August 31, 2010

UCLA School of Public Affairs Google Calendar

Friends close to me know what an advocate I am of google products. They are just so darn efficient. Thankfully, it looks like the School of Public Affairs thinks so too!

I feel lucky to have stumbled across the official SPA google calendar. It's a comprehensive calendar of all meetings, office hours, and field modules for MSW and PhD Public Affairs students. What's also nice is that they include room numbers for meetings...something I've noticed is missing from emails.

The only drawback to the calendar is that it also includes appointments for doctoral students and administration... which leads me to ask why there isn't a calendar for just MSW students?

Add the calendar by clicking HERE.

Patient Dumping

Earlier this year, a friend and I were eating at a relatively upscale restaurant in Beverly Hills. Just as we were about to dig into our salads, a man walks into the restaurant and declares he has an announcement to make. His voice was strong but composed, and he immediately captured the attention of the entire dining room. I'm paraphrasing here, so bear with me:

"I would like just five minutes of your time please," he begins. "I need $75 to pay for my lithium medicine. I have just been released from Cedar Sinai Hospital, and I can't afford my medicine." To my surprise, waiters and busboys continued to serve patrons in the restaurant. He continued, "This is known as PATIENT DUMPING. I can't afford my medicine," he repeated, "and I need $75 to pay for my lithium."

Two things happened next. A man stood up from his table and handed the guy a $20 bill. Then, just as the maitre d tried to escort him out of the restaurant, the police arrived and removed him from the restaurant.

Anyone who has taken an introductory course in psychology, or seen a psychological thriller knows that lithium is prescribed for people with Bi-Polar Disorder, otherwise known as Manic Depression. My reaction to what I just witnessed was first shock, and second sadness. I was sad a homeless has an oppressive mental illness. I was sad he felt he had no other options but to enter a restaurant and beg for money. I was sad that even after he was taken into police custody, he would be released without a solution to his original problem.

The reason I wanted to share this story is twofold. I am about to embark on my first internship as a social work student, and it happens to be in the Department of Mental Health at the UCLA Harbor Hospital in Torrance. There is no doubt in my mind I will come face-to-face with similar situations: patients who are unable to afford treatment. As a social worker to be, it is my responsibility to provide the best possible assistance to people, regardless if they have insurance or the funds to pay for treatment. When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness and cannot afford to pay for treatment, what exactly are they supposed to do with the diagnosis? To say I am anxious about how these situations might unfold is a huge understatement.

This leads me to the second reason why I wanted to share this story. Marion Nestle recently wrote a post on public health. She defines the concept beautifully:

"My definition of public health isn’t much different from mainstream definitions.  But to me, public health is a critically important expression of democracy, and the antithesis of  a “corporate” concern.  Public health approaches [to] promote good health for everyone, not just those who can afford it or are educated enough to make appropriate choices."

What I liked so much about Nestle's definition is that she allows the reader to conceptualize Public Health as a democratic right, as opposed to just a heated political issue. What Nestle's definition implies is that Public Health might help solve the issue among those who can't afford medical expenses by allowing them to choose survival.

I'm not going to imply that I have a solution to myriad of problems that confront individuals such as the homeless man I saw at the restaurant. Nor can I offer a brilliant plan for exactly how to fund Public Health issues like these. However acknowleding and speaking to the multi-faceted layers that confront these individuals, is certainly a start.

August 18, 2010

Fighting Sex Exploitation

Earlier this summer, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in a summer program through Justifi, an organization dedicated to prevent the growing human sex trade among children in Northern Thailand. Justifi partners with other organizations such as The Sold Project to prevent, rescue and provide services to children affected by one of the worst crimes committed against humanity. 

I did a lot of research to prepare for the summer program. Victor Malarek's "The Natasha's: Inside the New Global Sex Trade" was by far the most insightful text I read. In his book, he details the global consequences of the human trafficking in a political, social and psychological context. Here are just a few takeaways from his book:
  • After drugs and weapons, the sex trade is the third most lucrative sector globally, estimated to generate over $12 billion annually
  • Sex trafficking victims can be forced to serve 10 to 30 men in a single night
  • Once rescued, trafficking victims are often processed as illegal immigrants, making legal action a virtually impossible choice
  • The legalization of prostitution in Germany and the Netherlands have caused a surge in foreign sex tourism that ultimately encourages sex trafficking
  • UN police and soldiers are often popular brothel customers 
  • Sex trafficking is a driving force in the global spread of AIDS
Unfortunately, due to violent civil unrest in Thailand, the trip was canceled just a week before we were scheduled to leave. While I was disappointed that I could not participate in the Justifi summer program, I feel compelled to stay connected to its cause. In an effort to keep this issue topical, I wanted to share a teen-run organization I came across called Minga, translated in Quechuan to mean "the coming together of a community for the betterment of all." Founder Katie Simon was motivated to start the organization after hearing a speech about childhood sex trafficking. The mission of her organization is truly inspiring. Through a peer-to-peer effort, Minga not only raises money for victims, but has set out to empower, educate, and change how the world perceives sex trafficking. 

Between classes, my field placement at the Department of Mental Health at UCLA Harbor (a post to come on this later), and studying, I have no idea how much time I will be able to devote to this cause. What I do know is that I must make the effort to help, even if it's donating small amounts of time and or money to the organizations listed in the post. 

August 10, 2010

What Matters Now

I came across the "What Matters Now" ebook in my recommended items on Google Reader (if you do not use an RSS feeder, I highly recommend you do so).

