Women as Agents of Change in Global Development

Julie PotyrajIn her second article of The “Women As Agents of Change” series, Julie Potyraj looks into how women across the world are working to reduce maternal mortality.

Even though many global health initiatives focus on issues related to women’s health, and though women make up the majority people working in the field, global health is predominantly led by men. Many global health funding agencies have a noticeable lack of female leadership throughout their histories. But can male-led organizations lead to the type of improvements in women’s health that the world so desperately needs?

Studies have shown that women in leadership positions in governmental organizations are more likely than their male counterparts to implement policies that are supportive of women and children. In 2003, women won nearly 50 percent of the lower house of parliament seats in Rwanda. Though they faced obstacles, these women started a dialogue about the importance of women’s empowerment, initiated pro-child legislation, and prioritized the needs of women and children in the budget. We’re also starting to see that increasing women’s leadership in global health is directly connected with improvements in health outcomes for women and children. In India, for example, there was a 1.5 percent reduction in neonatal mortality rates for every one standard deviation increase in women’s political representation at the district council level. Essentially, as the number of women in government increased, the rates of neonatal mortality decreased. (more…)

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Diabetes – Who’s in Control?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412

Terri L. McCulloch

It’s #TBT here at Disruptive Women in Health Care. And today we throw it back to diabetes.  In her post shared below, Terri lays out for us the challenges of a teenage girl developing a relationship with the care and knowledge of her diabetes and how she ultimately came to understand its place in her life. This post was originally published November 12, 2015.

What if you had no control over what you ate, when you ate, how much energy you had, or what you weigh? What if, on top of this, you had to test your blood 6 times a day and give yourself injections, carrying around your supplies constantly so you would be ready no matter what else was going on in your life? Now, throw in that you are 15 and just want to be normal, like everyone else, eating pizza when you feel like it and going wherever you wanted?

Kimberly Young was that teenager. She, likes hundreds of thousands of other American teenagers, has type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed at the age of 4, she was never like other kids. She always felt that her diabetes controlled her life. She didn’t have the carefree lifestyle of a teenager. Kimberly had to grow up more quickly than her friends as the realization that what she ate, how active she was and how closely she monitored her blood glucose had long term impacts on her health. Having too much pizza wasn’t about just gaining the “freshman 10” (or 20!) when she was in college, it was about maintaining her vision and her circulation to prevent serious complications. She learned that, “There is no vacation from diabetes. You live with it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where you go or what you go.” (more…)

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Shout Out to Disruptive Woman Sharon Terry and DW Man of the Month Pat Terry

The following BuzzFeed News post was published on August 20th, 2016. In it, our very own Disruptive Woman Sharon Terry and Man of the Month Pat Terry, both receive some very special recognition. And we are very proud to share it here!

This Guy Swallowed Parasitic Worms On Purpose — Then Became A Published Scientist

Sean Ahrens, who has tried just about every treatment for Crohn’s disease, ingested parasitic worm eggs as a last resort — and just wrote about it for a prestigious medical journal.

Stephanie M. Lee

posted on Aug. 20, 2016, at 10:06 a.m.

Stephanie M. Lee
BuzzFeed News Reporter


Sean Ahrens

Since Sean Ahrens was diagnosed at age 12 with Crohn’s disease, a largely mysterious and painful condition caused by inflammation of the gut, he’s tried all kinds of diets and drugs. But what he ingested on March 17, 2010, was extreme even for him: a shot glass of parasitic worm eggs. (more…)

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IN MEMORIUM: A light for patient advocacy goes out, too soon

This post by Chelsea Rice first appeared on Athena Insight on August 19, 2016.

“There’s no reason that only 4.75% of outpatient visits and .08% of my hospitalizations are spent actively treating my condition. There’s no reason that I spent two solid months (1540 hours, 64.2 days) of this year waiting instead of healing. So, please, stop wasting my time. Stop wasting my life.”

— Jess Jacobs “On Wasting My Time — The Numbers

Jessica “Jess” Jacobs, a 29-year-old healthcare IT professional and patient, wrote these words in her blog in November 2014. In the post, she categorized the relative usefulness of the time she had spent in the healthcare system that year, in a range of specialty visits, phone calls, and hospitalizations. Like much of her writing, it was a depressingly honest account of the state of today’s patient experience: somewhere closer to useless than useful.



