Public Health is Important Too!

*DISCLAIMER* I have lots of medical students as friends, I respect their ambitions, I see the importance of the career, and I know they work very hard to earn their medical degree. With that being said, please read with understanding.

I am not new to the notion of spending holidays away from my immediate family. I have spent every holiday away from family at least once, due to both choice (ie, I wanted to go travel) and to distance. Regardless, I can say that I am extremely thankful for my family, as they have supported me throughout the myriad of locals I have lived in and career choices I have brought up.

This Thanksgiving was one of those distance holidays. I had school on Wednesday so there was no way I was going to drive the 10 hours home for only 3 days. I am lucky to have my aunt, uncle, and cousin living just down the road but they weren’t doing a traditional meal this year since 1) my uncle is British, 2) who wants to cook all those dishes for only four people, and 3) we are all vegetarian. Our new family tradition is to make gourmet pizza, drink Martinelli’s, and eat apple pie. There’s much less clean up and we can move afterwards.

Still wanting some yams, dinner roast, and hot apple cider, I ventured over to the second annual “Orphan’s Thanksgiving,” reserved for those whom do not have immediate family within traveling distance over this short break. There we dived into a traditional dinner, complete with a deep-fried turkey, green bean casserole, and so much more food. The highlight had to be a dessert combination of cookie dough, double-stuffed Oreos, and brownie mix baked together.

Since Loma Linda University is a world recognized instituted (and SDA’s have lovingly called it the Adventist equivalent to Mecca), we had students represented from every school who could not go home for this holiday at this Thanksgiving feast. Among them, there were two medical students who caught my attention as they were saying their good-byes. They found out I was in public health and did the whole, “Oh. That’s nice,” with a sympathetic smile. The first medical student proceeded to name the one person in the SPH and I happen to have all my classes with him. He is also in medical school, taking a year to do his MPH in preparation for a career in infectious disease. As the conversation continues, the first medical student mentions that, “it is a nice certificate. A really good add on.” Now, I have worked both with doctors who love public health or don’t see any point in it and I can see where they come from.

But let me tell you: I am working hard for my master’s level degree. I have taken all the same science classes as the medical students as well as the MCAT but found that public health is where I want to be. I plan to continue to work hard in my field, taking care of what doctors do not have time to do.

The other medical student also shot himself in the foot as he continued to agree with the first medical student on how they don’t have time to really learn how evidence based medicine really works. He literally said that it was a good thing they had a recent MPH graduate on their research team or else they could not have found out if any of their research was even significant without her expert knowledge. If he did not have the time know learn how this works (mind you, this was during the summer which means no classes) then I am worried for when these student start practicing medicine. I want to know that my doctor has a solid understanding of why and how and if a medication or procedure will work, not just a hunch that it will work.

This situation is one of many I have recently had of how others with (or in this case pursing) higher degrees, neglect to recognize the importance of public health in the medical task force. It brought to mind several thoughts that I am personal having trouble dealing with. The largest one is what am I doing after I finish? I love public health. I also am very interested in the clinical aspect of health. I also love research, organization, traveling, history, etc., etc. The list could go on but I am still heavily considering a career in medicine, politics, or straight public health. The lack of awareness about public health in medicine both attracts me to and detours me from it.

The Thanksgiving medical students were just the example how both fields need to be better educated of the others’ world and how they need to work better together rather than so far apart. Public health needs medicine and medicine needs public health. So regardless what career I end up in, I will always have the respect to acknowledge and respect someone’s career/educations choices rather than saying it’s a nice addition.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” 1 Corithians 12:27-31

High Schoolers and Global Health

It’s been a busy two weeks! I finally made it to the beach this year and it will not be the last! A group of the new Global Health cohort wanted to visit the golden coast and we could not have picked a better day. Clear skies with a slight nip in the air provided the proper person-to-beach proportion. There were a few naked Europeans wading and inner city kids who didn’t know what to do with the water but over all it was simply a calm in the midst of a busy quarter.

With midterms last week and finishing up my telemarker job for the School of Allied Health (I hate calling and asking for money!), I was ready for that extra hour that daylight savings provided. Even then, Sunday was crazy busy with our quarterly My Campus event. This event focuses on minority youth in the local inland empire, exposing them to the health science professions, and mentoring them. This quarter was uniquely great due to the fact that the School of Public Health was featured. Since I am a Student Association Representative and I work for our Community-Academic Partners in Service (CAPS), I was recruited to lead out in our Global Health Booth.

