Category Archives: North America

North America is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west, and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea. It is the third largest continent by area and the fourth by population.

Five Questions With Physician And Bioethicist Dr. Sarab Sodhi

Name: Dr. Sarab Sodhi
Job: Emergency Physician, Bioethicist, Ultrasonographer Country: United States and India
Age: 31

A currently practicing Emergency Physician and Ultrasound Faculty Member at Cooper University Hospital, Dr. Sarab Sodhi trained in medicine and bioethics at Temple University School of Medicine, after an undergraduate biochemistry and philosophy degree at Albright College. He did his residency and fellowship training at Cooper Hospital, where he stayed on as faculty, with a concurrent appointment as the director of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University’s Undergraduate Ultrasound Program – a program that he is developing currently. His passions are medical education, evidence-based medicine, undergraduate medical education, ultrasound, and bioethics. Outside of medicine, he spends his time with his wife, son, dog, and cat. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and on his website.

On his career as a physician and educator:

“I’m an emergency physician at a busy, academic, level 1 trauma center, and teaching hospital. I’m also a core ultrasound faculty, which means I spend a lot of time teaching fancy ultrasound skills to my residents and medical students. The other major hat I wear is as the director of undergraduate ultrasound for the medical school. As the director, I am designing a four-year integrated point of care ultrasound curriculum to ensure that I give students the tools they need when they have completed medical school. The goal is to help patients quicker, more accurately, and with more cost-effective care.”

On how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his work:

“COVID has led to a few changes in my work life. Like most other places in the country, we convinced everyone to stay home from the emergency department – a little too well. It means we’re seeing complications of diseases we rarely see (like cardiogenic shock from heart attacks that usually are treated rather rapidly, but as patients stay home and minimize symptoms, these once rare disease complications are becoming challenging). Shifts in full PPE are different – far more uncomfortable when wearing a head covering, eye protection, an N95, and sometimes a face shield over a lot. Many of my colleagues sport nose bandaids to prevent a breakdown from the masks as well. My medical school job has led to an increase in my meetings from home, trying to figure out when is safe for students to return, what’s the best way of restarting, etc., not to mention trying to redesign a curriculum for various approaches.”

On how he finds time for self-care:

“It has been challenging. My wife’s been working from home as well as going into the hospital (she’s an Endocrine NP) and, we have a 9-month-old baby. Juggling keeping a house moving, our dog fed and walked, our child fed and watched, and both of our work schedules have been trying- more so than before. Luckily, our daycare remained open with excellent precautions, or we’d have been completely insane. That said, I make time every day for a 30-40 minute walk with the dog and a workout on my rather bougie Peleton. We’ve also been doing masked visits with the grandparents to ensure they get to see the child when we’ve had a stretch of non-clinical time.”

On why narrative medicine important for the public:

“Physicians are often held up as caricatures of who we are – whether it’s as beyond reproach, starched white coat wearing, paragons of virtue, or as shills of big pharma and big vaccine, with the companies slipping money into our pockets. The truth is somewhere between these two vast extremes, and I believe narrative medicine and explaining the sometimes broken healers that try the best we absolutely can within our own messy lives may help give context to our patients.”

On how he combines bioethics and medicine:

“I started a bioethics degree to become a bioethicist, ivory-towered, including writing theses or debating the thorny ethical issues. Luckily, the degree I started with is a degree in urban bioethics – a distinction that focuses more so on the challenges of the social determinants of health, the obstructions to us providing our patients the best care, etc. It has led me to have a more forceful voice with our elected leaders in the swaths of letters I send them. While it helps me handle the tougher questions with some more comfort than many of my colleagues, it also tempers the decisive nature that my profession demands. The biggest skill I developed from that training is that I’ve become better at asking patients “Why” before I label them as non-compliant or non-adherent, and just sitting and listening.

I believe narrative medicine and explaining the sometimes broken healers that try the best we absolutely can within our own messy lives may help give context to our patients.

Dr. Sarab Sodhi, MD, MAUB

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Five Questions With Medical Scientist Dr. Michelle Caunca

Name: Dr. Michelle Caunca
Job: Epidemiologist and Fourth-Year Medical Student 
Country: United States
Age: 29

Dr. Michelle R. Caunca is a Ph.D. in Epidemiology and Fourth-Year Medical Student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She is a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30) Fellow, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and sponsored by Tatjana Rundek, MD, Ph.D. and Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS. She is also supported by the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute. Her dissertation work focused on examining the relationships between regional MRI markers of brain aging and cognitive performance in a racially/ethnically diverse, urban sample using data from the Northern Manhattan Study. She received her BSc in Neurobiology with a minor in Psychology at the University of California, Irvine in 2013, graduating cum laude with Honors in Biological Sciences and Campuswide Honors. Connect with Dr. Caunca on Twitter, LinkedIn, and her website.

On her research about brain aging:

“Much of my research has focused on elucidating the relationships between cerebrovascular disease and cognitive function and decline in racially and ethnically diverse populations. I view cerebrovascular disease, and vascular disease in general, as a common pathway for many different upstream determinants of cognitive decline and dementia. These upstream determinants include comorbid health and psychosocial risk factors, but also social determinants of health.

