You knew I couldn’t resist, right?

I watched the final debate on Thursday night, and I can’t resist a few comments.

You know that would happen, didn’t you? I am a feminista, and a woman who believes in racial justice and equity for all.

I want to encourage you to vote early if you can in Minnesota. This is an option for us, and because we are in a pandemic, extending the ability cast ballots safely is an important consideration.

I want to ask you to consider, no matter what party you are in, please VOTE. You know which way I am voting. I can’t hide it. I vote pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-family.

This 4-button pack is available at the Team Joe website.
I’m partial to the Kamala shirt.
Anything you can do to help would be appreciated, I am sure.

The harasser in chief has called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers (and some of them are good people, he conceded). I’ll let you guess which one I am.

I am a Mexican American woman. Women are shouldering a much higher burden during this pandemic. Latina women are facing unprecedented levels of job loss.

This pandemic is not showing any signs of slowing in this country. In fact, the infection rates are spiking in many states. Our economy needs support, and the President is intent on getting a Supreme Court nominee in place rather than committing to helping the American people.

This 4-year nightmare needs to end. It is bad enough that this presidency continues into January, even if the American people win in November. And he must be defeated. Biden has the good sense to steer us into better days. His experience, empathy and judgment have never been more crucial.

The ultimate “mute” button for those of us who are tired a constant stream of lies is to vote for Joe Biden.

End of PSA/rant. Love you all.

cristy@meximinnesotan.com

I am not convinced

There are a few vaccine trials that have started in the United States in the Phase 3 stage. I tried to find out more about one of them that was covered by NPR about the COVID-19 Prevention Network. To be honest, I hoped to see some reports on the preliminary results of the Phase I and II parts of the trial.

I could not find any such reports on the website, or any indications of possible adverse effects that could occur in the phase III trial. I signed up to be part of the screening for the trial (and did not receive a confirmation email). There is not a research site near me, so that is probably why. I could not find relevant scientific information, even on the Clinical Trials.gov site where such reports are required to be posted.

COVID-19 prevention network

Quite frankly, I am skeptical. I believe that the only way we can get back to a “new normal” and something like a post-COVID-vulnerable era is to be sure that a vaccine is developed. And at the same time, I would not recommend that friends or family members sign up for a trial conducted by Moderna. According to my sources (which include Wikipedia), Moderna has has mostly unsuccessful trials. In addition, it has been criticized for being secretive and not publishing peer-reviewed papers for its trials.

This is a warning flag to me. It seems like a company that is good at raising a lot of funds, without a lot of results. Science takes time to advance, and it also requires collaboration, not secrecy, in order to work well.

What troubles me is that science that is rushed is not subject to peer review. In fact, I learned of a study in the Lancet that was completely suspect due to the methodology was retracted, and that was shocking given their reputation. I remember reading it and wondering how the data were compiled so quickly given the difficulties in aggregating  from different instances of EPIC and other health data systems. As it turns out, Surgisphere, the company that provided the data was not able to “show their work” and methodology to validate their conclusions.

If you plan to sign up for a trial, my advice is this: be wary. Ask a lot of questions. Make sure you have time to think it over before signing up. Do research on the company and their background. If you are not convinced, do not sign up. Have your own “friendly clinical researcher”* reviewer take a look at the materials you are provided. I am very sad to say that in this era of misinformation and disinformation being published, the public needs to be even more careful.

Wear your masks when in public spaces, wash your hands and take good care, friends.

-cristy@meximinnesotana.com

*And if I do have fellow clinical research colleagues reading these studies and coming up with different conclusions, I would love to hear your feedback as well. 

 

Why did it happen this way?

It did not have to happen this way. But a lack of competent leadership will do that. The U.S. has about a quarter of the worldwide COVID-19 cases. This puts “we’re number one” in a new light, no?

Daily cases July 16, 2020
Snapshot from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center 7/16/2020

Don’t do it for yourself. Masks are not worn to protect you. Masks are worn to protect your community from small micro droplets that are released when you talk, cough or sneeze.

They don’t protect people completely, but they do slow the spread. And the main reason we want to slow the spread is so that hospitals are able to deal with the influx of cases. Also, maybe some of us care about human life and dignity.

My sister is a nurse. I don’t want her to have to deal with the results (y)our carelessness. Rural hospitals do not have the supplies that leaders claimed they would have. They must reuse the supplies they have. This is not a good situation.

Humans have difficulty with exponents. We think in linear ways, so these “hockey stick” curves work are not easily grasped. We saw this with the last big recession in 2008-2009. One minute it seemed things were fine: everyone was making money on flipping houses. And the next minute: financial disaster. Some saw the signs and warned us. But most people partied until they got laid off.

I get it. Or I try to be patient anyway.

Things don’t become serious until they are, well, SERIOUS. 

With nearly 14 million cases as of this writing, and almost 600,000 deaths so far attributed to this virus, one might think we could get a clue.

I know this is a rant.

I try to be more measured than this most days. My anger and disgust at the self-centered behavior I keep seeing, particularly in national leadership, is usually something I control. I’m a yoga teacher, for cripes sake. I meditate daily.

And yet.