As the high school students rotated around to the different booths, we had many of them very interested in Global health. The students’ aspirations varied from those who didn’t want to graduate from high school to others who were dead set on becoming neurosurgeons. Thankfully, most students seemed very interested in global health and what it could do for them. They were thrilled to know how Global Health could be added on to their current dreams of physical therapy, nursing, medicine, dentistry, or business. Later in the program, there was a “speed networking” time and most of the students had a great deal more questions on how they could incorporate Global Health into their lives.

It is encouraging to see that so many people are interested in Global Health. The most important thing that I wanted these students to realize is that that Global Health is not so much a degree as it is a life choice. A Global Health Professional is simply someone who works with a variety of cultures in some aspect of the health field. Research based or clinical practice, it all comes down to a life of service and a drive to work in a culturally aware environment.

Adventure Starts Now!

Well, that may be a lie. Its already week 5 and there have been plenty of adventures causing lack of sleep, great smiles and memories, along with a few “moments,” challenges, and cramming. I can’t believe that time has flown with this velocity. Somewhere along the way I should have hit my stride of Fall Quarter 2012, but I completely missed it.

Like you’ve seen in my past blogs (or you can read them here), I thrive on routines, lists, and time management allowing me to play all the more in between these set items. I just ordered something like 3000 sticky notes, I put up my white board, I have linked my iCal, Google calendar, and Microsoft Exchange calendar all to my phone and to each other but somehow I still can’t drag myself to run or even get to class on time.

Its really just a mind set. Though I have not taken HPRO 509, our health behavior class, I have glanced through the text book and see what I need to do to get myself going: I need a goal. A marathon to train for, a test to study for, a job to work hard for, anything to get me to keep something consistant to wake up and keep a daily routine. It seems easy to do but I’m just not feeling it quite yet.

There is a little bit of that feeling. I’ll do it for a couple of days but then I’ll miss a day and then I am thrown off. But here’s to change. Here’s to keeping that feeling going. To get in that grove and get on that adventure!

Happiness in Tuscany

Happiness. It sometimes is hard to come by. Cynics may say that happiness is simply ignorance, but I would have to say that they haven’t been to Tuscany. As you may recall from my first blog, I worked as an au pair for an Austrian family, deep in the heart of the Alps in Innsbruck, Austria. Well, they decided I preformed decently enough last summer to incur an invitation to work for them this summer as well.

After a very long set of flights from Manila->Taipei->LAX then drive 7 hours later to SFO->Dusseldorf->Munich, and three weeks of soccer, swimming, and being horribly beat at Ping-Pong, we have arrived in a little Italian village just south of Tuscany proper. Our days are extremely packed with family tennis tournaments (I pulled a bronze metal in one of them), swimming, reading, tanning, and picking fresh figs and plums from the trees on our property. In the evening, we sit down for a nice Italian style meal that consists of 6 antipasti and second pasta course. If we can make it through that, we have our main course and decadent house made panacota.

The simplicity of this holiday baffles me. Who knew you could lie around for seven straight days? I’m use to little sleep and lots of moving and going and looking and talking. But after spending yesterday noticing how some clouds moved east to west and others moved west to east and wondering what kind of phenomena this is, I think Italy is happiness. After a nearly three-hour meal where I’m not completely stuffed into a food coma but instead ate amazing food mixed in with delightful conversation, allowing for digestion between meals, I think Italy is happiness. After swimming and playing all morning to eat a lunch full of self-picked figs of multiple varieties, I think Italy is happiness.

Try to keep me from coming back here. Just try. Now I just need to find a public health job to support my student loans.

Philippines update (sorry so late)

Well, the Philippines has come and gone. I apologize for not having kept you up to date on our daily happenings, but in all honesty, it was a whirlwind of a trip. Here is a break down of our schedule by week:

Arrived on 29 June 2012 (Friday).
Week 1: Monday-Friday were filled with site visits and courtesy calls.
Week 2: Sunday and Monday were for training on how to administer surveys. On Tuesday and Wednesday we administered the surveys, and Thursday we worked on going over the data.
Week 3: On Monday we gave a mock presentation to select partners, which was followed by a long night of tweaking and editing to the liking of our partners. After the real presentation, we worked our paper virtually straight up until the minute we left for the airport Thursday morning. We arrived safely and without a hitch back at Nichol at 8:30 pm Thursday, 17 July.

