Wednesday, April 30, 2008


If there's one thing that the husband gives me a hard time about, it's my reading of celebrity gossip online..or more specifically--Perez. Somehow, with all of his haranguing of me, I never feel guilty. And now I know why. Health Communication is wrapping up for the semester, and in our last two classes we have spent some time reviewing what we have learned over the last several months. One of the major things that Dr. E has focused on in our discussions is the fact that the mass media really is public health educator #1. We try our best with our public health messages but we really aren't the true educators out there. So, the take home message is that in order to know what the world at large is learning about health, it's important for us public health folks to educate ourselves. We have to watch Gossip Girl and American Idol. We have to know who Miley Cyrus is. And we have to read a tad bit of celebrity gossip. So hub--take that. Reading Perez is homework. Who knew? With that, I bid farewell to my post in the blogosphere and leave the blogging to the pros. I've enjoyed it all--the banter between friends, the poetry, and the posts written by my cat. Thanks and ta ta for now!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

thanks to rosie

About a month ago, dear rose hipped me to a PBS special on the non-biological determinants of health. Since then, I have been watching the video clips incessantly and will be showing several in the final installments of the Health Psychology course I am teaching. Those students sure love their video! Because this 4 hour series is so dang good, I thought it would be wrong not to share it with you all.

Have a look at the trailer:

For access to all of the clips, go to the website for Unnatural Causes:

Friday, April 18, 2008


As many of you know, this was an especially rough week. But in the face of that, I was presented with the most wonderful set of family and friends--even colleagues! I feel very blessed. So, I head to Chicago with a (still) heavy heart but a grateful one, too. And that's probably the best thing I could ever hope for. Thanks and so much love to you all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Getting back to my roots. Period.

We watched an excellent video by Jean Kilbourne called Killing Us Softly in class yesterday. Watching it, I immediately felt like I was having a warm slice of mom’s apple pie. Not that mom really ever baked but you know what I mean. The video addresses the ways that women are portrayed in advertising, as well as the potential negative impact of such portrayals. I know, I know. This is a very played out theme... I vividly remember the passionate debates about this very same topic playing out in my high school English class. That said, I felt a little spark go off inside of me when I was watching it. Made me feel like getting back to my roots…

Lately, I have been missing (just ever so slightly) the research I did as an undergrad. I studied none other than (drum roll please) the menstrual cycle. God was it ever fun to talk to people about my research back then. Everyone squirmed. And I loved it. I personally had the opportunity to learn about people’s experiences with the menstrual cycle in India and the US. Oh, the stories I heard!

Re-inspired, I have decided to talk a bit about this topic in my upcoming lecture on sexual health. In preparing, I decided to see whether YM magazine still existed and whether it still had the section on embarrassing period moments—Say Anything (one of the MANY sources of negative portrayals about the menstrual cycle). I was happy (?) to find that indeed the magazine is still operating and now has an on-line version so that girls can post their embarrassing period stories at all hours of the day. Read up right here: Say Anything. I was saddened to find that very little has changed about the way the menstrual cycle is portrayed to young women. The words “embarrassment”, “shame”, and “disgusting” were at the forefront ten years ago and still are… Who benefits from this? Certainly not the young girls. And certainly not the environment, given that the message being conveyed is that you must change your products every couple of hours to avoid the horrors of a bad period story. With that, I will leave you with a current Kotex ad that BLOWS my mind. Judge for yourself who the beneficiary of this portrayal might be…

Friday, March 28, 2008

that little voice in me

I have spent the last two days at the Society for Behavioral Medicine annual conference. These conferences often serve several purposes for me. I often get fired up, ready to finally write that review paper I have put on the back burner, ready to network, ready to dive into various research endeavors. But attending a conference often leaves me feeling inadequate as well (a theme in this blog?). Powerpoint presentation after Powerpoint presentation, p-value after p-value, I sit in an overly air-conditioned conference room pondering my place in this massive field. But today I had an important and meaningful revelation.

