Tag Archives: interviews

Five Questions With Mental Health Advocate Drona Dewi

Name: Drona Dewi
Job: Author and Mental Health First Aider
Country: Malaysia and Nepal
Age: 35

Drona Dewi is a holistic wellness trainer from a biotechnology background with more than ten years of experience in research and development. Dewi is a triple threat: she is a certified trainer, certified image consultant, and certified skincare consultant. She works as a training manager at the Medhini group, where she manages all aspects of planning and execution of training programs related to science and technology. A licensed mental health first aider, Dewi is passionate about mental health and started her research on diabetes care and lifestyle modification. In the last five years, she has ventured into wellness to improve both inner and outer beauty. Her approaches are backed by science because she believes good skincare is an investment and says a lot about one’s lifestyle. Dewi is passionate about creating awareness of the importance of lifestyle balance through science communication. Connect with her on Instagram, FacebookLinkedIn, YouTube, and website.

On making time for self-care and mental health:

“Since I need to help myself before I help others, I have a routine that puts me first before my family. I am home most of the time, and working from home, even pre covid, has put me into a fixed routine. My “me time” is in my kitchen preparing food for the family, and as a wellness mama, I find time to bond with my sons through exercise. Our exercise time is added to my routine because it is critical, and I see my body as a temple. The best part of founding Drona Wellness is I get to practice what I preach. Drona means balance in Sanskrit, and wellness is a lifestyle. Whenever I am sharing with my clients, I feel more empowered because it reminds and reassures me of my wellness knowledge and how I can improve. Seeing science in everything brings me joy! I do not try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, I share my points based on science-backed research findings. I am co-author of “Life is a Gift: Loving You,” a beautiful anthology covering a wide range of subjects aimed at teaching one how to love oneself unconditionally along the journey through life.”

On a surprising fact about the skin and health connection:

“While the connection between skin and health needs a holistic approach, spiritual beauty is especially important because it is how you feel about yourself emotionally. Spiritual beauty is the Tejas (Sanskrit word), meaning the radiant energy that gives the glow from activities and actions such as love, truthfulness, kindness, face yoga, and exercise to release feel-good hormones. These will assist you in dealing with stress and emotional difficulties. I have met people without skincare routines who have good skin, and it’s because of their spiritual energy – a light that shines brightly within. One can start by having a gratitude journal and practicing mindfulness because you sometimes need to pause, breathe, and learn to love your life!”

On the role of diet in maintaining healthy skin:

“There is a famous quote, “you are what your skin eats.” What you feed yourself will be reflected on your skin, such as the deficiency of trace minerals and vitamins. Due to an increased level of free radicals from poor diet, premature aging is a common problem. A simple Skin Profiling Analysis can check if there is an imbalance in the body using the elements of oriental analysis, and the results will show the imbalance on the skin surface. This method has been used, since ancient times, even before the advancement of technology. One sentence that sums it all is glowing skin, glowing health.” Read more about beauty stereotypes in older women.

On improving both nutrition and skin health:

“Embracing our genetic makeup is important. The 40/60 rule of 40 percent nature (genes) and 60 percent nurture (environment) is the key to understanding the relationship with the skin. We need to have the courage to love ourselves wholeheartedly. As a mental health first aider, I get people to rediscover their purpose in life. We often need to pause, breathe, and be grateful for life! When you feel good about yourself and eat good food, then good genes get turned on, AND good skincare works wonders. People are into quick fixes and investing in cosmetic surgery and skincare, trying to improve their skin and beauty when often a simple improvement in diet, health mindset, exercise, skincare, and makeup routine can dramatically improve the health of skin cells. This month, I am starting a series called Let’s Talk Wellness about different science-backed trends.

