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Kelley Simoneau Woodfin CORE Risk Services

The Value of Being Proactive in Health Care Risk Management | Kelley Simoneau Woodfin

Pursuing a medical or nursing career almost certainly has a profound impact on a person’s life, including but not limited to the length of time and the cost of education. Nurse and risk management consultant Kelley Simoneau Woodfin R.N. B.S., DFASHRM, CPHRM, however, emphasizes how gratifying such a career can be even with the factors of today that encumber the health care industry.

white house

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Explains Why Some Americans Don’t Trust The Science

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid response coordinator, recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival and explained why Americans continue to grow less trusting of medical advice from experts. One of the biggest reasons cited is due to a lack of representation in the scientific/medical field. 

“If you look at the experience of the way the public health system has treated, let’s say, African Americans in America, there’s a lot of basis for mistrust. It is not a glorious history.”

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According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 29% of US adults say they believe medical scientists are acting in the best interest of the public: that percentage is down from 40% in late 2020. 

Jha said that for many people of color, that mistrust can be rooted back to not seeing enough representation or diversity in the medical field in general, especially when it comes to positions of power in the public health system. 

“We have to do a much better job at diversifying our scientific workforce. It will make science better. It’ll make the communication better. The proportion of Black men in medical school is the same today as it was 40 years ago.” 

According to a 2015 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), only 1,337 Black men applied to US medical schools in 2014, compared to 1,410 Black men in 1978. Less than 6% of all physicians in America are Black, according to a 2018 study by UCLA. 

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Diversity in medicine has been luckily on the rise recently; January data from the AAMC shows that there were roughly 20% more Black male first-year medical students in the US in 2021 when compared to 2020. However, the report also cited an 8.5% decrease in American Indian and Alaska Native first-year students. 

Jha noted that “diverse doctors and healthcare workers could help get more people of color on board with vaccinations. The words of trusted community members often carry more weight than government officials, even publicly elected ones.”

“Here are communities that have been served badly, where the health system has treated them badly, and then someone shows up and says, ‘You want a vaccine?’ and you’re surprised that people are not immediately jumping for it?”

“You saw incredible vaccine uptick rates in lots of communities of color, but, when you work with those right partners. It was proof of this principle that if you get the right partners, you do this humbly, you do this in an effective way, it really moves the needle,” said Jha.

Mother & Daughter searching for food

Live-Streaming Is Helping Farmers Combat Poverty In China

Geru Drolma lives in Western China’s Sichuan province, and is making a huge name for herself as an entrepreneur. What started out as a means-to-an-end idea that would give Drolma some money for her monthly expenses has given her a huge social media following and a successful, sustainable business that’s benefiting all those around her. 

Drolma has been hunting for wild fungi to sell at the local markets in her area for over a year now. She’s Tibetan, meaning that for generations before her, past Tibetans within her bloodline have forged pathways throughout the mountains in her area that lead to spots with the best vegetation. Fungi and vegetation varieties may not seem like a steady way to make an income, however, today the Chinese market for them is extremely lucrative. The rarest fungi are grown for one month out of the year, at the base of a tree, only at a very specific elevation (13,000 feet). The process to finding these fungi may seem dramatic, but at $1,000 a kilo, it’s definitely worth it. 

They’re known as Matsutake mushrooms, and for Drolma, finding them has always been a family affair, and according to her that’s the only way she’s been able to be successful. “Matsutakes can only be found by experienced people. My husband, for example, hasn’t dug out a single one so far!” Drolma told TIME Magazine also stating that her father has taught her from a very young age how to spot areas of the earth that are likely to inhabit wild fungi. 

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One day, while Drolma was on her daily 5 a.m. hike up the mountains to collect her harvest, she decided to live-stream her process using the Chinese app Kuaishou. Her first post alone had over 600,000 views and countless comments between Drolma and other local harvesters. After a few more live-streams she made the decision to dedicate herself full-time to live-streaming, and after a few weeks she created such a name for herself and her rare fungi finds that she caught the attention of local farmers and villagers. 

Drolma went on to set up a collective deal with the local villagers and farmers in regards to her fungi finds and the demanding market it was creating. These fungi aren’t just used for elegant cuisine, but also as bases to a lot of medicine, both holistic and pharmaceutical, so the business she was generating was quite substantial. 

Through her collective Drolma and her team were able to generate $500,000 in revenue during the five month fungi picking season. This accomplishment is not only huge for Drolma, but every villager living in her area, which is historically known as one of China’s most impoverished areas, according to TIME.

“My family strongly opposed our decision to concentrate on live-streaming at the beginning. They didn’t understand online money you cannot see or touch, and said that I acted like a beggar by taking videos during private times like meals. But I never thought about giving up.” Drolma now has 1.9 million followers.

