Saturday, March 24, 2012

Buffchic goes to Washington

Cherry blossoms and Jefferson Memorial in the background
Washington, DC is holding the Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend.

I learned that the acronyms
POTUS and FLOTUS stand for the President of the United States and the First Lady of the United States.

Learn something new everyday!
Washington Monument under haze and drizzle
Jefferson Memorial
Me and my friend, John Lazar, on his birthday
Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Friday, March 23, 2012

PA school Geek Goes to Capitol Hill

As seen in Buffalo.  What do you mean the Pope's not Irish?
I attended an all day WNYPAA (West New York Physician Assistant Association) CME on Saturday (St. Patrick's Day).
It was 75 degrees and sunny outside in Buffalo, of all places, and I willingly chose to sit inside a hotel ballroom all day.  My license to practice as a PA-school-geek is surely forthcoming!    But seriously, it was a very good event with informative sessions.

I learned about:
  • drug diversion from a DEA agent
  • A-Fib and the new anti-coagulants
  • an injury triad that is important to identify in young female athletes from Dr. Maureen Finney (who donned a green Dr. Suess like hat for the occasion)
  • COPD - take away message - STOP SMOKING - Don't start smoking.
  • drug addiction treatment
  • importance and value of prostate MRIs
Even Niagara Falls turned green on St. Pat's Day

I have been so geeking for a chance to get my foot in the door of PA school for so long and now it is within sight!  I have to tell you this is exciting!  I have been working towards this goal of entry to PA school since 2008.
And yes, I am already studying and reading ahead.

I got an older edition of the Bates Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking on Ebay (who doesn't love a bargain, right?).  This is per a suggestion from my buddy Paul at I got mine for $1.99 on Ebay.  I have already completed Chapter 1.  Yes, I am a geek.

Visiting Capitol Hill

I am heading down to Washington D.C. this weekend to participate in the AAPA's Capitol Connection lobbying effort. I will be visiting  Representative Higgins from Buffalo.  Looking forward to meeting more AAPA members and putting my advocacy to the test!

More updates to follow!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breastfeeding and Beyond: More work to be done

Well, I am back from my trip to Los Angeles.
Though some say that L.A. is in the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath and Beyond, it felt very home-like this visit.  I enjoyed visiting with old friends and seeing where my daughter, Olivia, hangs her trench coat, that I covet. 

Breastfeeding and Beyond

Though I didn't see Beyonce breastfeeding in public (or at all), I did see a mom nursing a toddler at the La Brea Tar Pits Page Museum

I didn't know that the frequently misnomered "saber toothed tiger" is actually the California saber toothed cat and is the state fossil.
California saber toothed cat - Smilodon fetalis

UK breastfeeding survey

So I am reentering my world of PA school preparation, otherwise known as real life,
and I came across this article in my in box.  (I found the Medscape summary of this study a better summary.)  Apparently, new mothers in Scotland were surveyed concerning  attitudes about breastfeeding their infants for the first six months of life.

Though the size of the sample was alarmingly small, some of the conclusions were interesting if not heartening.

Here are a few that struck me:
  • new mothers found prenatal breastfeeding "too scientific" and "patronizing"
  • participants desired to have more inclusive choices offered to them other than breastfeeding--such as combining formula use with breastfeeding
  • mothers in this survey wanted more family centric options
  • these mothers felt that "lactation specialists" in the hospitals were breast nazis.
  • the mothers felt that they were being pushed or expected to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and that this was too demanding and they felt unsupported in their efforts.
Gosh, a breast nazi! 

I find it disheartening how women sometimes find a way to criticize those who purport to help them when they don't like the message.  I wonder if a physician, nurse or nutritionist would be equally vilified for urging a diabetic patient to exercise and follow a healthy diet.  Why do people call lactation educators and consultants "breast nazis"?  Why do we allow it?  It really seems petty to me.

As a lactation consultant, I was frequently asked to help a mother wean her baby and asked for advice on how to integrate bottles of milk and solid foods into the infants feeding.  And as any other healthcare professional does, the lactation consultant gives the most appropriate advice and support to that patient.  Would a so called "breast nazi" do this?  I think not. 

It is so unfortunate that this term seems to be gaining some traction in the media and amongst women.  My husband prefers the term "breastivist."  Not sure I love this term as much as he does.

Mother's Best

I recall when nurses at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, used to laughingly refer to my breastfeeding store, Mother's Best, as Mother's Breast.  That was fine with me!

Take away message

I think the take-away message from this study is that we still have much work to do in better supporting women in their breastfeeding.

Check out this article about nipple coverage
Breastfeeding isn't always a walk in the park.  Parenting is rarely a walk in the park.  And though the goal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding may not feel compelling to some new mothers when infant formula offers alternate nutrition that will adequately sustain their baby, we need to find ways to support and encourage them when they breastfeed.

