April 29, 2011

My First Year As A Journalist

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:05 am by Marcie McClellan

I survived. I survived my first year of graduate school, and my first year as a journalist. I learned (hope I’m not  speaking prematurely) AP Style, mastered the art of the interview, and put together some pretty nice packages. But this year hasn’t been without its challenges. Moving to Athens for me was like moving to a foreign country. Growing up in a small town in Arkansas, then moving to Atlanta and going to college at a small campus  I felt pretty good about living in a different setting. However, when I got here for the first time in a long time I was living in an unfamiliar space, having to negotiate my place and my purpose. I will say this is where reporting came in handy, covering the Clarke-County beat forced me to leave my apartment and allowed me to meet several people  on my quest to “tell the story.”

But soon, I began to question my role as a journalist and as a gatekeeper. I must admit I was one of those people who criticized local news for always getting the stereotypical individual for the interview. “You couldn’t get anyone else?” But now I was the journalist doing the interviews. Do I use the interview if someone misspoke? Or does that mean I’m being biased? These were the questions I began to struggle with. I slowly learned that journalism is not about creating the world you would like to live in by carefully crafting stories. One of my peers reminded me that for every image that is depicted, it is representative of some group and that as a journalist my job is to tell the story they shared.

Another area I struggled with was writing. I know, I know, how am I in a masters program struggling with writing…( I asked and sometimes still ask myself this question). I had always considered myself to be a strong writer, until this year. It was my first writing assignment and I earned a C. I could hardly believe that I had let careless mistakes clog my writing. Honestly, it took me a minute to bounce back from the dreaded C. But I slowly regained my confidence as a writer and began to see the vivid red editing marks on stories as opportunities to become a better writer. I also learned a lot from my classmates, sharing our writing experiences has helped me greatly.

All in all I think my first year as a journalist was a success. I made mistakes and I learned from them. I took risks and I told the stories I wanted to tell, mostly. There are things I wish I would have known prior to entering the program. So for the newbies who will travel this path in a few months, here are a few tips:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help-I know this sounds cliché, but graduate school is a unique beast. At times you will feel overwhelmed and question if this was the right choice, however asking for help or advice can save you big time. If you are lonely, get out and become social. I didn’t really get to know the people in my program until towards the end of my second semester, but now we have all become pretty close.

Don’t overextend yourself-Learning how to balance school,work, and/or an assistantship is a crucial to effectively managing your time. The average graduate student takes 3 or 4 classes. That can yield anywhere from 50 to a couple of hundred pages of reading per week depending on your courses. Not to mention writing papers or making presentations. So when joining extracurricular activities or looking for a job think about whether or not it can further your success in your program.

It’s okay if you’re not number 1-Sometimes you will have a moment like my C moment. It’s okay, not okay to continuously have that moment but it’s okay if you experience a minor setback. Use it as a learning opportunity. Talk to your professors, ask for feedback. If this is something you want to do as your career one day, you want to make the mistakes here and not at your job.

Take advantage of opportunities-I may have gotten scolded for not networking enough, but trust when I meet people I find out what they do, how they did it, and how can I join them. Most people are happy to talk to young people with aspirations, so make this work for you. It may not immediately yield an opportunity, but you never know what the future holds.

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April 19, 2011

Addressing Social Determinants of Health Priority for Doctors

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:35 am by Marcie McClellan

My interest in social determinants in health began when I was an undergraduate volunteering at an afterschool program in a low-income neighborhood a few blocks away from downtown Atlanta. Although, the program did everything possible to help the kids excel, it stood little chance to the environmental influences at play. Parents often worked two jobs, leaving little time for reading bedtime stories or checking homework, playgrounds were neglected, and resources were scarce.

How does a child succeed if all the odds are against them?

Too often people don’t connect the dots between social factors and health outcomes, but health during childhood is powerfully linked to social factors such as the income and education levels of a child’s family, as well as his or her racial or ethnic group. The effects of socioeconomic adversity on young children are perhaps the most dramatic, as they influence future health outcomes. Geographical differences in health often mirror geographic differences in income, education, and racial or ethnic composition.

At the Association for Healthcare Journalists (AHCJ) conference in Philadelphia interactive session, “Neighborhood Indicators for Infant and Child Health,” a panel of epidemiologists and physicians shared the medical implications for children and youth living in impoverished neighborhoods.

Dr. Daniel Taylor, pediatrician and advocacy director of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia divulged his first-hand experiences of social influences on child health.

“Advocacy is essential for physicians,” said Taylor.

Taylor, a father of four, actually began mentoring one of his patients, a boy named Ray. Ray, now 13, was only four when Taylor began spending time with him.

Ray lives with his mother, who suffers from congestive heart failure, his grandmother, who is an alcoholic, his other siblings, and his aunts in a 3-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood with a high concentration of poverty and violence.

Even though Ray spends one to two nights of the week with the Taylors, it isn’t enough to combat the forces of his neighborhood.

Ray is overweight and suffers from traumatic stress. “He plays basketball 5 times a week and he is still overweight,” said Taylor.

Dr. Taylor’s story about Ray made me think about a physicians responsibility in addressing social forces influences on health and well-being. Medical care in our country is dominated by a biological model, fighting disease based on the anatomy and physiology inside the human body, while neglecting to fight the environmental and socioeconomic that lie outside it.

I’m sure some will argue that physicians are not social workers, but if they don’t take a proactive approach addressing societal influences, their work will largely be in vain.

“Instead of prescribing amoxicillin, I will write down read to your child 30 minutes a day or sit down and have dinner together 5 times a week,”said Taylor.