On her future goals:

“I would love to coach and help businesses and entrepreneurs in the health, beauty, and wellness industries. I also want to provide solutions to their needs, opinions, and ideas by communicating science better. For example, over-claiming a product as ‘chemical-free’ does a disservice to the consumer. Instead, it is better to communicate in a more specific way, such as naming the toxic or harsh chemicals to be avoided in skincare or food. I plan to influence the world with science-backed research on the holistic approach to a better lifestyle. Just like Dr. Rangan Chatterjee! It includes relaxing more, eating smart, moving better, and clever sleeping. Post-COVID, a new religion will be born, the religion of “lifestyle,” and this has made my goals more achievable in a sustainable way. Because even now, people realize the importance of a healthy lifestyle and are looking for creative ways to attain it. Wish me luck!”

When you feel good about yourself and eat good food, then good genes turn on, and good skincare works wonders.

Drona Dewi, B.S.

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 HealthTech Futurist Nataša Lazarevic

Name: Nataša Lazarevic
Job: eHealth PhD Fellow, STEM Advocate, and Illustrator
Country: Germany, Serbia, Botswana, UAE, Australia
Age: 25

Nataša Lazarevic is completing a PhD in the fields of digital health, machine learning, and anatomy at the University of Sydney, where she previously obtained an Honours degree in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. She is a co-founder of Visibility STEM Africa, which promotes the visibility of Africans in STEM and provides them with opportunities to flourish. Nataša loves interdisciplinary projects, and thoroughly enjoys teaching anatomy and histology to undergraduate and medical students, sometimes creating funny memes about science and technology. She is passionate about promoting underrepresented groups in STEM, coordinating public health outreach projects, and science communication. Connect with Nataša on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Nataša’s explains her research in emojis. She uses machine learning to improve healthcare.

On her diverse background and experience:

“Hello, I am Nataša (pronounced Natasha). I have been fortunate enough to live in five different countries, but that also means that I find the concepts of nationality, identity, and sense of belonging a bit tricky. According to my passports, I am both Australian (as of recently!) and Serbian. But I was born in Germany, then lived in Serbia, grew up in Botswana for most of my childhood, the United Arab Emirates for my teenage years, and now I live in Australia. A sense of culture and identity is so much more than what our passports reveal. 

I am a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and I work on an interdisciplinary project that combines the fields of digital health, machine learning, and anatomy. The project is about applying new technologies and our understanding of the human body to create technological solutions for monitoring our bodies and health remotely. I also enjoy teaching anatomy and histology to medical and undergraduate students. Everything about the body and how it works fascinates me.

I am passionate about promoting the equality of underrepresented groups in STEM, so I co-founded Visibility STEM Africa (VSA) with my dear friend Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa. To learn more, follow VSA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!”

A science artist and illustrator, Nataša drew the background of this photo.


On how society can make technology more inclusive:

“When I was younger, I used to pretend and behave as though I did not understand how to use technology. I believed that a girl behaved in this way, and the more I played dumb, the more attention I received from boys I liked. I found myself fitting into the stereotype, and I decided that I did not want to be that person. What helped me get past this was to believe in myself and be courageous enough to challenge stereotypes.

I realized that I often stopped challenging myself because I felt like an imposter. I’ve sometimes struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’ – the feeling that you are not good enough or that you do not belong. Opening my mind to the idea that I can overcome my fear of failure through hard work has been helpful. Also, changing or re-framing my mindset has helped tremendously.

We are overloaded with amounts of information. To cope, our brain filters much of this information or creates short-cuts (known as heuristics) to make the world easier to understand. Forms of heuristics, particularly involving the use of emotions to assess situations, are sometimes referred to as having a ‘gut feeling.’ Heuristic learning can often be the basis for forming stereotypes. Stereotyping can, at times, be positive where the person being stereotyped is glad to be regarded in that light. For instance, older adults are wise and loving. However, I think the stereotype that older populations are incapable of using and understanding technology is widespread and can prevent older adults from trying to learn or have confidence in the things they have learned. While it is true that as we age, some people lose dexterity and cognitive flexibility, we must not blindly reinforce this stereotype. Sometimes these stereotypes prevent people from even trying.

