On the Get Social Health podcast, Janet Kennedy interviews Ajay Prasad of GMR Webteam and the work they do create and optimizing healthcare websites.
Seth Rotberg found out as a 15-year old that his mom had a rare neurological genetic disease known as Huntington’s disease. Five years later, he tested positive for the disease. Today I’m talking with Seth about secrets, strengths and recognizing the power of community on Get Social Health.
A wise man once said laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Well, there’s no shortage of laughter in this episode with Jacob Weiss, who’s the director of High-Wired communities and Entertainment That Gives Back. Listen to the podcast and find out why laughter is the best medicine on Get Social Health.
Janet: 00:00 A wise man once said laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Well, there’s no shortage of laughter in this episode with Jacob Weiss, who’s the director of High-Wired communities and Entertainment That Gives Back. Listen to the podcast and find out why laughter is the best medicine on Get Social Health.
Announcer: 00:21 Welcome to Get Social Health, a conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, health care practitioners, and patients connect and engage via social media. Get Social Health brings you conversations with professionals actively working in the field and provides real-life examples of healthcare social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy.
Janet: 00:47 Welcome to the Get Social Health podcast. Today I have somebody who is going to help me solve some personal problems and that is Dr. Jacob Weiss.
Janet: 00:56 He is a researcher and a social entrepreneur and he’s going to be speaking at the annual conference of the Mayo Clinic social media network that’s coming up November 14th and 15th in Jacksonville Florida. His topic is how juggling taught me to engage my community for health and well-being. Well I have to tell you I’m having a lot of trouble juggling and also juggling and engaging my community. So this is going to be a very valuable session for me. Welcome to Get Social Health Jacob!
Jacob: 01:28 Thanks thanks for having me.
Janet: 01:30 I was flabbergasted when I saw that we were going to have a person with expertise in juggling at the annual conference of the Mayo Clinic social media network and I’m thrilled because I actually have a cousin who is a professional mime, clown, and she has awesome juggling skills. So that is amazing.
Jacob: 01:52 Yeah it is. It’s going to be a lot of fun for a lot of people don’t realize the connections you can make and the AHA moments you get when you bring in something that’s a different industry. But where there is a really positive connection that you can make, and building bridges across.
Janet: 02:08 Absolutely. And I think some of this has to do with when you send people particularly to a conference or an event where they’re expecting the same old same old. And you throw them for a loop. They’ve got to kind of think differently.
Jacob: 02:24 One of the things I love about juggling is it’s that physical getting up and moving it’s visual it’s it’s not another PowerPoint slide for example and it and so if you’re trying to convey a message or teach or share knowledge you can’t just share the content you have to do in a way that keeps them awake. That makes them engage in a way that it’s really sticky that they can remember back to it when they want to use it. So that’s one of the powerful ways that we use juggling as part of sharing content and real knowledge as well.
Janet: 02:57 All right wait a minute I’m very easily distracted as you’ll probably discover in this podcast interview. However, I’m envisioning you being up there and juggling three to five balls and all this awesome stuff is going and your and you’re imparting words of wisdom.
Janet: 03:11 I gotta tell you I’m going to be totally focused on your juggling skills and I’m not going to be listening.
Jacob: 03:16 Fair enough. And I will give you a preview that most of the time that there’s talking. It’s not at the same time as the juggling so that the juggling will make you can enjoy it and have fun with it and then we use the other parts following before and after to connect when there’s a metaphor or sharing a story of what I’ve done with juggling and community and building healthy communities using both juggling and social media. So it’s not the distracting part it’s the get you to focus then you can listen.
Janet: 03:51 Well now folks know me as a social media early adopter and somebody who uses it probably to the point where they like Janet you need to take the day off. But I’m trying to put together my idea of social media and juggling. Well, the first thing of course is that’s all social media is I am bouncing from one thing to another trying to keep all my content up in the air respond to things like there’s a perfect metaphor for there. But what you’re actually saying this is a physical metaphor as well.
Jacob: 04:22 There’s the metaphor of keeping the balls in the air. And one of the things I talk a lot about is you know it’s a marathon, not a sprint when you’re learning to juggle. You don’t drop a ball and give up in two minutes and say I can’t do it. Same thing with social media. You’re getting started on that whether it’s a new career path or a new project with social media. You don’t just try something and say Oh did it work. I’m quitting it. It’s really that long-term goal and process which is the same as learning to juggle. So you’ve got those metaphors. But there’s also a real physical mindset shift that you can make a connection to while you’re actually physically learning to juggle. And so it’s not just a conceptual metaphor but it’s a physical experience that you can go through that that you can make connections to when you’re working on those other areas of your life or work.
Janet: 05:19 All right let me ask you something and maybe this is why I’m not very good at juggling and I can’t get past five passes the ball is because I’m always thinking about the ball’s going to land here and the ball’s going to land here as often we do and work of I’m going to do this again this which means everything just becomes a blur. Am I doing juggling wrong?
Jacob: 05:41 I would say you’re doing juggling wrong a lot of ways if you can. One of the ways we teach for example when we’re really teaching getting past the first couple of throws is to stand over a table or a desk and let those next. Those that you’re trying to get to hit the ground right it lands on the table. Then you have infinite time to make the next throws after that’s already landed on the ground. And it also helps you get past worrying about the drops and really focusing on that. So it’s it’s like with work when you’re working on social media or any really any work or project it’s its focus on what you can be getting done now not worrying about the next drop that could happen and end. And then you get to that as it comes. And so it’s juggling it really is almost like yoga or meditation is that sense of flow. You have a feeling of when it clicks in.
Janet: 06:39 I will say the other part of the metaphor that I really like that a lot of clients or big companies or even healthcare organizations have to grasp is that you’re going to drop a ball and in social media, you’re going to spell something wrong. You’re going to have a link that didn’t work that you’ve got to repost because when you think about the volume of what you’re putting out and the speed at which you’re putting it putting out if your social media is all 100 percent planned vetted reviewed edited and signed off on it’s boring. You know that’s like picking the ball up and then picking the ball up and then picking the ball up as opposed to ball hand, ball, hand, ball.