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Why Don’t We Take Tanning As Seriously As Tobacco?

With our Back to School series highlighting how best to navigate through the college journey; we also revisit a series that ran last year in May covering the hazards of indoor tanning beds. The following is one of the posts that spoke to the risks and concerns as they relate to skin cancer. It’s Flashback Friday here at Disruptive Women in Health Care!
sherry pagoto at work2

With May being Skin Cancer Awareness Month and in tandem with our event Wednesday co-hosted with the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, The Hazards and Allure of Indoor Tanning Beds on College Campuses we are running a series on skin cancer. Be sure to check back daily for posts on skin cancer including how you prevent and detect it. Enjoy!

In 2009, upon review of the science on tanning beds and cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer assigned tanning beds a class 1 carcinogen, joining tobacco and asbestos in the highest classification of harm. In spite of this development, skin cancer rates have steadily climbed over the last 3 decades. Rising prevalence is seen especially in young women, with an 8-fold increase since 1970. Melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer is now the most common cancer in young adults aged 25-29. Skin cancer is hitting young women especially hard because they are the heaviest users of tanning beds. Recent statistics reveal that 19% of teens and over half of university students have used tanning beds. The risk of indoor tanning to population health has even exceeded that of tobacco. One study reported that the number of cases of skin cancer attributable to indoor tanning (~450,000) now exceeds the number of cases of lung cancer attributable to smoking (~360,000). This epidemic comes with a price tag, with annual costs for skin cancer treatment in the US now exceeding $8 billion a year and increasing at a rate 5 times faster than other cancers. (more…)

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Guns on Campus: Overview

This article was orignally posted on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ blog on May 31, 2016.

In the wake of several campus shootings, the most deadly being the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University, states are considering legislation about whether or not to permit guns on college campuses. For some, these events point to a need to ease existing firearm regulations and allow concealed weapons on campuses. Others see the solution in tightening restrictions to keep guns off campuses.

In 2013, at least 19 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carry on campus in some regard and in the 2014 legislative session, at least 14 states introduced similar legislation. In 2013, two bills passed, one in Kansas that allows concelaed carry generally and one in Arkansas that allows faculty to carry. The Kansas legislation creates a provision that colleges and universities cannot prohibit concealed carry unless a building has “adequate security measures.” Governing boards of the institutions, however, may still request an exemption to prohibit for up to 4 years.Arkansas’ bill allows faculty to carry, unless the governing board adopts a policy that expressly disallows faculty to carry. Tennessee passed a similar bill to Arkansas’ in 2016, whic also permits higher education faculty to carry handguns after notifying local law enforcement. In 2015, Texas became the most recent state to allow concealed carry weapons on college campuses, which will go into effect in August 2016. A 2016 bill in Georgia was on track for passage but was ultimately vetoed by the governor. (more…)

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Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics

A special thanks to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, for these critical statistics.

Women Ages 18-24 Are at an Elevated Risk of Sexual Violence

Statistic showing that women in college are at the highest risk for sexual assault, when compared to all women, and to women ages 18 to 24 who are not in college.

Sexual violence on campus is pervasive.

  • 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).2
  • Among graduate and professional students, 8.8% of females and 2.2% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.2
  • Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.2
  • 4.2% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.2

Student or not, college-age adults are at high risk for sexual violence.

  • Male college-aged students (18-24) are 78% more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.1
  • Female college-aged students (18-24) are 20% less likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.1 (more…)

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Finding Commonplace on Digital Spaces for Campus Well-being

Anne Hudgens

Anne Hudgens, Executive Director of the Health Network at Colorado State University

In the fall of 2015, Colorado State University welcomed its largest and most diverse freshman class in the history of the institution. It is an accolade that has become a pattern on our campus for nearly a decade. While more and more students of color, international students, first-generation students and students from out-of-state choose CSU, it becomes increasingly important that our students find the support they need.

With each new incoming class, we look for new and improved ways to support the consistently growing needs of our students who experience anxiety, depression, and high levels of stress on their way to successful college careers.

