Health Hero: Meet 16-Year-Old Mai Griffith

IMG_1046[1]-2Mai (pronounced M-A-Y) Griffith, a 16-year-old student in California started her own 501c3 called Hearts for Hearts to bring medical supplies and volunteer in third world countries that are in need.

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Mai is a sophomore at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. She volunteers at Saddleback Memorial Hospital in her free time and has a passion for serving others.

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Mai hopes to study medicine in college and use her practice to continue to help those in need of medical assistance.

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Each weekend, we’ll feature someone beautiful like Mai, doing something cool to make the world a better place.  I spoke with Mai and and her Mom today before they depart to NYC next week.  From there, she takes off for her journey to Ghana.

Mai, what first prompted you to start the foundation?

MAI:  “I first started volunteering at a hospital near my house. I met a lot
of people who were going through a lot of difficulty and that was what made
the first impression on me. Then, hearing about all of the violence and war
in the news like the war in Syria in the past year, and all of the refugees
who direly needed help, I couldn’t think about anything but helping these
people. It is very hard not to see all of the people calling out for help
in all of these places, especially with everything going on in the world
today.”

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Where do the medical supplies come from?

MAI:  “The medical supplies come from personal donations from people,
solicited donations from hospitals, and other non-profits whose goal is to
provide supplies to foundations like ours to deliver to the countries.”

 

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How did you even know to create a 501c3? Who helped you?

MAI: “People tend to donate more when they know that it is a legitimate
non-profit. Making it a 501c3 gave credibility to the cause and gives us
the platform to get corporate sponsorship in the future. My mom helped me
set it up, from being on a non-profit board before, she knows how important
that status is.”

Where do you get funding to go to third world countries?

MAI:  “We get funding from fundraising, selling pins with our logo on them,
and sugar scrubs that we make with our logo on them as well. Spreading the
word about our foundation also helps to bring in donations in many forms.”

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What do your parents think about what you’re doing?

ANN MARIE (GRIFFITH) DRYDEN, MAI’S MOM: 

“Mai is a very independent young woman and has compassion that is
truly lacking in our society these days. She is interested in medicine and
has been volunteering at a hospital for a year now and has been frustrated
that she can’t actually HELP anyone because of HIPPA rules and her age.
The whole reason she wanted to volunteer was to “give back” to others and
she kept being told NO.

Mai has volunteered on trips outside of the US so she started looking at
ways to volunteer in underdeveloped countries that need the help the most.
From that it kind of evolved into bringing medical supplies to starting a
501c3 in order to have companies be willing to donate the supplies.

As far as her going all the way to Ghana, I am admittedly nervous about it.
I have been in contact with the US Consulate in Ghana as well as reached
out to reporters in the area to see what they have to say about safety and
everyone says the Cape Coast in Ghana is really safe.

So I am feeling about as good about it as I can. When Mai watches YouTube videos
of helping people in these underdeveloped areas she is literally brought to
tears. So….how can I possibly say no. I love Mai for who she is and the
fact that she wants to do this.”

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We do too.  It can’t hurt that you’re a marketing and finance wiz yourself. I also noticed you have a TV background.  How did your background help Mai?

ANN MARIE:  “I was the Chief Operating Officer for a company called PowerDirect, which does a lot of demographic data for Fortune 500 companies, and we deliver jumbo door hangers for people’s doors. As odd as that sounds, our clients are big companies, such as Google, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Comcast, Best Buy, Verizon, Team Mobile and others.  I managed all aspects of operations and finance. It also includes marketing, advertising, television production, manufacturing, strategic planning and operations.

I’ve been in executive leadership roles for multiple companies for more than 15 years including HBO, True Designs/True Innovations and Sentinel Offender Monitoring. Clearly, my experience has had a tremendous influence on my daughter  as I always talk to her about my work.

As a female executive, I think that’s real important.  So, the first time Mai expressed an interest in doing something to help people my reaction was that it was typical for her because she’s always had a huge heart.  

She has a tremendous amount of compassion.  At the age of 7, she had a lemonade stand and she’s always been into helping others. She volunteered at the hospital, but was frustrated about not really feeling that she was helping enough. She felt she could do more abroad.

