The importance of student access to sexual and reproductive health services

Story and Gallery by ASIA BOWN

Now more than ever students have ready access to sexual health resources through their campus health centers and their local Planned Parenthood center.

Young adults pursuing some form of education are in an interesting position; their school will more than likely have an office that provides sexual and reproductive health guidance and counseling. For many students living alone away from home it’s their first time exploring and attempting to maintain their sexual health, and they often do so with limited resources and guidance.

Many campuses utilize groups of students in the pursuit to provide better sexual health resources that can help students who didn’t receive proper counsel earlier in their lives. At the University of Utah, a group of students has been trained to assist other students with sexual health guidance and provide counsel through the ACES Peer Health Education program, which operates out of the Center for Student Wellness located in Suite 2100 of the Eccles Student Life Center.

Maya Jolley, a health educator at the Center for Student Wellness and creator of the ACES Peer Health Education program, says that we need to improve upon the current sex education curriculum and it should be introduced before students have the chance to develop bad habits. (Jolley said that ACES was once an acronym but is no longer used that way.)

One of the biggest misconceptions Jolley has encountered in her career as a health educator is that sexuality is a mere fraction of our lives. She explains a crucial lesson she learned from a mentor during her time in college, “Sexuality — regardless of what form it takes — is essentially a river that is constantly running through our body.” She added, “We need a strong, humane education to match the intensity of it (sexuality) in our bodies.”

Jolley’s team of student educators has organized numerous presentations on campus geared toward sex education and wellness. Linda Derhak, one of the original student leaders, describes one of her most rewarding experiences on the team wherein she partnered up with another team member to create a basic sex education presentation. According to Derhak, they included “general facts and communication pieces, or how to talk about sex with your partner.”

Elnaz Tahmassebi, another team member dedicated to providing education on sexual wellness, discussed the STI clinics her team organizes every semester, during which students have the opportunity to ask questions about their sexual wellness. “With the STI clinics,” she said, “I speak to people one-on-one and can actually see, like, a change and address their concerns and I feel like I’m making more of an individual change.”

For students who live in the school’s dorms or spend a considerable amount of time on campus, getting access to these STI clinics and other services is as easy as getting to class. But for students who don’t live on campus and don’t want to be there for anything but their classes, their city’s Planned Parenthood is another viable option, provided that there is one nearby. These centers provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, like contraception, cancer screenings, STD/STI testing, and various birth control options.

In college, students have enough bills to pay and it may seem unnecessary to visit a health professional for an education that many medical and education professionals argue students should have received in grade school. This assumption is entirely false and local Planned Parenthood centers offer inexpensive sexual healthcare.

For many students, Planned Parenthood centers are their primary resources for sexual and reproductive healthcare. It’s extremely important that they have continued access to these resources because without them, they’ll resort to neglecting their sexual health and develop bad habits, like never getting tested for STDs and STIs, foregoing a cancer screening because of the high price tag, and practicing unsafe sex.

In August, it was revealed that Planned Parenthood refused Title X funds in opposition to a Trump administration rule that would prevent centers from referring patients to doctors who provided abortions. While the organization’s actual abortion numbers are erroneously exaggerated by various groups working against it, it is one of the fundamental rights people have in our country. Planned Parenthood is doing everything in its power to defend these rights and continue to provide necessary healthcare services to people across the country.

In addition to STD/STI screenings, various forms of birth control, and cancer screenings, people also have access to counsel from doctors who specialize in sexual and reproductive health. People can make appointments to discuss procedures, safe sexual behavior, and past experiences to gain a more thorough knowledge of their sexual health.

As young adults grow and mature, so should their knowledge of healthy sexual practices. Without a proper sex education, young people are more likely to engage in unhealthy sexual relationships and develop negative attitudes toward sex, which can set the course for the rest of their lives if they continue to go uneducated.

If they’ve had a proper sex education students can learn to avoid abusive relationships, recognize their boundaries and those of their partners, and engage in safe sex practices. These are important lessons to learn as they get older and begin to enter more frequently into sexual relationships. Often times, students seek guidance from trusted friends and confidants, but the information they get isn’t always dependable or even true.