Jacob: 07:16 Exactly along the lines of what you said in terms of that’s boring people connect on social media. It’s not a press release. Right. It’s that you’re connecting you’re having real conversations with real people. And the same thing when you watch juggling. I often when I teach other performers they’re not watching the balls in the air they’re watching you having fun with the juggling on stage and it’s the same with social media. It’s not just the announcement here announcement their content they’re engaging with you and your personality and that has to shine through in a genuine way. Again it’s the same thing if you’re performing on stage five hundred people as if you have five hundred dollars on social media that you’re engaging with. It really just has to come from a genuine place from you not just what is the content that you’re sharing.
Janet: 08:07 You know I can talk about juggling forever but at some point, people are going to wonder why are we bringing a juggler to this conference and actually you get some letters after your name and you have some established academic credibility to this work you’re doing so tell us a little bit about your background and how you managed to bring this childhood love of something all the way through your academic career.
Jacob: 08:30 Sure. Apart from being a juggler since I was about 10 years old, I went to Princeton University for my undergraduate and I was focused on computer science engineering where in addition to developing computer-controlled juggling musical instruments that I’ve played while juggling with sensors I also developed in the pre-Facebook days Facebook-type friends list connecting sharing kind of building between aim AOL Instant Messenger and Facebook world and of bridging the gap and working on projects and developing concepts from that from the computer science and I then went from there to Vanderbilt University. I did my Ph.D. in biomedical informatics where I was taking a lot of that approach to social networking and the healthcare focus. And when I got there it was there was a really strong emphasis not just on the medical record as in information repository but the medical record as a communication medium between the doctors and the patients and the nurses and everyone involved and so that really was a powerful connection to what I was excited about and that was a time when a lot of things were you know how do we email doctors not even considering anything social media.
Jacob: 09:53 And so a lot of my research was when in the first iPhone came out. We were developing projects around medication management for kids using the early iPhone before you could even make official apps for it. And so all of my research has really been about how do you connect people online but offline as well.
Jacob: 10:16 So a big part of my focus and from that world is not just thinking about social media as something in it by itself it’s something that can also enhance and complement real-world relationships. Right. So if you can have patients all around the world talking. And that’s an important part of social media. But you can also use social media to coordinate emphasis with conversations that also happen in the real world. Whether it’s between the patient and the care team whether it’s in a local support group or which a lot of my work was looking at all of the different nonprofits working in health care in the local community who are very siloed and disconnected.
Jacob: 11:02 How do you find ways to create more connections between them and so did you immediately go into founding your own company or did you work in that traditional bioinformatics program somewhere.
Jacob: 11:16 Yeah it was pretty much right from my Ph.D. starting my own thing in part because I had continued while I was at Princeton I started up the student juggling shows on campus while doing my research. And when I got to Vanderbyl I started up the juggling group and shows on campus there. So I’d always been doing a combination of starting up juggling programs and creating social networking for community building and health care. And so there was no one job that equally considered both of them. There might have been one or the other and they said oh yeah you can do that little stuff you do on the side with you can’t do this while doing that. And so. So it really wasn’t it wasn’t something that I really purposely went into. It’s just continuing what I’ve always been doing really organically growing and so just kept going and applying a lot of my research work more on consulting or project-based work and then starting up a touring juggling performing company.
Jacob: 12:23 At the same time that’s a social enterprise. So we use that juggling and just like my research to create connections between nonprofits between companies and local nonprofits. And so it I sometimes describe even from the juggling side and doing more in line with my research than if I stayed in the field in academia doing what most informatics is focused on. Because my research really was combining the informatics work with community based participatory research models ethnography. How do you bring together a local community for collaborative design of an online space so it wasn’t just how do we use the online space to us? How do you bring people together to collaboratively design an online space for people who aren’t social media experts or designers? And how do you make it something that from participating they learn at the same time and can go back to their organizations and enhance the work they’re doing online themselves. Have you actually published your dissertation part, not the full dissertation? However many of these are papers but papers out of it. For sure.
Janet: 13:38 Okay. And is the word gentling used in near doctoral dissertation?
Jacob: 13:42 Well I don’t think I have to think I don’t think the word juggling ever specifically appears but I will say several of the conferences where I presented that for informatics there was juggling involved in those presentations and in my dissertation defense I believe there was juggling involved.
Janet: 14:02 Oh wow okay. So my really big question is does your mother say my son the juggler or my son the doctor?
Jacob: 14:11 I would say sure. It depends on the context. I think mostly she’ll say my son the juggling doctor but she actually works in medical informatics as well. That’s what got me introduced I’m interested in that field. And so she gets that part of it. But she also has been around since I was a kid so she knows the other half from the juggling side. And again it’s from the outside it seems very different. But if you think about it what I’m doing with everything I do is bringing people together and finding ways to connect with people and connect people to one another. And there’s a quote I like that came from Victor Borge –
Janet: 14:58 I love Victor Borge!
Jacob: 15:00 And it’s “laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” And that applies to what we do with our juggling performances and the outreach we do when we go to children’s hospitals and in the community. And it also applies to social media and making real genuine connections on social media. It applies to what we’re doing in the community and building real relationships when you facilitate conversations in a community. And so I don’t think it’s anything that’s completely different. They’re both two parts of that same mission of bringing people together.
Janet: 15:39 When I look at your LinkedIn profile I see that you actually have five concurrent jobs a year therefrom X to present. So. Oh my gosh, what exactly do you do for a living?
Jacob: 15:52 So again the concurrent it’s all part of all of the pieces that you see on LinkedIn where they’re all the different pieces and programs that we’re doing with the companies that I started. So technically there are two companies the informatics social media community building consulting and the other is the juggling performance side. But a lot of it weaves together in different ways. And so, for example, one of the programs that we’re doing that we just launched this past year it builds on what we’ve been doing with our touring performances and outreach and just really quick with that the model as a social enterprise it’s kind of like that Tom’s Shoes model if you know where every pair of shoes you buy they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need with our live performing. Every time our show is brought in to a corporate event we donate a visit to a non-profit in the community and we just launched a program that not just it’s not just our visit out in the community that’s real and we see the impact it makes but we’re able to donate excess of juggling balls as well to the different programs because again the juggling it’s the fun as the play.
Jacob: 17:06 But it also helps people connect with the mindset going from an I can’t do this mindset to oh I can do this. We have a path to success. A message that says try drop, try drop, try drop, over and over down the page. Pause. Breathe. Try. It will succeed. And when people learn to juggle they can connect to that mindset and apply it to other things that they’re doing. So that’s the that’s what do good and juggle is. But all of them are part of the kind of core companies that I’ve started.