Hear from Nataša about utilizing medical data to reshape Africa’s health sector.

Efforts should be made to promote the engagement of the older adults with technology and the use of mobile devices. Efforts should also be made to make use of technology more accessible and user-friendly. Features that could make technology or apps more user-friendly to older adults and other populations include

  • simplistic design navigation
  • use of voice activation to navigate the app
  • use of larger images and texts for easier readability
  • use of larger touchable buttons to assist with dexterity issues
  • terms and conditions related to privacy and security of user data being explained in lay terms.

The majority of these features would be helpful to the general population, and at no point should these further exclude the older community. I think what would contribute positively is to create spaces where older people can openly learn about, use, and discuss technology. After all, today’s young adults are tomorrow’s older adults.”

Nataša designed this worksheet for her first Skype a Scientist session with children aged 6 to 7 years.

On why Africans in STEM lack visibility:

“A reduced number of Africans are pursuing higher degree education in STEM fields. This is partially due to a lack of opportunities (for example, scholarships, postgraduate programs, funding), focus on non-STEM disciplines, insufficient investment by governments toward STEM education, and workforce development. It has led to the global research output of merely 1.4 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa and low levels of peer-reviewed citations.

The pandemic has illustrated the importance of having research facilities and skilled individuals in local African communities to respond, to be self-sufficient, and not as reliant on international support.

Africans in STEM both in industry and academia are doing brilliant work in both Africa and the diaspora, and these contributions to STEM fields should be promoted. There is a lack of mentorship by Africans in STEM to younger generations to inspire them and make them feel as though such a career is possible at all. There is power in having mentors that look like you and come from the same region.

The pervasive stereotypes of Africans only being poverty-stricken and malnourished in many western countries has in some cases, led to the lack of representation of African contributions in STEM. Africa is often viewed as being one country, but in reality, the continent consists of a melting pot of diverse cultures, languages, and people. We must start changing the narrative surrounding Africans in STEM and provide them with opportunities to share their stories. Visibility STEM Africa aims to promote the visibility of Africans in STEM and provide opportunities for them to flourish in their scientific fields and communities.”

On practicing self-care especially during COVID-19:

“I am getting better at practicing self-care, and the pandemic forced a lot of us to reflect upon our current situation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I regularly would put myself last. For instance, a deadline is more important than my sleep. During the pandemic, I have tried to focus on getting into a better sleeping routine and on my mental well-being by practicing mindfulness and regularly meditating. I still find it difficult, but the more you do, the easier it will be to form habits. I am passionate about exercise and its effect on mental health, so I regularly do Zoom exercise sessions with friends and family. I was able to get in touch with many friends I grew up with via video call. This was both helpful and nostalgic because I appreciated my social support network.”

During the pandemic, she taught anatomy and histology using Zoom, with her science illustrations in the background. Nataša also draws scientists, especially women in STEM

On getting older in today’s world:

“I sometimes feel that people tend to treat the older population unfairly and almost as though they are a separate group. This age divide has been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have heard younger people make comments like, “But it only affects older people, so it is not that big of a deal.” I feel that to some degree, such responses stem from younger people being subconsciously fearful of becoming older themselves as they inevitably will. As a society, we do everything in our power to counter the aging process, and many industries greedily profiteer from this obsession. I sometimes feel that some people view aging as an internal cell decay time bomb.

At my current age, I do not fear aging nor the existential anxiety commonly associated with the awareness that death is inevitable. I feel that it is more prudent to stop being anxious about phenomena that we cannot control. But, ask me when I am 60 and perhaps my response will change because the onset of age-related health consequences will have occurred (Like menopause! I am not looking forward to that).”

I sometimes feel that people tend to treat the older population unfairly and almost as though they are a separate group.

