Say Hello to Fall with this Healthy Recipe

Author: Laura Kerns, Dietician at UMC


With the fall season upon us, many people start to make a switch from the light, fresh foods of summer to hearty, warm meals that provide lots of comfort (and plenty of extra calories!). With the help of North Oaks dietetic interns Jacob Lalanne and Allison Junca, we are showcasing a delicious fall recipe that uses seasonal produce and packs plenty of flavor!


Spicy Peanut and Sweet Potato Stew


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional*)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 jalapeno, cored and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large (1-lb) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened creamy peanut butter
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and chopped
  • fresh cilantro, cooked brown rice, roasted peanuts and lime juice for serving



In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper sprinkle with salt and cook for 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeño, ginger, cumin and cayenne then stir together and cook for about 2 minutes.

Next add the tomato paste and stir together. Add the sweet potato, peanut butter, vegetable broth and water. Stir together then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the chopped collard greens to the pot, stir, then cover and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, until sweet potato is tender.

Using the back of the spoon, mash some of the sweet potato to help thicken the broth. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Serve warm with rice and garnish with cilantro, peanuts, and lime juice. Enjoy!

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Try this delicious soup for a wide variety of flavors and benefits! This soup contains ginger, which is good for helping nausea when you are feeling sick. It is also a great source of antioxidants along with the carrots, bell pepper, and other vegetables to aid in preventing sickness during this upcoming cold and flu season. The main ingredient, sweet potatoes, has a variety of vitamins including vitamins A, C, and multiple B vitamins. They are about to be in season, so they will be cheaper at a local farmer’s market!

The Lowdown on Depression

Author: Erika Rajo, Psy.D., Trauma Psychologist, UMC

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Depressive disorders can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings may make you feel like giving up.

Major depressive disorder is not the same as feeling unhappy or in a “blue” mood, feelings that can usually pass with time. It is important to recognize the signs of depression and to know that treatment is often needed and, in many cases, is crucial to recovery.

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According to findings from the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is a leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44 and affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population  age 18 and older in a given year.

Specific symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, down, empty or hopeless
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
  • Listlessness or restlessness that is observable by others
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Feeling worthless and/or helpless
  • Lasting feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: People with this symptom should seek help right away by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room.)

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The Facts

The research shows that depression diagnoses are increasing at a rapid rate in the U.S. One recent study published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (2018) found that from 2013 to 2016, depression diagnoses increased 63 percent among adolescents (ages 12 to 17) and 47 percent among millennials (ages 18 to 34). Although this rise in depression may seem alarming, the data may reflect a positive trend – an increase in the rate at which symptoms of depression are being recognized.

The bottom line is that increased awareness leads to earlier recognition/identification of symptoms, which then allows for earlier intervention and prevention! On that note, here are a few more facts you should know about depression:

  • While depression can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32
  • Depression is more prevalent in women than in men
  • There is no clear cause of depression. Experts think it happens because of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many factors can play a role in depression, including environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors.
  • Depression and sadness are not one in the same. Sadness is a part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives.
  • It’s treatable! You do not need to suffer if you have depression. There are many effective treatment options available, including psychotherapy, medication, and electroconvulsive therapy (used to treat severe, medication-resistant depression).


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When should you seek professional help?

  • If your symptoms are causing notable distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning
  • If self-help strategies or behavioral interventions are not working
  • If your symptoms and associated distress/impairment persist for more than 2 weeks
  • If you have frequent thoughts about self-harm, death, or suicide

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Self-Help Strategies

There are also some strategies you can try on your own. Of note, these strategies can serve as a supplement to professional treatment but not as a replacement.

  • Set realistic goals for yourself each day.
  • Break large tasks into small ones and set priorities. Do what you can at a pace that feels right for you.
  • Avoid the urge to isolate. Spend time with friends and family. Confide in trusted, supportive people in your life and allow them help you.
  • Schedule activities that have boosted your mood in the past, such as going to a movie, gardening, or taking part in religious, social, or other activities. Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Write down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day. This may help replace the negative thinking that often accompanies depression.
  • Make a list of positive affirmations and recite them to yourself several times a day, especially when you catch yourself having negative thoughts.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs, which can make depression worse.
  • People rarely “snap out of” depression. Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away. Feeling better takes time.
  • Seek professional help. If you think you may be depressed, see a healthcare or mental health provider as soon as possible.