This free ebook, courtsey of Seth Godin, is a collection of slides from numerous writers, editors, entrepreneurs and business owners, intended to inspire and motivate its readers to refocus on what is important and relevant today. Among the contributors is Eat, Pray, Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert who chose to write about the word "Ease," and why we should resist the constant chaos that creeps into our daily lives:

"EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: the world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down."
Gina Tripani's contribution about "Productivity" is also particularly inspiring. I could not agree with her more that "Getting things done is not that same thing as making things happen."

I referenced this ebook numerous times as I crafted my personal and professional statements for graduate school. Whether you or someone you know might be able to use it for a similar purpose, or just want to inspire the people around you, I encourage you to circulate among friends, families and coworkers. Proceeds from the hardcopy version benefit Room to Read.

August 9, 2010

Mentor Youth, Build a Life

As my first quarter at UCLA encroaches, a barrage of emails and general announcements have started to hit my inbox at an accelerated rate. The majority are, of course, posts from my future MSW classmates, eager to introduce themselves or hunt for potential roommates.

Sifting through my daily digest of the 1st year MSW emails, one particular post caught my eye: "LA Conservation Corps - Mentoring Future Leaders Youth 16 to 18 years of age." I barely finished reading the subject line before I found myself googling the organization.

What I found was truly inspiring: LA Conservation Corps is an organization that seeks to help at-risk youth through a number of free programs: after-school tutoring, academic scholarships, work-skill programs, transitional living programs, one-on-one mentoring... the list goes on and on.

As I dove deeper into each initiative of the LA Conservation Corps, I was extremely impressed by the YouthBuild Mentoring Program. Young adults develop relationships with volunteers by meeting on a month-to-month basis. Mentors guide mentees in numerous ways, whether it is exploring career options, developing strategies to achieve academic success, or discussing how to reconnect with their families and communities. Ultimately mentors are there to guide program participants on how to build a path for a productive and fulfilling adult life.

The influence of programs like the LA Corps YouthBuild on young adults are limitless. Many attribute mentoring programs for reducing juvenile crime, substance abuse, and recidivism rates among young adults. Imagine what a collective initiative by the community to mentor youth could do? YouthBuild alone has allowed 725 young adults to complete their high school education, 99 more to earn their GED, and 626 to receive their high school diplomas - it's pretty remarkable.

What is so clear in the minutes that I researched this organization, is that the program's success is completely dependent on the talent and passion of the staff. Mary Starks, director of the YouthBuild program, shared a small window into the world of devotion she provides for these at-risk teens:

"During the youth recruitment process, I walked in a classroom filled with 16 to 18 year old students waiting to hear about our LA Corps YouthBuild Mentoring Program. To my surprise the room was packed with students looking for a chance to be a part of the program. From that moment, I made them a promise that I would find them mentors even if I have to work nights, evenings and weekends to do it."

There is no denying that the LA Conservation Corps is demonstrating how a successful non-profit should operate: with an ironclad mission, a committed staff, and a proven devotion to their population. Should you or anyone you know have any interest in becoming an LA Corps YouthBuild mentor, please contact Mary Starks (

August 4, 2010

Passing the UCLA Health Clearance

I just thought I send a step by step guide that outlines how to pass the health clearance for UCLA, since it was a bit confusing on the website. First off, you need to go to a doctor and get blood drawn to prove immunity to the following:
  • Hep B
  • MMR (3 separate immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella)
  • Chicken Pox
  • Tetanus
  • TB skin (in the past 6 months)
Once you have this record from your doctor, you can fax the medical record to the Arthur Ashe center (make sure to put "ATTN MEDICAL HEALTH CLEARANCE") to 310-267-1996 or you can scan and send an email to Jennifer Blank who works in the office:

You must also complete a health survey on the Arther Ashe website:
  • Log on through here:
  • Confirm identity by submitting your birth date
  • On the left hand side you'll see "immunizations," click this and enter in your medical history to the best of your ability
  • Complete all "surveys" to comply with Arthur Ashe terms of agreement.
Once you complete these steps, you should send Lance Fooks your completed immunizations record from the Arthur Ashe center (step #3 above). Your status must say "compliant" to pass.

FoodCorps: Battling the Obesity Epidemic

There are so many amazing individuals and organizations who are trying to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. Jamie Oliver for instance, otherwise known as the "Naked Chef," set out to change the way people eat, talk about, and interact with food in the town of Huntington, West Virginia. His successful attempt to transform the lunch program at a local public school in Huntington was chronicled in a show called Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Other well-known individuals such as first lady, Michelle Obama spearheads the Let's Move Organization that not only aims to get school-aged children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but allows them to learn about and be inspired by gardening and cooking with fresh foods.

I feel compelled to share another organization that is trying to revolutionize the way children are eating on a national level. I recently learned about an organization called FoodCorps through one of Marion Nestle's blog posts (whom I regard as the godmother of all things related to nutrition, food politics and related topics). FoodCorps has an extremely grass-roots, hands-on goal to help minimize and eventually diminish the over-consumption of processed foods among children in public schools. Similar to what Jamie Oliver did in one small town, FoodCorps hopes to do across the nation.

This strategy of FoodCorps is to station gardens in public schools across the country in order to give children the opportunity to participate in and learn about gardening, nutritious food, and ultimately how to integrate healthier eating habits into their lives. In addition to the gardening program, FoodCorps will also initiate a direct farm to school supply chain for the lunch school program, and develop nutritional education programs within school curriculums. Sounds like a win, win to me.

I recently received an email from the organization about its first conference call which will be held this Thursday August 5, at 5 pm EST. The call will provide an introduction to the FoodCorps program, an update on FoodCorps Work Groups, information on becoming a FoodCorps host site, and time for questions. To participate, call (218) 936-4141 and enter code 571334#.

I'm so excited to see how this program unfolds. How many more tater tots and chicken fingers can elementary school kids stand for lunch?