Janet: 17:48 So what kind of companies are bringing you in, and do they know what they’re getting ahead of time?
Jacob: 17:54 Oh yeah, well some companies will bring us in for the entertainment and then as talking and they realize that I have my Ph.D. in healthcare and technology and also are giving back elements. Then we start talking even more about that piece and then some people are looking more for the community building consulting or corporate training or leadership. I teach a course on community engagement and leadership and end up bringing the juggling and improv comedy techniques and storytelling into that process of the class there and so sometimes people come from one direction and get the other and then it can be flipped depending on who the client is. But we did we do kickoff for a large healthcare company technology company conferences and we’ve been to the White House Madison Square Garden. So from the performing end, we do that side and then from the training side we’ve worked with a lot of some of the major marketing companies, for example, brought us to work with their teams as well as incorporate giving back elements so sometimes companies will bring us in when they’re trying to do something that gives back. But there’s also a team-building or fund program for their employees as well.
Janet: 19:12 Oh that sounds like a lot of fun when you were telling me before we started the interview what your schedule is like over the period where the conference is going on. I was sort of mind boggled. You have to have somebody who says Not today if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium.
Jacob: 19:30 Right. So yeah we’ve got at least three possibly four. If I do something locally in Nashville that just came in that week. So basically from Sunday Sunday three different cities which is not always that crazy but it definitely can get a little hectic with that.
Janet: 19:47 Now what exactly is an entertainment? What is your show like? I mean no lions no tigers no trapeze. So what exactly are you doing? Is it a circus event?
Jacob: 19:59 So at the conference, I’ll be doing some incorporating some of the performance acts from our touring show and more so doing a lot of talking and making that connection to social media and healthcare and community building with our touring show. We also do that by itself where it’s an hour to 75 minutes no speaking. It’s a three-person show sometimes. And people have compared it almost to Blue Man Group without the crazy makeup. If that makes sense. It’s no speaking it’s got a lot of musical elements juggling physical comedy but really it’s just the three of us having fun on stage together and sharing that with the audience Dave juggles fire. We don’t juggle fire in the show. I can and have but are most of what I do with the performing it’s more about the creativity and the teamwork than it is about the danger elements.
Janet: 20:56 All right. This is going to be so exciting and it’s really going to catch people by surprise. I think this is going to be a great event.
Janet: 21:04 And I know that it sounds like you’re doing some really amazing things when you go to say do a corporate event you’ve got this pay it forward model where you’re doing something is it hospital visits are you doing fundraising shows?
Jacob: 21:20 Some of it’s been more into the fundraising style. Most of it is more going out into the community like to the hospital and visiting with the patients doing a show in the lobby for the patients and the families and the staff even which I think that’s an important part of wellness for the caregivers and the staff and ignoring that element. And so we’ll do that we’ll go out into a local school for example. And and so just giving you an example sometimes that if the client really wants to plan a big event that ties into a charity that they’re trying to support then we end up doing that if that’s what their interest is. But sometimes it might be just visiting, for example, local Ronald McDonald House and there is an example of an event we did. And we went. We went to the local Ronald McDonald House and it was pouring outside.
Jacob: 22:18 And so most of the families were stuck in the hospital and couldn’t get back to the house. But there was one family. It was the husband and wife whose child was in the hospital but they couldn’t get there because of the rain. And so we ended up just doing a short show in the living room for that couple and taught them to juggle. And it wasn’t what we planned in terms of how many people were going to be there. But on the way out and we were leaving and the house manager told us that was exactly what they needed at that time. And so we’ve had other people with our outreach describe how they haven’t left together as a family and over a year and that this was a way that they were able to do that and connect us especially if they were in the hospital or dealing with a challenge like that.
Jacob: 23:10 So so that’s our outreach. It really can be tied into the client wants to focus on health care education and we’ll work with them. But we just see the power and impact that it makes. And that’s something that came from my work. The first outreach we did was working with a lot of the Cancer Support Programs Gilda’s Club here in Nashville is an amazing program and we’ve worked with them. And I got to know them from when I was doing my research and working with the cancer center at Vanderbilt. And so we’ve found ways to do programs for them. And so most of it’s less about the fundraiser elements and more about really making that personal impact with the families who need it.
Janet: 23:57 I love all of this and I love the fact that you’re maybe the first person I’ve ever spoken to that had a passion as a child that they have been able to carry through their whole adult life and into their career. That’s awesome and cool.
Jacob: 24:12 And I will say it was not planned. If you asked me when I was doing my Ph.D. and doing this student shows at the same time if I plan to be a professional juggler in any way and I wouldn’t have said so. Actually, when I first got to Princeton I had no interest in performing I was just juggling I didn’t think I had time for it. And then it just gradually evolved. And so it’s it’s been very organic and not scripted in and how I want to incorporate it and that I’ve always dreamed of being a professional juggler since I was a kid. But it’s been something that’s been a solid foundation and core to everything I’m doing.
Janet: 24:53 All right so where do you go for professional development?
Jacob: 24:56 You know some of the people that I work with for example who do storytelling and storytelling as a way to see different ways to think about things whether it’s strategy or opening up connections. And so those kinds of those partners that I work with but also learn from at the same time there’s a lot of people that I look up to both from that and then there are people whether it’s in the fitness industry and they share advice and messaging around for example. You know trust the process which is a message around their fitness but it’s also a message for careers my career for what we’re doing with how we teach the juggling.
Jacob: 25:41 There’s a lot because it’s the typical industry where you go and take a professional development community building and juggling and healthcare technology all woven together. I kind of get it piece by piece. I do a lot of reading and listening to podcasts and following people look up to from that an awesome.
Janet: 26:01 Well OK. Is there a great circus podcast you’d recommend?
Jacob: 26:05 I don’t follow too much circus podcasts. I would say more from I would say the marketing. There’s a lot of videos that you know keep up with people posting videos from the circus and juggling side through Facebook and you know that network and I follow more of the marketing podcasts and healthcare and those side of things as well.
Janet: 26:29 Now you’ve got to have a guilty pleasure podcast. So is it serial killers or True Crime or history?
Jacob: 26:37 No I don’t. I haven’t really gotten into that side of podcasts listening although I would say that part of everything in terms of what I do free-time wise my wife and I have our 21-month-old at home. So everything’s been a blur for the past few years now.