My approach is based on a population neuroscience perspective, combining the disciplines of neuroscience with epidemiology and biostatistics to properly leverage large, epidemiologic datasets that often have high-dimensional neuroimaging data available. I have used methods that span many different disciplines, including marginal structural modeling, structural equation modeling, and machine learning. During my undergraduate career, I worked in the 90+ Study under the mentorship of Claudia H. Kawas, MD, and Maria Corrada, ScD, where I wrote my Honors thesis on amyloid PET imaging and cognitive performance in the oldest-old.

Memory loss and brain aging due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as shown in image

On a surprising fact about working with diverse populations:

“One fact I learned was that more translation from research to the community and population needs to be done to address racial disparities in health. My recent paper examining the effects of racial segregation on cognitive function inspired me to continue this line of work in the future. As an MD/Ph.D. trainee, I am a translation-focused scientist, and I would like to see more efforts done to reduce disparities vs. describe them. There are so many other wonderful researchers out there who are working on these very issues – I would love to be part of this movement for neuroepidemiology.”

On why she decided to pursue an MD-PhD:

“I had a wonderful mentor in college (Claudia Kawas, MD) who inspired me! She was and is my role model. I had the honor of being her undergraduate trainee, working in her epidemiology research group. I was enamored with the idea that you could treat patients one-on-one, then use those experiences to inform research questions that you could attempt to answer with data science and epidemiology. She told me I should go for the MD/Ph.D., so I did, and I’m so glad. It’s a very fun and challenging path. Therefore, role models are important! I aspire to become an academic neurologist and epidemiologist studying the vascular and social determinants of cognitive aging to translate epidemiological findings into public health and clinical practice.”

On practicing self-care in graduate school:

“I had to learn how to prioritize self-care during my MD/Ph.D. training. I honestly did not make it a priority until midway through the program during a particularly difficult period of burnout. I always advise students to be introspective and know how they best care for themselves daily – they’ll figure out how to study for medical school and the techniques needed for their lab, but often we figure out self-care, too little too late!

I love to cook and bake, so the kitchen is a very peaceful place for me. I also love hanging out with my dogs and taking care of them – I am a very embarrassing dog mom! Of course, I like to binge-watch favorite TV shows and YouTube videos, but truly I think the most crucial self-care for me is the daily stuff. Some examples include: making sure I’m cooking healthy food, walking my dogs and getting outside, good skincare/haircare, and keeping in touch with family.”

On how COVID-19 will change healthcare for older adults:

“Of course, I think it’s inevitable that our medical and research systems will be changed. I’m not an expert on infectious disease, so what I’ll say about this is my opinion. Anecdotally, I am super encouraged and excited by the rapid adoption of telehealth services. I like the idea of potentially increasing the reach of care to populations that often find it difficult to travel to see their physicians or travel to university centers for research sessions. This population includes our older folks. With that said, I think that makes the availability and accessibility of the internet and technology to become an area where disparities may develop.”

I like the idea of potentially increasing the reach of care to populations that often find it difficult to travel to see their physiciansThis population includes our older folks.

Dr. Michelle R. Caunca, Ph.D., MD Candidate

A Therapist’s Reflection on COVID-19- A Time for Pause and Self-Work

I wanted to write something instructive and useful during this pandemic of COVID-19 which is affecting all of us at this time. At the time of this writing, a large part of Canada is shutting down schools, workplaces and environments which have the potential of spreading this virus. While most of my clients are still coming in person to see me, many have opted for video or telephone sessions in order to stay healthy and protect others from getting sick.

For the most up-to-date information on how the counselling field in BC is handling COVID-19,  here is a press release from FACT BC: The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in British Columbia called British Columbians Urged to Protect Their Mental Health During Times of Uncertainty

As an individual therapist, I feel a very strong urge to provide a message of calm and to remind everyone that at our core, we are all incredibly strong and resilient- even when faced with such a huge health scare. I feel for those of you who are unable to attend your AA meetings or other self-help/support circles. Also, for those of you who take care of your mental wellness by going to community classes such as yoga or pilates and are now at home following along with videos instead, this is a challenging time.

Clients have brought me stories of how they cannot be with loved ones who have compromised immune systems who would benefit greatly from company and companionship. Others have told me sad tales of having to cancel vacations they had been looking forward to for months, or some concert they had bought tickets to that has been cancelled. A few have told me they were scheduled to attend work conferences they were excited about that were not happening since the spread of COVID-19 increased to dramatic levels.

Could there be an upside in all of this?

After listening to so many stories of how the practice of self-isolation is affecting people in their everyday lives, it struck me that while I cannot control this virus or our health authorities’ dictates on how we must proceed, I can do what I do best as a therapist- provide hope and find the higher meaning in the most difficult situations we find ourselves in.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Crises

I have a little wisdom card on my office desk from a wise mentor of mine which says:

May I learn to be a gardener of life

Knowing that

Without Darkness

Nothing comes to birth

As without Light

Nothing Flowers

One of the things I teach every client through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to change their thinking from negative to positive by changing their self-talk and looking for the positives in their lives by writing gratitude lists every day. This goes a long way to lowering anxiety and producing a state of peace and inner calm.