Nataša Lazarevic, BSc (Hons)

Five Questions With Software Developer Ova

Name: Ova Ceren
Job: Programmer and Web Designer
Country: England and Turkey
Age: 38

Ova Ceren is a SharePoint specialist with 15 years of experience in development, technical documentation, configuration, migration, administration, support, and end-user workshop training for the SharePoint server. Previously, Ova worked as a Senior SharePoint Developer for Anglia Ruskin University, where she developed SharePoint websites, performed user interface development, and aided with best practices on configuration. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from Dokuz Eylul University and Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Ege University. Connect with Ova on her website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

On herself, hobbies, and passions:

“I’m Ova, a software developer and a big reader. Lover of cats, the color yellow, traveling, music and art. I’m a summer child, I adore Harry Potter, I’ve been raised by a book lover, and I believe in a bit of magic. At work, I write mostly front end code, and create workflows and forms, on SharePoint. As a blogger, I love creating content on Instagram, and the response I get from people all around the world is so motivating.”

Ova loves different cuisines, finding beautiful scenery, and spending time with her family.

On practicing self-care during COVID-19: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is hard on everyone, and it took us some time to realize that it’s okay not to be okay. I try to stay more relaxed by spending my days in activities that I enjoy, which is limited when you are stuck at home, but things like reading work for me. I used to cook almost every night, but I now feel that it’s fine to have cheese on toast for dinner! With a young child at home, it’s impossible to do everything, so I take it easy by giving myself room for flexibility, and not sticking to a routine, especially when it comes to homeschooling. The important thing is trying to enjoy small things. It could be the sunset, a stroll with my bike, a cup of tea, or just sitting in the garden under the sunshine.”

On starting in information technology and web development:

“My first advice would be discovering what they want to do. What kind of value do you want to add, to yourself and others? IT work has such a massive variety, you could be a developer (even this has so many branches within), a database administrator, system analyst or a technical architect. They are all different and there are endless career opportunities. I think it’s important to find out what makes you enjoy the work you’re doing. For me, this is SharePoint: as an application, it has so many layers and functions and there are always multiple ways to solve a problem or accomplish a task. I love discovering new functionalities and aspects of it during my work time.”

Ova also loves doodles, which are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning.

On encouraging people to embrace reading and books:

“I don’t think I can convince people to read. If someone is attracted to reading, they will find their way into being a reader. But If I’m convincing enough, I’ll say, books offer orgasms- literally. An example is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories. Every story in that book blew my mind. I remember reading The Werewolf, and from the first sentence, I was disconnected from my surroundings and entering into the world of Carter. Good writing has this effect on me. So, it’s always a good idea to discover fictional worlds because the greatest books are written by possibly the greatest minds.”

On her strategy for creating content on Instagram:

“I have only one strategy: being spontaneous. It’s more like, “what shall I post today?”. I also don’t spend more than 10 minutes to write a post unless it’s a book review, and I love being creative with it. I buy my books from either bookshops or online. My local Heffers bookshop is where I do my walk-in shopping, and my online shopping is done on eBay, Book depository, and I use Amazon for a different edition of classics. I just recently discovered hive.co.uk, which allows you to shop from independent bookshops within the UK.”

The important thing is trying to enjoy small things. It could be the sunset, a stroll with my bike, a cup of tea, or just sitting in the garden under the sunshine.

Ova Ceren, MBA

Five Questions With Development Practitioner Sachi Shah

Name: Sachi Shah
Job: International Development Practitioner
Country: Malawi and India
Age: 28

Sachi Shah serves as founder/director of Truss Group, a multi-faceted social enterprise that works towards environmental sustainability and human health improvement in low-income urban areas in Malawi. She has worked as a Global Health Corps fellow and Communications and Programs Associate at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark. Previously, Sachi wrote and edited for Global Health Aging and has interned with The Rockefeller Foundation among other organizations. Find Shah on LinkedIn and Truss Group on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  

On her job description:
“I run a social enterprise in Blantyre, Malawi that focuses on waste management, and plastic recycling. We create cement substitutes from recycled plastic and focus on high-impact building projects such as disaster-resistant housing and pit latrines.