Janet: 26:57 I can’t imagine. All right so just so you know this is a parent tip here when your child is 22 months old. Measure them double their height and that’s how tall they’ll be as an adult.
Jacob: 27:08 Interesting.
Janet: 27:09 Not 24 months.
Jacob: 27:10 I will look at that. I will look at that.
Janet: 27:13 I did that for my son and lo and behold he did grow up to be 6 feet 4 inches tall. So.
Jacob: 27:19 Well my wife’s mother is six feet tall and so maybe our daughter will get that side of the family but who knows.
Janet: 27:26 There you go. Well I am so looking forward to meeting you in Jacksonville and a hearing watching and sounds like actively participating in your program. It’s going to be a great event.
Jacob: 27:40 And I’m going to have a lot of fun. And look forward to seeing everyone there and always feel free whether you see me at the conference to come up and say hi and mine. Always happy to connect and look forward to meeting everyone.
Janet: 27:54 That’s going to be a blast. All right I’ll bring my own juggling balls and I will see you in a few months at the Mayo Clinic annual conference of the social media network. It’s taking place November 14th and 15th on the Mayo campus in Jacksonville Florida. If you happen to be new to social media and or health care there’s also an all day program on the 13th which is called the social media residency. So you can really get up to speed no matter whether you came from the journalism marketing side of the house and need to learn healthcare or you come from the healthcare side of the house and you’re not that experienced with marketing and social media. That is a great intensive daylong session that you will walk away from with practical and tactical ways to manage your own social media. So I encourage you to look into that as well. Social media dot Mayo Clinic dot org is the place to find this information. Again Jacob thank you so much for joining me and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jacob: 28:52 Thank you.
Announcer: 28:52 And now here’s a social media success tip.
Lee Aase: 28:57 Hi this is Lee Aase. I’m the director of the Mayo Clinic social media network and happy to share one of my favorite tips and that is to don’t overcomplicate things. I know that in some of the early days with the flip camera many of the complaints that people had was an audio quality. And so they would often look for a camera that could have an external microphone and that would sometimes complicate things to the point where they didn’t shoot the video that they could otherwise abused. So one of the rules that I live by is that you can’t edit what you don’t shoot. Wow, I agree it’s great to get external microphones. I’d be focusing on some of the shotgun ones the ones that can attach to a bracket with the iPhone or Android phone but not to get overly complicated. Look at what you can do in terms of natural light as well as finding a good quiet place to do the interview so that you don’t get hindered from actually shooting the video. That could be really helpful for your communications purposes.
Announcer: 30:07 You’ve been listening to the Get Social Health podcast. The show notes are located at getsocialhealth.com. To join our healthcare social media journey, follow @getsocialhealth on Twitter and start a conversation.
Janet: 30:22 Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast, a production of the Healthcare Marketing Network. And a proud member of the Healthcare Podcasters Community. I’d like to take a moment and tell you a bit about the Healthcare Marketing Network. We’re a community of freelance healthcare writers. Our organization can match your company or healthcare practice with clinically accurate, specialized, or general health care and medical content, from blogs to white papers to CME, the Healthcare Marketing Network has the writers you need to reach your business audience or patients. To find out more visit healthcaremarketingnetwork.com or contact me via social media or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast.
Forced From Home Exhibition
Immigration is on everyone’s mind right now. As with so many current issues, knowledge of how this global social problem impacts individuals is misunderstood or even unknown. Recently I had the opportunity to tour the national exhibition, Forced From Home, presented by Doctors Without Borders during its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was graciously given a tour of the exhibition that included interactive activities designed to convey the challenges facing the more than 68.5 million people currently forced from their homes. I saw a re-creation of a refugee’s journey demonstrating the dangers, deprivations, and uncertainties faced by men, women, and children in the millions worldwide every day.
My tour guides were Courtney Ridgway, Erin Ching, and Dr. George Record. As we walked between exhibit stations, they shared the purpose of the Forced From Home exhibition and answered all my questions. An audio podcast can’t fully reveal how moving this program was, so I hope you’ll visit the show notes for photos from the program and more information.
DETAILS: The Forced From Home exhibition offers free, one-hour guided tours with experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers. Visitors travel through an immersive exhibition featuring a virtual reality (VR) experience, a 360-degree video dome, and interactive activities designed to convey the challenges facing the more than 68.5 million people currently forced from their homes.
Listen to the podcast, read the transcript or drop in at the time stamps below:
Janet: 00:00 Immigration is on everyone’s mind right now, as with so many current issues, knowledge of how this global social problem impacts individuals is misunderstood or even unknown. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the national exhibition, Forced From Home, presented by Doctors Without Borders during its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was graciously given a tour of the exhibition that included interactive activities designed to convey the challenges facing the more than 68 and a half million people currently forced from their homes. I saw a recreation of a refugee’s journey demonstrating the dangers, deprivations, and uncertainties faced by men, women, and children in the millions worldwide every day. Our tour guides were Courtney Ridgeway, Erin Ching, and Dr George Record, all experienced Doctors Without Borders, volunteers from international crisis songs. As we walked between the exhibit stations, they shared the purpose of the Forced From Home exhibition and answered all my questions and audio podcast. Can’t fully reveal how moving this program was. So I hope you’ll visit the show notes for photos from the program and for more information and now Get Social Health.
Announcer: 01:25 Welcome to Get Social Health. A conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, healthcare practitioners and patients connect and engage via social media, Get Social Health, brings you conversations with professionals actively working in the field and provides real-life examples of healthcare, social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy.
Janet: 01:52 As I mentioned in the introduction, I got a slightly different kind of podcast for you today. It’s a live interview that was taken on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina at the Forced From Home exhibition sponsored by Doctors Without Borders. Our interviews today are going to be with Courtney Ridgeway, George Record, and Erin Ching. As I walked through the exhibit, really trying to bring some awareness to our community about what it’s like to be a refugee from your home. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Courtney: 02:28 I’m Courtney Ridgeway. I’m the media coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. What are you doing in Charlotte, North Carolina? We’re here with the free interactive exhibition on the global refugee crisis and we’re trying to raise awareness and educate people about the 68 point 5 million people who are displaced around the globe.
Erin: 02:43 My name is Erin Ching and I’m the external relations manager for Forced From Home.
Janet: 02:47 So you’ve been on the road for a little while and you’ve got a few more stops. Tell me a bit about this road tour.