There are so many things that I have learned on this trip, pushing my current understanding of public health practice, patience, and love for mango shakes to a new level. I now have a great appreciation for small groups, antihistamines, and seasonings.

Starting out, we were split up into distinct groups within our larger nutrition group. Upon arrival, the scope of work was less than expected, (making it a bit difficult to really write any sort of report other than a reflection) so we had to come together as one large 14-person group and workout what now agreed would be our new scope of work (more data analysis). This meant that everyone had to agree on everything regarding questions and the information gathered and how it would be worked on. Four and a half hours of disgruntled, tired, and anxious conversation, we had a good chunk done and could get started on the data collection.

Data collection was the easy part. Once that was done, we could get started on the analysis to see what jumped out at us in the data. We spent all Thursday trying to work out a rough draft of the paper so we could play during the weekend. One group decided that since the paper was due on the following Thursday, we could head to Boracay from Friday morning until Monday morning. I did not agree, especially since they had a little more work to do than my group, but if they were going, I decided to go too. Virtually all but two of our now 12 (two people were needed to go to the disaster relief group) headed to Boracay. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun and there will be a separate blog post just on it, but I can’t say it was the smarts idea, though it was also not the stupidest idea.

Our mock presentation was supposed to be as close to the real once as possible. Having only 3.5 hours to work on it (again with 12 people, please just shoot me now), we really pulled off a quality product. Really though, if we had spent all weekend working on it, I’m sure that would not have been as focused and talked it to pieces until no one understood what was going on.

Our real presentation went exceptionally well, all things considered, except for one point that was more of a miscommunication between our other two partners. Thankfully our professors were preset to clarify where our responsibilities ended. Being most of our presentations for the last year were in an academic setting, we learned to take the criticisms or critiques without question. However, with this presentation, the critiques were way beyond our control and should have been brought to someone else’s plate. Once those wrinkles were ironed out, the primary investigator showed her great appreciation for our work and encouraged us to publish this paper.

I think we all can say that there was a lot to be learned and a lot to take way from this trip. I hope that future trips go more smoothly but that the students also make the best of their situations and learn what they can.

Mabuhay!

It’s now been ten days since we left cozy little Nichol Hall for the bustling city of Manila, Philippines. So much has happened that I should’ve been blogging from the start but I’ll try to catch you all up on what’s been happening.

The trip over was uneventful in a good way. Turbulence was minimal, food was all right, and the inflight entertainment was great. We arrived in Manila and a bus drove us out to Silang-Cavite to the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR). We were greeted with a warm (and humid) welcome, settled in, and headed off to the local mall to pick up supplies. After some ice cream and brief shopping, we all headed back and slept soundly through the night.

A few students headed out to the beautiful island of Palawan and saw one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World while the rest of us explored the region around us. We saw a lake with an island with a volcano and lake in the volcano. Its one of the highest points on the island of Luzon (the main island of the Philippines) and had great views of the hills and lake. Everything is so GREEN! On our way back, had fresh coconut juice and jelly at a local market, quenching our thirst and revitalizing our spirits.

Sunday was completely relaxing. A few of us took a trip to the Balinese Spa and Massage to prepare for long meetings and car rides. After three hours of body scrubs and massages, we headed back to join the rest of the group for dinner, followed by a brief meeting to discuss what the plan of action for the next few days.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are full of meetings, seminars, and many introductions. We were fortunate to rub shoulders with the country directors of organizations such as WHO, Save the Children, ADRA International, International Rice Research Institute, World Vision, Red Cross (Red Crescent or Red Crystal), the Department of Health of the Philippines, local town clinics, and the top county hospital. It was a true eye-opener of how the government, health practitioners, nongovernmental agencies, and community are working together to provide better health in the Philippines.

It was a great introduction to what we will be working with in our future career. Please stay tuned for another update soon!

We are Doers

Many people have a very different perspective on a masters in public health. Ideas of heavy stacks of papers, old musty books for literature reviews, debate and philosophy must come to mind. The crazy thing about the program is that we do these things to an extent, but in reality, we are all about today, community, and what tomorrow holds. Ethics are important, as is having knowledge of existing programs and being able to express what you need to do via a project proposal but action comes shortly after. The MPH is a professional degree (the reason why we pay for it rather than get paid to go to school), resulting in a life full of both implementation and research (if one desires). We are not philosophers, we are doers. We have learned how program plan and evaluate, analyze data, work in the field, communicate, and notice everyday public health issues.

