Mobile Outreach Clinic Brings Health Access to Community’s Vulnerable

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Mobile Outreach Clinic Brings Health Access to Community’s Vulnerable

With Funding Help from Southern Regional AHEC and NC AHEC

On Tuesday, August 24th, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at Fayetteville State University’s Southeastern NC Nursing Education and Research Center, celebrating “Bringing Care to the Community” and revealing the Beyond the Bedside Mobile Nursing Clinic. Its financial sponsor and FSU partner, TRUST, along with Clinical Site Development Grant funding from Southern Regional AHEC through the NC AHEC Program, helped to bring the mobile unit, housed within a retrofitted RV, to realization. Soon, the Bronco-blue-and-white mobile clinic, clad with the buoyant, bright artwork of FSU student Albert Bass, will travel to the areas of Cumberland County in most need, to meet the basic healthcare needs of our citizens. 

At the ceremony, FSU Chancellor Darrell T. Allison noted that the unit is a win/win for the campus and the community, especially during a pandemic. It offers an affordable solution to those who need healthcare, but do not have the transportation necessary to travel to their doctor’s office. The service also provides hands-on clinical experiences to nursing students attending FSU. “We celebrate this momentous occasion to further prove that we are doing what we said we would, by serving the citizens of Cumberland County”, he told the guests on Tuesday afternoon. “The people of our community will come to see this as a symbol of FSU’s example and service.”

Southern Regional AHEC is proud to be part of this important project that coincides with our organization’s mission to increase access to care while increasing the number and diversity of healthcare professionals in our region. 

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Resilience

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Resilience

By MICHAEL SHAPIRO, PhD

October 2020

So here we are, almost a year into a debacle that began as an “outbreak,” grew into an epidemic, and was ultimately declared a pandemic back in March…which now feels like an eternity ago. People have been sickened, lives have been lost, economies have tanked, lines have been drawn in the sand, and every facet of life as we know it has been completely disrupted. No one has been spared. Everyone has been impacted, emotionally if not physically.

Unless you’re super-human (or inhuman), there have been moments in which you’ve wondered whether or not the world will ever recover. When will we again get to stand in line impatiently at McDonald’s, push and shove our way through a crowded bar, or glower disdainfully at that guy in the next row at the movie theater who’s making all that noise with his candy? When will we be able to cough or sneeze in a public place without being eyed suspiciously or asked to go home for fourteen days? Will we ever regain the willpower or emotional energy to return to “life-as-it-was”…that is, if “life-as-it-was” ever wants to return to us? I believe that we will. Why? Because of an invariable and inescapably human commodity known as resilience.

Webster (who, as far as I know, is long deceased and did not have the pandemic in mind when he coined this definition) describes resilience as “…the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.”  I believe he was referring to clay, metal, marshmallows, and stuff like that; but I think you get the picture and understand how it can be applied to ourselves and our current situation. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “…the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” The American Psychological Association (my people) describe resilience as “…the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” Now we’re getting somewhere!

The point is this: resilience is a thing, and we all have it. For all its seemingly innumerable faults, humankind is—and always has been—resilient. Humanity has endured huge collective struggles, including other pandemics and natural disasters, and has lived to pick up the pieces and go home. World wars have threatened to annihilate both the species and the planet…yet here we are. This is not to minimize the loss and misery these incidents have caused; but it serves as a testimony to our collective resilience that humanity has endured, grown a little wiser (hopefully), and is still here for me to make fun of.

As your psychologist, I wish that I could offer you a pamphlet with quick and easy system for becoming more resilient during this time, maybe of a “10 Steps to Resilience” kind of thing. In the world of psychology, it is known that there are some inborn qualities that contribute to resiliency: a positive outlook, an optimistic personality, and a willingness to use tragedies as opportunities for growth. However, regardless of how much of each of these attributes you might already possess, I can tell you this: you’re already resilient, and you know it!

If you weren’t already resilient, you would have quit school immediately (if they had allowed you to) after getting sent to the principal that time in the second grade (yeah, remember that?). You would have never dated again after that pretty girl or boy rejected you in the seventh grade. You would have never sought employment again after getting fired from your first job after getting caught smoking in the parking lot during your shift (wait…you mean that didn’t happen to everyone?). You’ve been sick, and even if you haven’t recovered completely, you’ve learned to adapt. You learned a “new normal” every time you had another child, moved to a different place, had a financial setback, lost a friendship,  or endured the death of someone close to you. Although you may minimize these successes or taken them for granted, you shouldn’t: the fact that you’re still here, reading this blog, means that you’re resilient.

If you’re still not convinced of your own resilience, then take heart in this: resilience can be learned. One of my personal heroes is Dr. Viktor Frankl, who was a psychiatrist and neurologist who survived internment in various Nazi concentration camps for three years, beginning in 1942. Over that three years his father and brother died, and his mother and wife were killed. Frankl himself suffered abuse and starvation. Even so, he survived by finding meaning in what was happening to him. He tried to help despondent prisoners, and in doing so discovered that suffering can be endured if one finds in it a purpose. This culminated in his famous quote about survival (“Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with any ‘how’”) and, ultimately, his amazing book, Man’s Search for Meaning (recommended reading for…well, pretty much every person on the planet). His conclusions about finding meaning in suffering have since been borne out in scientific research: according to a study in Health Psychology, people who believed that stress would kill them were 43% more likely to die than those who saw the benefits of stress, or at least believed that they could grow as a result of it!  So, to endure stress and be resilient, we need to learn how to re-frame it as beneficial rather than destructive.