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As previously stated Drolma uses the live-streaming app Kuaishou, which works beyond the limits of cookies and data outreach to connect its users to content they want to see. The app actually uses AI technology as a means of recording and storing data regarding users’ interests to connect them with other users who are the same. 

“All uploaded content is forensically parsed: the facial expressions of those featured, any objects included or action taking place, what background music is playing, even the style of a protagonist’s dancing. Any words uttered are automatically transcribed by embedded voice recognition software and mined for keyword tags. Kuaishou doesn’t only show users content that directly correlates to their interests, but also attempts to broader the topics they see depending on what works with similar profile types,” according to TIME.

15 million videos are uploaded to the platform everyday amongst the app’s 700 million users. The creative side of Kuaishou allows anyone, with any amount of photography/editing experience, to create Hollywood-level masterpieces with its extensive list of special effects and editing tools. Additionally, the app has an online store and gift application extension, which allows entrepreneurs like Drolma to easily make money through the app. 

What AI has done here is given someone with a vast amount of knowledge regarding ancient Tibetan culture and Chinese fungi a platform to not only share her knowledge, but make a business for herself. There are endless possibilities within this technology, and now those without the many resources it normally takes to run and operate a business can simply do it from their phone. 

DNA Babies 3D

Chinese Biophysicist Given Jail Time For Genetically Modifying Babies

There continues to be much debate over whether genetically modified embryos should be an acceptable practice in society and the viewpoints vary radically between countries, communities and cultures. Just last month, China handed down a prison sentence and fines to biophysicist He Jiankui and two of his colleagues after he was found guilty of illegal medical practices and jailed for three years. This followed his public announcement in December 2019 that he had, with the help of two embryologists, “created the world’s first gene-edited babies.” His claims attracted much negative attention and led to his prosecution at a Shenzhen court in December.

This case has led some scientists and ethicists to question the Chinese legal process for “lacking appropriate information about altered children.” It has been noted that China is lagging behind some other countries with regards to its views on genetic modification and there is much positive exploratory work taking place in the area of genetic modification which aims to tackle some of the most challenging genetically-related health issues affecting humans. But this work remains exploratory in nature as the future implications of altering genes in humans are unchartered territory and as such, are approached with caution, even by the most experienced of geneticists.

The courts revealed that Jiankui and his team, who also received lesser sentences, did not have the appropriate certifications to practice medicine and state news agency, Xinhua said, “in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment. They’ve crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics.”

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Jiankui stated that his motivations behind his actions were driven by his interest in tackling HIV. The modified genes were designed to promote the resistance of HIV in the descendents of the babies and he sought out couples where only the father was infected with HIV, with the mother being clear. The couples were offered IVF in return for taking part.

He was extremely public about this work, speaking about his aspirations at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, China. He explained that he was committed to sparing future babies from becoming infected with HIV later in their lives. He had a vision that this could be used to reduce the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in much of Africa, where there is often intense discrimination of those inflicted with the disease.

That said, many remain skeptical and have accused him undertaking the work for his own fame than for the good of future humanity. It has also been highlighted that it was the way in which the accused had conducted the process which was worthy of the harsh sentence it attracted. It has been stated that the trio forged ethical review documents and knowingly misled the doctors responsible for implanting the gene-edited embryos into two women, resulting in the birth of twins for one of the mothers. It was these actions which the court deemed were “a direct and deliberate violation of national regulations on biomedical research and medical ethics.”

In addition, medical experts have also questioned the validity of Jiankui’s rationale, arguing that there are much more effective ways of preventing HIV infections and that his approach simply put babies at risk of the gene editing process, providing them with little benefit in return.

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They have also indicated that similar punishments would have been likely if he had carried out the same practices elsewhere, such as in the UK for example. Furthermore, it has been duly noted that stringent punishments do need to be in place in order to prevent the risks of rogue scientists taking matters into their own hands and making genetic modifications which could have long-standing consequences for the affected babies and even their future generations.

Indeed, questions have been raised over the future development of the children affected by Jiankui’s work is yet to be seen, and there is no doubt that the children born through this work, including a set of twins, are likely to be monitored in the coming years.

On this topic, Fyodor Urnov, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, told MIT Technology Review that although Jiankui had tried to recreate the CCR5 mutation already present in some human and leads to an immunity to HIV, he had in fact “created new mutations in the target gene, and apparently elsewhere in the genome, too, the consequences of which are unknown.”

What is clear is that the general consensus is that Jiankui acted prematurely and that work of this kind required far more research and preparation before it was ever practiced on human embryos. Further work needs to be conducted in the areas of standards, regulatory pathways and appropriate means of governance and these issues are being considered by the Academies Commission and by a WHO committee, who will return their findings later this year.