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Inside Their Medicine Cabinets

Take a peek inside these doctors’ homes to see what medicines and products they do (and don’t) use themselves.

James Liao's medicine cabinet

James Liao

Chief of Cardiology at University of Chicago Medicine
James Liao
Photo: Courtesy of University of Chicago Medicine

Liao, 58, splits his toiletries between his Hyde Park apartment and a rental locker at the university’s Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, where he spends an hour a day on the elliptical before heading to the office. “That has been keeping me healthy, I think—or at least without cardiovascular disease.”

1. Centrum Silver Men’s Multivitamin

“I’m not sure I eat a great balanced diet, because, with my work, I sometimes end up missing meals. So I want to make sure I get the right daily recommended vitamins.”

2. Vaseline

“In the wintertime, I get cracked skin on my thumb. It’s sometimes very painful when it gets very dry. I also have lotion, but Vaseline works better.”

3. Joico Clinicure Stimulating Scalp Treat for Natural Hair

His coiffure doesn’t require reinforcement, but he tried this on the recommendation of a colleague. “I only used it a couple of times. It’s to keep your hair so it doesn’t get messed up, but it’s also supposed to thicken it. I don’t think it does.”

Not pictured: Statin

“Cholesterol is one of the areas I research, and recent studies suggest you don’t have to have high cholesterol to benefit from a statin.” The pills also reduce heart risks in those, like Liao, with a family history. (His brother, also a physician, just had bypass surgery.)

What you won’t find: Aspirin

“I’m not a big believer in taking medications unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, you should definitely take aspirin. But if you haven’t, should you prophylactically take aspirin? The jury’s not in.”

 

Rebecca Unger's medicine cabinet

Rebecca Unger

Pediatrician at Northwest Children’s Practice
Rebecca Unger
Photo: Nick Murway

This yoga-practicing, banjo-playing doc, 58, keeps the routine spare in her Lincoln Park home. “I don’t know if it’s being a pediatrician or it’s just my personality, but I like things to be pretty natural.”

1. Ibuprofen

“Sometimes I get a headache from grinding my teeth. That’s my miracle drug.”

2. Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Body Milk

“My mom gave me this very beautiful-smelling cream from Paris. I like to carry her with me because she’s no longer with us.”

3. Boiron Arnicare Arnica Cream

This herbal anti-inflammatory minimizes bruises. “I’ve had injuries from dancing—I do a lot of swing. I recently had a yoga injury where I was spotting my friend in a handstand and he kicked me.”

4. Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture SPF 35

“It’s easier for me to remember to use sunscreen if it’s within my regular moisturizer. I make sure to spend a little bit more to have a higher SPF.”

5. Integrative Therapeutics Vitamin D3 (2,000 IU)

Few foods have vitamin D, so Unger takes these tiny chocolate-flavored tablets. Her advice for patients: “The calcium and vitamin D you take in when you’re a child affect your bones when you’re older.”

6. Vitafusion Fiber Well Gummies

“My daughter went to the allergist with some abdominal pain. The allergist said this is good for everybody. So I started taking it to make sure I have a healthy gut.”

 

Victoria Buchanan's medicine cabinet

Victoria Buchanan

Internist at the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern
Victoria Buchanan
Photo: Nick Murway

Buchanan, 53, takes a holistic approach to wellness, blending Eastern and Western medicine. She normally stores her supplements in the kitchen of her Wicker Park graystone so they’re within reach at breakfast: “Most vitamins are best absorbed when you have food in your stomach.”

1. Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal

This alternative to antacids is also a “really good binder for toxins. If you eat things that weren’t organic or grass-fed, the charcoal can help your body get rid of the metals.”

2. Probiotic

“I don’t use the same one all the time, because you get different strains from different formulations.”

3. Xymogen Magnesium Citrate

“It’s calming. If you take it at bedtime, you get a good night’s sleep, and it helps your muscles relax.”

4. Xymogen Omega MonoPure Fish softgels

Though everyone thinks of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health, they also protect the brain, eyes, and joints and fight inflammation.

5. Xymogen CucuPlex-95 curcumin

“It’s the active ingredient in turmeric. I recommend it for pain relief and as an anti-inflammatory.”

6. Thorne Research Stress B-Complex

“Even if you eat really well, you still may not be getting enough of these nutrients needed for metabolism.”

7. Thorne Research D-5000

Like nearly every patient she’s tested, Buchanan has low levels of D, which boosts immunity and metabolism. “Living in Chicago, we just don’t get enough sun.”

 

Keith Veselik's medicine cabinet

Keith Veselik

Family Physician at Loyola University Health System
Keith Veselik
Photo: Courtesy of Loyola University Health System

Veselik, 54, is Loyola’s chief medical officer for population health—which means he works to tackle health disparities throughout the Chicago area. But his passion lies with treating patients. (One family he cares for spans four generations.) “We tend to be medicine cabinet minimalists,” he says, noting that his family’s Clarendon Hills home is stocked mainly with remedies to battle the seasonal allergies that strike him, his wife, and his 22-year-old son (one of four kids).

1. Fexofenadine

The generic version of Allegra. “Works just as well. And it’s less expensive.”

2. Ranitidine

The generic version of Zantac. “I see patients on Tuesday evenings. If it’s busy and I don’t get a chance to eat until I get home at 9 or 9:30, I just throw in a pizza. Those are the nights I might get heartburn.”

3. Fluticasone allergy spray

The generic version of Flonase. This is part of Veselik’s routine from August to September, when his rhinitis flares.

4. Afrin decongestant spray

When it’s a cold that’s stuffing up his nose, Veselik prefers sprays. “If you’re taking an oral decongestant, sometimes it makes it a little hard to sleep.” Plus, some pills slightly boost blood pressure.

Not pictured: Benadryl

Why another allergy medicine? “Benadryl makes me sleepier and has only about six-hour effectiveness, but it is a little stronger.”

 

Victoria Barbosa's medicine cabinet

Victoria Barbosa

Dermatologist at Millennium Park Dermatology
Victoria Barbosa
Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Barbosa

Before she opened her dermatology practice in 2010, Barbosa, 49, spent seven years at L’Oréal, heading up a research and development lab focused on various ethnicities. “I’m a skin and hair product junkie,” she says, admitting that her collection, which includes both high-end and drugstore brands, spills out onto the bathroom shelves, countertops, and bathtub edge. “My skin care cannot be contained.”

1. Ban Powder Fresh Roll-On Antiperspirant Deodorant

“My mom used Ban, I use Ban. I love the scent. And most importantly, it works.”

2. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

In hot weather, Barbosa uses a different cleanser, one with glycolic acid, to cut through sweaty grime (one of her faves: Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser). In cold months, though, she’s all about Cetaphil. “As we get older, our skin gets a little drier. What I’m able to tolerate in the summer, I can’t in the winter; my skin feels more sensitive.”

3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid

If you do nothing else to look young, Barbosa says, slather on sunscreen and a retinol or retinoid (she uses the latter). “Everything else is gravy.”

4. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

She rotates moisturizers, but most—like this one—are oil-free. “Even though I am no longer in my 20s, or even my 30s, I still break out.”

Not pictured: PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum

“Hyaluronic acid attracts moisture from the environment to your skin. Very few people have a bad reaction or break out from it.”

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