Recently, my neighbor, an older gentleman, told me that I should take a survival course if I want to work abroad. I said something along the lines of, “Sure, sounds great,” as I just wanted to go cycling, but he continued to give an explanation: “Those people won’t listen to you. They will do their own thing if you don’t know what to do.” I understood what he was saying but I wanted to ask him why he thought that I didn’t know how to do that (but I wanted to cycle more). At school, we learn what to do within a community/culture/region that is unfamiliar or different to us.

I chose an MPH rather than another masters or PhD because I wanted action. I wanted to do something. I wanted to be a part of something bigger, right in the thick of it. Just because it is a masters program does not merit us to be snobby or pretentious. We can do normal tasks like think of how to get clean water or prevent cholera outbreaks. We do research, writing, speaking, implementing, program planning, evaluation, advocacy, healing, resource management, grant writing, publishing, and much more. We are doers.

Thoughts from Class…

What if we lived in a place where there was no judgment? No hatred or racism, fascism, biases, or gendercide? What if we didn’t have to classify people into this category or that one? How did we come up with these terms that we check in our boxes? When did we become the definitions rather than self-identifying with ourselves, based on our experiences, values, and culture.

Where exactly is this stemming from, you may wonder? Well one of “generals” that we have to take here at LLU SPH is called “Cultural Competencies and Health Disparities,” which goes into the idea behind race, ethnicities, pre-conceived biases, the history behind disease “racism”, and so much more. At times I think, “Who cares?” and five minutes later, I’m actively engaged in an open discussion on preconceived ideas (apparently, I don’t have friends with bad teeth).

But this issue is going past the idea that racism is the worst form of bias. Though all humanity is more similar genetically than one Emperor Penguin is to another, we, for the most part, focus on our differences. Still today women earn $.80 to every $1 men earn. One way or another, a person who acquires HIV/AIDS will be dropped from their insurance for some unexplained reason. Same-sex marriage is still hardly legal where as if we want to protect the sanctity of marriage, why don’t we make divorce illegal, regardless of who’s married? With so many children in foster care, why a same-sex couple adopt as easily?

These are just though of a slightly (maybe not so slightly) ADD student who is procrastinating on studying. I see the benefit of categorizing: with more accurate data, the more good you can do. But at the same, I have seen and read about the damaging effect of putting people into boxes that they can check. I’m glad that as a society we are trying to do the right thing: I just hope that the right thing is the best thing for us as a changing society.

Be Magnificent Today

Over the past several quarters, semesters, terms, and years, I have developed particular habits when I work on a deadline. If I can focus as much attention on the project at hand and worry less about the things around me, I can finish much faster. The way that I do this is keep my music selection very simple. So simple, that often it is just one song on repeat.

With this quarter being full of craziness already, I have designated my song for the quarter. I heard it two weeks ago at Re:Live (the student church on campus). At first, I didn’t think that it would become such a constant song. Its not famous, just two brothers from Australia who decided to make good music. During Billy Otto’s performance, I Youtubed him and book marked the song Be Magnificent.

It has some folksy tones to it, a nice calming beat, and great lyrics. After being away for a good couple hours the other morning, I decided to take a “nap” before I headed to class and just set this song on repeat. I started thinking about its lyrics, “Be magnificent today, Stand up stand out.” I realized this song is talking about reaching our full potential, being the best we can be, not needing to mold to society, and choosing greatness.

Within the field of public health (specifically global health), it takes people who go the extra mile to get things done. People like Dr. Paul Farmer or Mother Teresa to go to greatness. Determination is a major part of this work. Last week we had two very interesting lecturers who gave great, real-life experience for us to learn from. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten how global health can be applied as we have been wrapped up in our own community projects and other homework.

One short phrase stuck with me from our class: “Go with intention.” This pushes us to have a reason for everything we do. That struck me because I do so many things daily that do not have any reasoning behind them. Part of this intention is confidence: if we attack the public health problems of the world with confidence, we will make headway.

So if I’m trying to map the prevalence of trachoma in Ethiopia or conducting a health education program in Colton, CA, I will go with confidence, doing my best and being as magnificent as possible today.

Click here for the song Be Magnificent!