The more we talked about it, we brainstormed on what was the best way that she could go about making it a reality.  Then, she did a fundraiser on the beach in Orange County to get people to donate.”

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Will you be going to Ghana with your daughter?

ANN MARIE:  “No, she’s joining another volunteer international group called Project Abroad, and they have chaperones, so she’ll be going with them. Originally, I thought the medical supplies would be shipped separately, but yesterday we learned it’s better to pack them in suit cases.  

We’re getting as many suit cases as we can donated. We’ve even been asking on Facebook.  It costs a lot, but we’re trying to get other kids to take a suitcase with them as each is limited to two bags.

The supplies end up going to 3 different locations:  The Cape Coast Orphanage, The Ankafu Leprosy Camp, and The Cape Coast Teaching Hospital. I reached out to Johnson & Johnson in Dubai trying to get them to give us test strips, so they can use the blood sugar testing machines that will arrive.”

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What safety precautions has she taken?

ANN MARIE (MAI’S MOM): “She’s done vaccines and anti-malaria because she’ll be dealing with kids with malaria. I contacted the U.S. Consulate in Ghana and reached out to different people who have already done things there, so we can get feedback before she goes there and everyone has said that she’s going to an area that is the original area in Africa that slave trading started, so it’s an area that is definitely not very developed.

It’s not a tourist area, but it means it’s less likely to have terrorist activity.  She has a straw that filters water. She’ll be in a place that she can get bottled water brought in from ACCRA, the capital of Ghana.

I made sure Mai really understood what she was doing because most kids her age are at the beach during the summer and here she is wanting to place bandages on sick children.”

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What will you and Mai being doing while in New York City?

ANN MARIE:  “We’ll be in NYC looking at Columbia University, where she’d like to do Pre-Med, and then she flies out on Friday, July 7.”

That’s wonderful.  Let’s talk to Mai again. Mai, we love what you’re doing. Good luck at Columbia and on your trip to Ghana. Tell me about your future aspirations.

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MAI: I’m interested in medicine and have a compassion to help, and I
aspire to be able to reach those across the globe who are in true need of
medical attention. I want to continue with my foundation and to grow it
globally so that I can reach more countries and areas that would benefit
from our help.”

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How can other people help support what you’re doing?

MAI:   “Other people can help by sending us medical supplies and products
they no longer need like band aids and other items alike. A lot of times
expiration dates on the boxes do not matter to the places accepting our
donations, so anything helps. Along with supplies, monetary donations
through the link on our site help to pay for shipping, costs and delivery
of the supplies.”

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If people want more information, where should they go?

MAI  “Our website http://www.hforhfoundation.org and our Instagram is @hforhfoundation

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Your trip is coming up soon. How do you feel about going to Ghana?

MAI:  I am extremely excited to go to Ghana, as I really want to be able to
help where I am needed and make a real difference. I am also a little
nervous as well, because it is hallway across the globe, and it is so
different from how I live at home. Overall, I really cannot wait because I
know this will be an amazing experience to contribute to the world we all
live in and to make it a better, safer place for generations to come.”

When do you get back from Ghana?

“I get back July 23. There’s a few hour layover in NYC and then back to Orange County.”

Thank you to Mai and her Mom for all they’re doing to help others, and for taking the time to speak with me. Wishing her a safe and wonderful trip and experience.

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http://www.hforhfoundation.org

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ABC News LA did a story on our Health Hero this week, which you can view here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzxYf7TwDSINNWVzWU9sWmtyMDA www.hforhfoundation.org

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Mai and her Mom can also be reached on Twitter at:  @hforhfoundation

 

If you know someone beautiful doing something cool to help others, let us know.

abc2   Contact:  Maria.Dorfner@yahoo.com. Subject: Health Hero

 

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Happy, Healthy Fourth of July, everyone!

 

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Share your health story with the Healthy Within Network community.  Email topic to: Maria.Dorfner@yahoo.com

 

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Must Read: 5 Hottest Tips to Prevent and Treat Cancer

If you read one article on cancer prevention and treatment prior to seeing a doctor, this is it.    -Maria Dorfner

 

About the Guest Author:  Gary Hyman, MD is Director at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, The UltraWellness Center and The Institute for Functional Medicine

A Functional Medicine Approach to Cancer by Gary Hyman, MD

                                                                     

Functional medicine empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working collaboratively to address the root causes of disease. It is an emerging, personalized model of diagnosis and treatment that better addresses the need to prevent and manage chronic disease. In a word, it is the medicine of WHY, not WHAT.