We are aiming to come up with a model for disaster resistant housing before the end of the year. We are also looking at how we can move into exploring other infrastructure that can support better health and environments beyond waste management. Outside of work, I like to watch spend time in nature and with friends, watch movies, and read.”

On why she started the Truss Group
“Truss is an extension of a project I started with high-school students four years ago in Blantyre. I believe that if spaces are freed of waste, and more sustainable construction is encouraged in urban areas, then human and environmental health will benefit exponentially. I wanted to return to do more than just volunteer work for a couple of months.”

Truss Group is 1 of the 11 ventures that will go through the first cohort of the Grow Malawi Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge. Truss Group will grow and scale their venture through technical assistance, mentorship and funding provided by MHub, GrowthAfrica – Growth Frontiers, Accesserator and Kweza, with support from UNDP Malawi and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

On how environmental sustainability affects human health:
“Mismanaged waste is known to breed diseases and negatively affect both human and environmental health and productivity. A healthy environment benefits everyone, especially children and vulnerable older adults who live at risk in the community.

On her experience as a fellow with Global Health Corps:
“I did communications, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and health program development for the Boys & Girls Club of Newark in the USA during my fellowship year. Global Health Corps is a wonderful world-wide community of dedicated professionals working to develop better health care for all. It is also a very supportive community invested in peer learning.”

On her proudest moment(s):
“I think my ability to be resilient and resourceful. Entrepreneurship requires you to learn this and quickly. I serve on the board of Renew’N’Able Malawi (RENAMA), a Malawian non-governmental organization (NGO) for sustainable energy and manages the Blantyre Farmer’s Market. I have also pursued research and fieldwork in various subjects including, water, sanitation, and hygiene 9(WASH), sustainable energy, child development, urban design 10 and policy, environmental policy, and movement building.”

Plastic waste is a growing and increasingly detrimental problem in Malawi. Learn more.

Better health infrastructure, decreased corruption, and waste management are top three needs in Malawi.

Sachi Shah

Five Questions With Dietitian Vanessa Rissetto

Making Kale and Lentil salad – Recipe

Name: Vanessa Rissetto
Job: Dietitian Entrepreneur
Country: United States
Age: 40

Vanessa Rissetto is on a mission to promote healthy eating. She is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who specializes in Weight Loss, Weight Management, and Medical Nutrition Therapy as it relates to Diabetes, Cardiac Disease, and Gastrointestinal Issues. Her media appearances include Hallmark Channel, Refinery29, Men’s Health, and Chicago Tribune, among others. A chocolate lover, Rissetto lives in the USA with her husband, daughter, son, and four-legged friend Marley! Find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her website

On why she chose to study nutrition:

“I was always interested in science, medicine, nutrition, so I decided to take a few classes at New York University to see if it would be something I would want to pursue  – it was!”

On what she has learned about the science behind nutrition:

“That it is science-based, and not just all these gimmicks that people are putting out there. Just because you hear of one study doesn’t mean it’s gospel.  We have to find the reasons why and do a deeper dive.” 

Vanessa discusses nutrition, fad diets, exercise, and maintenance with Marci Hopkins, host of the national talk show, “Wake Up with Marci,” airing on the CBS-owned WLNY-TV New York.

On how to make healthy eating affordable:

“It can be with proper planning. Just going to the supermarket without anything in mind can cause you to overspend. Having a handle on your schedule and the things you like to eat will ensure you don’t waste.” 

On her favorite meal to make:

“I like to roast a chicken at the beginning of the week and use the remainder for a chicken salad or fajitas. It’s pretty versatile and easy to do.”

On her future goals:

“Honestly, I think if I can help people understand the science behind nutrition and get them to have a better relationship with food, then I can consider myself successful.”

Hearty meals from Vanessa’s kitchen

It isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about feeling great, re-energizing, and finding a new lust for life.

Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN