My First Year and the Combating the Sex Trade Industry in our Communities

The end of my first year at the University of Minnesota and the beginning of a beautiful summer. 

This year has been so much more than I imagined it would be. I began my third year of college with a feeling it would be great to explore the field of medicine. I declared a major in biochemistry and a minor in public health. I started volunteering at Amplatz (University of Minnesota) Children’s Hospital, learning a lot about pediatric oncology. I have been beyond lucky to find myself in the Chair of Community Health position at the U’s Minnesota Medical Leader’s club and the events organizer position for the Undergraduate Public Health Association. I have been exploring the field through the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences Premed Scholars club and have submerged myself in studies. 

I have also been attending these incredible Community Health Advocacy Talks with UMN’s urban research outreach center.

One CHAT talk I attended last week on sex trafficking in the Minneapolis area really struck me, reminding me of why I wanted to do all this to explore medicine in the first place. I had a frustrating “connect the dots” moment when learning about the sex-trade market, remembering a past friendship I had with a vulnerable young woman, who (from my hindsight view) may very well have been involved in the sex trafficking industry. 

When I met Amanda, she was 17, a couple months pregnant, with a very tumultuous living situation. She was homeless at the time, but would scarcely stay in shelters, usually with the man she was with seeming to be in charge of where she would go each night. Each time I would see Amanda around the city of St. Cloud, I would always stop and talk to her, usually inviting her out to lunch with me. She usually would accept my invitation, but she always seemed quite paranoid, and would often have a “boyfriend” suddenly show up. Although the idea had crossed my mind of what might have been going on, I hate now how naïve I was and that I did not do more to intervene. 

At the CHAT event, the researching professional noted the way the role of a medical professional intervening in a sex trafficking situation might be limited because of the same kind of “watch-out” guarding of a girl, such as in the case of a visit to the emergency room. It becomes so hard for a girl to feel safe enough to reach out for help when they are so guarded, beyond the dependence they are made to feel on their pimps or facilitators.

If medical professionals are able to learn about what a pimp or sex trafficking facilitator may look like, and what a sex trade victim may look like (since these people are generally good at keeping their underground market a secret), there is a chance we can save more young women from this injustice in our communities.

Doctors and nurses aren’t the only people that can be whistle blowers for the justice of women and girls (and boys) involved in sex trafficking. I was amazed by how much I had learned at this talk and how clearly I had missed warning signs screaming in my face, and I realized how much this really needs to be a thing we learn about more often among the general public and in schools.

Vulnerable teens get involved in the sex trade industry because they are not educated about the dangers and the tornado-like force the industry has, sucking them in (whether through facilitated drug dependency, physical force, violence, or other forces). The large amount of people even in our own neighborhoods paying for “prostitution service” (though I hate using that term, as it is almost always more like slavery) do not realize that these victims are usually not in control of what they do. The general public doesn’t have the necessary knowledge to whistle-blow when the warning signs are winking at them. And with all this, we can’t even get a question on Minnesota’s student survey about this illegal sex industry among teens because school districts want to “protect kids from exposure to such questions” (as if that is logical at all). 

I digress. 

My recently found knowledge and reminiscence on my past naive experience around the sex trade has encouraged me in my hard work and studying to reach my goals as a medical doctor someday. I hope my readers find some encouragement as well to educate themselves and those around them on the topic of sex trafficking in our own communities.

Together, through the power of education, we can combat the sex trade industry in our communities. 

Equality in Health as Social Justice (and some on the Affordable Care Act)

The United States recently passed the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare”), and more than ever, I am fighting others with the argument of whether health care should be a universal right to every American. Though educated economists and doctors may or may not agree with whether the Affordable Care Act was truly the best decision for the medical economy, the passing of this act raises the very important conversation of health care as a basic human right. 

Universal health care seems to be the perfect example of the struggle between social and market justice. Should every human have basic health rights in order to take advantage of the opportunities of life, especially when they have no control of their circumstances? Most would say so. But it seems this is nearly impossible to ensure while also fighting for the American ideal of market justice. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to read the brilliantly explained balance struggle, available free here: “Public Health as Social Justice”, Dan E. Beauchamp.

With a basic background in homelessness I have gained certain opinions of my own about the rights of individuals in such a position as poverty. After watching the great documentary, “Poor Kids of America” (available on Youtube.com) I found myself in a disagreement with a loved one of mine regarding the rights of impoverished populations in health-related issues and health care. My opposition’s argument, “Those in extreme poverty have much bigger things to deal with than their health.” This is a flawed philosophy I see showing more and more in the argument for market justice against the Affordable Care Act here in the United States. The fact is, kids in poverty are 7 times more likely to be in poor health than kids above the federal poverty line here in the United States. 

Anyone who has found themselves or a loved one in poor health could attest to the difficulty of taking advantage of the opportunities of life that accompanies a poor health status. This can be an unending cycle; poor health-> unable to take advantage of life opportunities-> finding self and family in poverty-> poor health. If a child is 7 times more likely to find themselves in poor health because of their parents’ income, there is a clear disadvantage in life present; a vast inequality in opportunity and a clear violation of social justice.   

Now, I do not claim to be an expert in what could be the right economical choice to close the health inequality gap in the United States, but I know we need to take action on this issue. I stand by any actions we take as a society to close this health inequality gap, even if it means violating the American ideal of unlimited market justice. My heart aches that so many disagree with the way the scales should tip in the social versus market justice, especially when it comes to health in our nation. 

Though I surely am no expert in the economic issues at stake, I hope I have offered a skeptic a new perspective to contemplate on this issue. 

Killing them Softly: Using Essential Oils to Safely and Effectively Combat Mosquitoes

This post is in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt:

Daily Prompt: Necessity is the Mother of Invention

by Krista on December 14, 2013

Imagine, in great detail, an invention that could help reverse pollution — describe for us how your invention works and how it will help save the planet.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us INVENTIVE.

Although I more closely identify with the title “scientist”, I feel this goes hand in hand with the title “artist”, so I will respond.

I must preface this post by saying that this is not 100% my ideas or knowledge, but a collection of team member thoughts at the University of Minnesota which I had the pleasure to work with the last several months. The knowledge here is under the ownership of these individuals, and our ideas have been documented properly. The unauthorized use of any of these ideas without permission is plagiarism and theft, and will be treated as such.

I think many people can agree that the plethora of pesticides we have used on our planet within the last century have been quite devastating to our environment. But the necessity of these pesticides can hardly be argued in the contrast, with mosquitos carrying deadly diseases that kill young and old around the world every day.

So I would like to bring forward my brilliant team’s proposal; a simple duckweed plant, changed slightly to create an essential oil that can stop the growth of mosquitoes in their larval stage.

As a side note, the power of duckweed as, literally, a green water purification, really is underestimated.

Duckweed plant

Duckweed is a plant already present in many places mosquitoes reproduce and grow. Every stage of a mosquito’s life up until adulthood occurs in still water; the duckweed plant’s natural habitat. So why not attack there to stop mosquitoes in their tracks?

Thymol, an essential oil, is a safe and effective larvicide. And a plant we know of, lemon beebalm (a plant I occasionally enjoy herbal tea from), creates this thymol naturally from a gene we know of. Thus, we propose taking that gene from lemon beebalm that codes for the enzymes responsible for thymol production, and inserting it into duckweed.

The technology is known to move this gene from one species to another; using a TaqMan DNA extraction kit to take the gene from the lemon beebalm, amplify our specific gene using a polymerase chain reaction, and using 2 specific restriction enzymes and a pGreenII plasmid to put the gene into agrobacterium, and then infect the duckweed with the agrobacterium. In theory, the modified duckweed should produce the thymol and effectively kill mosquito larva in whatever water source it is put into. We can test our theory after running this experiment on the modified duckweed with Hewlett Packard essential oil analysis technology.

The animal lives that could potentially be saved from widely using a safer pesticide is encouraging. There are some discouraging factors of this potentially new larvicide, though, such as the unknown implications of the antibiotic effects of thymol. With more experiments and research, we could study the implications and possibly develop this technology.