In my experience thus far with watching how the world is reacting to COVID-19, I see the full picture of both graceful and destructive ways people in power are handling things- both the pitfalls and the triumphs. I choose to focus on the part of humanity which views an enormous challenge such as this as a way of building community, finding our caring and compassion for one another, and finding straightforward solutions to solving the problem.

If you look hard enough, you will see these amazing testaments to the resiliency and compassion that we all have within us everywhere.

But if you’re strapped for time like me and want to read about such heartwarming acts of generosity and kindness, click on one of my favourite websites- Tanks Good News. Reading the ‘good news’ stories will turn your frown upside down and leave you feeling hopeful and inspired by good old-fashioned real-life acts of kindness.

Here are some of my favourite stories from that site related to the outbreak of COVID-19 which were posted recently:

“Italy is Not Alone”- Chinese Doctor Arrives with Supplies to Help Italy Combat Coronavirus

I’ll Drink To That: A Portland Distillery Is Making Hand Sanitizer And Giving It Away For Free

In It Together: These Shop Owners Deliver Free Face Masks And Hand Sanitizer To Senior Citizens In Need

I’m sure the list goes on! Here I am going to take the opportunity to ask you to send in your uplifting examples of everyday people doing good things to help others during this pandemic. I will share them with my readers and spread good vibes across cyberspace- I think we all need that right now. Either leave them as a reply at the end of reading this blog post, or email them to me at: estherATestherkane.com

How Can I Best Use this Sanctioned Time of Isolation? Finding the Higher Meaning

The next topic I want to address is how to find the silver lining in these times of shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation. Of late, this has been the number one topic I’ve explored with my clients and when applying open curiosity without strong emotion (i.e., a mindful stance), has borne many wonderful fruits which I am thrilled to share with you.

Doing Self-Work

I feel that since most of us are not travelling, visiting people, or for some, not even going outside, this is the perfect opportunity to engage in something which most of us put at the bottom of our “to do” list- self-reflection, meditation and going within. I’ve suggested that many of my clients take this opportunity to slow down and get in touch with themselves and do an assessment on where they’re at emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Many have taken to journaling, meditating, and sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings and aspirations with the people closest to them. You may have to get creative here! Luckily, we have incredible technology which helps us stay connected with loved ones far away. I recommended Skype or FaceTime or telephone.

Luckily, I don’t have to see people in person to provide my services as a therapist and many of my clients are taking advantage of this and booking video or telephone appointments. Also, I’m finding that their self-reflections and “ah ha” moments are deeper and more profound and I feel it is a direct result of having to face a calamity which affects all of us and forces us to ask the big questions we so often push to the side such as:

What do I do with my time if I’m not busy (fill-in-the-blank)…working, going to school, going to meetings, social events, or travelling?

Now that other countries are quarantined what is going to happen to our supplies and trade items such as food, medications, and other things we take for granted which may not be available in the near future?

How do I find meaning/purpose/enjoyment if I can’t do all of the activities I normally do like go to work/school, attend classes, go out to movies/plays/concerts or travel?

Scaling Down and Finding Meaning in the Simple Things

I’ll end this musing with a list of things you can do during this time of shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation which may “fill your cup” for the time being until things go back to normal.

  • Look at your New Year’s Goals and see how you’re doing thus far and work on meeting goals you’ve slipped on (Hint: It probably has to do with eating and exercising!)
  • Write in a journal and explore your inner life- how are you doing in the self-care department these days? What things can you do to nourish your body, mind and spirit?
  • Meditate– I know that most of you have definitely been putting that one off big time- no excuses now! Get on that cushion, close your eyes and practise deep belly-breathing for at least 20 minutes. You may be mad at me now but you’ll thank me later
  • Order books online and get back into reading. Now is a nice time to sit by a fireplace with a blanket and a good book and a cup of tea
  • Call that friend or relative you have been putting off because you were “too busy”. I know for a fact that you aren’t now so pick up the phone- you’ll also thank me later for this one
  • Seek out therapy if you’re struggling and opt for phone or video if you have to
  • Find online support groups if there are alternatives to in-person ones

I hope you found this article helpful and if so, please pass it on via your social media networks. Stay healthy, calm and have faith that this too shall pass and we will come out the other side stronger, and wiser. Onward!

This article was originally published here.

Esther Kane, MSW, is a Canadian women’s psychotherapist with over twenty years’ experience and author of three self-help books. Sign up for her free bi-weekly newsletter to uplift and inspire at: https://estherkane.com.

Why More Millennials Are Becoming Caregivers

Millennials often get stereotyped as lazy, entitled, and self-involved, but did you know that about one out of six millennials in the United States is a caregiver for someone with dementia, and with an average age of 27 years? Nor is it a problem limited to Americans. One in four young Canadians provides care to a family member or friend.

In 2019, Global Health Aging was proud to author a report with the Center for Healthcare Innovation titled Social and Financial Costs of Millennial Dementia Caregivers. The report evaluates the social and economic implications of the shifting U.S. demographics on dementia and caregiving in vulnerable, at-risk populations.

There is a lack of research about the experiences of young people living with a parent or grandparent with dementia. As the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050, the hope is that more case studies and published research become available. One groundbreaking resource is ‘The Dementia Diaries’ by Matthew Snyman, an award-winning filmmaker based in London, and Emma Barrett Palmer, the founder of HumanKINDER located in Chamonix, France.