“There’s a lot of bad information that young people get when they only talk to their friends because they aren’t actually talking to a professional who knows what they’re talking about,” Derhak said. By seeking help from trained professionals at school health centers or local Planned Parenthood centers, students are more likely to get accurate information that will allow them to make better decisions regarding their sexual health.

The importance of access to sexual and reproductive health services for students is still grossly underestimated in our society, though strides are being made to improve student sexual health.

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Before coming to work at the U’s Center for Student Wellness, Maya Jolley worked at Planned Parenthood. Photo courtesy of Center for Student Wellness.

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The Center for Student Wellness is located near the end of a quiet second-floor hallway to the left of the main staircase.

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The center is located in suite 2100 of the Student Life Center.

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The center advertises such services as condom sales, victim-survivor advocacy, and STI testing in its window.

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Elnaz Tahmassebi, a sophomore at the U, has found purpose in educating her fellow students about their sexual health.

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Linda Derhak was one of the first students to be recruited for the ACES Peer Health Education program.

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Derhak (left) and Tahmassebi have worked to give sex education presentations and set up free STI clinics during the spring and fall semesters.

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Located at 654 S. 900 East in Salt Lake City, this Planned Parenthood center offers inexpensive sexual healthcare to its community.

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The center’s clinic is located at the bottom of the staircase in front of the building.

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Planned Parenthood’s Metro Health Center is located at 160 S. 1000 East in Salt Lake City.

 

Art with a cause: artwork from cancer patients, caregivers, and staff at the Huntsman Cancer Institute

Story and gallery by MADISEN GATES

The Huntsman Cancer Institute stands as a gentle giant overlooking the University of Utah from the northeast corner of campus. Its massive glass structure is a symbol of excellence and elegance. The building illustrates its mission statement; “The patient first, a united effort, excellence in all we do.”

Treatment can be a stressful time for those who have cancer. The side effects for most people range from physical symptoms to emotional ones.

But what lies inside the facility is more than a treatment center for cancer patients.

For years, HCI has been a leading innovator for cutting-edge cancer research, including creative and emotional therapies.

Shelly White founded the Artist-in-Residence program in 2012 and has served as its director since then. Patients, caregivers, and HCI staff can participate in group or individual art projects every Tuesday throughout the year.  

Coming from a musical family, White said she believes that art can be both mentally and physically supportive.

She applied and was approved for a LIVESTRONG grant that offers funding for creative arts programs nationwide. She was determined to find a way to implement these benefits at HCI.

But these weekly classes are not just art workshops.

The artists leading the program each year act as mentors. Participants can learn skills in pain management and how to relieve stress. They can also spend quality time with loved ones through various art projects. These projects can include painting, mask-making, ceramics, and even designing maps. The patient is able to gain control over one aspect of their treatment – their art.

“I think a lot of the time people feel like they’re having all these things done to them that they wouldn’t choose. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, you wouldn’t choose those things,” White said. “And you get to make choices about ‘what do I want to get engaged in.’”

Each current artist will choose the artist for the next year to ensure the quality and engagement during these workshops. Every prospective artist can attend a session as a guest presenter. The current artist observes how the guest presenter interacts with the patients and attendees. This improves the success of the project to continue enriching the patients’ time in treatment.

Laura Wilson, the current mentor for the program, has been making art her whole life. Her favorite form of art is fine arts, which she studied at Carnegie Mellon to earn her BFA. Every artist is free to run the sessions in their own way. “People are just really happy to be here. The level of creativity here is really high,” Wilson said. “You have people dealing with very hard things, and they just free themselves.”

White said the greatest motivation to continue searching for artists to expand these projects is watching patients flourish creatively. “Seeing the whole person” develop, she said. “Giving people an opportunity for people to express themselves beyond words.”

The sessions are always kept open to allow participants more freedom while they create. There are no rules as to what a participant can or cannot create and participants are able to come and go from the art sessions in between regular treatments.

Vibrant clay tiles form a legacy piece displayed in White’s office.

A brown and red clay art piece is displayed in White’s office, which became a legacy project for one participant.

