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Houston City Scope July 2016

Lisa Alamia and Toby Yaltho, M.D.

Lisa Alamia and Toby Yaltho, M.D.


A physician at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is working to uncover new information about a rare neurological disorder that has impacted fewer than 100 people worldwide since it was first described in 1907.

For Lisa Alamia, 33, the trouble began when she had surgery on her jaw in December 2015 to correct a serious overbite. The surgery was successful, and Alamia had minimal swelling. However, when she began to speak, her voice suddenly had a distinct British accent.

“I didn’t notice it at first,” said Alamia. “But my husband told me I was talking funny. My surgeon thought it was just a physical result of the surgery and that it would go away as I healed.”

When the accent persisted, however, Alamia’s surgeon suggested she see her primary care physician, who later referred her to board-certified neurologist Toby Yaltho, M.D., with Houston Methodist Sugar Land Neurology Associates. Yaltho diagnosed Alamia with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), which causes patients to suddenly begin speaking with a new, distinct accent. It is frequently a consequence of head trauma or stroke, but not always. “This is a fascinating and very rare case,” said Yaltho. Although Yaltho had studied about FAS, he never expected to treat someone suffering from the rare condition. “Most neurologists work their entire careers and never come across FAS,” he said.

Yaltho conducted a complete neurological exam on Alamia, including an MRI scan of her brain to determine if she had suffered a stroke or other injury, and an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is used to detect abnormalities in brain waves that could lead to seizures.

“Everything came back normal,” said Yaltho. “There was no evidence of stroke or other abnormalities.”

Meanwhile, the accent made Alamia extremely self-conscious and kept her from interacting with others. “For a while, whenever I went out in public, I was afraid I would see someone I know and I would have to talk with them,” she said. “I didn’t want people to laugh or to think I was talking this way on purpose, but Dr. Yaltho has helped me to understand that there is something going on in my brain that is triggering the accent, and that’s made me feel more comfortable.”

Although some people with FAS find that their accent diminishes over time, in some cases it is permanent. There is no known cure. For Alamia, the next steps involve speech therapy and a functional MRI of the brain, which tracks activity in specific parts of the brain by measuring changes in blood flow.

“The human brain is a complex organ, and we don’t know if we will ever be able to completely understand what causes FAS,” said Dr. Yaltho. “When we have the opportunity to learn more, we have to do all we can. We hope to learn as much as possible to contribute to the understanding of FAS to hopefully help future patients and their physicians.”

A similar FAS case involving oral surgery surfaced in 2011, when a native-born Oregon woman awoke from a routine dental procedure and found that she spoke with an Irish accent. Like Alamia, over time she learned to handle the questions and comments from both friends and strangers.

“I’ve learned that not everything in life has an answer,” said Alamia, “but the accent doesn’t define who I am. I’m still the same person I was before surgery; I just talk differently.”

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The incoming executive committee (l-r): Jayne Sheehy Johnston, Megan Arbour Long, Abbey Deiss Roberson, Shannon Beirne Weisedeppe, Amy Michelle Dunn, Selina Victor Sauter and Sarah Heck Snyder.

The incoming executive committee (l-r): Jayne Sheehy Johnston, Megan Arbour Long, Abbey Deiss Roberson, Shannon Beirne Weisedeppe, Amy Michelle Dunn, Selina Victor Sauter and Sarah Heck Snyder.


The Junior League of Houston, Inc., an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers, recently inducted its 2016 – 2017 Executive Committee. These volunteers bring a wide range of experiences to the organization:

Incoming Executive Committee: president – Shannon Beirne Wiesedeppe; president-elect – Sarah Heck Snyder; community vice president – Megan Arbour Long; development vice president – Amy Michelle Dunn; financial vice president – Jayne Sheehy Johnston; membership vice president – Abbey Deiss Roberson; and recording secretary – Selina Victor Sauter.

The gavel was officially passed on May 23 as the Junior League of Houston turned over its Executive Committee and leadership team during the organization’s final general membership meeting for the 2015-2016 year. Members celebrated the past year under the leadership of outgoing President Mary Margaret “Mimi” Fraser Foerster. Mimi was presented with a sterling silver tray generously donated by Tenenbaum Jewelers to commemorate her service, leadership and “The Heart of a Champion.”

Incoming President, Shannon Beirne Wiesedeppe, brings 18 years of active Junior League of Houston experience to an organization rich in history and commitment to the Greater Houston Area. “The Junior League model provides the unique opportunity for members to pursue and grow into roles completely out of their comfort zone and experience or fill roles where they can enhance the skills and interests they already possess,” said Wiesedeppe. “This training allows the Junior League to continue to feed a pipeline of experienced, confident volunteers who build well-being in the community.” This year, Junior League volunteers will provide more than 130,000 hours of service through their volunteer placements leading volunteers/projects as well as working in the community and in the Junior League of Houston Tea Room.


(L-R): Caroline Billipp, Lori Brown and Tennessee Ott at the Roberta Roller Rabbit grand opening.

(L-R): Caroline Billipp, Lori Brown and Tennessee Ott at the Roberta Roller Rabbit grand opening.


Roberta Roller Rabbit, along with Tennessee Ott and Caroline Billipp, launched its first Houston storefront in the posh River Oaks District (4444 Westheimer Road, Suite A155) with an exclusive grand opening event on May 19. Guests enjoyed savory light bites from Songkran Thai Kitchen served alongside wine and champagne as they shopped the Summer 2016 collection. The founder of the travel-inspired line, Roberta Freymann, mingled with guests and offered styling tips to shoppers. A percentage of the evening’s proceeds benefited The Children’s Fund.

For more information, call 713-877-1701 or visit robertarollerrabbit.com.



Elandis, the real estate ownership, development and property management arm of the Libra Group throughout the Americas, has acquired approximately 1,000 units in four separate multi-family communities in Houston.

The combined purchases are valued at $50 million and expand the company’s portfolio of owned and managed residential units to 2,500. Elandis has a total of more than 5.8 million square feet of commercial and residential real estate developed and under-development across the Americas, with a presence in Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., Panama, Uruguay and Spain.

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