Saturday, February 27, 2016

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy-Create Your Own Identity

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

“Treat a man as he is, he will remain so. Treat a man the way he can be and ought to be, and he will become as he can be and should be.”

There was this study that randomly assigned students to “intelligent” or “average”. The results at the end of the year? The “intelligent” group was indeed more intelligent gaining 1/3 more IQ points than other students. Now let me re-iterate. These students were RANDOMLY selected to be labeled as “intelligent” they had the same merits and skills as the other students, and yet once labeled as intelligent, they became intelligent. Why?

The theory is the confirmation bias or self-fulfilling prophecy. The idea is that the observee(in this case, the student) conforms to the label that is put on them. Label them as average and they engage in average performance, while if you label them as intelligent, they can become intelligent.

And it’s not just with students. Malcolm Gladwell pointed out this confirmation bias with youth hockey players who had earlier birthdates(and were thus likely to be more physically mature than their younger peers). These “better” players got more attention and were more likely to be put on better teams and therefore become better. This self-fulfilling prophecy can be good thing or negative.
Imagine that someone told you that you were lazy or stupid. Could it be possible that you then start attributing your failures to your intrinsic laziness or stupidity? By doing so, you may avoid situations that expand your mind or challenge your capabilities. Eventually, with a stagnant mind and inactive body, you have become lazy and stupid.

But it doesn’t have to be! We all have the potential to be great. Just know, I think you will succeed and that you are all intelligent, beautiful people. Yes… Even YOU.

Until next time,


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Not Vaccinating Your Child: A Public Health Concern

 [Actually, I do believe the content of this blog post is the position of the US government as well as that of the World Health Organization, but let's just pretend it's just my little rant.]

I am a fan of public health. I mean who isn’t right? Who doesn’t want each and every one of us to live long healthy happy lives? So it irks me when there is blatant disregard for public health under the guise of individual freedom. Now I’m talking about parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated. Despite pediatric immunizations preventing 3 million deaths in children each year worldwide, some parents continue to refuse immunizations for their children.

I am drawing at straws here as to why someone would put their children at risk but maybe the parents of these helpless children are at an age where they didn’t have any personal exposure to the devastating effects of polio or measles. This then leads to a lack of appreciation for their importance. 

 From what I’ve read Measles is like an immune system amnesia and can wipe out someone’s immune system(for example if someone has chicken pox they usually are immune to repeated exposure, but immunity seems to be erased if the child has Measles). And I am all for choosing how you parent your children but there are rules in places to prevent physical child abuse like spanking so why not for an even larger health concern. Still not buying it?

A part of me wants to respond by saying:  Well don’t bring your kids to school then. There are some kiddos who for medical reasons cannot get immunized and they rely on all their peers to get immunized so they don’t get sick. You choosing not to immunize your child because of poor information jeopardizes their health as well as your own child’s. And certainly don’t expect tax payers to take care of your sick child who will most than likely grow up into a sick adult.

That’s right. Not vaccinating your child can result in life-long effects.  The immune system response in children who have had measles is delayed into adulthood. Furthermore, the Adverse Childhood Experience study has looked at childhood exposure to chronic stress and found it can predict everything from developing diabetes and heart disease to depression and suicide. Think that nearly dying from a preventable disease is stressful? Yep. Life-long impact.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have ever swayed a passionate argument by being critical of others as this will typically result in doubling down and hunkering in their ideological corner. Far better to expose parents to the research and information available out there and have them make the decision for themselves. One study concluded that “Many commonly held beliefs about the risks of immunization are not supported by available data, and they frequently originate from the unsupported claims of organizations that are critical of immunization.” We as health care providers and consumers certainly could stand to do a better job providing a non-judgmental argument for why not vaccinating your child not only impacts her health but that of her classmates and the public in general.

But it may not be your choice much longer anyway. Compulsory immunization laws in the United States have been upheld repeatedly and may take the choice out of your hands entirely. And you are lucky to live in a country that gives the mother any control.

Side-Bar- Mothers in Guyana after three cesarean section deliveries are in essence forced to become sterilized because they are deemed high-risk. My first reaction was horror. After giving it thought, if this is what keeps mother and children alive, then maybe it is worth it.  But then it occurred to me that c-sections are fairly subjective in regard to who needs one especially in Guyana where some doctors will do it to decrease infant mortality rate reporting. That’s great for the stats, but what about the mother? Limited to three children due to the whim of the doctor is worrisome. Especially if the doctor makes a stereotypical judgment call based on race or religion. For example, maybe Guyana can cull the Muslim population simply by performing higher rates of c-sections in this population. I’m not saying that this happens, only that it could happen. And that is the slippery aspect of this slope.

Okay! Back to educating yourself at the risk you put your child and society by not immunizing.