 

 “With some people, it’s a legacy,” White said. “There was another woman who was in her 40s who had daughters that were probably in their 20s who did this piece. It was a legacy piece because she wasn’t going to survive the cancer, but it was a really meaningful thing she could do with her daughters to make this piece.”

For most participants, the art represents much more than a fun craft project.

Caren Pinson has been attending the sessions for many years as a cancer survivor. She described her time in the Artist-in-Residence program as “life changing.”

“I have medical post-traumatic stress, from long before I moved to Utah and when I actually did first move over it was pretty bad. I didn’t ever really want to see a doctor again,” Pinson said. “But being here, this is really the safest place I’ve ever felt.”

Pinson continues to contribute many ideas to improve the program. She recalled a previous conversation with one of the HCI acupuncture specialists who said, “Huntsman hires compassion and they can teach everything else.”

Seven years later the program has flourished. In addition to the Artist-in-Residence program, a Writer-in-Residence and a music therapy program can be found on the HCI calendar throughout the year.

The programs aim to go even deeper in the upcoming years. It is the hope of the director to pair biologic researchers with participants to show the value of arts through basic science.

The emergence of these programs is a testament to the dedication of the staff at HCI. It is a giant not only in dominating the cancer treatment field, but also for the heart that lies within the walls.

 

Intermountain Healthcare announces groundbreaking policy that removes pharmaceutical representatives and medication samples from Utah practices and hospitals

Story and photos by BERKLEE HAMMOND

Effective May 1, 2019, Intermountain Healthcare has prohibited industry-based pharmaceutical representatives and medication samples from entering practices and hospitals throughout Utah. 

Intermountain believes this new change will increase patient safety, refine adherence to clinical guidelines, improve prescription patterns, decrease cost of medicines and eliminate operational complexity and burden.

According to a statement by Dr. Mark Briesacher, senior vice president of Intermountain Medical Group and Medical Staff, this change has been made to fulfill Intermountain Healthcare’s vision of being “a model health system by providing extraordinary care and superior service at an affordable cost.” 

Pharmaceutical representatives received a document titled “Removal of Pharmaceutical Representatives and Medication Samples from Intermountain Clinics” issued by Intermountain Healthcare. The document explains why samples and pharmaceutical reps are no longer permitted. It also states that patients are commonly given verbal instructions about appropriate use of medication samples and side effects.

This can lead to product labeling and written patient instructions that are often inadequate. These new regulations will decrease the chance for medication errors and improve patient safety.

Intermountain plans to improve adherence to clinical guidelines by removing pharmaceutical representative visits, samples, and marketing. According to a statement released to pharmaceutical companies, Intermountain would do away with professional and social pressures and would allow physicians to make unbiased decisions on behalf of their patients. 

This document explains how these steps will improve prescription patterns for patient care. Eighty-three percent of prescription promotion is done by physicians who have been educated on drugs from pharmaceutical representative visits. 

According to a 2014 study of 150,000 physicians over a 24-month period showed the detailing impacts selective, brand-specific demand and influenced prescribers. 

Intermountain Healthcare cited numerous studies that have shown physicians were three times more likely to prescribe a generic product when samples were removed from clinics.

The Medical Group Service Line’s statement indicates the changes at Intermountain will eliminate operational complexity and burden. Storage, distribution and security of medications is challenging to manage and increases the expense on care teams.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY?

The reason behind this decision came after leading healthcare organizations like the National Institutes of Healthand the Institute for Safe Medication Practicesrecommended against utilizing pharmaceutical representatives and samples because this has a negative impact on patient safety, care quality, and costs. 

Crystal Goodrich, a local district manager of a pharmaceutical company, explained the small steps that eventually led to the new regulations.

First, she said the changes started when Big Pharma companies agreed to discontinue distributing any type of promotional materials such as sticky notes and pens to any healthcare entity. Goodrich said, “Some rules made sense.” 

Intermountain was among the other healthcare agencies that did not want their physicians being influenced by promotional materials. 

The Big Pharma agreement, including Intermountain, later prohibited physicians from going out to dinner or to special events with representatives. Goodrich remembers, “This was when the pushback from physicians started across the industry.”

According to Goodrich, Intermountain then took restrictions to another level.  Intermountain only allowed one appointed representative from each of the pharmaceutical companies statewide to have access to any and all of Intermountain’s approximately 5,000 physicians. 