Erin: 02:53 So we are actually in our third year of this tour. So the first year we were mainly on the east coast last year on the West. This year we’re focusing on the mid-central region. So we’ve been in Minneapolis, Chicago. We’re currently here in Charlotte. And then we’ll be going to Atlanta and San Antonio after this.
Janet: 03:09 And how long are you at each location?
Erin: 03:10 We’re in each location for one week only, so it will be open here in Charlotte, October seventh through 14th and then finishing in San Antonio, November fourth through 11th.
Janet: 03:20 Now obviously you’re listening to a podcast, which means you can’t visualize what I’m seeing here. However, I am going to take some pictures so that you can look at it, but do me a favor and just describe it for people. What is this experience really like?
Courtney: 03:32 It’s 10,000 square feet. It’s outdoor. We basically take you through a series of interactive activities. We have a 360-degree video dome that depicts scenes from refugee camps in migration routes. We have a replica boat from the Mediterranean that people use to try and escape northern Africa. We also have a little bit of a replica of a refugee camp as well as some of our medical facilities.
Janet: 03:55 Now I will say I found this exhibit because I was going to a conference in Charlotte with the Convention Center, which is down in the beautifully new rebuilt downtown area right next to the gorgeous NASCAR Hall of Fame. And I actually thought, Gee, what is that trashy setup? And that is because this is what people are really experiencing. This isn’t a beautiful interactive experience to try to build empathy, you’re going to walk through this and really feel what people feel. And as it happens, while I’ve been in Charlotte, it’s rained a few times and I think that actually adds to the appreciation and understanding for, for what’s happening here. So when it rains, does everybody scoot into the dry or what does it feel like here?
Speaker 4: 04:36 Yeah, well that was a very intentional thing when we built this exhibition was to have it outdoors. I, like you say, I think it’s empathy building. so when it does rain, we have umbrellas and ponchos for participants. The tour must go on.
Janet: 04:48 Now here’s something that we’re going to talk about in a little bit, but when I walked in there was the classic event Porta Johns and I thought, Hey, those look pretty nice, but my guess is that’s not what people are experiencing camps around the world.
Courtney: 05:01 No, you’re going to see a latrine here today that most people will share. I think maybe there might be one for every 40 people, even 400 people in some camps and you’re squatting. It’s not a very beautiful situation.
Janet: 05:14 Alright, check, check that visual. All right, we’re going to walk into the exhibit and then we’re going to look at a few things and talk again. Okay. So to experience this, we know that there are refugees from hundreds of countries around the world all going in different directions, ending up in different places. So much like the Titanic exhibit or the Holocaust Exhibit. I get to really experience through the eyes of someone, so I have been given a card and it says that I am from the Republic of Burundi. So what else does this tell me?
Courtney: 05:48 It’s telling you that you’re a refugee, which is the most important element of it. A refugee actually has more rights than an internally displaced person than a migrant and a stateless person. So being a refugee in this context, as horrible as it is, it means that you will have some protections.
Janet: 06:04 Now you could have in the same camp a refugee. And tell me the other two again?
Courtney: 06:09 An internally displaced person or an IDP. We also have migrants and then stateless people. So could all of those people end up in the same camp? Theoretically? Yes. So does that mean that I’m in the line for the good food and they’re over people over here who are what? Struggling to get a place over their head.
Erin: 06:28 We can look at that when we moved to the legal station portion, but I would like to focus on the five different countries that we feature in this exhibition. So you hear our refugee from Burundi, but we also have, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Honduras because there are a refugee and displacement crisis is happening all over the world, and not just in one continent. So that’s something we really want to highlight by giving each participant and identity card and featuring these different contexts throughout the exhibition.
Janet: 06:58 All right, so trying to relate this to an experience, would we only be expecting a citizens of Honduras or would any of those countries theoretically ended up at the door of the US?
Erin: 07:11 Well, that’s. You used the word citizen, right? And so that’s one thing that we’re trying to raise awareness about is the different types of categories of the legal status of people. So not everybody even has citizenship. so we explore that in the legal section of our exhibition, where we talk about stateless people in certain countries, women don’t pass along their citizenship when they have children. So children actually born stateless without any rights of citizenship like you and I as citizens, which is something that a lot of s don’t realize.
Janet: 07:41 Because in America, part of some attitude is that people are coming here so they can have babies who can automatically be citizens. But you’re saying that’s not the case in other countries.
Courtney: 07:52 No, that’s, that’s not the case. And also, if we look at the top 10 countries that actually host refugees and asylum seekers, only one of those is a western country, which is Germany and that is very recent. Usually, when people are being displaced, they’re going and being hosted by countries that are closer to the crises that are already having weaker infrastructures to begin with. And we would see here in the US. So this narrative of like their people overflowing our borders is actually a false narrative.
Janet: 08:19 Alright, so the first station, we’re at a, you said, mentioned each of the countries and I’m looking at, some cards with some imagery on it. And you can again see the picture in the, on the blog post that goes with this. But what is this telling me we call this station push factors and we’re discussing the different reasons people leave home. So the ideas that people never leave home lately, they might leave home because of political strife, economic insecurity, more commonly we’re seeing people forced out due to war, violence and ethnic and religious tension. we’re all very familiar with what’s happening in Syria today and that is taking a lot of these different factors and putting them all into one small place. I’m driving hundreds of thousands of people out of the border. How do I experience?
Erin: 09:03 So your tour guide, who is an experienced Doctors Without Borders field worker will tell you a little bit about each context, discuss the push factors, and we’ll give you 30 seconds to choose just five items which you have to decide in 30 seconds. You know, what are you going to take? Which is supposed to put you in the mindset of being forced to flee from your home. Are you going to take your passport? Are you going to take your family photos? Are you going to take your family heirlooms? Or maybe you need your medication because that you have a chronic disease and you need your medication to treat that. Are you going to take your animals? Are you going to take your cell phones? You have to choose between all of these things like you would have to if you were being forced to flee.
Janet: 09:40 You mentioned a cell phone and folks who know me know I’m a social media lover so I can’t live without my phone and I carry three backup power because I do not want to run out of power for my phone. I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot of extra electrical when you’re jumping on a raft or going on a hundred mile hike through the woods. So is a cell phone a really essential tool?
Courtney: 10:03 That, that is a common misconception. A cell phone is actually one of the most useful items for people on the move. It helps you stay connected to family and friends to check if people are safe. It provides a map so that you know where you’re going. It helps you get in touch with someone who might be able to help you across the border and once you get into a refugee camp, it can even connect you for employment opportunities or to share money with family and friends.
