January 29, 2011 by


/* Comments: What does this even mean? Does anyone know?? Why isn’t my code working? Why didn’t the letters turn blue? Have I really been here for this long? Why haven’t I seen my roommate since Sunday morning? I’m sure almost every one of us in the infamous SAS class probably had more than one of these thoughts floating in our heads this past week. SAS (Statistical Analysis System) is one of those programs that us first years have started to develop a love-hate relationship with. Yes, it was incredibly frustrating at times but after trudging through this difficult week, I’ve come to realize how beneficial it was to go through with it. I actually am learning the commands as a language and though we cannot speak it fluently, we are on our way toward forming a few coherent sentences. And boy, what a bonding experience. I was amazed and how nice we were all willing to help each other. Even with our own frustrations, we put them aside to listen to one another’s problems and helped them troubleshoot. I loved hearing Regina Royan and Christine Acho yell in the back lab “YES!! It finally worked!!!”. I think I saw Cassandre this week in lab more than I have seen her all semester! (Cassandre, we need to hang out more outside the lab). Yes, I definitely saw tears this week as well as some crazy laughter (more like nervous laughing). But in the end guys, we got through it. And who knows? That hate part of the relationship may one day turn into SAS love. Maybe. Till HW3!*/


Second (and Last) Post

December 5, 2010 by

I have not been a very good epidemiology blogger, but I like to think I have a decent excuse: I won’t be an epidemiology student much longer.

Upon arriving at UMSPH, I was pumped about the Hospital and Molecular Epidemiology curriculum because it seemed like a good balance between biomedical science and population-level trend analysis. That was true! It just was not the right fit for me. That’s right, we’ve got a defector–I’m transferring into the department of Environmental Health Sciences to focus on toxicology.

Why tell the ESO blog readers this? I hadn’t planned on doing so, but then I thought back to my pre-MPH days: I read the blog starting right after I had visited campus in October. I learned a lot about the great stuff going on at UMSPH, and it made me want to come here even more. So I hope that there is some future-UM student out there reading this, deliberating which concentration to choose on SOPHAS…and I want to help! Not just in sharing my story, but in recommending that incoming students get in touch with those who are currently enrolled. We love to help people making the same decisions we struggled with (or not) so recently. Comment here if you want! Comment on other blog posts! Comment on the general UMSPH blog! Read the accounts of student life on the UMSPH website!

Grad students are people too, and as such they (we) make mistakes. Learn from our missteps/misunderstandings and you just might make a new friend in the process.

Yours truly,
Lindsay Ward
former HME student

Epidemiology of Bike Accidents: How to Avoid Losing your Head

November 25, 2010 by


Many of you in SPH might have seen me around the last couple of weeks hobbling around in crutches due to my recent bike accident. Although my sprained foot still has some pain, what tugs at me more is the horrifying thought of what would have happened if I was not wearing that funny-shaped thing on my head called a “helmet”. That’s right. Helmet. Ever heard of it? Yes, it pretty much saved my life. But for some reason, I still see so many bikers out there (yes, even bikers in Public Health) that are not wearing helmets, or worse, talking on a phone while riding their bike. If you think it can’t happen to you, it CAN happen to you.

This leads me to bring up an often down-played but nonetheless important topic in public health: injury prevention. According to Dr. Pietro Tonino of the Loyola University School of Medicine (Washington Post , June 19, 2006), bicycling accidents constitute the second highest reason for ER visits among sports-related injuries. A study in NY ( showed that a high 74% of fatal bike accidents involved a head injury and that 97% of bicyclists who died were not wearing a helmet. And statistics from Safe Kids USA ( says that 75% of bike fatalities among children could have been prevented if they were wearing a helmet.

“Could have been prevented” is the key to that last statement. Prevention is where we as public health students and faculty come in. I do not think I need epidemiologic statistics to state the obvious problem at hand. There are numerous public health injury prevention interventions taking place in these issues and if you are truly interested, then get informed and get involved. Use your mind to help others save theirs!