Rebecca Nixon was assigned to Intermountain Healthcare exclusively as a representative 10 years ago. Nixon only visits Intermountain’s practices and clinics.

Nixon explained the adjustment from visiting clinics from all Utah healthcare entities to going exclusively to Intermountain. She shared frustration in the lack of competition in Utah with Intermountain and lack of authority from Intermountain Healthcare physicians. 

Nixon said, “The doctors are employed by Intermountain Healthcare, they are not in charge or able to make these decisions themselves.”

She said these new policies from Intermountain Healthcare will affect her job tremendously. She is now going to be reassigned to another position due to the regulations set by Intermountain Healthcare.

As of May 1, 2019, there is a new level of restriction. If a representative enters a clinic, Intermountain Healthcare urges physicians and administrative staff to not accept any medication samples, coupons, literature, vouchers or other forms of drug marketing.

Both Nixon and Goodrich stated that physicians at Intermountain Healthcare have pushed back with these new regulations. Due to the pushback, Intermountain Healthcare has now made an exception to lifesaving medications like inhalers, blood thinners and several other medications from drug representatives.  

Intermountain Healthcare physicians will now get their education from pharmacists instead of trained pharmaceutical representatives. “This certainly concerns us,” Goodrich said. Pharmacies make more revenue from generic brands than name brands. This raises concern for patient care.

“A big concern is knowing physicians at Intermountain valued our knowledge and they can’t get it anymore,” Goodrich said. Pharmaceutical representatives spend weeks, months and years becoming trained on the medication they represent. They get trained through in-person trainings, online training and continual training by district and regional representatives that monitor the accuracy of the information distributed.

This training will now be the responsibility of each physician. They will need to take the time to educate themselves on hundreds, even thousands, of medications to provide accurate and informed education to each patient. 

According to Intermountain Healthcare’s website, this not-for-profit system has more than 5,000 physicians who are affiliated with Intermountain, including about 1,400 employed physicians in the Intermountain Medical Group who provide care to patients at more than 185 clinics and offices as well as 23 hospitals.

Road to recovery for one USA Nordic athlete

Story and gallery by KATHERINE SCHUMANN

On July 23, 2018, USA Nordic athlete Stephen Schumann suffered a fall on the K120 ski jumping hill at the Utah Olympic Park, tearing his ACL and meniscus. His focus for the season then turned from training to the recovery of his knee.

That was a huge change for the young athlete of 18. This Olympic hopeful is ranked for the US team and as his coach Blake Hughes said, it “is a huge loss for the team itself and teammates to lose him this winter season.”

Schumann’s entire focus of life has been his sport and getting to the Olympics. Last winter Schumann missed the Olympic spot for the 2018 winter Olympics in Peyong Chang by just a point, coming in fifth when the team cut off is four athletes.

Not being able to make the Olympic team drove Schumann’s focus for the upcoming four years and the next Olympics. He knew he had to train harder and get faster to make that cut the next time.

After the fall when Schumann heard his knee snap he said, “At that point I knew my season was over and it absolutely devastated me.” For the young athlete he felt like his Olympic chances were over. He worried about the future of his career as an athlete, his sponsorships, and mostly his childhood dream of the Olympics.

“For a while Schumann was angry at himself and the world for letting this happen,” Hughes said. Mentally it was especially hard when his teammates were off to Europe for another round of training and competitions and Schumann was stuck on the couch resting.

Schumann expected the hardest part of his injury to be the physical recovery and getting his strength back to normal. But what he learned was the hardest part is the mental recovery The physical aspect he found to be simple.

“You can only push your body to a safe point,” he said. “That’s not confusing. Dealing with your emotions while having a lot of free time to think about it. That’s confusing.”

After waiting a week Schumann got two surgery dates a month apart. The surgery was to be done by Dr. Robert Burks at the University of Utah Orthopedic Clinic. He was also comforted by knowing that his team doctor, Jonathan Finnoff at the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, a sponsor of the USA Nordic team, was working directly with Burks.

