Friday, February 29, 2008

The 2008 Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship Recipient is Nicole Kellier

The Katie Memorial Foundation, Inc. is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2008 Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship is Nicole Kellier, Ph.D candidate in Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel School of Public Health (SSPH) at Florida International University. Nicole will be publicly recognized as the scholarship recipient at the March 7th SSPH alumni event in Miami, FL.

Nicole Kellier will use the scholarship to supplement the cost of an international health program in Jamaica. She will bring a group of public health students to Jamaica this summer, as part of an annual medical mission trip to provide free health service to those in need who cannot afford to pay for care. Additionally, the group will study the incidence of prostate cancer in Jamaica, which is the highest in the world, as well as two other chronic diseases, diabetes and hypertension, which contribute heavily to the health burden among Jamaicans. A long-term goal of the project is to promote culturally-appropriate health behaviors that may prevent morbidity and mortality related to these diseases.

Among an exceptional field of finalists, Nicole received a near-perfect score from each of the nine judges on our scholarship panel. Individual judges noted her “clear commitment to making an immediate and positive impact in Jamaica,” “exceptional attention to detail,” “great potential for future work in international health,” and “impressive experience” as among the reasons for her high score.

Nicole currently works as a teaching assistant in the epidemiology and biostatistics department of SSPH. Previously, she has worked as a nursing administrator, pediatric oncology research coordinator, cancer epidemiology associate, and infectious diseases research assistant. Since 2005, she has served as the research coordinator for the Annual Jamaica Medical Mission. She is a volunteer for the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, and Southeast Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. Nicole received her master’s degree in public health (epidemiology) from George Washington University in 2003.

You can contact Nicole via email at

Here is the narrative portion of her scholarship application (my formatting):

As a doctoral student, the main focus of my research is the burden of chronic disease in the Caribbean community. I began studying chronic disease in the Caribbean population when I read a study, years ago, that said that Jamaican men have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world. The study was conducted in Jamaica, a developing country. According to what we learn about developing countries, infectious disease, not chronic disease should be the major health burden in this population. As I’ve learned more about the population and their health needs I found that diabetes and hypertension also contribute heavily to the health burden among Jamaicans.

For the past 3 years I have had the opportunity to participate in an annual medical mission trip to Jamaica. The purpose of this trip is to provide free health services to those in need who cannot afford to pay for care. Each year I am able to learn from the population we serve and to participate in activities that essentially change people’s lives. Just last year I worked with the Jamaican Cancer Society to provide the opportunity for women to be tested for breast cancer (mammograms) and cervical cancer (pap smears) free of charge to the participants.

This year I would like to assist in providing these services again along with a well planned educational component. This year I plan on bringing a group of public health students to participate in well organized intervention activities. The students will develop a chronic disease education program addressing the chronic diseases encountered most frequently in this population, hypertension and diabetes. We will develop an education program along with culturally appropriate recommendations for changes in lifestyle factors.

The goal is to follow up with the participants annually to find out if they have adopted the recommended behavior changes, why or why not. The goal is to not only treat the health problems identified but to promote culturally appropriate better health behaviors in order to prevent morbidity and mortality related to disease.

I would love to have a positive impact on the lives of the people I am able to work with. One of my goals in participating in this trip every year is to track the health of this group over time to evaluate whether we have been successful in improving the health status of the group we serve and initiating long-term positive lifestyle changes. The students will be educated prior to the trip on important cultural factors associated with the Jamaican population. An important consideration in the development of our plan is to be open to learning while sharing knowledge. The funds provided by this scholarship will be used to cover the cost of my travel to and from the island along with room and board for the duration of the trip. The remainder of the funds may be used to help pay for printing cost for education materials.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Go Cubs Go

In a few hours, pitchers and catchers will report to HoHoKam Park in Phoenix, AZ, and eight beautiful months of Cubs baseball will begin for another year.

My love of the Cubs is a recent life phenomenon. I jumped part-way onto the bandwagon late in the 2003 season, when part of me could still enjoy sitting in Lucille’s on Lincoln Ave with Jeff and Katie, watching the improbably epic playoff meltdown metaphored succinctly by all as “Bartman.” Walking up Lincoln, then Broadway, across Agatite and up to our third-floor apartment in Uptown, Katie and I agreed: those fans seemed so entitled, so ugly in their desperate screaming at the television! Little did I know. Over the course of the winter, I read up on the Cubs' history of futility and almost-there, Ron Santo and his amputations following a lifetime of hometown heroics. How could I not cheer for a team whose patron saint, forty years ago, would jump and click his heels after every home-game win? The next spring, I followed the team from spring training, although insecurities about my new team, and my following baseball so closely, abound as I thought about moving to Miami and entering an MFA program. Would real poets take me seriously if they knew of my enthusiasm for the Cubs?

That May, my wedding present from Katie was an authentic size-8 100% wool fitted Cubs home cap (red knob and all). True to form, she explained that she chose the gift because she figured it was about time I went public with my Cubs love, poets be damned. I wore that hat with great pride more or less daily for the next two years, until Katie (supposedly) accidentally left a bag full of rotten mangos on top of it. By that point, the charm of seeing her husband becoming so enthusiastic about something so essentially silly had transformed into weariness, if not outright frustration. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo tuned in on the laptop for weeks on end. Collapses improbable to anyone except the objective observer. Skipping nights out because hey, the Cards are in town! Still, our last Christmas together, she bought me a new Cubs hat, and I continued to wear it, across Romania, with something approaching American ugliness. I had it on the evening that Katie was killed.