Fall = Flu Clinics

November 1, 2010 by

Stefanie DeVita

This past Saturday I volunteered with the Washtenaw County chapter of the Medical Reserve Corps and helped out at their third annual drive-through flu clinic at Huron Valley Ambulance. I know right? Drive-through flu shots? How awesome is that! Instead of associating drive-throughs with greasy and fattening foods, how about drive-throughs for something that’s actually good for you!

Sad to say I wasn’t needed to actually give flu shots. There were already enough people to handle the demand when I got there. Being the day before Halloween, we weren’t expecting to be too busy. The Washtenaw Health Department brought 600 doses of flu vaccine, and between 9Am-3PM we used almost 300 doses. Not as busy as they wanted, but I thought that was fantastic, considering they were only given to adults 18 and over. By the end of the day, 300 more people in AA got protected against flu! And the fact that it was slow at times is really a good thing. There are tons of places where flu vaccine is now available! It’s just as convenient to go to a CVS or Walgreens anytime and get a flu shot as it is to go to a Saturday drive-through clinic.

After 8 weeks of sitting in classrooms all day every day, it felt amazing to go out into the field and actually practice public health. It’s as close to patient care as I’ve been in almost two years. It still makes me wonder while I do my frequent job searches if and how I’ll incorporate my nursing background with my new public health training. I do love a good flu clinic…

Sleeping Bear Dunes

October 25, 2010 by


It’s hard to believe that Fall Break happened over  a week ago – with midterms, problem sets, and the poster session, time has been flying by here at SPH. Thankfully, Fall Break this year was actually a break (last year all of the midterms were after the break, so it was more of a “break from class so you won’t be distracted while you study” type of a vacation), so I figured that I’d use the time to go explore Michigan. The area around Ann Arbor is nice – lots of rivers, streams, and lakes – but I’d never seen the northern half of Michigan and so decided to camp at Sleeping Bear Dunes for a few days.

Moon Over the Dunes

The weather was perfect – high 60s and sunny – and since it was the middle of the Fall, the campsites were fairly empty (at least we didn’t have to contend with lots of loud RVs at night). We also managed to hit that point right before the leaves drop off the trees, so the drive north to Traverse City (only about 4 hours) had lots of nice scenery along the way. The camping was different than I’m used to (there was actually running water and permanent toilets!), so “roughing it” isn’t really an apt description of the facilities. The park has lots of nice trails that wander through the dunes, and it’s easy to forget that you’re standing on sand that was dropped here at the end of last ice age when you’re walking through the middle of a forest. Once you make it through the dunes, the views out over Lake Michigan and across to the Manitou Islands are great. There’s even a dune climb where you can hike up the hills for a bit and over to the lakeshore (although running down on the trip back is more fun…).

View from the Dunes

This trip was my first time seeing one of the Great Lakes, and it was weird to see waves in something that didn’t have a salt spray. The more I explore Michigan, the more I come to like the state – it’s much different than I had expected when I moved here, and there’s lots of state parks and forests to explore. All in all, the trip up north was a great way to escape school and homework for a few days, and it’s inspired me to plan a trip to the Upper Peninsula sometime next year – after the snows melt, of course.

From LA to AA

October 8, 2010 by


Over a month later, and I still can’t believe I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan; a state whose location I was not even aware of until a couple of months ago. I cannot even record how many times people have asked me “Why would you ever trade LA for the midwest?” (by the way, I used to think Michigan was on the East Coast, not the Midwest). I can honestly say that the change has been extremely liberating. I’ve traded the busy streets of westwood for a more intimate Downtown Ann Arbor, tall corporate buildings for tall green trees, and Hollywood for the Huron River. A trip to Zingermann’s and the Farmer’s Market make for a nice Saturday morning. I now also can experience what everyone is raving about when they mention the Michigan Wolverine Football. We actually win games! Sorry, UCLA (although I do miss doing the 8-clap every so often). The best part so far has been the fact that almost everyone that I am meeting is also from outside of Michigan and even outside the country. This creates a wonderful mix of accents, personalities, viewpoints, and stories for the next two years, as well as a great group of people to explore the beauty that is Michigan. I am constantly amazed by my peers and I feel privileged to be a part of this great class, especially in the dynamic area of Epidemiology. Can’t wait to brave the journey together! If I somehow survive through this winter, I think this is going to be an awesome two years. So long LA, it’s been a pleasure. Hello AA!

