How does an ant eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Big problems are composed of smaller, albeit interconnected, problems. Solving the smaller problems will have an implication on the larger problems.

19 January 2010


Wow. This post has been long delayed. Every time I sat down to write up my thoughts, I couldn't. I have had the opportunity to study and read a lot about Haiti. As many of you now know, if you didn't before, that Haiti is the epitome of terrible infrastructure, especially when it comes to it's public health infrastructure. In all of my grad school courses, Haiti was generally used as the example of poor public health. It truly is heart breaking.

I became especially engaged in Haiti and the public health work being done there a few years back, while working with an NGO in rural Peru. I had read a few excerpts of Paul Farmer's writings, but was not extremely familiar with all that he had done in Haiti, or the rest of the world, for that matter. Upon finishing up whatever other book I was reading at the time, I asked the others I was working with, if they had any books I could read. One handed me the biography of Paul Farmer. I think I finished the book in a matter of two days. Couldn't put it down. The man is incredibly inspiring and has since then, become my hero; someone I personally aspire to be more like and obtain the passion he carries for his work. I can't say enough good things about him.

Back in November, I had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with him. I am involved with a national organization that is a leading force in ending poverty in the United States and around the world. The focus of the organization is to target the underlying conditions of poverty - mainly health disparities and education, or the lack thereof. Sitting in on this conference call though, renewed my effort to again, become as passionate and motivated as Paul Farmer - or at least to some degree he is (if you have read Mountains Beyond Mountains, the biography about him, you know that it may be next to impossible for most people to have to amount of passion and devotion to work that he does). Again, through the recent earthquake in Haiti, I have felt the stirrings of public health ardor, specifically through the work that Paul Farmer has done in Haiti.
By some great act of God, people were still being rescued 8-11 days past the initial 7.0 earthquake. That still blows my mind! What miracles. We have all heard them the past two weeks, we all wish we could do more, we all feel anguish in our hearts for these poor people of Haiti. I have to post the following, because I thought it was so beautifully written. It comes from Dr Sanjay Gupta, the CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, who has been down in Haiti since shortly after the earthquake.

A couple of days ago, a man was stoned to death about a block from where we are staying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I have been down here nearly two weeks covering the earthquake devastation, having arrived quickly the morning after it occurred. I didn’t see the stoning myself, but several of my colleagues described a man who had been trying to steal money and was met with swift and deadly citizen justice. A lot was made of this particular tragedy, and if you caught only that headline, you might be left believing the incident was in some way emblematic of what was happening all over the place. Truth is, even though I braced myself to see rampant lawlessness and mob hostility, I wanted to blog about what I have actually seen.

As I drove through the streets of Port-au-Prince, just 16 hours after the earthquake, I was met with stunned stares and unfathomable grief, as parents tried to dig their babies out of the rubble and older kids did the same for their parents. It was heartbreaking. And though we raced out with our first aid bags to help those we could, it seemed like we would never be able to make a dent in the suffering. There were people who died in this earthquake and those who lived – but there were also a large number of people somehow caught in between. They were alive, but terribly injured and dying. That is where we focused our attention. Terrible crush injuries of arms and legs. Degloving injuries, where the skin of the arms or legs was ripped away. And, people so malnourished and dehydrated that they could barely walk.

I expected to see those stunned stares turn to desperation, and that desperation turn to brutality. It didn’t. In fact, I remember driving by a water station that had finally opened on January 18th, five days after the earthquake struck. It stayed in my mind for two reasons. First of all, five days is a long time to go with little to no water, especially in Haiti heat. Second of all, there was no pushing, shoving or aggressive behavior. There were no armed guards and there was a tight line, with people waiting patiently. Some were even singing songs, while blistering away in the heat. I almost cried. A piece of my faith in humanity, which had been trashed by too many terrible images, was slowly restored.

A couple of days later, I was seeing patients at one of the hospitals in downtown. It was actually more of a tent city situated outside the hospital, where care was sparse and misery was thick. Helping care for wounds, evaluate injuries and even perform surgery – every single patient said thank you, in Creole, French and English. Thank you. When recounting this to a neurosurgery colleague of mine, he reminded me that we could often go months working at a county hospital in the states without ever hearing those two words.

Over the last two weeks, I have not seen the violence Haiti has been known for in years past. During this time, when lawlessness had been put to the test, it seems the people of Port-au-Prince stood tall, dignified and with respect for one another. Yes, there has been “looting” from stores of supplies. But, is “looting” even the correct term for people taking basic necessities for themselves and their families? Instead, it is just survival, and faced with the same situation, I would’ve likely been right there with them, wanting to preserve the lives of my wife and children.