A novel in cartoons, this award-winning project looks at dementia from the perspective of a young person by following four real-life young people dealing with dementia in their grandparents. In 2016, Global Health Aging organized a giveaway featuring The Dementia Diaries for Dementia Awareness Week.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are still a largely hidden problem in many countries. Even when awareness is present, confusion and memory loss are considered an inevitable part of aging, rather than signs of a degenerative disease. One of the goals of Global Health Aging is to change that perception through education and media.

Are you a caregiver for someone with dementia? If no, do you know another caregiver or anyone with dementia?

Five Questions With Social Entrepreneur Andrew Dowling

Name: Andrew Dowling
Job: Founder and CEO
Country: Australia and United States
Age: 51

Andrew Dowling is the Founder and CEO of Stitch, the world’s leading companionship and activities community for over 50’s. Andrew wrote his Master’s thesis on social enterprise a decade ago — long before most people had even heard of the concept — and has spent the last ten years building businesses designed to have a social impact. He is currently working to address social isolation and loneliness for older adults at Stitch. Andrew has over two decades of experience building successful technology organizations in Australia, India, China, and the United States. He has served in multiple businesses in a wide range of roles and specialties: CEO, CTO, strategy consultant, software engineer, advisor, non-executive director. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

On older adults staying socially connected during COVID-19:

“The COVID-19 crisis has meant this question is relevant not just to older adults, but pretty much everyone around the world right now. Many people have been finding creative ways to stay socially connected, particularly through the use of video platforms that allow people to get together “virtually” for everything from happy hours and dinner parties through to Pilates and exercise sessions. 

For older adults, the answer has been remarkably similar. We’ve been amazed by the enthusiasm with which Stitch members have embraced virtual events and activities as an alternative way to connect socially. Most of the virtual activities scheduled on Stitch each day are booked out within minutes, and we are seeing a big increase in the number of members who are connecting with each other online, where in the past they would be meeting face to face.

Of course, depending on where you live, there is still some degree of in-person interaction happening too. Certain activities, particularly going for walks or other forms of exercise, are still allowed provided they comply with social distancing rules. We are seeing “coffee walks”, or activities like golf, taking place in the community, although the number of participants for those events is obviously much smaller than it was previously.”

On improving access to technology for older adults:

“At Stitch, we are often finding that preconceived notions about older adults not being able to access technology are often over-exaggerated. We have members who are in their 90’s, and it’s been inspiring to watch those who are comfortable with technology help those members who are still just learning. The suddenness of the COVID-19 crisis has seen a massive increase in the number of older adults who are suddenly willing to try something new like video calling, which is something we have observed a lot over the last few years: once older adults have a reason to adopt new technology, they are often far more adept than many people expect. 

Having said that, there are of course many older adults who do not have access to technology or else face other barriers. For us, the solution comes from recognizing that’s always going to be the case for a certain percentage of the population, and finding ways to address it. Some of our members, for example, act as “buddies” for other members who struggle with technology. They will give them a phone call to let them know when there is an activity they would like to attend, and often help with things like transport (which is another barrier that many older adults face). The key here is building community connections that help support those people who may struggle, for whatever reason.”

On what he’s learned since starting Stitch:

“I sometimes think I have learned more since starting Stitch than I did in my entire previous professional career. If I were to point to one thing, however, it has been how my greater understanding of the importance of social connections on our mental and physical well-being has had an impact on my own personal life. Until I started on the Stitch journey, I think I took my social connections for granted to some extent — at least, I never previously thought much about the impact of my social connections and my sense of community had on my own well-being. Being an active part of the community has highlighted how important those things are, not just for me, but for my kids and my family, and that’s been an unexpected gift.”

On increasing social connections as people get older:

“As we get older, we often face increasing barriers to social connections, including access to technology and transport, as previously mentioned, but also support for disabilities, affordable housing, and health. Organizations like Stitch are working to address those barriers, along with plenty of community organizations, local government groups, health organizations, and not-for-profits. It’s a big challenge and one that is only getting bigger as we all live longer lives.

Having said that, we have seen time and again how resilient our members are, particularly when they are been given an opportunity to be part of the solution themselves. In Stitch’s case, the most important members of the community are those members who help create social outcomes for all other members. By creating solutions that older adults themselves can create and nurture, rather than coming up with services that need to be delivered to them, we can end up creating far more sustainable outcomes for everyone.”

On his insights about loneliness and aging:

“There is a persistent stereotype of the lonely older adult, which paints a picture of inevitable loneliness as we age. In reality, the evidence tells us that older adults are less likely to feel lonely than their younger counterparts, and it is young people today who identify as the most lonely generation. 

The role that aging plays, however, is an important one, and it’s why we chose 50 as the age for people to be allowed to join Stitch. When we are younger, life brings us new social connections automatically, whether that’s through school, college, work, or even parenting. This means we can go through much of the first part of our lives without ever thinking too hard about how we build meaningful social connections. 

At a certain point, however, opportunities for those new social connections stop or decrease. And the process of aging means our social circles then will inevitably start to shrink — driven by factors such as relocation, illness, divorce, and death — unless we proactively develop new social connections. 