BIOL2002, 2013, Section20, Team 9 (1) Poster

In conclusion, the creativity and science behind this idea go hand in hand; one hardly more important than the other. The mix is such a beautiful thing to me.

My top 10 Low Cost Gifts for Teen Girls and Young Women

Adorable leopard print scarf for $1.99

watch

Matching leopard print watch for $4.00

This fall and Christmas season, I have more than 15 gift-givings to do for teenage girls in my life. Between my two twin teenage sisters, my teenaged sister-in-law, my brother’s (whom is deployed in the army so we take care of her like a sister) girlfriend, my younger adopted sister, my older sister, and 2 of my girl cousins-in-law who I drew for my husband’s family’s name drawing Christmas gift giving fun, I feel over my head in what I can get all these girls and still be original and within our slim budget. Between Christmas and all but one of my “sisters” having a birthday this time of year, there is a lot of creativity to think up to put a smile on these important ladies’ faces. I am sure moms, friends, and young women in my shoes feel my pain and joy, here.

Now most people would say, “just get them all gift cards!” but I not only feel unoriginal and cheap getting 15 $5-$10 gift cards (because that is honestly about how big our budget is this year with college and a wedding this year), but I am confident I can beat that price!

So, here is my list (click the links to view gifts):

  1. My DIY homemade sugar scrub. I have figured out how to make these for about $2.30 each (with $1 of that going to the cute, thrifty container from the thrift store or craft store) for a $20+ value. Check out my blog about this! I did 13 sugar scrubs for $30 last year. My only struggle is, this was my gift last year for 13 wonderful women in my life, so I am not going to do the same again this year.
  2. Jewelry and watches from Sammydress.com. I got this cute leopard print, diamond studded white leather watch for $4 for a young woman that loves animal print, diamond studs and white leather, with free shipping! I paired it with a matching scarf that I found for $2 (which I will discuss later). For a $6 gift I know she will wear all the time and get compliments from her friends on, can’t beat that! I also LOVE this site’s jewelry, with dozens of pairs of earrings between $1-$2 with free shipping (I own several and love them). Since they don’t usually come in a good package to gift in, I usually buy gift boxes and bags from orientaltrading.com, like these adorable chevron gift boxes ($3.25 for 24).
  3. Scarves! Being a Minnesotan girl, all on my gift-giving list love scarves. And I have mastered the sport of finding cute scarves. One of my favorite places for $3 scarves is Ragstock. I know this is a local Minnesotan company, so many won’t have this choice. Another good place to try for scarves is Ebay.com, where I found this leopard print scarf (with many other choices) for only $2 with free shipping, and this black, warm scarf for only $3.39 free shipping. I am pairing each of those with matching leather watches for my sister-in-law and older sister, for gifts under $7 for each of them that I know they will wear and love. If you are a DIY-er, I have made the cutest infinity scarves from purchasing an old skirt at the thrift store and cutting off the bottom and hemming the edges; scarves for pennies and minimal effort!
  4. Removable vinyl wall-decal chalkboard clouds for their bedroom or dorm room from etsy.com! You are not only getting the girl a gift she loves, but also supporting an artist on etsy.com. Prices start for this cute cloud shape at $1.50 each (increasing with larger sized clouds). Remember to pair it with colorful chalk (only $0.75 at orientaltrading.com) or fancier chalk markers. Write them a lovely note on their new chalkboard for when they open their gift for an added touch, like “You’re beautiful, girl! Merry Christmas!” This will be sure to make her day! Also, shop around for other fun wall decals, which can include fun sayings and other fun shapes and images.
  5. Forever21 has TONS of the cutest items for under $5, one of my favorite to give being their fun nail polish. It starts with nail polish for only $2.80 with hundreds of color choices, to their kits and sets for cheap like this leopard print nail set (the teen girls in my life love animal print).
  6. Makeup. I feel this is rather cliche, but it is one that many teen girls will appreciate a ton as they explore the fun field of makeup. Gift sets are everywhere for this, from your local Walmart to Target to Forever21 to ebay to your local Sephora- which is so fun. I have found that if I am purchasing fun makeup for a teen who is younger, I also purchase them a makeup remover, face wash, and moisturizer to go along. This also has put parents at ease when this is one of their little girls’ first makeup packages.
  7. Candles! No girl would dislike a candle, and they are appropriate for anyone teenaged aged or older. Bath and Body Works is a good place to start for these. These can also be fun to put together in a cute basket with lotions and soaps or body mists. You can also buy the gift baskets in the store, but I feel you usually spend more that way and have less room for creativity, but that can still be easy and fun!
  8. A DIY mug like this adorable one here. Go buy yourself a cheap plain mug from the thrift store or wherever, decorate it yourself with a sharpie marker or porcelain paint marker, and stuff with something fun for a chick you love! Maybe it is because I am a coffee lover, but the 5 mugs I have received through my life have always been my favorite gifts. I love the idea of writing a message or simple words like “Beautiful Day” on the mug and adding Lindt chocolate, hot chocolate, or a $5 coffee shop gift card to the inside. You can spend as little as $2 for this gift or as much as $20, depending on how thrifty you are finding the mug and what you want to put in it.
  9. A cute, cheap pair of shoes, like those at pinkbasis.com. Shoes at this site can range from $2-$40+. I also like the super cheap shoes you can find at sammydress.com. Since shoes can get so expensive and a lot of girls don’t buy them for themselves but still love them, it can be a fun item to get as a gift from someone that knows how to find good deals.
  10. The basics. Kind of vague, but those vague gifts can be the best gifts sometimes. Soaps, lotions, tank tops ($1.80 each at Forever21), plain tees, hair ties, headbands, socks; you can’t really go wrong with any of these items, and you can find them for prices from $1-$5 easily. Stacking up on them can add creativity and provide a young lady with the things she needs all year long.