Consider this a blog that went beyond a headline, and presented a reporter’s on-the-ground view of this very important issue. I won’t pretend that this is more than a slice of life in the aftermath of a terrible natural disaster, but it is my slice, and I wanted to share it with you. Thank you – for reading it.

If you’re thinking of donating, please put Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health, whom I previously mentioned, at the top of your list. PIH Paul Farmer and PIH have been doing ground-breaking grassroots health care in Haiti for a couple of decades now (particularly around complex long-term HIV and TB care), and they are probably the best equipped NGO to understand the landscape of need on the ground in Port-au-Prince and the highlands. Farmer has acquired more credibility than almost anyone in Haiti. After all, he has built one of the most durable health institutions in the country, which counts some 5,000 employees and -- incredibly -- serves over 10% of Haiti's populations. They may not be as flashy or well-known as the Red Cross, but they are among the best at pulling communities together to the task at hand. And an immense, terrible task it will be in these coming months.

A little more about Farmer and PIH (great video clip, worth your time to learn about one of the most inspiring people I know of):

A wise friend shared with me this quote by Stanley Jones:

“The most absolutely happy people of the world are those who choose to care till it hurts. The most miserable people of the world are those who center upon themselves and deliberately shun the cares of others in the interest of their own happiness. It eludes them. They save their lives and they lose them.”

I don’t know why terrible things like earthquakes happen. I don’t know why so many people have to suffer. I believe that there are opportunities for each of us to care till it hurts, to comfort those who mourn, to make a difference, just as there are opportunities to turn our faces away from suffering, to ignore those in need, to stay inside our own lives.

14 January 2010

Welcoming 2010

"Success comes from taking the initiative and following up... persisting... eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?"

Alright, so first of all, love that quote!! But let me start out by saying, I don't really care to start off the new year "fresh", like many people. I try to keep consistent with my goals...renew them a bit at the start of the new year, but I hate all the hype because everyone makes these goals that rarely do they stick with! So as I go, I try to continually add to my goal list or change things up. So as the new year as approached, I have sat and looked at yes, what I would like to accomplish this year, but tried to really strengthen goals I already am working at. I am opposed to announcing them to the world, however, seeing how blogging is, in reality, my journal...I am going to post them.

1- Continue to work on any ounce of debt that I have. I would like to be debt-free (minus my student loans) by the end of the year. Whether or not this is feasible, not quite sure yet...but am working hard at making it happen! I have learned all about money the hard way, which is fine. I wouldn't trade one thing that I have done (except maybe trade in some of the un-needed debt from a long, painful relationship). I am SO lucky to have been able to do everything I have done the past 9 years or so of my life and I wouldn 't give up any of those experiences...worth every penny and/or every hour I am paying for it now. Not to mention how much I have learned about finances, etc.

2- I’m committing to AT LEAST one to two book a month (I know that doesn’t sound like too much but I have to start somewhere...and some of these books I want to read are rather lengthy!). I need to pull myself away from the computer a little more and devote more free time to knocking out some of those books that have been sitting in my wishlist on Amazon and on my bookshelf collecting dust.

3- Re-devote myself to mindful eating! I recently read an article about mindful eating, which is as follows: Mindful eating is an outgrowth of a practice called mindfulness, itself an outgrowth of Zen Buddhism (but one that can easily be embraced without adopting Zen or any other philosophy). Mindfulness involves slowing down to savor all of life's details, to notice small things and appreciate every sensation. As applied to eating, mindfulness offers a means of making the most of every calorie you choose to ingest and can help you make those choices. This also includes watching the sugars! I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth!!

4- I am usually pretty consistent when it comes to my gym attendance. I love the exercise! Makes me feel SO good! The holidays have been busy though...and shamefully, I must say, I began to slack a bit there throughout November and December. I am happy to say though, I am back at the gym at least 5 days a week and it is so nice to be on a bit of a schedule again! I have been trying to explore a variety of classes and new workouts that are shaking it up from my same-old routine. Recently have been hitting spin class two times a week, which is a great work out. The big fitness goal of this year is to do a 10K or half marathon. I would like to do a triathlon, which may be a possibility, but right now don't have a bike :(

5- Recently I was told that I have not been a great friend. I have been very busy with the new job starting, but also keeping a one-time-a-week 12 hour shift at the hospital and recently started tutoring again (which I still love to do). Between this and my commitment to getting my ass in shape, it doesn't leave a lot of free time. The little free time I do have, I like to sleep and/or read and/or surf the internet. I have gotten quite content just enjoying my free time and keeping it mostly for me. Terribly selfish I know! haha But I am trying to adapt something that my cousin, Paul has adapted since moving back east....default is always YES. I am trying to open up my free time more to others...we'll see how this goes!