This is why one of the biggest things we can be doing right now to address isolation in older adults is through education. Being “lonely” today is still considered a stigma, something very few people feel comfortable admitting. They often feel that doing so is to admit there is something wrong with them.

On the contrary, it’s a natural part of life for your social circle to shrink, particularly once you reach 50 and beyond. The more people understand that, and understand that the only way to address it is to constantly open themselves to new connections, the happier we will all be as we age. 

Being “lonely” today is still considered a stigma, something very few people feel comfortable admitting.

Andrew Dowling, MBA

Five Questions With Pharmacologist Monica Javidnia

Name: Dr. Monica Javidnia
Job: Experimental Therapeutics Fellow
Country: United States and Iran
Age: 31

Dr. Monica Javidnia is a neuropharmacologist and Experimental Therapeutics in Neurological Disease Fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Georgetown University. Her work focuses on pharmacological and non-pharmacological management of motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, disease progression modeling, and patient outcomes. Find Dr. Javidnia on Twitter and LinkedIn.

On her neurodegenerative and aging research:

“My work largely focuses on Parkinson’s disease, treatment and progression, and I’m interested in how we can use digital tools to monitor response to treatment. I’m fortunate to be working in the Center for Health + Technology and Department of Neurology with many innovative researchers and collaborators. With the addition of virtual study visits, telemedicine, and remote assessments, the team is bringing research opportunities and clinical care to people who may not have previously had access. One such program is Parkinson Disease Care New York, a state-wide telemedicine initiative that provides specialist care to people with Parkinson’s. Sometimes, the closest specialist is hours away, and driving or getting a ride can be a huge burden. With telemedicine, p­­­eople can see a neurologist from the comfort of their own home.”

On a surprising fact about Parkinson’s disease progression:

“When I learned about Parkinson’s disease through descriptions in a textbook (for example, average age 65, predominantly male, primary drug levodopa), I didn’t understand just how different things can be in real life. For about six months, I shadowed a movement disorders clinician once a week to learn more about Parkinson’s. It was eye-opening to see the range in ages, symptoms, other conditions they have, response to treatment, and more.”

On her work with 1000 girls, 1000futures:

“The New York Academy of Sciences 1000girls, 1000futures program pairs women in STEM with girls interested in pursuing STEM careers. In addition to the one-on-one mentorship, the program has message boards which are a great way to engage with people around the world, ask and answer questions, share articles, and participate in “Ask Me Anything” sessions. I have participated for two years now, and it has been wonderful getting to know the girls and other mentors.” 

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On her outreach and science-communication (SciComm) efforts:

“I try several methods to get my message out to the masses: Letters to a Pre-Scientist, Twitter, 1000girls, 1000futures program, Skype a Scientist, seminars, talking to people with Parkinson’s and their care partners, slipping some science in to my yoga classes, directing a science communication course at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and answering as many questions as I can. I started working with Ellen Wagner, a user-experience (UX) specialist, and it has definitely changed how I get my message across. Given my fields, I get a lot of questions from friends, family, and people I just met on all types of topics. I try to create a space in which they feel comfortable asking questions, gauge their background knowledge, respond clearly without excessive jargon, and hopefully leave the door open for a follow-up question or discussion. I don’t think I am perfect at SciComm, but I am definitely a better communicator than I used to be, and it just takes practice. As a side note, I applaud SciComm folks like Dr. Efra Rivera-Serrano, who have active social media accounts, post regularly, and maintain a large reach. I wish I had their skill and energy!”

On her future goals:

“Too many to count! Aside from my research goals, I want to provide personalized yoga practices for people with Parkinson’s. I believe yoga has the potential to improve symptoms, help prevent falls, and may also be beneficial for their care partner.”             

Watch Skype A Scientist Live Q&A session with Dr. Javidnia!

I believe yoga has the potential to improve symptoms, help prevent falls, and may also be beneficial for their care partner.

Dr. Monica Javidnia, PhD

Five Questions With Implementation Scientist Beth Prusaczyk

Name: Beth Prusaczyk
Job: Instructor of Medicine and Health Informatics
Country: United States
Age: 34

Beth Prusaczyk is an Instructor at the Institute for Informatics and in General Medical Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She is an implementation scientist who specializes in improving healthcare for older adults and other vulnerable populations by understanding how to better implement existing research findings into real-world practice and policy through the use of healthcare data and systems and team science. Dr. Prusaczyk completed her postdoctoral training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She received her PhD and MSW from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. She also received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Webster University. As a 2018-2019 Health and Aging Policy Fellow and American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, Dr. Prusaczyk worked with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Find her on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website

On bridging policy, research, and practice:

“My work is focused on taking research findings and getting them used by practitioners and policymakers. I study that process and find ways to make it happen faster and better, and with better success. It’s the science of dissemination and implementation. And I do this all with a focus on older adults’ healthcare! I’m absolutely thrilled because my research interests include broadly what are the strategies to improve the implementation of evidence-based practices for older adults in the healthcare system, including the effect of interpersonal team dynamics on the implementation process and the use of existing healthcare data and system science methods such as social network analysis to inform and speed the implementation process. I currently serve as Secretary of the Society for Implementation Research Collaboration (SIRC). ”

Dr. Prusaczyk’s areas of research




On how health systems can support patients with dementia and their caregivers:

“One thing we found in our work is that hospital providers weren’t prioritizing education to patients with dementia or their caregivers. And this wasn’t exactly because the patients had dementia but more because patients with dementia were more often discharging to a skilled nursing facility, rehabilitation hospital, nursing home, etc. They weren’t as likely to go back home by themselves or with their caregiver. So the hospital providers felt like because the patient was going straight into the care of another healthcare professional, educating the patient or their caregiver about their diagnoses, symptoms to watch out for, medication side effects, etc. were not a priority. But, because we know older adults with dementia are at a higher risk for readmission and adverse events after hospital discharge, our research suggests that maybe hospital providers should consider prioritizing education for these patients and their caregivers so that they can advocate for themselves when they are at the nursing home, rehab hospital, etc.”