Janet: 10:26 One of the things we’re looking at is a boat that might be a fun little get around boat on the lake credibly could take about eight people, but in this refugee situation, how many people are going to try and squeeze into this little boat?
Courtney: 10:38 We often see 30 people, 30 adult men even trying to squeeze onto a boat that safely. We’ll take eight people on a flat lake and these people are trying to go across the entire Mediterranean in rough water.
Janet: 10:50 And how long would that trip take?
Courtney: 10:52 It really depends. Most of them in a matter of eight hours we’ll capsize and drown if no one is there to save them. Otherwise, they could be stranded for days at a time hoping that someone will come across them.
Erin: 11:03 One issue that we see here is because the boat is so small, they try and pack so many people in. One of the medical issues that we see here is that when you have gasoline, petrol that mixes with seawater, it creates a skin corrosive. So we see and treat a lot of our patients who have burns on their skin. And if left untreated, that can become a problem.
Janet: 11:26 As you can imagine, not being at home can be very, very difficult if you really don’t know what your legal status is. So one of the things that this exhibition is talking about is the many different kinds of status that you might have and what kind of rights, if any, come with that. So share a little bit with me, Courtney, what, what are the legal statuses that are involved?
Courtney: 11:46 A refugee is a protected status that’s recognized internationally. It’s someone who has left their country and been accepted as someone who has a credible fear of persecution from violence, political affiliation, gender, etc. and they are in another country now. They are basically allowed to get aid from the UNHCR, which is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And the united nations is overseeing their protection and they’re also eligible in some instances for resettlement in countries like the United States.
Janet: 12:19 Can you actually become a refugee before you leave your own country?
Courtney: 12:23 No, you can not. Many people who leave their countries can seek asylum. So that’s the next status. Asylum seeker is someone who’s left their country, arrived at another and is asking for that kind of protection. So an asylum seeker can become a refugee or they can be denied and become a kind of person in limbo.
Janet: 12:42 All right, so you’re in a war situation and you just have to get your family out. What? Where would that fall?
Courtney: 12:47 You’re going to be an asylum seeker in that instance, and it really just depends on the country that you land in. We’re seeing this happen at our own borders and in some instances, you’re turned away. People don’t feel that you have enough proof that you had a credible fear to leave home.
Janet: 13:02 What about proving who you are as a person?
Courtney: 13:05 That can be difficult to. If you have 30 seconds to take everything that you want to, you don’t always get to take your identification. Your identification might also not mean anything at the place that you land. Everyone has a passport here in the United States. So if you were to suddenly end up in Cuba or Mexico, someone could easily say, we don’t recognize this id driver’s license that you’re carrying.
Janet: 13:30 Okay? It looks like I’m in the kitchen or the bathroom or all in about six square feet of space. So where am I?
Erin: 13:37 Right? So this is what we call our basic needs set section of our exhibition. And right here we are trying to visualize for participants, you know, what a refugee camp setting might look like. So one thing about this exhibition is we really want to try and put s into the position of comparing, you know, our life Here versus what somebody forced to flee would face. So if you look here for your guests, maybe you can post a picture of this. If you look here, we have these Jerrycans here. so right here we have 90 gallons, which is the average consumption water consumption for an uses in one day here in just one day. Can we have two gallons of water, which is the who minimum threshold for one person for one consumption per day? So if you can see the visual comparison, it’s a lot, you know, think about when you flush the toilet here, how much clean water we use in one flush versus in a refugee camp if you’re only allowed two gallons of water per day, you have to use that for Cooking, for washing, for cleaning, if you have a baby as well, and not only do you have just so little water, but you have to carry that to the water point to where you’re living.
Erin: 14:42 So just again, trying to put people in the comparative experience of, look, this is what we have here and this is what somebody that is living in a refugee camp might face. so we talked earlier the latrine as well, so you can see this latrine here. What does that look like to you?
Janet: 14:55 My, my guess is that’s a ditch dug in the ground.
Erin: 14:59 Water and sanitation needs are one of the greatest needs in these situations just because you have large numbers of people living so closely together. and if you have a poor water situation or a war poor sanitation situation, you can have outbreaks of communicable diseases like cholera, that can spread very quickly. so it’s really important that when we’re in these settings responding, that we have adequate water and sanitation facilities.
Janet: 15:23 So where is the water coming from?
Erin: 15:26 That’s a great question. It depends on the setting that we’re in. Sometimes it comes from a lake far further away. sometimes it’s trucked in, and sometimes it’s treated so existing water that’s been treated by chlorine systems, or filtration systems. And we have. One of the things that people don’t realize about Doctors Without Borders is that we have a substantial number of our staff that are non-medical professionals as well. Some of those, like myself in the field, our logisticians, who exclusively work on the supply chain of drugs and the treatment of the water systems as well as electrical supply as well.
Janet: 16:04 Sanitation is just a really frightening thing. I’m not crazy about going into a porta-john. and they’re pretty fancy now, but what you just showed me was absolutely frightening. It’s literally a place for your feet and a ditch in the ground and you could have how many people in a refugee area?
Erin: 16:23 Well, it really depends on the size of the refugee camp. you know, we work in bend two in South Sudan that has many refugees and, but right now I’m actually in Bangladesh with the Rohingya that is fleeing. It has now become the largest refugee camp in the world, larger than even Dadaab in Kenya. so we’re seeing refugee camps with upwards of hundreds of thousands of people living together in one camp setting. That’s mind-boggling.
Janet: 16:50 One of the things that I feel very guilty about is the fact that my water pressure at home is a little weak. So I was in a hotel this morning and I really enjoyed my shower, however, I’ve come over here and now what we’re looking at is a series of plastic Jerrycans, what you might use to tote water. And so over here on the right-hand side, how big are these Jerrycans?
Erin: 17:11 Yeah. So here we have two comparisons. I’m the who minimum standard for one person per day is two gallons of water, which you can see is just not even up to the halfway mark of one jerrycan versus the consumption of one average per day, which is over 90 gallons. so when you think about two gallons a day and that’S for your washing, your cooking, your cleaning. and we really want people to experience the difference. You know, what we’re used to versus what somebody in this situation might be facing. And it’s dark.