Being resilient doesn’t mean being free of struggles…it means that you have the ability to struggle well. If you’re a member of the human race, you’ve certainly learned something about resilience over the past year, and you most certainly deserve a pat on the back for enduring the dumpster fire that is commonly known as “2020”. As we continue to navigate through whatever is to come, I hope that you will learn to find meaning in your trials…and hope fervently for fewer learning opportunities in 2021!

The Masks We Wear (or Don’t)

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The Masks We Wear (or Don’t)

By MICHAEL SHAPIRO, PhD

July 2020

Masks. Of all the things that we have on our menu of things to get upset about during the pandemic area, we choose masks.

Both the World Health Organization and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention now strongly recommend wearing face coverings in public, in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, this was not so. In fact, both organizations initially suggested just the opposite, mainly because of the relatively low prevalence of the disease at the time, and partly because scientists did not yet understand the degree to which the coronavirus could be spread by asymptomatic carriers. Since then, epidemiological data (showing how death rates have been lower in locations that have mandates in place), case reports, and at least one very interesting high-speed video experiment (showing how respiratory droplets are spread when coughing, sneezing, and talking) have all supported the usefulness and wisdom of simply wearing something over your face. In fact, a recent forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that if 95% of the population would wear a mask in public, there would be as many as 33,000 fewer deaths in the United States by October 1.

Okay. I get it. It’s not a cure or an ultimate solution, but it’s an incredibly important step in risk reduction. It should be easy. Spiderman does it all the time and has never, as far as we know, transmitted a virus. However, I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly confess that I haven’t been a big fan (of masks, that is. Not Spiderman). Yes, I’m a healthcare provider who is trained in applied science. Yes, I work in a Family Medicine clinic that (wisely) requires all providers and patients to wear masks in the building. Yes, I have a loving wife who carries enough masks in the glove compartment of her car to stage a Wild West-style bank robbery. In the face (no pun intended) of all the supportive scientific evidence, I’m perplexed at my own resistance to this idea, and I’ve had to look deep inside myself to figure out why I feel this way.

Most people have reasonably good reasons to be mask-aversive. They say masks are uncomfortable, especially in the heat of the summer. They say that masks interfere with breathing, or that being “forced” to wear a mask infringes on their rights (specifically, their constitutional right to infect others. It must be in one of those amendments somewhere). I have to admit that my reasons are less rational, and not as well thought-out:

Whenever I think about wearing a mask in public, a small, repressed, macho “tough guy” who resides deep within my psyche makes an appearance and tells me that to do so would be a sign of “weakness”. This little entity in my head (don’t we all have them?) is surprisingly loud, looks a bit like John Wayne, and insists that to wear a mask is just an admission that I’m cowardly, old, and physically frail (whether or not that’s actually true is irrelevant to this discussion). I also assume that people will think I’m somehow antisocial or want nothing to do with them. In other words, I worry about what people will think of me, when in truth, people probably spend a LOT less time thinking about me than I think they do!

Also, as a psychologist, I have to say that I frankly dislike the fact that masks obscure half of my ability to read peoples’ expressions. I can no longer discern what they’re thinking or feeling…at least from the nose down. Conversely, I dislike being unable to use half of my face to express my emotions to others! I’ve always prided myself on my habit of giving a big smile to everyone I see. Anthropologists have shown that monkeys do the same thing in the wild to express their peaceful intentions and not get beat up when entering a potentially hostile jungle situation (I think you can see the analogy). Hence, with a mask, I feel that I’m being deprived of one of the most simple self-defense tools that nature grants freely to less complex mammals who are much farther down the food chain than I am!

As irrational and convoluted as these thoughts may be, they plagued me until the governor of our great state—in a complete inversion of the aforementioned Wild West culture—made it illegal NOT to wear a mask, as of 5:00 p.m. on June 26th of this year. This changed everything! At last, the playing field is completely level. No longer does anyone need to question or consider the motives of anyone else: now we’re all just trying to obey the law and not get fined! This has enabled me to make a complete transition; from being completely insecure about wearing a mask, to now being completely smug and condescending towards people who are not wearing a mask! This, my friends, is true freedom…the freedom to feel superior to lawbreakers!

I can now look with great respect upon my fellow North Carolinians, all of whom are taking this one simple step (sometimes unwillingly…but who cares?) that will do so much to insure the health of others and bring this pandemic to a more abrupt end.  Seeing everyone wear a mask in public gives me a warm feeling of camaraderie, as if we are, truly, “all in this together.” It’s supported by science, it’s socially unifying, and it’s good for everyone’s health! So please, in the name of humanity, bear with some discomfort and wear a mask whenever you go outside. With any luck, the type of mask you wear will become a fashion statement…and then you’ll have something else to be insecure about!