I came across this picture with the red feather nipple covers in an article about a coffee shop in Park Slope frequented by nursing mothers and their children.  Apparently, the owner displayed some artwork done by an employee and covered the nipples so as to not offend his patrons.  But the mothers were more offended at the covered nipples, so they uncovered the artwork!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pregnancy & graduate school at Columbia University

A new post today on A Penned Point entitled, "Give yourself a break–Don’t have a baby during residency," inspires me to chime in on this parenting issue as I recall how my pregnancy during graduate school was handled 29 years ago.
Dr. Sibert writes about the stresses on residents when they take on pregnancy and parenting an infant during their demanding years of residency.  I can only imagine how difficult giving birth during residency must be.  But reading her post reminded me of my situation during my first pregnancy.

Now when I look back on the events of this pregnancy and how Columbia handled this, I am appalled.  And I am glad for how far we have progressed. 
Subway station in NYC for Culmbia

I was in my first semester of graduate school at Columbia University in the Writing Program working on an MFA in fiction when I discovered that I was expecting my first child.

I was sick as a dog and scared.  Commuting in from Westchester, where we had recently moved from Brooklyn to be nearer to the Columbia and because we had just been held up at gunpoint in Brooklyn, I rented a parking spot on 125th St. in Harlem.  I was still apprehensive walking in this neighborhood, concerned that I couldn't run fast enough being pregnant if I was mugged or robbed again.

Being pregnant at Columbia in 1981

But I attended my writing workshop classes faithfully, never missing a class, despite vomiting in public places daily.  Now granted, I did not fit into the social network of the other Dunhill cigarette smoking students in the MFA program.  I was counting daily protein grams and calcium consumed.  I ate in the undergraduate cafeteria because they served a wealth of steamed veggies and good protein options.

When it came time to discuss the timing of my spring semester with the impending birth in April with the administration, they were less than helpful.
Columbia University Low Memorial Library
They forced me to take a leave of absence for the spring semester because "another student could be in my spot for that three weeks of missed classes" at the end of April.  Then when my daughter was born on April 28, they attempted to contact me via phone but never actually reached me (remember this is pre email and pre cell phone days) to tell me that I needed to produce a huge volume of work in a very short period of time.  They gave a hideously short deadline and never actually spoke to me or informed me in person--just left a voice mail with an ultimatum (that I never got).

So I ended up taking a year off and finishing my Masters at LSU in Baton Rouge.   But Columbia was a huge disappointment to me and it took years to pay off the student loans for my time there. 

Nowadays, women and (men) have more rights concerning their treatment when giving birth and parenting.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

California Dreamin' & Beyonce Breastfeeding

 It's twelve degrees in Buffalo this morning.

Our trip next week to Los Angeles is sounding better and better.  Can't wait to soak up some California sunshine and visit The Getty and LACMA.

The Getty museum in Los Angeles

Breastfeeding in the news

Beyonce was recently spotted nursing her infant daughter, Blue Ivy, in a NYC restaurant.   She is being touted as a positive role model for African American mothers.  And indeed she is.  Ahhh, the power of celebrity.

I hope that this object lesson in mothering plays out well for her in the media.  And it looks like it will from current observations.  This article about her in The Huffington Post describes Beyonce as the new face of breastfeeding advocacy.

Now if she could just explain her baby's name, Blue Ivy.  According to another Huffington Post article, Beyonce and Jay-Z are trademarking their daughter's name.  Though it seems uncertain at this time whether this is a business move or a protective play on their part, it is mind boggling the retail force that could be harnessed in a branding scheme that adeptly used Beyonce's fame and her baby's image.

But carry on Beyonce!  Carry the flag well, nurse and nurture your daughter and set the bar high for other American young women who will follow in your footsteps!

Polar bear nursing twins

Friday, March 2, 2012

PAs as Outliers

I recently finished reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.  Gladwell is a talented essayist who has written for The Washington Post and The New Yorker.  I am now reading Gladwell's What the Dog Saw, also fascinating.

And I have been thinking about how some of his theories apply to the current state of the physician assistant profession.

Outliers benefit from time and place of birth

Outliers is a fascinating book that looks at how intelligence and subsequent success or failure can be influenced, indeed determined, by one's upbringing as one of privilege or lack and by when and where you are born.

Gladwell identifies how the the unique success of the industrial barons of the mid 19th century in the U.S. in railroads, gas,  etc. (think Dupont, Rockefeller, Carnegie et. al. aka "the big boys" who created vast wealth for their family's subsequent generations) was due not only to their genius and hard work but to where and when they were born. 

Timing is everything.

Hardware and Software

He points out that this also applies to the success of computer tycoons Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Jobs.  Their birth years in the mid 1950s put them just young enough to be on the cusp of the computer boon when they were in high school and college in the 1970s and the timing was perfect for them to use their unique expertise in a virginal world of computers.

PAs as Outliers

Are physician assistants uniquely positioned to becoming the outliers in healthcare in the next two to five years?  It seems that the timing is right.

As healthcare reform brings millions of new patients into the healthcare arena, PAs will be uniquely positioned to shoulder a large part of their care.