Chef Taria Camerino has "gastral synesthesia," meaning all of her senses are experienced as taste. She spoke about it at UK's Neurogastronomy Symposium.

2nd annual Neurogastronomy Symposium brings study of taste perception to UK HealthCare

More than 250 scientists, chefs, presenters and spectators gathered at UK HealthCare last weekend for the second-annual International Society of Neurogastronomy Symposium.

The term “neurogastronomy” was coined by Dr. Gordon Shepherd to describe a discipline of the biochemistry of food preparation, the molecular biology of the olfactory receptors, and the knowledge of odor images and the brain flavor system. The concept casts a wide net over several disciplines relevant to what we eat, why we like what we eat and how we eat. His life’s work was reflected in many of the topics covered at the symposium:

  • The evolution of food and flavor, from ancient times to the Middle Ages (when people considered food as medicine) to the rise of modern cuisine as an expression of vanity (rich, multi-course meals were a reflection of a person’s wealth and social status).
  • The complexities of flavor perception: humans have three receptors for vision (red, blue and green) and more than 1,000 receptors for odors.
  • New research into the anti-inflammatory properties of food (olive oil shares one of the same molecules as that found in ibuprofen, which might give insight into the effectiveness of the Mediterranean Diet).
  • The concept of food addiction and the potential role of stress reduction in decreasing the incidence of obesity.
  • An analysis of the debate whether food addiction is biological (like a drug addiction) or behavioral (like a gambling addiction).

But it was Taria Camerino who stole the show. Camerino, an acclaimed chef, has a condition known as synesthesia, which means she experiences all of her senses, even her emotions, as taste.

Symposium participants crowded the microphones to ask Camerino questions: “Do you taste feelings?” (yes – “Fear tastes like blood and metal.”) “What did the presidential election taste like?” (“Like bitter, but also like hope, plus something astringent… something chemical… I know! Hairspray! Wow… that’s really weird!”) And, perhaps the most poignant question: “Can you help me cook for my husband who had radiation? He can still smell, but he cannot taste, and he’s miserable.” (“Start having him smell things. Vanilla, shortbread, lavender. When he gets to a smell he likes, make something with that.”)

During breaks between presentations, attendees could explore one of nine stations that demonstrated how taste involves more than the tongue. One table offered three gelatin cubes – one black flavored with mango, one green flavored with strawberry, and one yellow flavored with fish – to emphasize how what we see on the plate sets expectations for what we’re about to taste.

For her station, Camerino made hundreds of “lollies” – lollipops are her signature confectionery – for participants to taste while listening to the first two minutes of the 1812 Overture. People came away from her station moved and amazed.

“I tasted bitter, and then sadness, and then something more herbal,” said one taster. “How did she get the lollipop’s flavor to swell and subside with the music?” marveled another.

The day culminated with a recap of the Neurogastronomy Challenge, where teams of chefs, neuroscientists and clinicians went head to head to prepare dishes for cancer patients Erika Radhakrishnan and Barry Warner.

“When you are on cancer treatment, your taste and smell are affected, and not in a good way,” said Radhakrishnan. “It’s encouraging to see that quality of life for cancer patients is no longer on the back burner.”

“I consider my taste loss collateral damage – and I’m OK with that in the grand scheme of things,” Warner said.

“But there are a lot of professionals in this kitchen looking for ways to make things better for us, and I really appreciate their enthusiasm.”


You can watch a playlist of the Neurogastronomy Symposium below. It includes an interview with Camerino, footage of her presentation and more.


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In recognition of her work at UK CTAC, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has appointed Ginny Sprang as a member of its steering committee.

Longtime UK employee leaves estate to Kentucky Children’s Hospital

Maquies Bentley

Maquies Bentley

Maquies Bentley was known for her kind disposition, being an avid Elvis fan and her trademark long black hair always pinned in a bun on top of her head with a bow matching the outfit she was wearing that day.