Having his team doctor by his side and a plan made it easier for Schumann to feel confident about the surgery and process of healing. With all his free time and the doctors supervising his physical healing, Burks said, “The news of two surgeries brought the young athlete to tears, more bad news he didn’t want to hear.”

Schumann started physical therapy at the Alpine Physical Therapy Clinic two times a week, and at the USSA Center of Excellence with James Stray-Gundersen. He is the founder of B-Strong Bands.

Physical therapy gave Schumann a way to focus on the sport he loved in a different aspect, seeing one of the two physical therapists at least five days per week and sometimes six keeps him busy and focused.

Stray-Gundersen said, “Working with a young athlete at this capacity was eye-opening. These kids are so driven and dedicated to their sport.” As a professional athlete Schumann’s recovery is expedited going through the general steps that any meniscus and ACL physical therapy recovery would go through. But moving through them faster, with more visits and the B-Strong.

“The hardest part Schumann has faced with this expedited recovery is that he feels the need to push himself like he would when training, but recovery is different than training and recovering correctly is the most important thing to getting his physical strength back to 100 percent,” Stray-Gundersen said.

After Schumann’s second surgery he was more motivated than ever knowing that he is done with the medically mechanical side of the injury and now that he can work one day at a time toward his end goal, total recovery and competing again. The recovery has been straightforward, and Schumann said  he “has taken huge strides finding happiness in the little victories.”

Schumann has learned so much from this experience that he feels has made him into a stronger person and athlete and will help him come back not only more motivated but mentally stronger.

Having felt as though he already knew a lot about his body and physical limits as an athlete this experience has taught him that you can’t control everything, taking things slow is sometimes better, and your body is much smarter than you think it is.

Watch out for Schumann in the near future as he works day in and day out to become the best in the world at the sport that he loves.

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Natural remedies to reduce stress and anxiety

Story and images by  CLAIRE HILLARD

Take a long run or sit still with a glass of tea and feel the weight of stress drift away.

In the United States, a majority of people with anxiety either neglect their troubles or use pharmaceuticals to dull their anxious feelings. People do not have to suffer through anxiety nor do they have to use medications with negative side effects.

For some, natural remedies may be the answer.

Dr. Uli Knorr is a naturopathic doctor who practices in Salt Lake City. He received an education from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Oregon.

Knorr said something that many people with anxiety may like to hear — that anxiety has little to do with an individual’s personality. Most commonly, stress is caused by some hormonal imbalance in the body.

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Knorr recommended physical activity as well as spending time outdoors to help reduce stress.

To some extent, humans need stress. However, too much stress can be detrimental. If the body is experiencing constant stress, it continues to act in a fight-or-flight state. “People who are very stressed are surviving, but they’re also perceiving life as life during war time,” Knorr said. This is not a healthy state to remain in long-term.

The method of stress relief that Knorr recommends above others is exercise. The many health benefits of exercise are well documented. Additionally, while exercise releases stress, it is also a type of stress itself. Knorr says that because exercise is a type of stress, it can help the body adapt to other types of stress in the future.

Mia Gallardo has found a passion in aerial — a type of acrobatics done while hanging from fabric. For her, this combination of physical demand and artistic expression is a major relief for stress.

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A personal health routine including various vitamins and ashwagandha.

Gallardo is an avid believer in natural medicines. Throughout her personal journey, she has used a number of natural techniques to reduce her stress. Many of her favorite stress-relieving techniques perfectly exemplify the practices that the two professionals recommend.

Knorr’s advice to anyone who struggles with stress is to not ignore their feelings of anxiousness, to participate in some form of exercise, consider taking a complete B vitamin and vitamin C, and consider herbs that may help. And if none of those things help, book an appointment with a health-care professional.

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Upon sitting for the interview, Josh Williams poured each of us a cup of warm tea.

Over a piping cup of local, Native American tea, Josh Williams shared some of his thoughts on stress and ways to address it. Williams is a clinical herbalist who received his education from East West — an herbal medicine program in Sarasota, Florida. He currently owns an herbal shop in Salt Lake City called Greenthread Herbs.

Williams believes that the key to reducing stress lies somewhere in self-care. Whatever that means to each individual, self-care is a good way to approach good health.