Countdown: 7 Months

October 5, 2010 by

Stefanie  7 months until graduating from UM SPH!!! Until then, there is a LOT to get done! A capstone paper, epid analysis for what seems like a billion different projects, trying to get a manuscript published, the schoolwide poster presentation… This year so far is one long and ever-growing “To Do” list. It’s going to be the most challenging academic year I’ve ever seen, but what’s getting me through is knowing in 7 short months my degree will be finished and NO MORE SCHOOL!

What has struck me about this semester is that the everyday assignments and sitting in class focusing for five hours at a time has become so hard to get through. This past summer it was 40 hour work weeks and coming home with nothing to do. It was a tease!! This time around, schoolwork and classes and everything that 17 credits entails, not to mention extracurricular stuff, has been way more overwhelming than in the past. To be so used to school for years, it was always familiar. But my introduction to the real work force this past summer, it was something new and exciting. A different kind of challenge that’s made going back to finish the second year of grad school a bit harder.

All in all, I’m ready to move on to my next chapter: working as an epidemiologist (whatever/wherever that may entail). The practice component of public health has always been my interest, and I’m anxious to see the next 7 months fly so I can get out there and do what I’ve been learning. I’m currently a volunteer with the Washtenaw County Medical Reserve Corps, and I just signed up to assist at one of the flu clinics being offered soon. To ignore homework and studying for 4 hours and give flu shots till my thumb hurts. Now that’s public health!

Want to Help Cure Dengue and Cancer in your Spare Time?

September 15, 2010 by


Modern research endeavors rely on the power of computers to perform complicated analyses, and drug discovery projects are especially computation intensive. Although most researchers have access to powerful computers, getting time on them is difficult (it’s pretty much guaranteed that any researcher will have to compete with physical chemists, climatologists, astronomers, and a host of other scientists for these machines). Fortunately, minds smarter than I have come up with an interesting solution to this problem that relies on one simple observation: the computer that you’re using to read this article is actually a pretty powerful machine, and most of the time you don’t use it to it’s full capacity (especially when it’s sitting idle on your desk…). Your computer can then be linked to a series of other computers and used to help work out complex calculations in its spare time.

Distributed computing may seem like nothing more than a nice addition to more traditional research methods, but a project looking for novel treatments for neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer, found that using this distributed grid would cut the time required to finish the calculations from a staggering 8,000 years down to 1-2 years.

One of the most appealing aspects of the World Community Grid is that it allows you to choose the projects to which you’d like to donate your computer’s spare time. Most of them have a fairly direct relation to public health. New treatments for dengue fever are obvious, as are projects looking to improve access to clean water, but a project studying novel ways to predict African climate may seem like it’s not the highest priority at first. However, weather affects mosquito ranges (and thereby the future spread of certain diseases) and which land will become non arable in the future – and food security is  a major issue in public health.

The grid keeps detailed statistics for the projects you’ve participated in, and allows you to join “teams” that pool all it’s members together to earn points (you can’t do much with them but competition makes things more fun). You can join the UMich ESO team by clicking here (those from other departments/institutions are also welcome, but should you feel so inclined you could start your own team and challenges may ensue…).

Best of all, it’s a way to help advance science in your spare time – without having learn any of the detailed biology or math.

Epidemiological Scavenger Hunt at U of M

September 10, 2010 by


The first week of classes has ended, and it was a very eventful one. But before anything began, the Epidemiology Student Organization did a great job of making the new first-years feel welcome.