She was a dedicated, loyal and exemplary employee at the UK College of Medicine for 27 years. A former staff support associate in the Pathology/Clinical Lab Department, Bentley is remembered by coworkers as being soft-spoken and well-liked by all who knew her. When she passed away in 2015, she continued to support UK by leaving her entire estate to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the UK Board of Trustees is slated to approve a small land transfer that was part of the estate to the estate’s administrator. In all, Bentley, a native of Hindman in Eastern Kentucky, left assets totaling about $290,000 to Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

“We are very grateful for Ms. Bentley’s generous gift,” said Dr. Carmel Wallace, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UK and physician-in-chief at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. “Her bequest is very special knowing that someone who quietly devoted so much of her professional life to UK chose KCH in continuing her legacy of generosity.”

Bentley always walked to work from her apartment near campus and, according to her former supervisor Karen Lindsey, never missed a single day until she fell and broke her hip and then had to retire.

“Maquies greeted everyone professionally,” recalled Sandra Jaros, pathology administrator and assistant dean for administration in the UK College of Medicine. “She was generous with her time to anyone who stopped by or called regarding their patient’s diagnosis or where in the process their labs were and when they could expect a diagnosis.”


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Ashley Rapske's passion for baking flows into her work. She bakes and sometimes cooks for staff at Kentucky Children's Hospital several times a week.

Child Life worker’s ‘baking therapy’ spreads sweetness to KCH staff

It’s no one’s birthday, anniversary or retirement party, but Child Life specialist Ashley Rapske has a container filled with fresh-baked morsels free for the taking at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

Rapske has worked in the KCH Child Life Program for the past three years, and most days of the week she brings cookies, bars, cakes and other baked treats with her to work.

Child Life specialists and assistants are in constant contact with patients and families, providing emotional support, procedural preparation and coordinating developmental and normative activities for children receiving inpatient treatment. They encounter hurting children and heartbreaking cases on a daily basis. Maintaining interests outside the hospital helps workers manage the stressful nature of their job.

When Rapske was interviewed for the job three years ago, her future supervisor wanted to know how she coped with stress.

“I said, ‘Oh, I like to bake,’” she said.

‘Baking therapy’ brings people together

A lifelong practitioner of “baking therapy,” Rapske finds joy and gratification in sharing the products from her oven. Her off-hours baking habit has turned into a ritual for sweets-seekers on staff at KCH. KCH nurses, doctors, therapists, maintenance staff, and Child Life specialists and assistants often stop by the Child Life Department to sample her homemade cookies, cakes, bars and snacks. She also cooks a crock-pot meal for her Child Life coworkers every week. Rapske said homemade pastries improve moods, encourage hardworking staff to take a break and bring people together during difficult times.

“I think it’s a little thing that can make a big difference,” Rapske said. “I’ve had nurses who are feeling down come in, and you can see their smile. They are like, ‘I do feel better. Thank you.’ ”

Rapske remembers how her treats brought staff together after the sudden loss of a patient on the floor. She said many staff members gathered around her batch of cookies to commiserate and work through the pain of the loss.

“We said, ‘Let’s be grateful that we get to go home at night,’” Rapske said. “It helped put things in perspective. We had a smile and a laugh, and it kind of got us over the hump.”

Sweet tooth? ‘Stop by the Child Life office’

Rapske’s recipes are often more extravagant than a standard plate of sugar cookies or tray of brownies. She dabbles with a variety of ingredients and plants unexpected surprises in her confections, such as stuffing caramel candies in peanut butter cookies. After Halloween, she repurposed leftover candy by baking a batch of Twix brownies. She also replicates nostalgic desserts, such as oatmeal cream pies, vowing the commercial version doesn’t compete with her homemade cookie. But her most popular recipe is the classic chocolate chip cookie.

“The word is out that if you need something good, stop by the Child Life office,” Rapske said.

Lessons from her mother

For Rapske, caring for children and baking were always two activities paired together. She started baking with her mother, a stay-at-home mom who ran a daycare in their home. Rapske learned recipes from her mom, but wasn’t always an expert baker. She started out by replicating her mother’s banana bread recipe. Now, she’s so familiar with her recipes that she can eyeball measurements and tinker with ingredients.