On her experience as a fellow in the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging:

“I was extremely lucky to be chosen as a 2018-2019 Health and Aging Policy Fellow, where I worked with the Senate Special Committee on Aging with Ranking Member Senator Bob Casey. This was an incredible experience to learn how policymakers use research findings when creating and negotiating policies for older adults. The training we receive as fellows and the network we become a part of are – as they tell you when you begin and it’s true – life-changing!”

As founder of Implementation Science & Aging Research (ISAR) Special Interest Group, Dr. Prusaczyk plans to bring together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners interested in using dissemination and implementation science to improve the health and lives of older adults and their caregivers.

On how her journalism experience informs her research:

“I think one thing that helps me be that bridge is my former career as a journalist. I loved being a journalist but newspapers (outside of the few major ones in the US) aren’t read as much today as they were 50 years ago, which means there aren’t many journalism jobs out there. While I wouldn’t trade my journalism experience for anything (it has been immensely helpful in my research career), when I decided to leave the field because of the poor job opportunities, it really was a pivotal moment because that’s when I found research and started on the path that has led me to where I am today. I didn’t take the traditional path to academia but as I get older and further along in my career I realize how much this unique path actually helps me!”

On her future goals:

“My goals are to become a successful researcher but also to become a bridge between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. I think each has their own perspectives and expertise but we still operate in silos when, in fact, we need to all work together if we are going to improve healthcare. I think because I have seen all three positions I can help bridge those silos.”

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I didn’t take the traditional path to academia but as I get older and further along in my career I realize how much this unique path actually helps me!

Beth Prucazyk, PhD, MSW

Five Questions With Data Scientist Crystal Grant

Name: Crystal Grant
Job: Genetics Researcher and Science Advocate
Country: United States and the Netherlands
Age: 27

Crystal Grant was recently awarded a PhD in Genetics at Emory University. As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, she used bioinformatics tools to characterize the molecular changes in humans with age. Originally from New York City, Dr. Grant completed her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, where she earned a BA in Biological Sciences with a minor in Anthropology. Throughout her graduate studies, she advocated for graduate students as President of Emory’s Graduate Student Council, volunteered with K-12 science outreach and education initiatives around Atlanta, and mentored underrepresented students. Dr. Grant enjoys practicing yoga, exploring museums, and traveling. In her future career, Dr. Grant she aims to combine her interest in crafting evidence-based science and technology policies with her doctoral experience working with big data. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and her website.

On why she chose to the biology of aging:

“My decision to study aging was a result of the lab I chose at Emory University. PhD students enter the university before choosing a lab and then do three 3-month rotations through different labs before choosing one. I had just come from working in a mouse lab on a leukemia-like disease as part of my gap year. While I liked getting to work on a human disease, I disliked having to sacrifice mice, so I went into graduate school hoping to find a lab that studied a human condition using bioinformatics tools–meaning I’d just be working on the computer, not with any animal models. And I found just that in the Conneely Lab!

I spoke early in my first year to Dr. Karen Conneely (my now advisor) so she could tell me more about her lab. She studied epigenetics (which is the field that looks at how the environment interacts with our genetics) and had a student in her lab who was using this approach to study evolutionary theories of aging. It was a fascinating conversation that got me excited about her research and the prospect of joining her lab. She then told me more about what would become my first paper—that the environment around our DNA changes in a way that is so predictable and linear that these changes can be used to predict the age of the person with very high accuracy across several different tissues! Because of this accuracy and the correlation of someone’s predicted age based on their DNA marks with their actual time to mortality, it was suggested that looking at this mark on DNA (called DNA methylation) could be a biomarker of aging–essentially meaning that it was a better predictor of someone’s health than their actual chronological age. I was sold and luckily, she let me join her lab.

Since joining Karen’s lab, I’ve learned a lot more about this field and I’m always excited to see the new things we’re able to learn about the process of aging. Before I began studying aging, I thought, like many people, that we understood it well–but the more I learn about it, the more I realize how little we understand this process that we are all going through! But I think the promise of biomarkers of aging could help revolutionize medical treatment. It has the potential to allow us to know exactly what environmental factors and behaviors age us faster in addition to who is more at risk of disease development and early mortality.

Crystal won the Poster Prize (and 500 EUR) at the Ageing, Health & Rejuvenation conference.

