Archives for February 2015

Lessons in Event Planning

For the last several months, my time has been consumed largely by planning DHC’s two biggest fundraisers. This includes a luminary fundraiser around the holidays and a soup tasting fundraiser right before the Super Bowl. At times, there seemed to be a lot of pressure; botching an event could reflect negatively on the organization or convince people not to participate next year. I made mistakes along the way, but I also learned so much, from enthusiastic volunteers, knowledgeable board members, and kind co-workers.

Below are some of the lessons I learned from planning fundraisers (disclaimer: I am by no means a professional, but speak from my own experiences):

-There are things beyond your control, some of which will go wrong. With these fundraisers we had last minute issues with electrical outlets, the amount of supplies and the beyond-our-control weather. After the fact, I learned that these things weren’t the catastrophes that they seemed to be in the moment and that panicking didn’t help the situation.

-Don’t stress about the little things (also see above)- It is alright if a mistake was made on the promotional materials or if you receive a piece of constructive criticism about the event logistics. In the grand scheme of the fundraiser, these set-backs don’t matter that much.

-Delegate tasks- I am 100% guilty of the mantra “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” Unfortunately for me, this can mean a very heavy workload and more stress (albeit self-imposed). With these fundraisers, I quickly learned that I could not do everything. I have been extremely fortunate to work with very dependable and organized people. I have also learned that it is important to be very clear about the role that volunteers will be responsible for to ensure that expectations are met.

-Be kind to yourself and others- I believe that it is very important not to be too hard on yourself; we all make mistakes because we are human and the best part is that we can learn from them. I have also found it very important to be kind to others. Even when you are stressed and everything is going wrong, it is worth the extra effort to be kind and polite to those around you. People probably won’t remember the mistake on the program but they are more likely to remember how you treat others.

After the months of planning and hundreds of e-mails, with a sigh of relief I was able to enjoy myself at both events. I was grateful that nothing major went wrong; luminaries were distributed and lit and over 180 gallons of soup was eaten. I was amazed by and grateful for the community’s support of these events. The big fundraisers are over and now I will have more time to work on grants and other projects. I hope to continue to learn and be challenged in my work here at DHC, no matter what I am doing.

Happy Valentine's, Darling?

From November 2014:*

I’ve spent the last week eyeballs glued to the computer screen editing a grant application. Which. In the long run could be a very big deal for my community. Which. In the long run would mean victims of sexual assault and domestic violence would access live-saving services better. Which is inspiring and needed and worth working for.

Which. In the short run means sculpting a true and compelling story out of 500 character slots and a budget question. Which means writing 1,500 words of stories you love and then deleting all but the four sentences you need to prove your claim. My day is spent ruthlessly slicing adverbs and eliminating oxford commas.

In some ways, editing is amazing. Sometimes it feels like archaeology: scraping away until this thing full of meaning emerges. Sometimes it feels like magic: well, mysterious, arduous, time-consuming magic, anyway.

The adage “Murder your darlings” comes to my mind.

Often attributed to William Faulkner, the advice most likely comes from writing expert Arthur Quiller-Couch in his 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.” Quiller-Couch proffered, “If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” (See more here.)

I usually hear this phrase in my mother’s voice. As a research attorney turned yogi, she’s got a wide-ranging arsenal of maxims. Much to the chagrin of my adolescent self, this expression has stuck, perhaps because it’s the exact advice I struggle to put into practice, and perhaps because the image the phrase evokes is so alarming.

The notion, too, is arresting: the very phrases you’re most proud of yourself for conjuring up are most likely the ones you’ll have to, you should delete.

This seems especially true in grant-writing, which as I’m learning is not really about you the writer or your ability to create apt analogies and use GRE-worthy words. It’s about the narrative you can immediately and concretely convey. It’s an important skill that I’m glad to be building… but I’m also really enjoying not doing it right now.