I hope this list has helped you make a decision about what to give someone this year!

Why Christians Should Listen to Macklemore || Jeff Cherry

Why Christians Should Listen to Macklemore || Jeff Cherry

I really love this blog. As a Christian who, myself, appreciates Mackelmore’s music but is often troubled by his lyrics, I really love that another Christian says, “Hey, we should listen to Macklemore!”

That is, we should look at the lyrics in some of Macklemore’s songs, where he speaks of many of our downfalls as a church, and we should grow from that to be a better light for the world.

Anyway, check out his blog. I really appreciate his insight on the topic. Way cool.

The Story of Peter

The ride home- he didn't feel very good...

The ride home- he didn’t feel very good…

The day I brought Peter home- Our first "I will love you forever" kiss

The day I brought Peter home- Our first “I will love you forever” kiss

Ok, I am going to get all cheesy and write a post about my new adoption. I am just so in love!

My family has fostered puppies for a while now with animal shelters in the Kentucky/Indiana area. When we got the call about the two pups who had been abandoned on the side of the road, I was happy to come along to the pick-up. The site was heart-breaking; two wormy, dehydrated, emaciated puppies covered in fleas and their own mess. The little white one was the sicker one, but he appreciated our love like none other. Peter, the brown pup, had  a wonderful personality. For one, in all of his pain and discomfort, he really enjoyed his bath. Well, I fell in love with him right away.

Peter learned his name really fast. No matter how short the time from the last time we cuddled, any time I would call his name, he would run at me full speed ahead and jump into my arms.

Full-blown puppy love.

I quickly decided I had to adopt him. I couldn’t imagine breaking the bond we had for anyone else.Peter!

He is a really smart pup. Everything we share is worth so much. I am very happy to have been the fortunate one to rescue him. Even being offered $200 for my mut was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, because no amount of money could buy the silly love I have for this dog.

Adopt please. There are shelters full of pups dying every day. It is really heart-breaking seeing pups as wonderful as Peter being killed just because someone would rather have a full-bred dog with papers.

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Going Back to a More Artistic Me?

