This week we publish the newspaper doctors love to hate: The annual issue of the Best Doctors in Arkansas. The Arkansas Times always gets a bit of teasing from physicians over our survey, which seeks to yield a list of the state's shining stars in medicine. We've been told great doctors are always left out, that it's only a popularity contest, and it's unscientific. They're right about its being unscientific. Doctors answer voluntarily and we don't use statistics to determine if our respondent total is significant. This year, as we've always done with our self-generated surveys, our mailing went to every licensed doctor in Pulaski County and to a sample of doctors outside the county. We got a six percent return rate, or some 200 responses. Perhaps this year's 11th edition of the Best Doctors was a popularity contest, too. But for the first time, we gave doctors the opportunity to pay a tribute to any colleague they thought should be recognized, whether he fell in a survey category or not. The response was great: Thirty doctors wrote tributes as short as a sentence to as long as a page on 30 other doctors; those essays are included here. This year's list was narrowed to doctors who are called on to treat the top five deadliest diseases. (We also included, for the first time, emergency physician as a category, in recognition that accidents are the fourth most common cause of death.) To the dismay of some of our respondents, we did not include family practice, anesthesiology or psychiatry, and these doctors complained we were ignoring them. Let us wiggle out of this charge by noting that we have devoted an entire issue to psychiatry, last year devoted a page to anesthesiology, and have had a family practice physician on the cover of a previous Best Doctor issue. We do single out the “top vote getters,” but we also include a list of “other best doctors” nominated by a significant number of respondents. So call them all “best.” Two physicians stood out from their peers by a margin as wide as the Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute at UAMS is tall. We talked to both of them: neurosurgeon Dr. David Reding and endocrinologist Dr. Philip Peters, repeat winners both. Dr. Reding provided insight into how MRIs have improved the surgeon's accuracy in getting to the right place in what might otherwise be indistinguishable gray matter. But he muses on the dilemma doctors now face: that technology now allows doctors to save lives, but not necessarily quality of life. (See page 28.) We can't prevent brain tumors. But we can help ourselves avoid certain diseases. Obesity is second to smoking as the cause of preventable disease. It's much on the radar in Arkansas as the state's population grows increasingly sick, and sick at a younger age. In our interview with Peters, we focused on two diseases linked to obesity: diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A look at the top five diseases: In 2002, the most recent year for which figures are available, heart disease was the biggest killer in Arkansas, accounting for 29.2 percent, or nearly 1 in 3, deaths. Cancer was second (22 percent), cerebrovascular disease (stroke, etc.) third (7.8 percent), chronic lower respiratory diseases (cardiopulmonary, emphysema, etc.) fourth (5 percent), and diabetes was fifth (2.2 percent), where it's ranked since 2000. Until 2000, diabetes commonly ranked as the sixth most common fatal disease, behind influenza and pneumonia, but it's on the rise: 201 more people died of diabetes in 2002 than in 1996, a .6 percent increase and a number Arkansas Health Department medical director Dr. David Bourne says is probably significant. As Bourne and Peters explained, the behaviors