On her yearlong research fellowship in the Netherlands:

“It was a cool experience. I was able to go because I am an NSF Graduate Research Fellow; fellows can apply for this additional program, Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW). The goal of GROW is to get more American scientists collaborating internationally. I’m super grateful to have been given that opportunity by the NSF. And finding my lab in the Netherlands resulted from me attending an international conference and having dinner with Dr. Eline Slagboom who put me in touch with Dr. Bas Heijmans. Through GROW, I worked in the Heijmans Lab in Leiden for a year on an interesting aging project. Others in the field seemed to agree, I attended an aging conference and many people at my poster were excited about our approach to developing a new biomarker of aging. However, the marker I developed in my 12 months of work did not appear an improvement over existing ones, but I’m hopeful that, once another graduate student picks up the project, they may make more headway on this project given more time.

Something else I learned was just how similar the process of doing science is in Europe compared to the US–the main differences were work life balance (which I think they are much better at there) and that graduate students are recognized and employees and treated as such. I thought it was amazing that everyone was entitled to 5 weeks of vacation each year and that grads were given a raise every few years to acknowledge how much more proficient they had gotten at their craft. However, I was surprised to learn that many of their contracts run out before they are finished writing their thesis, so they end up having to write it while at their new job–something that seemed very stressful to me. Another difference seemed to be the scale of biobanks (these are tissue samples from people volunteering to be part of research projects) in Europe compared to the US. Because of historical factors and mistreatment by US scientists of minorities in research studies of the past, it’s much harder to get Americans to participate in research in the US compared to Europeans, which is unfortunate and something scientists and policy makers in the US need to address.”

On becoming a science activist in graduate school:

“In graduate school, I’ve been very active both at Emory and on a larger scale at Capitol Hill in DC. More locally, I’ve been passionate about empowering graduate students at Emory. Especially now that I’ve seen how the PhD is so different in other parts of the world, I’m more well versed in ways American universities could improve the graduate experience. At Emory, I’m on a task force with the goal of improving the graduate experience for biology PhD students. Additionally, I’ve been part of a graduate organization that works to educate students on how they can have an impact on policy-makers, specifically in communicating the importance of the federal government funding for science research. This organization, the Emory Science Advocacy Network (EScAN), has given me experience in science policy and knowledge of careers that marry my interests in science research with my desire to maintain my civic engagement.

Through the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other professional societies, I’ve gotten to travel to DC to talk to Georgia legislators about the importance of funding science research at the federal level—which was a great experience. I think more scientists need to work on being advocates for what we do and practice talking about it with non-scientists. If the public and law-makers can better understand why what we do is so important, they’ll feel more comfortable trusting both us as researchers and the scientific findings that we publish.”

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Crystal was profiled as part of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Member Spotlight. In the interview, she talked about on her experiences in both genetics research and activism during graduate school. Read more.

On her future goals:

“This January, I’ll be starting a 3-month science policy fellowship at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine through the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program. I’m SUPER excited about this opportunity since working in policy has been a goal of mine since starting my PhD. I’m also really interested in careers in Data Science since this is essentially what I’ve done these last 5 years in my PhD. I find I really enjoyed working with data to uncover trends and draw conclusions and then communicating these findings, especially to non-technical audiences.

For now, my main goal is to finish my PhD sometime in early 2020 and find a job that I really love. My ideal career would allow me to combine my interests in analyzing data and contributing to crafting evidence-based policies (and hopefully let me still travel).”

On her love of travel and favorite places:

“I love to travel, I get stir crazy if I’m in one place too long. My year of research in the Netherlands was a great experience in part because Europe is so easy to travel on a budget–I went to as many places as I could staying in cheap hostels and bargain hunting for cheap flights. I went to: Dublin, Ireland for St Patrick’s Day; Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest; Paris, France for AfroPunk; London, England for the Notting Hill Carnival; and many more. While, I still think Amsterdam is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, I found the sights in Vietnam (specially Ha Long Bay and the rice fields of Sa Pa) to be the most beautiful to visit. But my hands down favorite place to visit is Venice, Italy.”

Crystal talks about aging research to her department.

Before I began studying aging, I thought, like many people, that we understood it well–but the more I learn about it, the more I realize how little we understand this process that we are all going through!

Crystal Grant, PhD

Five Questions With Engineer Kayse Lee Maass

Name: Kayse Lee Maass
Job: Industrial Engineer
Country: United States
Age: 29

Kayse Lee Maass is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and leads the Operations Research and Social Justice lab at Northeastern University. She also currently holds a research appointment with the Information and Decision Engineering Program at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Maass’s research focuses on the application of operations research methodology to social justice, access, and equity issues within human trafficking, mental health, housing, and supply chain contexts. Her work is supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, centers interdisciplinary survivor-informed expertise, and has been used to inform policy and operational decisions at the local, national, and international levels. A recipient of multiple awards, she currently serves as the INFORMS Section on Location Analysis Secretary and is a member of the H.E.A.L. Trafficking Research Committee. Find her on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website

On why she chose to study engineering:

“When I was growing up, I was interested in a lot of social justice types of topics, but I also really loved math. I knew I wanted to do something with applied math. In college, I studied math and physics [I had some physics in high school and liked it], but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I wanted to tie in social justice with math, but I didn’t know how to do that until I took an operations research course in my senior year. That’s when I learned about the field that I’m in, which is industrial engineering.