My rage at incompetent leaders. Cannot. Be. Contained. Some days.

Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep your distances when possible. 

Your community thanks you for thinking beyond yourself.

***

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research resources

Hi Friends,

I know I made a commitment a while back to a series on clinical trials and on resources for those who might be considering participating in a research study. I am working on collecting resources, but frankly it is taking time to evaluate the sources I have found.

Most of the resources I have scanned so far are podcasts and news sources. The ones that are targeted toward clinical research professionals are pretty dry and a little difficult to endure (even for me). The ones that are more “mass media” related tend to dumb down the research in ways I do not believe are helpful.

I am enjoying “Short Wave” by NPR as a science podcast generally. They report on the COVID situation of course, but they also report on a broader range of topics. I especially appreciated their coverage of “challenge trials” and the ethics of people volunteering to exposed to the virus. In a relatively short time, they manage to convey useful concepts that may help non-scientists understand important principles.

Short Wave
A snippet from the site of Short Wave

I continue to hunt for better material, or might just start creating material on my own if I cannot find sources that serve. I am never one to re-invent a wheel so scanning the landscape was my first part of this project.

Be well. Feel free to ask any questions here if you imagine you would have if you would consider volunteering for a research study. That way I will know what your doubts and fears might be and can better speak to what comes up. Thanks!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Since change is a constant

I started out today writing about some hints for people who are managing people remotely during the COVID-19 situation. In my role as an operations manager for remote clinical research team, I learned a lot about managing distributed teams. My direct reports were in 5 different countries, so we were seldom all together EXCEPT via teleconferences.

And then: I got news that my friend’s mother is dying. She’s getting on a plane soon in hopes she can say goodbye in person if her Mom is released to hospice care. Family members cannot visit people in hospitals right now. Oh dear. Complicated.

So the earlier idea has been shelved for later. For now, I will readjust my plans for the week, so I can cat-sit for her.

That is okay. Haven’t we shown how capable we are this week of re-adjusting? That we are not in control of so many events in our lives? 

Change is a Constant

Change in our lives has always been constant. And yet we, as humans, cling to our ways of doing things, our comfortable routines. As a neurodiverse person I struggle to maintain routines, though I know that they help me stay sane on the average day.

Meditation has been a daily practice for over 3 years now.  Wow, am I ever glad I made that commitment. Journaling is also a daily practice for me, removing the “static” from my head and getting some distance from it by writing it out. Anything we can to do help manage our emotions right now is important.

I practice yoga 10-15 minutes most days to calm my nervous system. Some days I take whole hour class online through Tula Yoga & Wellness! I’m grateful they are making classes available via Zoom for those of us who want to stay connected and practicing. I’m also delighted that my NIA teacher Beth Giles is offering her NIA classes via Zoom so I can vary things up! Moving to music is a balm for the soul.

We need to take care of ourselves. This is not something I will sacrifice during this time. Self-care helps me show up for others. I have been able to support friends and family who are struggling via phone calls, walks, emails, etc. Connection is essential for health. What if we tried “virtual presencing” while we do our social distancing? No, it’s not the same. And yes, we need it.

We humans are inherently resilient. It is how our brains evolved thus far. We will get through this together. And our community may grow even stronger as a result.

Stay well, friends.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Unwritten protocols

Hello Friends,

Happy Thursday!

I’ve been deeply immersed in a personal writing project so I am likely to post a little less frequently in the few months. I have come to enjoy my Sunday haiku, so I’m not giving that up. We all have much going on in our lives, and YOU are no exception. But I do want to keep in touch so if you do want to connect and I’m taking an offline hiatus, you can reach me via email.

Do you know the unwritten protocols of your organization?

In the meantime, I wanted to reflect on something I posted about last week, an incident in which I was blind-sided at work by something I never saw coming.

Now that I’ve had the chance to think it through I realized I had not respected the unwritten protocols that exist in this organization. As a clinical researcher by training, I have a love/hate relationship with protocols.

Protocols are awesome because they give you a clear definition of what needs to be done. They are written in language that is specific and precise. Since scientific experiments need to be reproducible and consistent in their execution, protocols are a necessity. When you work with human subjects research, regulations require protocols that are well-vetted, statistically validated and approved by an institutional review board or medical ethics committee.

Organizations often have “power protocols” also. These are the unwritten protocols that take typically 6-18 months at any organization or department (sometimes more) to learn. They are things like:

  • Having a PhD or M.D. counts (especially true in academic organizations).
  • If you have a choice to talk with the PI for a grant, or the chief of staff, pick the latter. She’s the one who actually gets the job done; he’s the name on the letterhead. In a university system, it’s fascinating to me how this mirrors a very patriarchal structure.

I had opened the communication channels during a project in which I was gathering feedback. But I did not bank on the fact that, while I was trying to be system-agnostic in my analysis, the department wanted me to fix the tool they already have rather than to select the best tool.

Now that I understand what they want, I can execute on that. I may not agree with the decision, but others with higher grade levels are determining the parameters. And that’s where I encountered one of the unwritten protocols at this institution: if grant money has been used to build a tool, it would take a LOT for us to abandon the tool.

Lesson learned. Onward.

cristy@meximinnesota.com