I am sitting here listening to Lana Del Rey’s album, “Born To Die”, missing who I once was. For any of you that are not so familiar with Lana Del Rey’s music, I think I could describe only as, artistic. Perhaps weird, as many of my friends and family members describe her. I love her, though. I find myself having not appreciated anything outside of the “normal”, bland world I have lived in for some time now. The most I have exercised my creative mind recently was through blogging, which I have not used much imagination in yet.

I reminisce.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Spoonbridge and Cherry, 1985-1988
aluminum, stainless steel, paint

Growing up around Minneapolis, a city of artists, I really have grown up with an appreciation for contemporary art. I remember my first field trip to the Walker Art Center (home of the infamous “Spoonbridge and  Cherry” piece) in 6th grade. I was captivated, learning the potential of the skills I had learned throughout life in art classes.

I had always loved art. I started taking community education pottery classes with a bunch of adults around the age of 10. I fell in love with this form of self-expression and loved to see others expressing themselves in the same way. I grew an appreciation for making our world more beautiful and interesting through these contemporary art pieces I saw around me.

I learned to love an absence of rules in art especially (perhaps this is why I really hated art shows and contests through school, which I never took part in). I guess I appreciated learning skills and rules in art, but the thought of binding one’s artistic abilities inside of these rules seemed suffocating and bland. We are human, each created different and unique. I still cannot comprehend the thought process of “art judges” or critics. One’s thoughts are only personal, and I cannot understand why anyone else would care to conform, especially not in the art community.

A friend of mine had taken part last year in one particular art “contest”. The “winning” pieces at this gathering were the

most realistic looking, not much out of the ordinary was appreciated. The judges panel, a bunch of self-proclaimed “artists”, chose for first place a drawing of Brittany Spears, which looked nearly like what she would look like if she were standing in front of you. Second place was a painting of a scene from “The Pirates of the Caribbean”, where a large squid-like creäture was taking over a ship. As the judges were explaining why they chose these winning pieces, one of the self-proclaimed artists grabbed the microphone and tried declaring that their opinions did not make any of the art more artistic or better than any of the other pieces, and that their feelings were just feelings, and did not make an impact on the greatness of any of the pieces. He was somewhat kicked off the judges panel, as all the other judges took his comment toward the students offensively.

I would just like to say, that is not an art community I would like to be part of. Judging art does not even make sense. Is it even really art, then, if one opinion matters over another according to some law?

Anyway, the Walker Art Museum had become a favorite place of mine, where I could live in a different world, where you could sit in a garden and make art and appreciate other people’s art pieces as well.

This is really making me miss Minneapolis. I hear San Francisco is similar in the richer neighborhoods, with an appreciation for art and the outdoors. Perhaps I should visit.

I guess what I meant to say in all of this is how I have been missing my interaction in the artistic community. Perhaps I will go read some Freshly Pressed artistic blogs. Perhaps I will soon invest in my dream of owning a wheel and a kiln. Anyone know where to find a cheaper one of either?

News Anchor Addresses Her Bully

I saw this video posted on facebook today. I love this news anchor’s reply to a bully’s comment toward her personally.

Beauty is more than skin deep. Every girl and woman needs to know she was created beautiful. Every one that has ever been bullied deserves to know that they are better than somebody’s comment of negativity.
I loved this bit of encouragement for today. I think it is inspiring that in less than 24 hours, she has received almost 2 million views, and touched so many lives so quickly.

October is anti-bullying month, I guess this is a great little tribute to the realization that bullying is not ok. I have seen bullying and its effects all around me my whole life, and it is a serious issue in this world. It is not a fake issue in our world that a girl is called fat to the point of wanting to kill herself. It is not a fake thing that a boy is called ignorant, weird and annoying to the point of skipping school twice a week. These two are examples that happened to people very close to me, I saw the harmful effect of people’s words on their lives. These kinds of words are unacceptable, and everyone needs to take a stand against bullying together to make a difference. I admire the example everyone has made banding together with this video.

We need to teach kids words of encouragement and courage for themselves, and that bullying is not ok. We also each need to set an example foremost.

I would love positive comments about if this video or post touched you in any way.