I like to explain Industrial Engineering as the mathematics of decision making where we can look at things from a systems perspective. It’s nice because anything—any application or any topic that you think of—involves decision making. However, it wasn’t until I was pursuing a PhD in Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) from the University of Michigan that my mentors provided me with space and encouragement to explore how industrial engineering and social justice applications, like human trafficking, intertwined.”

On her self-care practices for a healthy lifestyle:

“I’ve been thinking about this [self-care] a lot lately. I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care. There are things I personally need to do for self-care, but we also need to make sure we design our systems and communities around making sure people have space to have healthy lifestyles.

As a professor, I work with a lot of students interested in pursuing a PhD or a career as a professor. I know that academia gives this idea that everyone’s always working, rarely has time for fun, and it’s very intense [which it is]. But, that’s not true for everyone in academia, and the assumption that it is true is one of the major barriers to creating an inclusive, diverse academy. I want students interested in academia to know that the field can be welcoming to people with diverse family needs or diverse health needs with different accessibility levels – but to do this I have to help create an academic environment where people know that flexibility and accessibility are the norm. For example, I try to be intentional about encouraging students to step away from their work to take time for their own self-care and relaxation, to be with family, and to generally just not work when they need to not work. This involves setting boundaries between work and other areas of your life and creating an environment where stepping away and having other interests is normal. The workplace can do a better job at normalizing healthy living. In fact, stepping away from your work to focus on other parts of your life is healthy and can lead to you being more engaged and productive once you are back at work!

In my personal life, I try to exercise as much as I can with realistic expectations. If I don’t reach my goal on a day, then self-care for me means I have to avoid being hard on myself for missing the goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to my body a lot more, including understanding when I’m starting to get stressed or anxious, and when what my body really needs is to rest rather than move.

Learn more on her website.

On how engineers can help fix healthcare:

“A lot of people in our field also look at healthcare applications. Sometimes it’s looking at telehealth options for people who either cannot drive anymore or live in rural populations. Industrial engineering can help answer questions such as: How can these populations have better access to a healthy lifestyle and check-ins? There are also people in our field who use industrial engineering to determine how often people should get screened for different conditions as they get older. If people were screened all the time, that would put a lot of time and financial burden on patients and they probably would not go to their screening. But if patients are not screened frequently enough, then they might have an undetected medical condition that can progress or get worse over time with limited treatment options available in the future.”

On how she uses data to fight human trafficking:

“There are researchers in other fields that use quantitative data to get insights into what human trafficking. Statisticians are working on better ways to determine the prevalence of human trafficking; economists create economic models to understand ways to reduce the profitability of exploiting people by using trafficked labor; there are quantitative social scientists researching, among other things, ways in which systems of poverty, racism, and homelessness intersect with human trafficking.  But, in industrial engineering, there really hasn’t been much prior work focused on data and mathematical, systems-based models to provide decision support to anti-human trafficking stakeholders. For example, there’s often not enough of a budget for anti-human trafficking agencies or non-profits to adequately address the needs of trafficking victims and survivors. They don’t have enough resources. They already have a lot of things they need to do. Industrial engineering is great for those kinds of applications because we can help figure out, “How do I make the most efficient use of my resources?” For example, in some of our current work, we focus on how to increase access to shelters and other services for human trafficking survivors. After people come out of their trafficking experience, they need safe and stable housing options, they need access to food and medical care and many additional things, but those supports currently are not adequately available throughout the world, including the United States.

Some of our work is focusing on determining how to best increase access to shelter and other services if an organization/government has a limited budget to spend. We work with human trafficking survivors to determine what they want and need after they leave their trafficking experience. From this we can answer questions such as: Where should you build these additional shelters? What types of services should each shelter offer? How can the shelters best coordinate with other community support partners? In short, one of the things we as industrial engineers can do is help determine how to most efficiently use your resources to meet your goals.

This a similar problem to something like what any other company would do when they are going to create a new warehouse or storefront. They use these kinds of models to say, “Where am I going to open my next warehouse?” or “Where am I going to open my new store?” And we’re just doing it in a different application while also considering things that aren’t focused primarily on demand and profit. Instead we incorporate more human components as well.”

On her tips for combining engineering and social justice passions:

“It’s important to understand both the technical aspects of industrial engineering and the nuances of social justice issues. Sometimes what can happen is a prospective engineer who has a math/engineering background can get so excited about a social justice topic that they just jump into it without understanding all the nuances and all the complexities of that social justice topic. And while it’s good to have interest and passion in all these topics, it can also be harmful if we don’t understand how there are many different complexities and overlapping systems involved. For example, creating a new decision model that looks at stopping trafficking within a city might just push the traffickers outside of the city and into the suburbs or rural areas, causing problems for other populations or marginalized groups.

So, I think it’s important that industrial engineers come with a passion, and start working on these topics, but also come with the willingness to really get connected with people that have expertise in human trafficking.

It’s important that if you’re making decisions about trafficking-whether through industrial engineering models or policy-, you need to have trafficking victims and trafficking survivors centered at the decision table with you; they understand what the complexities of the system are, and are crucial to making sure that we aren’t having any unintended consequences.” There’s that saying, “Nothing for us without us” that is particularly helpful for us as industrial engineers to remember as we work on problems that have very real impacts on people’s lives.

I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care.

Kayse Lee Maass, PhD