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About the Author


Erika Rajo, Psy.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry for LSU Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) and the Trauma Psychologist at University Medical Center, New Orleans (UMCNO). She earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and completed both her predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship training at LSUHSC. Dr. Rajo specializes in the psychological assessment and treatment of patients in an integrated medical setting. She also has extensive training and clinical experience in the treatment of psychological trauma and has been working with patients experiencing trauma-related difficulties since 2011.




Lisa’s Story: The Wake-up Call that Saved My Life

Author: Lisa Miranda, Chief Operating Officer, UMC

In mid 2012, the sudden death of a colleagues’ husband spurred me to do something I had not done in 10 years. I went to the doctor.

I’ve worked in healthcare since 1986, and I fit the stereotype of a healthcare worker who didn’t always pay enough attention to her own health. So, for more than a decade, I hadn’t had a mammogram, blood work, routine checkup or even a sick visit to the doctor. I didn’t even have a regular physician anymore.


But that unexpected death was a wake-up call that made me realize I had better get a physician and get a checkup. I chose a family medicine physician at Touro and made an appointment. She told me what I knew, and that was I really needed to get caught up on all of my screening exams and tests.

I have a history of very dense breasts and had previous biopsies of cysts that were benign, but because of many benign cysts, a physical exam is very difficult.  The doctor wrote my orders and I had a screening mammogram, which turned into a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound on the same day, which I had gone through twice before with benign cysts. This time, the news was serious. A biopsy revealed that I had breast cancer.

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I had always said that if I was diagnosed with breast cancer I would have a bilateral mastectomy to make sure there was no ability for recurrence. I met with my surgeon, who explained that due to the location and the size (very small and on the lower portion of my breast), there was no need for a mastectomy and he would have no problems obtaining clear margins with a lumpectomy.

I had my surgery and doctors found that in addition to the tumor in my breast, the cancer had already progressed to one lymph node.

Had I not had my wake-up call, I would probably had gone another few years without testing and the cancer would have at that time been throughout my body and I would not be here today.


I received chemotherapy and radiation treatment post-surgery which put me into early menopause. Since my tumor was hormone positive, I can’t take hormone treatment for menopause and therefore hot flashes were a huge issue.

Throughout the experience, I was determined to not let my diagnosis rule my life. I went to all of my testing and treatments alone except for the last 3 in which I had neuropathy and couldn’t drive and had what I call “chemo brain.”

I gave myself my own neupegen shots after every treatment to keep my white blood cell count up and continued to work until I was unable to drive.

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During the treatments, I would bring a book, a pillow and a blanket and read until the Benadryl made me sleepy, take a nap, then drive home. One day, when I was receiving my treatment, I heard the patient across from me who was getting her first one (who had 3 people with her) ask the nurse if I was getting Chemo. The nurse later came to me and asked if I could speak to the patient who was very scared. I introduced myself and told her that I was on my 4th of 8 treatments and that I had never been nauseous or sick and used the time to relax and read. She was so surprised because I had “hair”. I laughed and whipped off my wig and showed her that I was bald as a cucumber.

Most people didn’t even realize I was undergoing treatment. My philosophy was to take each day at a time, don’t worry about something that hasn’t happened, and continue living. I feel strongly that the strength to persevere helps outcomes.


I am an example of why it is so important to have your annual exams and testing. I would not be here today if I had waited even another year.


Please join all of us at UMC in saying #YesMamm to an annual mammogram. Scheduling a screening is easy, and if you are over 40 years old with no known breast problems, you won’t need a physician’s order to get your screening mammogram at UMC. For more information, visit or to schedule an appointment, call (504) 702-5700.

Lisa Miranda.jpgLisa Miranda is UMC’s Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining UMC, she worked for 27 years at Children’s Hospital New Orleans in a number of roles, including Administrative Director of Laboratory Services, Hospital Safety Officer, and Emergency Management Coordinator.