For Gallardo, self-care is a big part of her stress-relieving practices. To reduce stress she is known to meditate, bake, spend time with loved ones, or read “Harry Potter” books. Taking time just to do something that makes a person happy can be incredibly therapeutic.

For Williams, he sees taking herbal medicines as a form of self-care. For example, he shared his love for tea. “Tea taught me how to slow down,” he said. Simply being able to sit in peace can do wonders for a person’s mental state.

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Acts of self care can be as simple as taking time to sip a cup of coffee and read a good book.

While herbal medicine is less commonly used in the United States, the practices are used worldwide and throughout history. There are many herbs that for centuries have been used to help people manage stress.

Interestingly enough, Knorr, Williams, and Gallardo all mentioned “ashwagandha” in their interviews. Knorr suggested it, Gallardo takes it every night, and Williams said it is his “spirit plant.” Ashwagandha is a plant that is known for its many medicinal benefits — especially for soothing anxiety.

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A wall inside Greenthread Herbs displaying just a few of the available herbs.

Plants like ashwagandha will not take the pain away. Instead, they aid the body in overcoming the stress it is under. While many people want a quick fix to their anxiety, using natural products may be beneficial in the long run by helping someone improve their ability to handle stress.

Using herbs helps the body get better at responding to stress, as opposed to simply ignoring or medicating for it. When referring to common pharmaceuticals for anxiety, Williams said, “Instead of learning how to deal with these stresses and learn from them, we numb out.”

In the same way that lifting weights helps people gain muscle mass, individuals can train their body to overcome stress. By experiencing stress in a calm manner, the body begins to adjust and approach it differently. Over time, individuals can feel calmer in the face of stress and train the body to respond accordingly.

This means overcoming anxiety as opposed to relying on numbing medication.

Many people struggle with high levels of stress every day and use different methods of dealing — or not dealing — with it. Wanting to make a change and knowing your options are two steps in the right direction.

Whether it be exercising, drinking tea, or adding a touch of herbal medicine to your daily routine, there are ways to reduce stress. Finding what works best for you is part of the journey.

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A sign in Greenthread Herbs offering customers the opportunity to create custom tea blends.

The plant revolution: anti-inflammatory, anti-meat

Story and gallery by JEN CHUN

Plant Based Utah, a collaborative organization that utilizes specialists to educate people about a plant-based lifestyle, held the 2nd Annual Plant Based Nutrition Symposium on Oct. 13, 2018, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. Doctors and health experts were invited to give lectures about a plant-based diet.

Annually, many Americans die because of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. According to 2017 data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 635,260 people died because of heart disease and 598,038 died of cancer. These two are the most fatal chronic diseases that threaten Americans’ health.

The problem is people do not know how to make healthy meals for themselves. Nutritious food is easily available, but consumers are having a tough time selecting ingredients for a healthy diet.

“One option is a plant-based diet,” said Patrick Olson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Rosenberg Cooley Metcalf Clinic in Utah.

Plant-Based Diet (PBD) is a diet that consists of minimally processed food. It focuses on consuming natural products that people can grow such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs. PBD does not include any animal products, which is eco-friendly to the earth as well.

“PBD is the most anti-inflammatory diet you can get,” Olson said.

He said plants are the primary source of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Not only do plants lower cholesterol and blood pressure, but they also change gene expression and lengthen telomeres. Maintaining a plant-based dietary pattern is helpful for lowering obesity rates.

Lucy Mower, a second-year graduate student at the University of Utah’s Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, said PBD promotes good health. She said PBD emphasizes the consumption of certain foods that are associated with heart benefits. “Eating vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are beneficial to the heart,” she said. Mower explains that “a lot of them have fiber which maintains or lowers the cholesterol level.” She added that components of vitamins and minerals control high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, known as LDL. “Having a PBD is helpful to break the vicious cycle of” America’s daily diet, Mower said.

Additionally, Mower emphasized the importance of research before starting PBD. She said PBD is challenging because it can be a big transition of one’s diet pattern. She said she won’t recommend specific PBD to people unless they do prior research or have background knowledge of plant-based nutrition. She emphasized the importance of discipline in building one’s PBD by researching, planning, and reading a nutrition label.