Functional Medicine doctors are like soil farmers. They create a healthy soil, so pests can’t come and weeds can’t flourish. A healthy soil means disease can’t take hold.

So with cancer, a Functional Medicine practitioner would say that yes, we still need radiation and other conventional approaches, but what else can we do? How can we properly cultivate a healthy soil?

Cancer results because of in an imbalance in the system. So many people are walking around with tumors and don’t know it. We can do something to prevent them from growing by maintaining a healthy soil.

Instead of dividing everything into diseases and labels, emerging science points to a different way of thinking about diseases. Rather than divide the body into organs, Functional Medicine approaches disease as a systemic problem, and we have to treat the system, not the symptom; the cause, not the disease. This completely redefines the whole notion of disease. The landscape of illness is changing.

How we label cancer is no longer synced up with what we know about the origins of cancer or the fact that two people who have cancer with the same name—like breast cancer—can have two completely different diseases which require different treatments. Just because you know the name of your disease doesn’t mean you know what’s wrong with you or what to do about it.

Classifying tumors by body site — lung, liver, brain, breast, colon, etc. — misses the underlying causes, mechanisms, and pathways involved in a particular cancer. What’s more, it gives us no information about how it manifested in a given patient. Two people with cancers in different parts of the body may have developed it for the same reasons.

Similarly, two people with cancers in the same part of the body may have developed it for different reasons. A patient with prostate cancer and one with colon cancer may have more in common with each other than two patients who have colon cancer.

We need to look under the hood and find out what caused the illness to begin with.

Cultivating a Healthy Soil

Numerous things can contribute to cancer. Studies show diet, exercise, thoughts, feelings, and environmental toxins all influence the initiation, growth, and progression of cancer.

If a nutrient-poor diet full of sugar, lack of exercise, chronic stress, persistent pollutants, and heavy metals can cause cancer, could it be that a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet, physical activity,changing thoughts and reactions to stress, and detoxification might treat the garden in which cancer grows?

In other words, treat the soil, not the plant. It is a foundational principle of sustainable agriculture, and of sustainable health.

We can enhance immune function and surveillance through dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as nutrient and phytonutrient therapies. We can facilitate our body’s own detoxification system to promote the elimination of carcinogenic compounds. We can improve hormone metabolism and reduce the carcinogenic effects of too much insulin (more on that in a minute) from our high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet.

We can also alter how our genes are expressed by changing the inputs that control that expression: Diet, nutrients, phytonutrients, toxins, stress, and other sources of inflammation. And we can focus on less divisive and more generative thoughts that, in turn, create more uplifting emotions — all good fertilizer for the soil in the garden of our body.

The Number One Thing You Can Do to Prevent or Control Cancer

Diabesity, the continuum of health problems ranging from mild insulin resistance and overweight to obesity and diabetes, is the single biggest global health epidemic of our time. It is one of the leading causes of heart disease, dementia, cancer, and premature death in the world and is almost entirely caused by environmental and lifestyle factors.

This means that it is almost 100 percent preventable and curable.

Diabesity affects over 1.7 billion people worldwide. Scientists conservatively estimate it will affect one in two Americans by 2020; 90 percent of whom will not be diagnosed.

Obesity (almost always related to diabesity) is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world. The link between obesity and cancer is well documented and is driven by insulin resistance. Insulin, the fat storage hormone, also drives more inflammation, oxidative stress, and a myriad of downstream effects including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides, poor sex drive, infertility, thickening of the blood, and increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression.

The best thing you can do to prevent or control cancer is to control insulin levels with a high-fiber diet rich in real, fresh, whole foods and minimize or eliminate sugary, processed, insulin-raising foods.

Dr. Dean Ornish showed that after just three months on an intensive lifestyle program including a whole-foods, plant-based diet, over 500 genes that regulate cancer were beneficially affected, either turning off the cancer-causing genes or turning on the cancer-protective genes. No medication can do that.

