Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kony 2012

Kids say the darnest things...

I think this is important.  This represents how the younger generation feels about social movements and global humanitarian crises in general.  

Neat stuff...back to policy...

Monday, March 26, 2012


I know what you were thinking.  The animal lovers thought I would be talking about the  Alley Cat Allies, fellow expats thought I would be talking about American Citizens Abroad, and my fellow medical students thought I would give a nice discussion on CVAs in the ACA.

Sorry to disappoint.

But indeed no: this is merely a little note on the Affordable Care Act.  If you're having trouble figuring out what that huge "Obamacare" debate is all about, or if the ACA's more than 2400 pages seem a little intimidating, check out this map as it breaks down the Supreme Court decision nicely and also adds a touch of humor.  You can read up on the different aspects being debated here.

Want some more information? 

Anyway, onward march to finishing a mid-term... 

Sunday, March 25, 2012


This week is looking pretty nuts (pun intended).

Research, reading articles, writing articles, grants and papers, searching/applying for the "one" (internship of my dreams this summer), surgery cases, diabetic ketoacidosis, rounding in the AM, the daily debate: trauma surgery or academic family, keeping up with the Affordable Care Act decision, and I'm hoping to squeeze in some run time for the half marathon coming up.

So, with that said,  I'll try to keep the blog updated with some links/videos of either current events I find important or stuff like this: inspiring and exciting solutions to global health problems :)

Problem: Not enough condoms in the world--> Bad public health outcomes (increase in unwanted pregnancies, increase in STIs, increase in stress and mental health problems) PLUS poor economies! (Yes, poor health--> poor people-->poor health--> poor people!) It's a terrible cycle and EVERYTHING is related.

Solution: Meet Sir Richard's Condom Company, a company of the 21st century.

30 years ago, hey, 10 years ago even, anyone who would have tried to do this would have been looked at as utterly insane.  This is only the beginning of solving never before thought solvable problems.

It's a pretty cool time to be studying medicine and public health. 

Speaking of, study time.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Dr. Jim Yong Kim,co-founder of Partners in Health, has been nominated by Barack Obama to lead the World Bank.

To describe me being ecstatic might be the understatement of the year.

His career has been an inspiration to my entire generation, as it has driven the field of global health toward innovative and down-right smart solutions to problems never thought solvable.  To have him lead the World Bank will further inspire but importantly, hold those with a stale platform accountable to the ethical legacy Dr. Kim's career symbolizes.

Read more at the NY Times...

Saturday, March 17, 2012


"There will be times when you're at your lowest point.  You are the ash of a phoenix with clipped wings that will never rise.  You are a broken levy unable to control the drowning of your household.  STRIVE."

I can't say enough good things about this performance. Miles and Carven effectively clench at your soul by grabbing your shame and taking it on ride through hope, joy and inspiration.  The cure to shame is empathy: the willingness to listen, and to go with people to their darkest places and to feel suffering with them.  Then, once you're there, you can inspire, but you can't do that of you're simply talking down.  You have to be willing to go there, to understand that all places of darkness are places where all humans are capable of going and even living for long periods of time.  You have to replace the otherness mentality with one of oneness.  If you're suffering, I am not separate, I can feel that too, I have felt that too.  Then we can grow together.

These fine gentlemen do just that.  They move, they inspire, they make suffering a common place - a place shared by all human beings only to remind us we all have the potential to STRIVE anyway.

And just a note on the performance: I am loving the blue lighting.  It reminds me of Picasso's blue period, a very dark and somber period of his life.  Many of the paintings from that period make you feel a sense of solidarity with the people he painted and with Picasso himself.  Most people look at the art and think, "Oh, that's not very pleasant, that makes me sad," and move on, but another powerful feeling the art evokes it empathy.  When artists paint scenes of sadness, they have found common ground with their subjects, and want to take you there too.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Abrupted. Definitely not a word, but for some reason abrupt seems too abrupt and the ed gives the non-word a feeling of |

A one month unexplained hiatus for transitioning into a new trimester while balancing a well in route public health semester, shifting priorities, tying up loose ends, deciding future plans and assessing new goals went a little something like this.

Week 1 goes by. The thought: "I'll get to it next week, big neuro exam and application due dates are coming up."
Week 2 goes by: "I'm sure I haven't disappointed too many, I have a new grant to write."
Week 3: "Does anyone read it anyway? I have meetings and research this week"
Week 4: "Busy, busy, busy, big paper due plus a debate."
Today: Sit down, can't write anything.