that make us insulin resistant trigger a cascade of other vascular insults that can cause stroke and heart disease as well as the end-organ diseases — kidney failure, blindness, neuropathy — caused by diabetes. Poor health habits, such as a lack of exercise, overeating, poor diet and smoking, act in a synergistic way to harm health, Bourne explained. That is, if you're overweight and you smoke, you aren't just adding up the risks, but multiplying them — a 1 plus 1 equals 3 result. The other side of the coin: Quitting one bad habit is good, but quitting two is far better. Unfortunately, knowing that doesn't make us behave. The doctors other Arkansas doctors would go to for the treatment of these top killers follow. Doctors are from Little Rock or North Little Rock unless otherwise indicated. CARDIOLOGIST TOP VOTE GETTERS J. Lynn Davis, Randal Hundley, David Churchill of Fayetteville OTHER BEST CARDIOLOGISTS Joe Bissett, Gary J. Collins, Thomas D. Conley, Van De Bruyn, Roger Hill of Jonesboro, J. Douglas Holloway, Steven W. Hutchins, Randy A. Jordan, Eleanor Kennedy, Jim C. Kizziar, Andrew G. Kumpuris, John Lindemann, Bruce E. Murphy, James E. Shuffield, David E. Smith, Donald E. Steely of Conway. ONCOLOGIST TOP VOTE GETTERS Joe Beck, Anthony Bucolo, Laura Hutchins, Lawrence Mendelsohn OTHER BEST ONCOLOGISTS Brad Baltz, Thad Beck of Fayette-ville, David Becton, Daniel Bradford of Fayetteville, Mariann Harrington, Malcolm Hayward of Fayetteville, Marc Monte of Jonesboro, Balagopalan Nair, Fernando Padilla, Kamal Patel, Jack Sternberg, Bill Tranum, Diane Wilder. NEUROLOGIST TOP VOTE GETTERS Lee Archer, Bradley S. Boop, Michael Z. Chesser OTHER BEST NEUROLOGISTS Beverly A. Beadle, Alonzo Burba, Timothy Freyaldenhoven of Conway, Coburn S. Howell, Elaine Wilson. PULMONOLOGIST TOP VOTE GETTER Gail McCracken OTHER BEST PULMONOLOGISTS Paula Anderson, Neal J. Beaton, Jeff Cohen of Jonesboro, Jim Gilbert, Jack A. Griebel, John R. Hampton, Kyle G. Hardy of Fayetteville, Stanley Kellar, Tyrone Lee of Conway, Nancy F. Rector, Robert M. Searcy, Arthur E. Squire. ENDOCRINOLOGSIT TOP VOTE GETTER Phillip J. Peters OTHER BEST ENDOCRINOLOGISTS John Baldridge, Deborah L. Bursey, Donald Bodenner, Lawson Glover, Ray Maracek, Richard J. Rapp, Allen H. Redding, Debra L. Simmons. EMERGENCY MEDICINE TOP VOTE GETTER Wendell Pahls OTHER BEST ER DOCTORS Marlon Doucet, David Edrington, Darren Flamik, Jeffrey Kirchner, Marvin Leibovich, Charles Mason, Tom Robinson, Les Sessions, Kendal Stanford. GASTROENTEROLOGIST TOP VOTE GETTERS Glenn Davis, James Metrailer, Jerry Silvoso, Doug Smart, Paul E. Williams. OTHER BEST GASTROENTEROLOGISTS John Tyler Baber, Matthew Garner of Jonesboro, C. Don Greenway, Roy Steven Jones, Dean Kumpuris, Tom L. Meziere, Angela K. Nutt, Michael Lynn Rogers of Fayetteville. HEART SURGEON TOP VOTE GETTERS F. Michael Bauer, John M. Ransom, C.D. Williams OTHER BEST HEART SURGEONS E.J. Chauvin of Conway, James Counce of Springdale, Frederick A. Meadors, Charles J. Watkins, John Weiss of Fayetteville. CANCER SURGEON TOP VOTE GETTERS Dana Abraham (breast), Jim Hagans (breast) OTHER BEST CANCER SURGEONS David Bard (gynecological), John C. Jones (general); Suzanne Klimberg (breast), Richard Nicholas (orthological); Scott Stern (head and neck), James Suen (head and neck), John Tedford (colon), Kent Westbrook (breast). NEUROSURGEON TOP VOTE GETTER David Reding OTHER BEST NEUROSURGEONS Timothy Burson, Richard Jordan, Zachary Mason, Ossama Al-Mefty, Ronald Williams. OTHER SURGEONS BY SPECIALTY Chris Cate, Gareth Eck of Fayetteville, John C. Jones, Pat Osam, Cliff Parnell, Michael Stair, Everett Tucker, general; Hugh Burnett, John Rowen, thoracic; Robert Casali, John F. Eidt, vascular.