswender said finding new variants that indicate predisposition for weight gain can help give a better understanding of the complex mechanisms behind obesity."For a long time we've been searching for this gene, the gene that causes obesity and it's just not like that," Niswender."there are a bunch of genes that cause obesity and the effect of each gene variant is really quite small."Graff said more study should need to be done to get more accurate measurements of the participants' physical activity. The researchers classified those as having a sedentary job, commute and leisure time as "inactive" while everyone else was
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  • Monkey Business Images Ltd/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid a brewing debate on the future of America’s health care, a little known program sustaining a pipeline of doctors to underserved communities is set to expire on April 28th.The program, known as the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, offers individual states the opportunity to exempt up to 30 foreign doctors per year from their visa requirements, in exchange for practicing for a minimum of three years in areas with a dire need of health providers.From 2013 to 2015, more than half of U.S. states used at least 20-30 of their allotted waivers to remedy critical lapses in health care access, according to the Texas Primary Care Office.“Rural communities in Minnesota and across the country are short on doctors, and they rely on the Conrad 30 program to fill the gaps. Over the last 15 years, the Conrad 30 program has brought more than 15,000 physicians to underserved areas," said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is spearheading the effort to extend the Conrad 30 program, in a statement released earlier this month.Many physicians from around the world, known as international medical graduates, use J-1 visas to complete medical training in the United States. After their training finishes, they are expected to return to their home countries for two years until they can apply for legal residency in the U.S.The Conrad 30 allows foreign physicians to bypass that requirement through the provision of a J-1 waiver, letting them remain in the U.S. while working in communities desperately in need of doctors.The program is designed to counter the shortage of physicians in America. By 2025 the American Medical Association estimates the country will be short of between 60,000 and almost 95,000 physicians -- a deficit that will hit rural and low-income communities especially hard.Along with Sen. Klobuchar, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced the The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act earlier this month to renew the program until 2021. Since its introduction in 1994, the program has been periodically reauthorized."We must provide opportunities for American-trained and educated physicians to remain in the country and practice where there is an identified need for quality care," said Senator Collins in a statement. "This legislation would allow for expanded access to health care in our rural or underserved communities, and in turn, would promote healthier lives."If the program fails to be reauthorized, the next generation J-1 waiver physicians will not qualify to apply for the waiver until the program is reinstated, potentially interrupting a crucial flow of doctors on which Americans depend.Dr. Sameer Alefrai, a Jordanian physician applying for a J-1 waiver this year, called the program a "win-win.""You get to stay here and continue working for a limited time until you satisfy your J-1 waiver, stay with your friends, colleagues, and keep progressing your career. And they get a physician in an underserved area," Alefrai told ABC News.The Conrad 30 program was instituted by Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota in 1994, looking to address growing shortages of physicians in America, especially in rural communities. By 2006, it had grown tremendously, with the number of waivers from states rising from 89 in 1995 to more than 1,000 per year, leading the U.S. Government Accountability Office to describe it as, "a major means of placing physicians in underserved areas of the United States."The impact of the program is vast as these doctors may see hundreds to thousands of patients. A study in the Annals of Family medicine estimated an average primary care physician in the U.S. may see as many as 2,500 patients a year.In the past, the Conrad 30 program has enjoyed bipartisan support. However, under the new administration, the future of the program is unclear."It’ll be a trial balloon, it certainly will test the waters if physician immigration
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  • iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor
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  • Courtesy Katherine Schreiber(NEW YORK) -- Since she was in elementary school, Katherine Schreiber, 28, remembers struggling with body issues. Sometimes these feelings were so severe she felt she was "too ugly" to go to class.Schreiber told ABC News she felt "so self-conscious, obsessed with imperfections."As a teenager, she thought she found a solution to counteract her feelings of self-hatred: exercise."If I exercised, I could control that feeling," Schreiber explained. "[I] got into exercise in high school, started twice a week, then became three times a day."
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