George: 17:43 Hi, I’m George Record. I’ve been working as a general surgeon for Doctors Without Borders since 2006.
Janet: 17:52 How many places have you been around the world?
George: 17:54 Seven or eight. And what made you become a doctor without a border?
George: 18:00 Well, a lot of that is what may become a doctor ever since working in the peace corps is a young man, living in a foreign country, you can get a little bit under your blood and if you live in a low resource country, you realize how precious the basic medical needs that we take for granted are. So it was as soon as my kids grew up, I took advantage of the fact that I, I had some time and money to allow me to work for Doctors Without Borders.
Janet: 18:31 Oh, that’s amazing. Now, when you’ve gone to a foreign country and you’ve been in a situation are, are they all high energy crisis or is there’s kind of a business as usual feeling about around a refugee camp?
George: 18:56 It’s all over the map. Working in post-earthquake, Haiti is definitely a high energy crisis working in Sri Lanka where there’s a smoldering civil war and we’re waiting for the next shoe to drop. It’s not so high energy. It’s treading water and until something bad happens.
Janet: 19:05 So as a surgeon in an area like this, what is your day like?
George: 19:11 It varies highly, but generally I work in a hospital and my doctor friends and I, and we say it’s really not Doctors Without Borders is doctors out doctors because most of the organization is involved in actually setting up the hospital, which is a tour de force. Good. Good water, good sanitation. So when I come, what we’re looking at has already been set up and we’ll start off in the morning. One of us might make rounds and the other will go to the operating room and pretty much operate all day long. A lot of Verne’s, chronic wounds, gunshot wounds, machete wounds, crocodile hippopotamus bites, complicated obstetrics, open fractures, a highly diverse set of problems.
Janet: 19:54 Sounds like you’re running an emergency department. Does that mean that chronic illness and/or just run of the mill feeling bad sort of gets pushed to the side?
George: 20:04 It depends on the context. Most of the time as a general surgeon, we work in areas of armed conflict, areas of natural disaster and we are oftentimes unfortunately limited to taking care of emergencies and chronic diseases such as, for example, a longstanding or hernia, which we just don’t have the time and manpower to take care of.
Janet: 20:30 Now we talk a lot about Doctors Without Borders, but I know you’re not doing this without a nurses, medics, LPNs, so how big is the medical force and what do you usually put together as as a team of professionals?
George: 20:44 There is no one standard. We 300 bed hospitals which have a full compliment of general surgeons, orthopedists, nurses, recovery room nurses, lab technicians, x ray technicians down to a one surgeon on one nurse, small emergency facility. It’s very much context dependent.
Janet: 21:08 And obviously geography dependent, how accessible it is.
George: 21:12 That’s correct. As you’ve been in the peace corps many years ago and now back in the field.
Janet: 21:18 I’m gonna take a wild guess that things seem a lot worse now than probably when you were in the Peace Corps?
George: 21:25 Well, It was different, but, the world has changed a lot.
Janet: 21:29 What keeps you motivated to keep facing these difficult situations?
George: 21:35 That’s an easy one to answer. The patients. The endurance of our patients is a prime motivator. I’ll tell you a story that’s always moved me. Our former president, James Urbanski was working during the Rwandan genocide. He was taking care of a woman with a huge chest wound and he just couldn’t stand it anymore and he started crying. And this woman looked at him and said, “Courage, Courage, Doctor.” And so it’s our patients that inspire us and, I’m inspired by the people I work alongside of. It’s really, a very dedicated, energetic workforce and we feed off each other’s energy and commitment.
Janet: 22:23 You’ve been boots on the ground for a long time and now you’re talking to citizens who in many respects don’t have a very good understanding of what anyone’s experiences. Like. What do you tell people? How do you try to convey the seriousness of what’s happening elsewhere and why we should care?
George: 22:42 The same way I’m talking to you. Your perspective just depends on where you’re living and I’ve, I’ve, since getting back from the Peace Corps, we all have stories of the disconnect we feel. I remember, as a 22-year-old getting, getting home from two years in Nepal and my best friend’s mother, all she could talk about was what an amazing plane trip that must have been – 22 hours on the plane! That’s just amazing. But people, if you don’t have some common knowledge, common experience, you connect with whomever you can. Questions like those are asked with the best of intentions.
Janet: 23:22 Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Doctor.
Janet: 23:27 One of the things that we’re looking at here is really a, a pictograph of what I assume are some kind of symptoms for something, but what am I looking at?
Erin: 23:35 So you asked earlier about what our teams in the field are composed of m and a lot of our projects, we use health promotion teams to actually convey information, projects, symptoms, et cetera to the populations and people that we’re working with. So what you’re looking at here is a health promotion board from one of our projects in Tanzania.
Janet: 23:55 All right. I can figure out the top. I don’t know what’s happening here in, in picture number five,.
Erin: 24:02 What we’re trying to explain to people is the disease themselves and the symptoms that they might experience in many populations that we’re working in. people may not know how to read. so we have to convey that information through pictures, which is what you’re seeing here. So here you can see a mosquito here and somebody’s sleeping, and then you see somebody that is now throwing up who has diarrhea, who might not feel well. Shivers, fever, aching pains, denying of wanting food, lack of hunger. and then you should see a series of these people who have experienced these symptoms come into our health center. So we’re trying to explain that. If you experience these symptoms, you can come and seek treatment at our health center.
Janet: 24:45 Excellent. What kind of issues are people bringing into a refugee camp and what kind of issues medically speaking, do you worry about once you have a lot of people in a tight situation?
George: 24:58 Prime one is measles. Measles killed 100,000 children a year and a malnourished anemic refugee. Children are particularly susceptible to measles. The refugee population has very rarely been vaccinated in their childhood. As soon as we see one case of measles in a congested area, we will begin a mass measles vaccination program, and once again, our logisticians, that is one of their real expertise is, is bringing in temperature-sensitive vaccines from a long ways away and what’s called a cold chain such that critical temperature roughly between 35 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit is never exceeded and this team can vaccinate as many as a thousand children a day.
Janet: 25:48 I assume it must be something like malaria, but there are probably other common diseases that you have to deal with?
George: 25:55 Malaria is probably number two. We have something called point of care testing for malaria. There’s a ninety-cent device where with a drop of blood, very similar to analyzing someone’s blood sugar with a drop of blood, we can tell if they’re infected with, falciparum malaria or not. It takes 15 minutes and that way we can accurately diagnose someone with symptoms like headache, chills, and vomiting and give them appropriate treatment.