Session Recap:Michigan K-12 School Disaster Preparedness and Response Curriculum: Teaching Children How to Plan and React to Natural or Manmade Emer

Posted in Emergency Communication, Health Preparedness Summitt at 1:46 am by Marcie McClellan

In the session “Michigan’s K-12 School Disaster Preparedness and Response Curriculum: Teaching Children How to Plan and React to Natural or Manmade Emergencies,” law enforcement and school officials from Michigan told how they collaborated to integrate disaster preparedness education into a comprehensive K-12 health education curriculum. The following participants comprised the panel: Sergeant Jerold King, Michigan State Police Department; Ashley VandeKopple, M.Ed, Kentwood Public Schools and Michigan Department of Community Health; and Jessica Shaffer, MAT, Michigan Department of Community Health.

After September 11, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security provided an influx of new funding for security-related programs, Sgt. King said. The federal government identified schools as critical infrastructure, and Michigan was one of the earliest states to seek funding to help schools prepare for disasters and emergencies.

In 2003, Michigan received $9.2 million that went directly to school superintendents. This funding enabled schools to update emergency response plans to include chemical and biological terrorism events; additional funds went toward improving communications equipment.

Initially, Michigan State Police developed an educational program modeled on D.A.R.E. but focused on disaster preparedness lessons police officers could teach as part of their Teaching, Educating and Mentoring (TEAM) program. This was a joint effort of law enforcement and schools in Michigan.

Ashley VandeKopple picked up the story and explained how disaster preparedness has since been integrated into the state’s widely used health education program. The Michigan Model is a K-12 health education curriculum that was first implemented in 1985. Schools in 39 other states also use it.

Children are now being taught to prepare for natural and manmade disasters, pandemic influenza, terrorism, and other emergencies. A group of experts from public health, schools, and academia developed the curriculum framework. They identified six essential topics including coping skills, family emergency preparedness plans, awareness of hazards, and helpful and harmful influences.

Jessica Shaffer explained that the goal is to provide skills that empower children, not simply to provide information. This goal is rooted in the “health belief model,” which emphasizes that behavioral change is unlikely unless children have skills needed to act.

Before the curriculum was taught in the classroom, teachers reviewed the lesson plans for age appropriateness and relative importance; academic experts also evaluated the curriculum. The curriculum is designed to be taught by teachers, counselors, and health coordinators. It starts with simple terms and concepts, such as feeling safe, and builds to more sophisticated concepts, such as appropriate use of police tip lines.

The new version of the Michigan Model, which includes emergency preparedness modules, will be available in July or August. More information is available at www.michiganmodel.org.

February 22, 2011

Project Condom

Posted in UGA tagged , , at 4:53 pm by Marcie McClellan

Photo Credit: Marcie McClellan

Photo Condom Display at UGA Health Center

As I was waiting to speak with a health educator at the University of Georgia (UGA) Health Center something caught my eye. It was a red and black dress, made out of condoms. The dress was promoting Project Condom.

Project Condom which is based on the popular reality show Project Runway, is a fashion show in which designers come together and compete for their creations. The designers use donated colored, non-lubricated, non-packaged, expired condoms to create their masterpieces.

The fashion show also provides participants with educational skits during commercial breaks.

Project Condom was created by Ryan Wilson, Sexual Health Coordinator from the University of South Carolina in 2008 to promote safe and healthy sexual decision-making. Since the first show in 2008, the shows have become an annual event.

UGA decided to adopt Project Condom in January 2010. On April 21, 2010 UGA students created different designs and displayed them on mannequins during a health festival at the Tate Plaza. The first UGA fashion show was held on October 12, 2010 in Memorial Hall Ballroom.

The 2011 show will be held on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 in the Tate Grand Hall. Students can visit the University Health Center website to learn more about Project Condom.

Building Friendship Frontiers (BFF)

Posted in Programs tagged , , at 3:33 pm by Marcie McClellan

Photo Credit: Marcie McClellan

Isa and Heather at a weekly mentoring session.

Social relationships are often a struggle for many people with autism, but a two-year old program called Building Friendship Frontiers (BFF) helps teens with these relationships. The program pairs college students with autistic teens at Clarke Central High School and Cedar Shoals High School.

“The goal is to strengthen the teens social skills,” said Sheena Zhang,  a senior ecology and biology major at UGA, who founded the program to give students an opportunity to engage with the local community.

“It’s really easy as a UGA student to for people to forget about the citizens of Athens,” said Zhang. “Everyone is just driving around in their Mercedes and SUV’s and no one is thinking about how badly the people who live here are doing.”

Each BFF volunteer is paired with an autistic teen –usually a low-income youth – and commits to having lunch with the student at school on a weekly basis. If the relationship flourishes, the volunteers arrange other shared activities such as going to the park or going to a movie outside school.Alisa Chen, the current president of BFF meets with her mentee Heather Moore at school once a week for an hour.

“We went to CiCi’s pizza, my favorite thing is cheese pizza. We talked and we played computer games at the arcade,” recalls Heather, an 18-year-old who attends Cedar Shoals High School.

Although Heather is not blind she enjoys making Braille books for her blind friend Jamaica. Heather learned Braille using a computer program.

BFF collaborates with Goodwill GoodGuides, a national youth mentoring program, that helps teens finish school and transition into productive careers. Goodwill GoodGuides helps BFF pair mentors and mentees.

“Goodwill GoodGuides surveys the mentors and mentees to see if they’re a good fit,” said Zhang.

As of this spring the program serves 15 students.

February 14, 2011

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:39 pm by Marcie McClellan

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!