6- Last but not least, one that I am continually trying to fix and ALWAYS falling short on...being more punctual! It is awful! My entire life, I have added one to many items to my plate and end up 15 minutes late to every last thing I do. After getting in a lot of trouble at work, I really have had to work at this one the past few months. I am still not perfect, but something that I am learning is important.

7- Okay, that wasn't really the last one...ONE more! This one is one that I always strive for, but that I may continue to be and always be a passionate person and an advocate for those who do not have the ability to speak up in this world for themselves. I love my work. I love what I do in this world. I love, love global health issues - reading about them, studying them, interacting with others involved, and experiencing them by making visits to places that are affected. I always want to be as passionate about this as I am now. I pray to God that I will never burn out or get sick of doing what I love. I want nothing more than to do good in this world and represent poverty-stricken people.

Okay, that being year in review! The following are things that happened to me, or around the world over the last year. 2009 was a great success for many, despite difficult times! There is obviously too many items that could top this just listing the few things that come to the top of my mind.

MY 2009:

Spent a good portion of my year living in D.C. and every intention of moving back to the East Coast again...I LOVE it there!!

Discovered one of my favorite buildings. Ever!

Spent my Valentine's Day weekend hanging out and working the Toy Fair in NYC!

Hung out with these lovely ladies throughout the semester and toured Amish country with them.

26th birthday...lots of parties, in my honor and lots of yummy ethnic cuisine!

Savored Spring! There is nothing better than spring, but spring in D.C. was MAGICAL!

A nice visit from a few of my high school girlfriends. All of us, at the time, were living on the east coast, except Alli...who flew in from Utah for the weekend. We had SO much fun!!

Always enjoying yummy ethnic foods!

Got to meet this guy at CARE's National Conference. Yes, that is Richard Gere.

Got to work with a wonderful team, including the Director General of the WHO, on the H1N1 outbreak.

Earned my hood! Flew home for graduation and a quick visit with the family...then was back to work with these guys again on the H1N1 Outbreak...

The three amigos! These are my EOC (Emergency Operation Center) guys...and yes, the one below became quite the addition! He became the brunt of ANYTHING we said, joke or not!

Ventured to the beautiful country of Colombia!! And didn't want to come home! I now frequently browse for jobs there!

Spent lots of time with cousins and my grandparents

And of course, spent my summer strutting around in the above's okay though, wearing weird blue dresses around Europe during folk dance festivals qualifies you as "cool"! We had a great trip to Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, and Luxembourg, despite my severe illness! I wasn't able to dance majority of the time because I suffered from a severe inner ear viral infection that gave me incredibly bad vertigo. I enjoyed myself as much as possible, nonetheless! And I never posted pics of the trip, so here are a few!

Like I have said so many times before...sometimes I think I was born on the wrong continent! Living my Latin dream - for Halloween I dressed as the well known "Chicita Banana"!

Took my first road trip across the country!

Finally got my "Last Day" at the least almost! I started my new job, however still working Sundays at the hospital, but they threw me a party for my last day!

Spent the Christmas season enjoying family and friends! One of my best friends was home for the holidays and it was so great to catch up!!

2009, you were great, thanks for everything!
And this is how I welcomed in the new year! Happy Zumba! Bring it 2010!!

Dr Norman Borlaug passed away this last year. What an admirable person! This is what Bill Gates had to say about him:
"I never met Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize–winning plant scientist who did more than anyone in history to fight hunger, but I've admired him for years. He began his career in the 1940s, helping Mexican farmers increase their yields almost sixfold by breeding better seeds. Over the next 40 years, that success spread throughout Latin America and Asia. The Green Revolution, as Dr. Borlaug's life's work is called, cut global hunger in half. Some critics say the world's efforts to improve poor people's lives are doomed. But Dr. Borlaug is proof that large-scale progress is possible. He is a genuine hero, and his story should make us optimistic about the future.

One of my favorites in Hollywood passed away, after a his noble fight to cancer. "No one puts baby in the corner!" Need I say more!?!
The war in Sudan continued on, thus causing many to flee their countries and take up residency at make-shift refugee camps in surrounding countries. Why aren't these the type of wars we fight a little more of?!
The 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. I am SO intrigued by this time in history! Maybe it is because it is one of the first significant historical events that occurred in my lifetime, that I can actually remember.
And of course, probably one of the biggest news stories of the year: The death of a legend, Michael Jackson.