In comparison, blog posts feel luxurious – here I have no mission except to process my experience and share with a hypothetical audience. What freedom! Look at how many adjectives I am using (Some of them even mean the same thing; they’re repetitive and inefficient! I might even make some up.); earlier I ended a sentence with a preposition. Here, you will find no vision statement or action plan. Weep on ye masters of succinct, practical writing: it’s grant season, and I aspire to develop your skills, but today’s post is full of darlings, alive, well, and decidedly un-murdered!

valentine baby

*I wrote this post in December and then delayed publishing it for another two months thinking that:

1). It echoes many of the same thoughts expressed by Catawba Lands Conservancy fellow and dear friend, Rebecca Mckee in her post, Writing Post-Davidson. (If you haven’t read her reflection yet, start there. My favorite of her observations begins, “Unsurprisingly, writing grants is a little different from writing that essay I wrote on the metaphorical significance of Lorca’s Yerma and my research paper on the adverse health effects of exposure to the pesticide, 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane.”)

2). Who quotes hundred-year-old writing advice?

Then I decided that Rebecca wouldn’t care and that who am I kidding – this is a Davidson audience, a group uniquely equipped for a pithy remark from Academia. So … Happy Valentine’s Day, Darling!

Geitawi: Quick Sketch

 

Geitawi

Ink sketches and photo part of Geitawi Series by Paige Donnelly

 

 

(If play icon doesn’t appear, press the black space on the lefthand side.)

Upstream Doctors

waterfall

Three friends are strolling in the woods by a broad, rushing river when they see a child being swept downstream in the water. Aghast, they rush to pull a flailing toddler from the surging current.

Then they see another child.

Then another.

And then another.

The water is full of children.

One friend races to scoop up kids right before the river surges into a steep drop ending in jagged rocks. The second friend grabs a long stick to give several children something to hold onto while he pulls them from the river. The third dives into the water and begins swimming upstream. When her friends ask her where she is going, she replies, “I’m going to find out who is throwing all these children into the water.”

This oft-used public health parable becomes the titular analogy in Dr. Rishi Manchanda’s book Upstream Doctors, and he deployed it when he spoke at MAHEC and Mission Hospital’s 2015 Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award Program on Thursday, January 22nd.

During his speech and his popular TED Talk (see link below), Manchanda cites the case of Veronica, a patient whose excruciating headaches repeatedly brought  her to the emergency room, threatened her ability to work, put stress on her family, and finally pulled her to the clinic in South Central Los Angeles where she met Manchanda and his team. After a medical assistant asked about her home, Dr. Manchanda noticed signs of her chronic allergies (see the allergic salute), and a community health worker helped Veronica eliminate the mold in her apartment that was making her sick, her symptoms decreased by 90% in two months. Veronica no longer went to the ER; she didn’t miss work, and she could care for her family whose health also improved.

And this wasn’t just a big deal for Veronica. It marked a larger shift as well. With Veronica’s case, the clinic established a system that made her wellness replicable, that meant other patients would find solutions, too.

Manchanda is one of a growing number of physicians and other public health experts emphasizing the importance of social determinants of health. They argue that doctors ought to address the origins of their patients’ problems, not just the illness their problems produce. We can prevent children from being flung into the water, and we can clean moldy buildings.

Social factors, instantiated in the mold invading Veronica’s home, account for over 60% of all premature deaths in the United States.

In Dr. Manchanda’s neighborhood, substandard housing and food insecurity shape his patients health. In Western NC where I live and work, among many other issues, we struggle with food insecurity and transportation.

Zip code, as it turns out, matters more than genetic code.

Dr. Manchanda talks about his parents' immigration to the US and the world's "inescapable network of mutuality," a phrase taken from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Manchanda talks about his parents’ immigration to the US and the world’s “inescapable network of mutuality,” a phrase taken from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Manchanda hooks listeners with memorable stories and persuades us with hard data, but in this speech he went one step further and tied his cause to the drive for equality championed by Dr. King.

A quote printed on the program bulletin read:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Second National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights – Chicago, March 25, 1966

Manchanda contended, we can’t set health care right without addressing social determinants of health, but we also can’t do it without recognizing health care as a right.

Watch Dr. Rishi Manchanda’s TED Talk here.

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