Perhaps I should back up and introduce myself: my name is Lindsay Ward, and I am one of the aforementioned new students at UMSPH.  I will be concentrating in Hospital and Molecular Epidemiology, and I currently do not know exactly what that will mean for my career. I do hope to teach at the college level someday, so hopefully there is a PhD and an appointment in my future. For right now, however, I am doing my best to take advantage of all the amazing resources that Michigan has to offer. Starting with the ESO…

On Labor Day, we did not have classes. This was a new experience for me, as I just graduated from college at a small private liberal-arts school (Go Raiders!) where federal holidays are interpreted more as discussion topics than actual observed holidays. In any case, ESO took this opportunity to introduce many of us to their board, the U of M campus, and one another. We arrived at the Vaughn SPH I building around 3 pm, were told to split into teams with one camera each, and given a list of questions/tasks to be completed by 5:30 pm. This brought my team, the Cardiovascular Risk Assessors (also known as The Questionable Gushers, for reasons no one fully understands) all the way across the Diag, into various restaurants around Ann Arbor, and even into a body jewelry/disc golf shop. Some of the clues even asked us questions about epidemiology, like the one where knowing the year of the Broad Street cholera epidemic (1854) helped us find some sidewalk chalk in a locker in order to accomplish the next task — drawing a picture on the ground outside of SPH. All in all, it was a pretty excellent adventure. Not only did the team members get to know one another and the campus a lot better, but we also came out of it with some hilarious photographs and memories.

Photo by Abram Wagner

Right now, I am in one of the gigantic Computer Sites at U of M, finishing my first biostatistics lab assignment. Classes have been very interesting this week, and I expect that I will be mentioning Pathophysiology, Genetics, and Toxicology a lot here in the future. Things are going pretty well for me at Michigan, I’d say, and I’m excited to continue seeing what SPH has in store!

Photo by Abram Wagner.

How to get healthy food into the inner cities (Walk it there)

July 29, 2010 by


Really, seriously, deeply truly, the New York City Health department got it right about this one.

Here’s the problem they faced:

In the poorest regions of New York City (see previous post about maps), the fewest number of people eat enough fruit and vegetables. And these places have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity. Bad all around. Again. Same story. When researcher started looking at reasons why, they realized that poor neighborhoods don’t have as many supermarkets or produce stores as other parts of the city. Supermarkets tend to sell the most variety of produce at the cheapest prices. Therefore, these regions lacked access to healthy food, they are so-called “food deserts” (see my project on Michigan food deserts here — half-hearted apologies for the self promotion).

So, what’s the solution?

Well, real-estate is high in NYC and profit margins for supermarkets are low (especially in low-income areas — at least, according to supermarkets). So, while it is possible to subsidize supermarkets (the reason why Philadelphia is so outrageously ahead of the times), it takes a long time. Like 10 years.  Gross.

So, the folks at the NYC Health Department sat on this. If only getting fruits and vegetables to East Harlem and South Bronx was as simple as walking them there… So, why not walk them there? Using carts? Just like other fruit and veggie carts around the city, but with a special set of new permits (the existing permits were all claimed). They came up with a proposal to set up 1,000 new permits for fruit and veggie carts in the areas with the least amount of access to fruit and veggies. The health department recruits vendors (independent entrepreneurial people with a good kick in their stride), trains them on how to manage produce selection, display, pricing, etc., recruits community members to sponsor individual Green Carts (the official, very serious-sounding name of this whole endeavor), and is now doing nutrition workshops with children and teens based upon produce found in the carts (read: eating fruit with kids — not a bad job if you ask me). If this is not sounding like classic Public Health (capitalized letters) as we know it, it’s not. The idea was so revolutionary (and last year’s budget so tight), that a private funder stepped in at the last moment to single-handedly fund this project for 2 years.

So, currently, there are some openings for Green Cart vendors.  To apply one must: want to set his/her own schedule, be able to push a cart, want to learn business strategies (which are altogether applicable to other business endeavors — aka Free Training), and be open to taking credit for single-handedly bettering the lives of inner city people everywhere (myself included).

Also, there are openings for Fans-of-Green-Carts, an altogether important job in its own right. To demonstrate appropriate fan-ness, one simply has to click on this link. The bookface will do the rest for you. Bookface and public health together. Finally.