This trend of increasing demand for counseling services is not unique to CSU. My colleagues all across the country working in college health face the same challenges. We are working extremely hard to meet the capacity challenges and simultaneously deliver the highest quality of care for our students who are struggling. However, no matter the added counseling staff or the robust health education and prevention services we offer, it feels that we can barely keep up with demand.

Of course, we will always stretch to support students in distress or crisis. That will never change. Yet, we recognize that we need to get up-stream to equip our students in new and supportive ways before they ever find themselves in crisis.

Fortunately, a wonderful opportunity came our way. We were able to collaborate with Grit Digital Health, a business focused on wellness and technology, to create and launch a new online student success portal, simply called YOU. Built in partnership with our CSU Health Network staff, the portal provides the right resources and skill-building tools to students when and how they want them – on their computers, phones or tablets at any time day or night. (more…)

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August 2016 Man of the Month: Dr. Rich Mahogany

Dr. Rich Mahogany

Dr. Rich Mahogany

Congratulations to Dr. Rich Mahogany, the hardest working therapist in the world. Over the last four years, Dr. Mahogany has seen more than 650,000 patients, conducted 88,000 head inspections and connected men and their loved ones to a broad range of resources to help take charge of their mental health.

Across borders and spanning languages throughout the world, working-age men share an unfortunate commonality—they avoid seeking help for mental issues, and, as a result, they also share an unfortunate common fate, as four out of every five suicides come from this demographic.

Using a combination of manly humor and a disarmingly blunt approach to these otherwise taboo subjects within the male subculture, Man Therapy successfully engages our audience and builds their trust, while simultaneously removing barriers between men and their need to address their mental health issues. (more…)

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Ground-breaking podcast series launched

This post first appeared on the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families site on August 14, 2016.

We’ve just launched a series of expert podcasts to help parents understand and manage child and family mental health problems.

The series, Child in Mind, is presented by BBC Radio 4 presenter Claudia Hammond. In each 20-minute episode, she discusses an important issue in child and family mental health with an expert and a young person or parent.

The first episode, which focuses on childhood anxiety, is now available on our iTunes podcast channel (click subscribe to listen) and our Soundcloud account. It features Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology Cathy Creswell from the University of Reading, and Beckie, whose 10 year old son Luke’s anxiety caused severe difficulties in her family’s life.


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JAMA Forum: The Pain and Opioid Epidemics: Policy and Vital Signs

This post authored by Diana Mason first ran in the The Journal of the American Medical Association Forum on August 9, 2016.

Diana Mason, PhD, RN

Diana Mason, PhD, RN

Near the end of my tenure as editor-in-chief of AJN, theAmerican Journal of Nursing in 2009, I asked one of the coordinators of our pain column to write an article on opioid dependence and addiction. The diversion and misuse of drugs such as oxycodone, with a resultant spike in overdose deaths, had been widely reported in the news media. Her surprising response continues to resonate for me as we face the urgent public health problem of opioid abuse.

The column’s coordinators, 2 thoughtful nurse leaders in pain management, periodically presented evidence showing thatphysicians underprescribed and nurses underadministered pain medication, even at the end of life, leaving patients with unrelenting suffering.

The column coordinator said she didn’t want to write about the risk of opioid dependence and addiction because nurses already had “misconceptions” about the risk of addiction and inadequately assessed and managed patients’ pain. This came at a time when the undertreatment of pain was a major concern and pain assessment was promoted as the fifth vital sign.

The success of this effort is evident today. Nurses and physicians now routinely ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10; prescriptions for opioids increased from 116 million in 1999 to 202 million in 2009 and 207 million in 2013; pain management was incorporated into surveys to ascertain patients’ satisfaction with hospital care; and the Veterans Administration even developed a toolkit on using pain as the fifth vital sign. (more…)

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New Tech Tonics Podcast: When Companies Go Awry


Geoff Clapp

The success of Silicon Valley is often attributed to the ability of the entrepreneurial community to embrace setbacks, rather than punishing those who experience them.  Celebrating these setbacks has become an art form of it own; as a recent NYT op-ed suggested, “telling the story of what went wrong is a way to wring insight from failure, but it’s also a way of proclaiming membership in a community of innovators who are unafraid of taking risks.”