Please read more:

And here is some data from the World Health Organization on Measles:
Key facts
  •        Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  •          In 2014, there were 114,900 measles deaths globally – about 314 deaths every day or 13 deaths every hour.
  •     Measles vaccination resulted in a 79% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2014 worldwide.
  •          In 2014, about 85% of the world's children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.
  •          During 2000-2014, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 17.1 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Still not convinced? I get it you must just not like science. And for you I suggest you watch this video by the vlog brothers rebuffing arguments about global warming.

Until next time,


Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Trip To The Essiquibo Coast; or How to Make Coffee Without A Filter or Machine

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

This past week I went up to the Essiquibo Coast to help out with the Pre-service training for the new two year health-sector Peace Corps volunteers. I did have a presentation on behavior change techniques but the real reason we were up there was to help facilitate their learning experience and provide support as they transitioned into their new lives in Guyana.
The mini-bus of speed boats-21 people can fit in these. 
To get to the town we were staying in, involving a 45 minute bus ride from Georgetown over the Demerra River to Parika. From there you take an hour boat ride across the Essiquibo River. The Essiquibo is the third largest River in all of South America and its mouth is 22 miles long. The river has well over 300 islands in it, the largest being only slightly smaller than Barbados! After a bone jarring crossing of the river in a speed boat, we then continue on for another 45 minutes along the coast to a little town called Afiance. Our home base for the week.

We were living right on the Ocean, which is still muddy and not swimmable but is beautiful. Plus the birds were amazing.

That rock they're standing on looked like a perfect place for me to run on so after running out on the road a bit, I decided I'd come back on the rock. But wait! It's not rock or even sand but MUD. Thick deep heavy mud. I snuck in to mid-thigh before I even knew it and had to push myself out with my arms nearly losing a running shoe in the process. Just another peril of running in Guyana ;) I could help but laugh at all the looks I got on my trudge back to my place covered in mud.
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I was able to find a more appropriate place to run which brought me to Lake Capoey.A beautiful(and swimmable) lake only about 3-4 miles from our place. I discovered it after running down a shaded dirt road and then brought back some other volunteers with me the next day. A fun way to spend a few hours although we ended up all getting pretty bad sun burns. Still well worth it.
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In addition to the birds everywhere, I spotted several monkeys on my run and supposedly the next village over caught a prowling jaguar just the day after I left.

It was a fun week but I am glad to be back and start working on all my projects that I have put on hold this week.

The downside of the trip was that there was a cafe across the street from where I was staying that sold espresso cheaply. I have been living off of instant coffee so this was SUCH a pleasant surprise. Every day I had at least one cup... I got back to Georgetown and the thought of going back to instant coffee was tough to take. So I picked up some ground coffee and made myself some "real" coffee. But how? I have no coffee machine, no filter and no french press.

Coffee and an egg is how.

How to make coffee with an egg

  • Boil 8 cups of water and while doing that mix 1/2 cup of coffee grounds and one egg together. 
  • When water is fully boiling, put mixture in pot and continue to let it boil for 5 more minutes.
  • Pour in one cup of cold water(this causes the coffee ground/egg mixture to sink to the bottom)
  • Pour yourself one(or more) cup of coffee without need to strain.
  • Enjoy!

Until next time,


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Things I Will Miss About New Amsterdam

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

I am moving tomorrow. I will start full-time work at the University of Guyana next week and thus will be living closer to the University. After spending my first 5 months at the Psychiatric Hospital, it became apparent that the educational background wasn't in place to yet make changes that would be sustainable. Therefore we decided it would make more sense to start by helping current and future students better understand what therapy is and how it can be implemented before trying to change current practices. Bottom line: I'm leaving New Amsterdam.

And I know you have read all about how I hate the burning trash, cannot sleep because of the barking dogs and dislike running because of the constant harassment I get. But there are several things I'm going to miss about New Amsterdam.

#1: The patients and staff at the hospital. I really liked working there, even though I didn't accomplish too too much while I was there. Everyone was friendly and the patients were great. I will certainly miss that.

#2: My apartment and landlord. I have a nice spacious apartment within walking distance of everything and coupled with an awesome landlord who I'd call a friend and moving to a small studio apartment will be a challenge.

#3: The cane fields. Once I get out of town and away from the people, I love running through the canefields and among the bush motorbikes, or salipenters(which I had erroneously called iguanas previously). Where I will be living won't have any cane fields anywhere nearby.

#4: The little boys racing me. My favorite part of every run I do is this one neighborhood where apparently has no pants. Almost little boy out playing is doing so in just his underwear and when they see me coming a bunch of them challenge me to running races. Depending on how old and how many, I get in  quite a workout. But more importantly it is so cute as they run beside me giggling.

Well that's about it. I am very excited to start teaching and help developing the therapy department's curriculum. I'll be living close enough to the National Park and Seawall that I'll be able to run with other people. I won't be harassed every time I run nor will I have to travel 2+ hours if I have a Peace Corps meeting. Plus being in town will allow me to have a bigger presence with the ministry of health and hopefully can get my media health promotion project off the ground.

All in all, I'm excited about moving but there will be those things that I will miss. But you can never hold anything new if you don't let go of what is already in your hands.

Until next time,