At the same time, she developed a passion for caring for children. Rapske found baking was an activity in which she could easily engage young kids. She has enjoyed showing her nieces and nephews how to crack an egg and sprinkle salt in a mixing bowl.

“They are so proud to show off their creation and what they helped to make,” Rapske said. “It’s a very sensory experience.”

A form of healthcare

As an amateur baker, Rapske can’t share her baked goods with children in the hospital, but she spreads sweetness to other children battling illness or living in poverty through a volunteer role. Every Tuesday, Rapske reports to Maxwell Christian Church to bake a custom cake for a child’s birthday for the nonprofit Sweet Blessings. She receives a description of the child’s interests and decorates the birthday cake based on the child’s wishes. Her creative cakes have ranged from Frozen princesses and superheroes to Lego constructions.

When asked why she bakes for everyone even strangers Rapske has a simple reply: baking is her way of showing others she cares.

“It’s healthcare you have to take care of yourself and help people take care of themselves too.”


Next steps:

  • UK Child Life helps provide play opportunities for sick children and their families. Learn more our program.
  • When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care possible. That’s exactly what you get at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Learn more about KCH.
Cold or flu? It’s a question that comes up every winter. Knowing the subtle and not-so-subtle difference between the two illnesses, though, is important.

Chronic throat clearing should be evaluated by a professional

Written by JoAnna Sloggy and Liz Campbell, speech language pathologists at the UK Voice and Swallow Clinic.

JoAnna Sloggy, MA, CCC-SLP

Elizabeth Campbell, MA, CCC-SLP

“Ahem!”

This could be the sound of getting someone’s attention, but when it occurs repeatedly, it may also be the sound of chronic throat clearing. Chronic throat clearing is a common problem that may or may not be associated with other symptoms such as a throat tickle, dry cough and/or the “lump in the throat” sensation.

It may happen a few times per day, a few times per minute or sometimes only after meals. The causes and frequency of throat clearing may be different for each person, and when persistent, may require medical examination.

Potentially making things worse

In general, chronic throat clearing is usually the result of hypersensitivity in the larynx (voice box) and pharynx (throat). Clearing your throat is usually your body’s response to this irritation and an effort to remove the irritation by rubbing your vocal folds (vocal cords) together. Chronic throat clearing often creates more irritation to the vocal folds because of the harsh contact, resulting in a cycle of frequent persistent throat clearing.

Many possible causes

The possible causes of chronic throat clearing are numerous and should be determined by a medical evaluation. These causes may include acid reflux irritation, post-nasal drip from allergies or sinusitis, the presence of vocal fold lesions, neurologic conditions such as tics, and side effects of certain medications. Because these causes differ greatly, a comprehensive medical evaluation is necessary to plan appropriate treatment.

Diagnosis of chronic throat clearing may begin with your family physician or allergist. If typical treatments for allergies or reflux are not successful in resolving the throat clearing, an evaluation with an ear nose and throat physician and a comprehensive voice evaluation by a speech-language pathologist who specializes in evaluation of voice and swallowing disorders may be recommended. UK Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) and Voice & Swallow Clinic collaborate to provide multidisciplinary care for the evaluation and treatment of chronic throat clearing. Patients may be treated for acid reflux irritation as the cause. This irritation can reach the level of the larynx. For some patients this feeling is obvious and noticeable, but for others it is not.

When to seek medical evaluation

Either way, the result can be chronic throat clearing, as well as a lump in the throat feeling, dry cough and/or hoarseness. It is important to note that this is a different problem from heartburn (GERD). Treatment can include medication prescribed by a medical doctor, dietary changes such as limiting or avoiding certain foods or beverages, and lifestyle modifications such as elevating the head of the bed at night. In cases where this irritation has caused hoarseness or voice changes, voice therapy may be indicated. Again, an evaluation is needed in order to determine if these treatments will be effective.