MichaelJordan-FailureQuoteIn contrast to pat narratives of failure and redemption, or of lessons learned from flying too close to the sun, today’s guest, Geoff Clapp, offers an unvarnished — and still slightly raw — account of what happened in the months between the time we interviewed him in early 2015 about his promising startup, Better, and the time it shut down last fall. Geoff’s candid discussion provides unusual insight into what it feels like to be a leader in this difficult and uncomfortable situation.

We are grateful to Geoff for his authenticity and generosity of spirit in sharing his experiences with us on Tech Tonics today. You can listen to his interview below or find it on iTunes by clicking HERE or on the Connected Social Media website HERE. (more…)

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Women as Agents of Change in Global Development

Julie PotyrajWomen are essential to global development. Gender equality leads to higher rates of education, better health outcomes, increased economic growth, and even improved agricultural production. Focusing on the empowerment of women doesn’t just benefit women; it benefits society as a whole.

None of this is new information. The importance of women’s empowerment has been a part of the global development conversation since the very beginning of international development efforts. In 1948, theUnited Nations established the Commission on the Status of Women just three years after the organization itself came into existence. The Commission was the first global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the empowerment of women.

Gender equality has remained a part of development discourse ever since. In 2000, the world saw the largest gathering of world leaders in history. The Millennium Summit resulted in a 15-year-long strategy to reduce extreme poverty. Goal Three of the Millennium Development Goals focused exclusively on the empowerment of women. The conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 also marked the beginning of theSustainable Development Goals. According to the United Nations, women will not only be affected by all 17 of these goals, but they will also be the driving force behind the success of these programs.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. It’s a cliché, but still an inspiring message. Does the sentiment of this saying hold real possibility? Can we all truly be the change that’s needed? The history of gender equality has portrayed women as the beneficiaries of change. Programs and policies have been continually designed to uplift the status of women. Yet only recently are we embracing women as agents of that change. Gender equality cannot happen until women are seen as equal and active stakeholders in their development.

Women and girls comprise 49.5 percent of the world’s population. Despite the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, gender inequality continues to permeate the educational, health, political, and economic sectors. Women are egregiously underrepresented in decision-making positions. There are only 18 countries with female heads of state. Out of the five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, there are six female ambassadors, but not one nation with a female head of state. In the very organization that has led the campaign for gender equality since the 1940s, women have a disproportionately small presence.

If the change we wish to see in the world is gender equality, then women must be that change. Women are not passive bystanders in their own empowerment. They are the innovators, the catalysts, and the leaders. In the issue of gender inequality, women themselves are the solution.

In a blog post series for Disruptive Women, I will highlight cases across the globe where women have not only inspired change, but also driven it themselves. If you have a story about women’s role in gender equality that you would like share, or a topic you would like to see explored in greater detail, please feel free to connect with me via Twitter @jPotterRay

Julie Potyraj is the community manager for MHA@GW, HealthInformatics@GW and MPH@GW, all offered by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. For several years, she served as a community development specialist in Zambia coordinating youth empowerment programs and reproductive health education. She is currently an MPH@GW student focusing on global health and health communications.

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Olympic bronze for a “big girl”

Here is a great TBT post from July 2012. Olympian Elana Mayers contributed an excellent body confidence piece to our Body Image Series. Today, we honor our Disruptive Olympian! For more great resources on Body Image, please download our free e-book

Elana Meyers In 2010 when I was named to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, I was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, female athlete on the team.  I was definitely not the tallest, but I did have one of the highest weights – it was even reported in an article.

In my sport, the goal is to push a 400-pound bobsled as fast as you can for approximately 5 seconds and then hop in, so it requires pure explosive speed, strength, and power. Competing in a sport where bigger is better, as long as you can still move, I came into the games anywhere between 178-180 pounds. It might seem odd to think of a female athlete who weighs 180 pounds, but moving a 400-pound sled is no easy task, and as my teammates like to say, “it takes mass to move mass.”  I proved that theory; at 180lbs I won an Olympic bronze medal. (more…)

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