5 Strategies to Reduce Cancer Formation and Growth

Cancer results from an imbalance in our system where the immune system can’t fight off tumors. We can do many things to prevent that cancer from getting to its full stage, and if you have cancer, you can make your body inhospitable to that cancer.

1.

Eliminate food sensitivities. In a major study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hidden gluten sensitivity was shown to increase risk of death by 35 to 75 percent, mostly by causing heart disease and cancer. By just this mechanism alone, more than 20 million Americans are at risk for heart attack, obesity, cancer, and death. Dairy and gluten are the most common triggers of food allergies that are linked to insulin resistance. Cutting them out of the diet allows the inflamed gut and an inflamed body to heal.

2.

Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is the common thread connecting most chronic disease including cancer. In fact, out-of-control inflammation causes insulin resistance, which, as we now know, is the main factor in all these diseases apart from autoimmunity and allergy. The insulin resistance then creates even more inflammation, and the whole biological house burns down. Besides removing sugar and food sensitivities like gluten and dairy, we want to eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, including omega-3 rich foods like wild fish and flaxseeds.

3.

Improve gut health. Cancer often originates in your gut. Not just colon cancer, but with many cancers. We are currently studying about the gut microbiome and breast and prostate cancers. Beyond avoiding inflammatory foods, adding in probiotics, prebiotics, and lots of phytonutrients, like curcumin (found in turmeric) and resveratrol (found in grapes), can reduce gut-based inflammation.

4.

Reduce toxic exposure. The average newborn has 287 chemicals in her umbilical cord blood, 217 of which are neurotoxic (poisonous to nerves or nerve cells). The chemicals these infants are exposed to include pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, flame retardants, and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. These chemicals have a broad range of negative effects on human biology; they damage the nervous system and increase the risk of cancer, and now they have been shown to contribute to obesity. Going clean and green means becoming more aware about how environmental toxins affect your health. I encourage you to visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to learn more.

5.

Change your thoughts to change your immune system. Science is now proving what we all knew intuitively — that how we live, the quality of our relationships, the food we eat, and how we use our bodies determines much more than our genes ever will. There are numerous strategies to combat or prevent cancer, including getting sufficient sleep, controlling stress levels, and exercising regularly.

The important thing is to figure out what works for you and develop a plan to stick with it. That might involve working with a Functional Medicine doctor or a chronic disease specialist.

Conclusion

Whether you have been diagnosed with cancer or have become concerned about family and friends being diagnosed, the most important thing is mindset and not playing into fear.

While we all hope there will one day be a miracle cure for cancer, there are things that we know now will combat cancer or keep our quality of life high while our body is fighting the cancer.

The science of cancer genetics is changing. Two people who have the same cancer could be completely different in terms of how the cancer performs. That’s why I’m very excited about the work that Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is doing in California on the cancer genome and creating targeted therapies to treat the cancer in every patient individually. This and other emerging technologies, combined with the Functional Medicine approach to cancer, give me great hope about our ability to further prevent and treat this disease in the future.

I encourage you to think about cancer differently and more importantly, not lose hope.

Stay healthy, everyone! -Maria

MARIADORFNERBLACKANDWHITEHEADSHOT    Maria Dorfner (formerly Pallante Bianco) is the founder of MedCrunch, covering What’s Hot in Health.

At 24, she helped launch CNBC after working full-time at NBC for two years and part-time throughout college. She then joined Ailes Communications as director of research and producer for TV pilots successfully syndicated. She then co-anchored and senior produced several health series airing on CNBC for three years. She wrote, produced and directed medical documentaries for Discovery Health Channel and helped launch the Cleveland Clinic News Service.  She is the owner of NewsMD Communications, a full-service production company specializing in health content and distribution. She is the author of three books.  Her awards include an Outstanding Leadership Abilities and Commitment to the Advancement of Women in Media award from her alma mater and a Media Recognition Award from the American Heart Association for her “Heart Smart” series and a Medical Reporting Scholarship. Maria is in Who’s Who in American Women, 22nd edition, 2000/2001.  She is a native of Brooklyn, New York.  Her health blog is a division of Healthy Within Network, which is her existing labor of love.  It connects the dots in medicine, media and marketing.  Contact:  maria.dorfner@yahoo.com