Notice how as the excuses pile up, the self-doubt trickles in and paralyzes any progress.  On my daily things to do, I will consistently write the word blog, but consistently "something" comes up.  That something is usually anything and everything: all worthy things to do (at least by my standards), but they're excuses nonetheless.  My vigilance against such matters need to be improved, but there's no need to worry. The few dedicated readers find quite the creative ways to keep me in line, so thank you and I'm sorry.

I like change.  I've always been open to it, but progress - that's a different story.  I have met numerous encouraging professionals the last month, continued two fantastic projects that are both innovative and inspiring, yet I frequently stop in shock when the progress and encouragement come so fast at me.   It's almost like the feeling of panic one might get when they're right about to get hit by a train.

The thought: "Really, I think I can do this?"

My thought process is due for a tune-up and some re-wiring.  Rather than any step in the right direction being met with a halt and week-long thought process about how I can maybe reach my goals, it's time to write and do.

When the progress comes so fast, I become a little dizzy.  I roll it over in my mind, contemplate over it, and analyze all possible options. But often while I'm contemplating, the train comes.  While reflecting is important, maybe riding the wave and seeing what happens might be a better option to move forward.  I haven't landed in a toxic wasteland yet, so I might as well trust my own abilities and see where I end up.

Progress: the process of striving for and taking steps to reach your dreams, and doing them!

Enough self-berating though. Going on and on about it won't accomplish anything.  Time to shift gears.

I had wanted the phoenix tattoo since I was 15 years old.  To me, it symbolizes my roots, transformation and is a motivator for my future.  My older brother, Jack, took me to get it when I was 18 during Thanksgiving break my first semester at college.  I had only three months prior, left home in the Midwest to begin "young adult-hood" on the East Coast.  You know young adulthood. It's that awkward stage in life where you're figuring out your identity, you can be whoever it is you want, start over, explore new freedoms; oh, and there's a lot of beer.

Jack and I had planned it out all semester.  During my last visit, the artists came up with a sketch, and we had sent color schemes to each other back and forth until the big day.  I was hesitant, anxious, and shy.  I was a naive white girl from the suburbs of Chicago walking into a tattoo parlor outside Baltimore full of tattooed, bearded and pierced men.  I looked like a wide-eyed foreigner, curious of the artistic genius under the harsh facade.  Hidden under my timidness though, sparkled a tiny ounce of excitement and a secret bad-ass.  

The first etch shocked me.  I remembered cutting off my sister-in-law's wrist circulation as I squeezed her hand in angst.  I was still unsure, but it was too late to back-out.  The only way to endure the 3 1/2 hours of droning vibration and bleeding was to lean into the discomfort and breathe.

When I looked in the mirror, I was in shock.  I obsessed and looked for hours, nit-picked at any ill-conceived imperfection.  I was in disbelief at its permanence.  I had this mystical bird that took up 1/3 of my back on me permanently. I hated it, initially.  I didn't regret it, but I definitely hated it. It was so big, it was huge. Gradually though, the loathing dissipated, and after the initial shock wore off, I embraced it and remembered the care and detail both the artist and I put into it as well as the story.

I rolled over the tattoo in my mind and contemplated it for a few years.  While they were young years and some might criticize immature, I still weighed the pros and the cons, but they didn't really matter as the vision never changed. It was like this powerful drive that existed at my core: still yet to change.

Seven years later (wowza), I'll walk by a mirror and catch a glimpse, smile, and be reminded of the backstory, the reason, but most importantly to take the right steps forward that day, to strive for the future.

I took a good hard look at my tattoo this morning and reminisced of that moment walking into the parlor.  I had saved money from my summer Lifeguard position for it, agonized over its details and built up the moment in my head like I was about to change the course of the world.  While it didn't turn out so dramatic, the tattoo holds a dear purpose: to remind and to motivate.  Today, it also led me to want to smack myself on the head as I compared the project to my tattoo: something you can't stop once you start.

The Phoenix Fund is a project in which regardless of circumstance, exams, papers and career plans, the fulfillment is a part of my core and will only annoyingly itch at me, much like a droning, vibrating needle, until complete.

"A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space.  It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it.  The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspirations." Fen shui Master Lam Kam Cheuen

- a thing of the past.  It's a new day.