More than in previous years, the conference has gone back to talking about the individual. In recent years, it has most certainly become the trend to focus research and intervention efforts at the population level. This is definitely where I think the biggest impact can be made and this is why I have decided to pursue the Master's in Public Health. But it was quite clear to me that there was a small but detectable shift back towards talking about the individual this year. Not only that but (gasp!), the role of the clinician.

One talk that moved me in particular--a keynote address this afternoon--discussed ways to help folks dealing with a devastating diagnosis. It was during these various talks that I realized that I really love clinical work. I even got choked up a bit thinking about some of the patients I have gotten to know so intimately over the years, several of whom have been dealing with their own diagnosis or that of a loved one. It made me realize what a blessed experience it is to get to sit in a room with someone for an hour and try everything you can to make a difference in this one person's life. Coincidentally (?), I then attended a talk where a graduate of my program discussed her very difficult and unsupported decision to switch from academia to a more clinical career.

I don't know what I will do with all of this information. This certainly isn't the first time that I have had this revelation. And it probably won't be the last. But perhaps the latest revelation will serve as a comfort to me. If this whole research thing doesn't work out for me, I actually really love clinical work. It brings me a heck of a lot more daily joy than writing a research paper ever will. Worth noting indeed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Knock Knock

As many of you know, I decided to go to grad school as a way to act upon my commitment to eliminating the massive health disparities we face in this country. Over the past (almost) four years, I have found that it has been difficult to maintain my resolve. I go to a lecture like Tracy Kidder’s one day, and I am re-inspired. The next, I am obsessing over an upcoming midterm, how competitive I will be for internship, or whether I am liked/valued by my boss. Grad school—the very vehicle for my passion—has instead become a great source of self-doubt. And as a result, I am often stopped from doing what I came here to do in the first place. Not to mention the endless mental anguish I put my lovely husband and friends through. You know it’s true. :)

For the past week or so, I have been preparing a lecture on health disparities for the class I teach. This has been a very powerful exercise for me, as it has helped me to reinvent and recreate my approach to improving the health of those who have largely been let down by the system. I spent hours last weekend on youtube, looking for videos that would help illuminate the points I plan to make in my lecture. Perhaps the most invigorating thing I came across in my youtube adventures was an act from a play by Daniel Beaty, called “Emergence-See.” I can’t stop watching it. Not only does it highlight some of the major social injustices that are, at least in part, responsible for health disparities. But it is a call to action that brings me (and maybe you) to tears. Most importantly, it has helped me to step away from the self-consciousness and self-concern that stop me in my pursuits…and come away with some serious intentionality.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

a birthday treat

Tomorrow is my birthday. And tonight I celebrated! After wrapping up the class I teach (and stuffing a burrito into my mouth in .05 seconds), I attended a lecture by Tracy Kidder, the writer of "Mountains Beyond Mountains," a book that I absolutely loved. To write the book, Tracy Kidder followed Dr. Paul Farmer—a man who has essentially DEDICATED his life to helping resolve the pandemics of HIV and tuberculosis. And by dedicated I mean DEDICATED. While his work began in Haiti many years ago, he has taken the success of his organization (Partners In Health) to several other countries since, including Russia and Peru. He is now focusing his efforts on the continent of Africa. The lecture was inspiring (duh) but in a very unusual way. I didn’t leave the lecture feeling like my life was inadequate or that I should sell my possessions and move to another country to live (in a hot water-less home). Instead, I left feeling like I could really do something to make a dent in the world. Even if I can never live like Paul Farmer. Paul Farmer himself discourages the notion that anyone in their right mind should try to live the way he does. Instead, he suggests that we get together in groups, and use the talents that we have and love...for good. A simple request, really. So, on the eve of my birthday, I feel enlivened--ready to team up with my miraculous friends and family to make some serious change in this world. Any takers?