To participate in American popular culture, and not make your peace with spontaneous bear imagery, often violent, is to run the risk of losing your mind every twenty seconds or so. Consider. Homer Simpson’s bear attack in the Simpsons TV show, then the inexplicable and plot-pointless Alaskan bear attack in the Simpsons movie. Will Ferrell’s bear wrestling, which turns into an attack, in the upcoming Semi-Pro. SNL’s bear-shark skit. The Kung-Fun Panda. Emile Hirsch and Sean Penn’s myth-laden bear showdown in Into The Wild. The bear market. Sufjan Stevens’ “Sleeping Bear.” The Chicago Bears. The Cub Scouts (as Chase works toward the rank of “Bear”). Weeds, one of Katie’s favorites, with its first-season mantra, “You Can’t Miss The Bear.” 139,000 bear-image movies on YouTube.

Most of the jokes that I really enjoy walk a fine line between clever and insensitive. I understand the part of the creative/marketing brain that says, wow, bear attacks, that’s so crazy and improbable, even absurdly unlikely. Who’s that going to offend? The aspect I have less appreciation for, though, is bear-as-fascination-with-the-overwhelming, which says that a bear is big, scary, and completely indifferent to your well-being, and to stand in its presence is to understand the futility of humanity and the awesome power of nature blah blah blah. It says something about how well-insulated and comfortably numb our society is that so many recreationally venture into dangerous situations just to revive their sense of mortality.

Three weeks ago, I wrote Dara Brown of MSNBC, then the Associated Press, essentially the same letter detailing seven errors they made in their reporting of Katie’s death. Most offensive to me was the suggestion—run over video footage of Katie’s covered body, then a random bear photo—that earlier in the day, (a 31-year-old) Katie had provoked that same bear while taking photos of it, and that the bear had returned to exact its revenge late at night. A close second was the footage of me explaining the attack to a police officer within an hour of Katie’s death, as part of a “police report”, which was apparently also sold to MSNBC and excerpted on its web reporting, Good Morning America, and several other news outlets that picked up the feed. The need to create some sort of absurd narrative clearly trumped any straight reporting of the facts, or maybe Brown is just that poor a reporter. I’m guessing she compiled the story alongside her daily celebrity reporting, Britney Spears in a hospital, that guy from Lost in rehab, etc.

Katie and I took the DVD set of seasons 1 and 2 of Lost to Romania, and watched them compulsively our first month there. When season 3 became available on iTunes, I’d download it Thursday mornings before heading off to teach, and we’d watch it over that weekend. TV on DVD, as I’ve said in earlier posts, was a big part of entertaining, and maybe insulating a little, ourselves in Bucharest. The routine went more or less like this: Katie works late, I cook dinner, maybe Sara comes over, we eat chicken skewers, roasted veggies, stuffed mushrooms and fresh bread, drink some wine, bake cookies, then settle in to watch 2 or 3 episodes. I knew how good the show was based on when Katie would fall asleep. Sure sleepers were old episodes of West Wing and boring meta-episodes of Lost. Non-sleepers, always, were Weeds and House.

If I’ve made my peace with seeing the Cubs through more heartbreak, I’m still not sure what to make of how closely associated some good times with Katie are with Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” Jack and Kate, Lacy LaPlante and MILF Weed, and that triumphant horn chorus in The West Wing just before the credits. Even stranger, for me, is how such moments completely fry my emotional circuitry, while the random bear imagery just sort of bugs me until it passes. For all of the experiences we had during our life together, the ones I can most easily engage, can get my mind around, the ones I would most like to have back on a daily basis, are those unremarkable long evenings we'd pack it in and hang around the apartment in Chicago, Miami, and Bucharest, and watch spectacular things happen to not-real people.

My favorite Post Secret post, from last July, is a post card that says, “Every time I cry—regardless of the reason in the beginning I always end up crying because of her death.” Maybe grief rewires the brain a little, brings a wider range of emotions closer to the surface, wears down your emotional immunity. Or, maybe you just learn to accept the programming that was there from the beginning. Either way, the next time we’re together, if I head off to tune in WGN or to update myself on the true location of The Others, please don’t take it personally.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Katie Songs Project

I've taken all 46 of the songs from The Katie Songs archive (previously posted individually above and listed along the right) and put them into a single Last.Fm widget, which I've added to this blog. You can access individual songs or the full playlist by scrolling through the widget, or by clicking on it and following the link to a Last.Fm page.

As with the list we came up with on Katie's birthday, I thought this might be a good occasion for folks to exchange particular memories and associations, while also expanding the playlist. So, if you see a song that you think should be on the playist, post it as a comment here, and I'll add it. And, if you feel comfortable, share a good memory (or two or three) linked with the song. Might be some good cross-associations: same song, different memories, etc.

A big shout-0ut to Cathy Ganz, who emailed to suggest I add Alison Krauss's cover of "Baby, Now That I've Found You,"and thus got this ball rolling. Cathy and Katie would apparently play dueling repeats when they lived together, Katie cueing up Alison Krauss against Cathy's preference for Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Funny, as I associate the song as the soundtrack to some epic chess showdowns in Katie's apartment on Deming St., in Chicago, right after Peace Corps. Oh, wild youth!