So, what’s the bottom line? Chronic throat clearing can cause a cycle of irritation and ultimately may cause hoarseness and discomfort with swallowing, among other changes. If you think you suffer from chronic throat clearing, we recommend a referral to an ENT physician as well as a speech-language pathologist trained in voice and swallowing disorders. This will help determine the cause and appropriate treatments.


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Linda Van Eldik, director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, was awarded a translational research grant from the Alzheimer's Association.

Sanders-Brown awarded $1 million Alzheimer’s Association grant

Linda Van Eldik, director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA), was awarded a “Part the Cloud” translational research grant from the Alzheimer’s Association. This two-year, $997,738 grant will fund early clinical trials for a promising new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, Van Eldik’s team is exploring brain inflammation’s role in nerve cell damage as a first step in identifying opportunities to suppress detrimental inflammatory molecules.

“Brain inflammation is now recognized as an important driver of neurodegenerative disease progression, and we desperately need new selective anti-inflammatory drugs to be tested in humans,” said Van Eldik. “This new Part the Cloud funding will help us move this important research forward.”

“Part the Cloud” is part of the broader Alzheimer’s Association International Research Grant Program, which has awarded more than $375 million to more than 2,400 projects around the world.

According to Alzheimer’s Association Executive Director DeeAnna Esslinger, more than five million Americans are currently living with this disease, and that number is projected to more than triple by 2050.

“The Part the Cloud initiative is an essential part of Alzheimer’s Association research funding because new, more effective Alzheimer’s therapies are desperately needed,” she said. “This new grant allows Dr. Van Eldik and her team to begin testing this therapy now instead of waiting on other funding sources, or not being able to do so at all.”


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Country artist Ben Rue visited a diabetes education class at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center

Country music star Ben Rue visits kids at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center

Kids in the pediatric diabetes education class at the UK Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center welcomed a special classmate earlier this week.

Country music artist Ben Rue, who was in Lexington for the Acoustic Jam to benefit the UK Kentucky Children’s Hospital, stopped by the diabetes education class to talk with children recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Ben was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 14. He told the kids that living with a chronic illness can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to define their lives.

“Kids with Type 1 diabetes need to know that just because you have this condition doesn’t mean that it holds you back from being or doing whatever you want to do,” he said.

Watch highlights from Ben’s visit below, including an acoustic performance for the kids at Barnstable Brown.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, which provides medical management in every area of diabetes as well as education support to assist in lifestyle changes.
  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you support our mission.
Dr. Scottie Day

Meet pediatrician Scottie Day: ‘Caring for the sickest of the sick’

Making the RoundsDr. Scottie Day, associate chief medical officer at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, is the featured physician in this week’s Making the RoundsA graduate of the UK College of Medicine, Dr. Day worked in Indiana, Ohio and Hawaii before returning to Lexington in 2011. He now works at KCH in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

When did you know you wanted to be a physician?

As a child growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I always wanted to be a physician. And I held true to that. I think that I always felt like I wanted to be in some type of servant position.

Why did you choose pediatrics as your specialty?

I originally couldn’t decide on a specialty and wanted to take care of children and adults, which led me to do my residency in internal medicine and pediatrics. However, as I went through residency, I realized I wanted to take care of the sickest of sick of children.

Working in the PICU gave me a chance to take care of small babies all the way up to older teenagers and even some young adults with childhood diseases. It took my internal medicine-pediatrics resident training and allowed me to use this knowledge to take care of the most critically ill. There is nothing more rewarding.

What makes you want to come to work every day?

As a PICU physician, each morning I do what I love most: take care of the sickest children and their families with an amazing team and fulfill my calling and talents that I have been blessed with. The stresses are high, but the rewards are priceless.

How would your friends describe you? 

Easygoing, friendly, talkative. Conscientious about others’ feelings, wanting to do every single thing, never saying no.

Do you have any guilty musical pleasures?

I listen to all music. I play music myself; I’ve played since I was 5 years old. Piano, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, drums. I listen to every single type of music.

What is your favorite aspect about living in Lexington? 