Janet: 26:25 Even though you’re giving care and you have medical stations set up, the chance of something turning into an epidemic must be a daily issue you deal with.
George: 26:36 For me as a surgeon, no, it’s not a daily issue, but that’s, I mean that’s the big picture and that’s the big worry. I have a friend who has worked for a long time with Doctors Without Borders all over the world. He’s, he’s been in hospitals in Pakistan where he’s been bombed on an almost daily basis. And he told me that the scariest thing in his career was last April in Bangladesh in the Rohingya refugee camp where the first couple of cases of whooping cough or dip theory or were diagnosed and he was scared stiff there’d be a devastating outbreak of that. Thank God it was averted.
Janet: 27:18 Well, let me ask you a question about cultural differences. You’re bringing western medicine, western attitudes, western knowledge to a lot of different cultural environments. Do you ever have difficulty explaining the importance of some of the issues that you’re dealing with?
Erin: 27:34 Yes, yes. so that’s why we have health promotion teams like I spoke of earlier, to kind of emphasize why different health practices are important in terms of preventing malaria or preventing cholera. So the second health promotion board we have here talks about how to prevent these outbreaks from happening or how to protect yourself against even contracting malaria in the first place. So health promotion teams play an integral role in these refugee camps settings to translate the knowledge into something that is understandable locally.
Courtney: 28:05 We also employ 90 percent, national staff, meaning that while we think of Doctors Without Borders is being ex-pats here from the United States, going abroad and bringing a western perspective, the large majority of our staff is actually people that are born and raised in that country. And that helps us also learn from them what, what ways we can overcome different cultural differences and make sure that we’re being really sensitive to people’s differences and also helping kind of mesh those two worlds to give them the best care possible.
Janet: 28:35 So think about the worst camping trip you’ve ever been on and that is probably luxury incarnate compared to some of the samples of the tenting situations that we see here. And when I say tent, it’s really a loosely designed series of tarps, kind of like stacked on top of frames of all different sorts. There are some tents, there are some more sophisticated things, but for the most part it looks like you’re just barely keeping ahead of rain and drips. And definitely the thing I hate about camping more than anything else, I just hate my feet being wet. I hate the floor being muddy. Just can’t stand it. I would not be very good in this environment.
Courtney: 29:18 Yeah. So what you’re seeing here are some different structures. These are examples from three specific locations, including Somalia, Iraq, and Bosnia. The sad reality is that these are conditions that people will live in for up to 10 and 20 years even they might raise five children in a tent that would normally sleep one to two Americans in the woods for a weekend and you have to obviously get really crafty people are often cooking and educating their children in these tents. They might be raising teenage boys. I’m next to a family of, you know, young women and there’s a lot of different issues that can arise in these settings so people have to get really creative with how they approach their lives.
Janet: 30:01 So we’re at the last station of the Forced From Home exhibition that’s touring the United States right now, and it’s called Seeking Safety. So tell me a little bit about what this is all about.
Erin: 30:11 We’re at the final destinations portion, which is the last part of the exhibition, which is called Forced From Home. I’m in. What we really want to emphasize here is that when refugees and people who are seeking safety in depth in their country where they have arrived, it’s often times not the end of their journey, right? The experiences that they faced along the way are very traumatic and these traumas can last for years to come. So if you look at this map here, it shows the top 10 countries of origin and the top 10 countries of arrivals. So if you look at the top 10 countries of arrival, it’s Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran, Germany, Bangladesh, Sudan and Ethiopia and Jordan. These countries, first of all, the only western country is Germany. If you have a population, for example, in Lebanon, a population of three point five to 4 million, they’ve taken in over a million refugees. This narrative of people flooding our borders here in the us is really not the case. When people are fleeing these situations, they’re often fleeing into countries that are close and neighboring to the conflicts themselves. For example, Afghanistan into Iran and Pakistan, Iran, Iran has taken almost a million refugees. Pakistan is taken one point 4 million refugees and when you compare that to here in the us, which we’re on track to receive under 30,000 refugees this year, you know, the number is really stark.
Janet: 31:31 So this has been a very moving experience for me. Very eye-opening. I am amazed. I am appalled. I am hopeful, but I am also frightened for the millions of people who just don’t have alternatives that are humane. I wonder as this exhibit has toured the United States and you have a few more to go to. What exactly do you want people to think or do when they’re done with their experience here?
Erin: 31:58 What I hope that people realize is that most people don’t leave their homes willingly. Most people don’t choose to leave their homes. And the reason they’re leaving is because they’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing persecution, they’re fleeing war. And really we want people to understand that these people who are fleeing their seeking safety in seeking safety isn’t a crime, shouldn’t be a crime. Seeking safety is not a crime. So I hope that people understand that when they go through this exhibition and get involved as part of the last exhibition station, it’s called take action. So we do highlight several organizations that work here locally to support refugee resettlement and integration into the community and encourage people to involved that way. But mostly I hope that people just understand and empathize, and recognize that seeking safety is not a crime.
Janet: 32:46 Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself and that’s obviously why you all are doing this amazing tour. So again, you probably will have missed it by the time you hear this, your next two locations that you’re going or where?
Erin: 32:59 Atlanta and San Antonio.
Janet: 33:01 All right, so you’re very lucky. Atlanta and San Antonio, you are going to experience something really amazing. However, have no fear. I will put at the end of the blog post for this podcast, a lot of information about how to find them in social media, what the websites are that you go to and how you can become a part of standing with rescue.
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In the podcast, Jane Smith Patterson discusses her childhood and education, career, accomplishments while serving in NC Governor Jim Hunt’s administration, and how NCHICA was founded.
Jane, a lifelong activist to advance fair and equal treatment for minorities and women, was involved in the early Civil Rights movement, Equal Rights Amendment, and ACLU, and met leaders like Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter. She was also a visionary who recognized early on the power of computers and how they could transform the state’s economy and healthcare. She was involved in building the state’s “information highway” while working in Governor Hunt’s administration and advanced it worldwide while with ITT. In 1994, she wrote the Executive Order signed by Gov. James Hunt that established NCHICA, the North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance, to advance healthcare through the use of information technology. NCHICA was a pioneer in transforming the U.S. healthcare system and is credited with being the founder of the HIPAA Privacy law.
Janet Kennedy of Get Social Health is our podcast host.