It’s got the small-town community feel, but it still has some big city pleasures. I’m originally from Kentucky, and when I moved back to Lexington, I liked being in a college town. I feel like there’s a huge sense of community here.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Scottie Day, where he talks about his patient care philosophy.


Next Steps

  • Experts at the KCH PICU take care of critically ill children with a range of medical issues, including burns, trauma injuries, and cardiovascular and neurological concerns. Learn more about our state-of-the-art services.
  • When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care possible. That’s exactly what you get at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Learn more about KCH.
KCH pediatrician Dr. Asha Shenoi has traveled around the world training health care providers to instruct courses on systematic pediatric critical care.

Dr. Asha Shenoi takes child-saving practices to developing countries

The first 24 hours of treatment determine the outcome of a child diagnosed with a critical illness or injury.

When healthcare practitioners respond with systematic approaches, children suffering from critical conditions such as shock or respiratory distress are more likely to survive. But physicians in resource-scarce countries often lack the advanced training to integrate such effective approaches.

The traveling pediatrician

That’s where Kentucky Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Asha Shenoi comes in. She has traveled around the world training healthcare providers to teach classes on systematic pediatric critical care. Shenoi, who volunteers her time on behalf of the World Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Foundation, is one of very few pediatric critical care specialists in the world designated by the organization to train physicians in developing or mid- to low-income countries on programmatic approaches to pediatric critical care. She is approved to administer the Pediatric BASIC critical care course – a foundational course for improving outcomes for critically ill and injured children worldwide.

Since joining the program in 2012, Shenoi has worked with pediatricians to adapt critical care training to specific parts of the world. She conducts a one-week training, which includes modules on running a skills station and coordinating simulations, and returns to the country intermittently over the next two to three years to update local instructors on current treatment methods. Instructors then host trainings for local and regional healthcare providers, bringing systematic critical care methods to otherwise unreached territories. The overarching goal of the program is to provide a sustainable system for improving critical care in disparate regions of the world.

Saving children across the globe

In October, Shenoi trained physicians at the National Children’s Hospital in Vietnam. She has conducted seven courses in four countries, including India, Vietnam and the West Indies, adapting each training to reflect the country’s native language and cultural considerations. The trainings emphasize dynamics and coordination in performing critical care procedures.

Shenoi learned about the program through her mentor when she was completing a fellowship at Emory University. Since then, she has become one of five certified trainers in the U.S. She has purchased every plane ticket herself, and the institutions where she is training provide accommodations. A native of India, Shenoi aspires to change the course of treatment for disadvantaged children whose lives might be saved through the kind of systematic critical care interventions she teaches.

“The majority of childhood deaths in these settings result from preventable and reversible causes; in the end, often what saves a child life is early recognition and systematic intervention,” Shenoi said. “Unfortunately, training opportunities in critical care in resource-limited settings are scarce, and we aim to train the trainers in these settings in developing locally relevant systematic critical care interventions.”


Next steps:

  • UK HealthCare is proud to be home to the Makenna David Pediatric Emergency Center, one of the only dedicated children’s emergency centers in the state, and the only one serving Central and Eastern Kentucky.
  • Would you know what to do if your child suffered a serious illness or injury? Check our tips now so you’re prepared if you need them.
UK Sanders-Brown was selected to participate in a landmark $3.6 million NIH grant to research vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID).

Sanders-Brown to join landmark NIH grant for dementia research

The UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) has been selected to participate in a multicenter landmark $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to identify biomarkers for vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID).

UK was one of just seven sites selected for the five-year NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) grant. The other sites are Boston University, Rush University, Johns Hopkins, University of Southern California, UCSF/UC-Davis and the University of New Mexico. The awards establish the new national Small Vessel VCID Biomarkers Consortium.

Taking steps to find VCID treatment

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with such a respected group of scientists to pursue this important avenue,” said Donna Wilcock, Ph.D., associate professor and co-principal investigator for the SBCoA study site.

Each site will use the first two years of the grant to explore the efficacy of different biomarkers for VCID, which would be the first step toward diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment for this common cause of cognitive impairment and dementia, according to Wilcock. Sanders-Brown will look at potential fluid biomarkers while the other centers will research imaging, biological measures and/or cognitive testing.

“We will be testing blood plasma and cerebral spinal fluid in a cohort of about 250 people to identify inflammatory proteins and other proteins associated with blood vessel injury as a biomarker for VCI,” said Dr. Gregory Jicha, Sanders-Brown professor and co-principal investigator.

In the remaining three years, Sanders-Brown researchers will share its approach to measuring biomarkers in fluids and also cross-reference data from other consortium centers with a goal towards consensus on a single or combination of approaches that correlate with accurate VCI diagnosis.

Sanders-Brown is invaluable to research on aging

“Without a definitive method to diagnose VCI early in disease progression, we can’t proceed to the next step, which is to identify treatments,” said Wilcock. “Since most people develop some level of VCI as they age, the ability to identify and treat this disease will have a profound impact on the health and independence of our aging population.”

Sanders-Brown sits at the epicenter of the American “stroke belt,” said Roderick Corriveau, NINDS Project Officer for the study. “That, in combination with their exceptional technical skills and knowledge of VCID and other dementias, makes them a valuable part of the Small Vessel VCID Biomarkers Consortium.”

A history of success, continued today

Dr. Robert DiPaola, dean of the UK College of Medicine, points out that this grant demonstrates UK’s commitment to conduct truly translational research.

“This kind of study exemplifies the transdisciplinary collaboration where research crosses multiple boundaries to solve our most important healthcare needs,” DiPaola said. “Sanders-Brown has been a pioneer in the effort to conduct translational science at UK, and this grant is a fitting acknowledgement of the quality of their work.”

UK initiated its aging program in 1963. With a grant from the Eleanor and John Y. Brown Jr. Foundation in 1972, the construction of the current Sanders-Brown Research Building was begun and, with additional funding from the state, a program in biomedical research was implemented. In 1979, under the direction of the late Dr. William Markesbery, Sanders-Brown emerged as a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of life for the elderly through research and education.


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Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK HealthCare

Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK helps us understand taste and flavor

Dan Han, PsyD, clinical section chief of neuropsychology at UK HealthCare, works with patients who have brain injuries and neurodegenerative disorders, many of whom describe loss of smell and, in tandem, changes in the way food tastes.

These taste-related side effects piqued Han’s interest in neurogastronomy, a field of study that looks at how the brain influences a person’s perception of food. With the help of an internationally renowned chef, Han created the International Society of Neurogastronomy (ISN) and is hosting the second annual Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK HealthCare this Saturday, Dec. 5.

Enthusiastic about neurogastronomy

In 2012, Han met chef Fred Morin and discovered they shared a passion for neurogastronomy. Their conversation inspired Han to reconsider how this science could help patients with brain injuries or cancer.

Could foods be designed that adjusted for the flavor perception issues reported by these patients?

Two years later, Han, Morin and others co-founded the ISN with the intent to start answering this very question. Late last year, the ISN held its first symposium at UK HealthCare. Chefs, doctors, clinical psychologists, agriculturists, researchers and cancer patients gathered for the event, which included roundtable discussions and engaging presentations.

Second annual symposium

This Saturday, Han and company will host the second annual Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK, continuing their exploration of the concept of brain and behavior in the context of food. This year’s event will feature brief, TED talk-like presentations punctuated with breaks for tastings and a contest where the food from regional and national chefs will be judged by patients with taste impairments.

Han hopes that the ISN’s work can help clinicians better understand the importance of taste perception for a patient’s well-being. Indeed, he finds his own approach has been changed by his research.

“I ask every one of my patients now, ‘How’s your smell and taste? How is that aspect of your quality of life?’” Han said. “It wasn’t until I started asking that I noticed how many people will tell you that it has been compromised. But nobody’s asked about it and they never thought to bring it up because they never heard of mentioning that type of thing in the doctor’s office.”

“We’re trying to challenge that,” he adds, “so that patients undergoing treatment can recover their quality of life – a little bit at least.”


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