“To do a healthy PBD, it is significant to know one’s needs,” she said. She recommends considering the food groups seriously when looking for alternatives — replacing animal oil to vegetable oil — which should provide enough carbohydrate, protein, and fat to the body.

Zuri Vasquez, 18, and a student at the U has been doing PBD for five years. Her natural environment and family history — diabetes — influenced her to start PBD. “I don’t consume any animal product because I grew up with chickens and cattle in Idaho and I could not even imagine to harm them,” she said. She supports local farmers’ markets as well.

Meat-based diets stimulate climate change. According to the website PETA, making one hamburger needs as much fossil fuel as it takes to drive a small car 20 miles. Meat-based diet requires massive water, fossil fuel, and trees, which cause drought, air pollution — methane gas — and depletion of the ozone layer — carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, PBD is sustainable and has a lower environmental impact because it does not contain any animal product. “Having a PBD is promoting a huge impact on not only our planet’s health but also all its inhabitants,” Olson said.

Vasquez said having PBD is realistic and inspiring. She said it has become more accessible and sustainable since the increase of markets featuring whole food and grains. By eating healthy vegetables, fruits and nuts, she has gained more energy and improved cognitive abilities. “I feel strong and motivated because of the belief that I am doing something good,” she said.

She advised beginners of PBD to “start little by little.” Rather than changing the whole diet at once, gradually eliminating one thing a time, such as limiting animal products once a day, will be beneficial in adjusting to the plant-based meal. “It is a good investment to think about a longer period for my body and the earth,” Vasquez said.

Heber Rivera has been a chef for 15 years and has done PBD for four years now. He runs a business based on whole food and plant-based meals called “Chef Heber.” Before he started the business, he was in charge of catering to 23 different hospitals for Intermountain Healthcare. “Chef Heber” provides catering, artisan bread, and personalized meal delivery, services in which all the food is cooked by plant-based nutrition.

“Our catering is unique because it is built to the needs of customers,” he said. The artisan bread is made from 100 percent whole wheat and five other plant-based ingredients without any preservatives or sweeteners. He crafts pre-cooked plant-based meals to meet every dietary need. He delivers the food twice a week, which makes it easier for people to access and maintain the PBD.

Rivera aims to offer natural and nutrient-based meals without oil, sugar, or any chemical seasonings. “Ideally, we wanted to help people live better,” he said. He said it is hard for modern people to access healthy meals. He is trying to help as many people as possible by collaborating with different retail stores at reasonable prices.

According to the website, Plant Based Utah’s mission is, “We strive to advance our health and lifestyle culture through the sharing of evidence-based information and initiatives promoting whole food, plant-based nutrition.” This organization is helpful for learning about PBD.

At the symposium, the professionals emphasized that changing habits is crucial in PBD. Nowadays, people are too used to consuming processed and fast foods. Ayesha Sherzai and Dean Sherzai, who are neurologists and co-directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University, described the habit pathway as a cycle that continues toward mindfulness, which brings healthy behavior and eventually, success. They pointed out that the “mindfulness” is the most important stage to form a good eating habit. The website Healthy Minds Initiative shows a lot of helpful resources and programs for a healthy lifestyle.

In addition, Dr. Brooke Goldner, who is an expert in healing chronic disease with Plant-Based Nutrition, suggested making a green plant-based smoothie daily. Her book “Green Smoothie Recipes to Kick-Start Your Health & Healing” and the website called smoohieshred.com  contains various delicious and healthy recipes of green smoothies. Moreover, she runs the website called Goodbye Lupus for further information and tips for healthy eating and wellbeing.

One of the greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” The plant-based diet could be the revolution of health needed for every individual.

 

Healthcare: what’s in the price when you’re seen by a provider?

Story and images by BRADEN ROLLINS

Whether you go to the doctor to ensure your health shouldn’t be a decision you have to make. Unfortunately, rising healthcare costs are forcing individuals to choose between other expenses and healthcare.

Many face the daunting prospect of healthcare cost. But what contributes to the cost and why are some at a disadvantage as compared to others?

Stories of healthcare costs frequent the news and media attribute one of the causes of high costs to doctors offices themselves.

Trying to decipher why healthcare costs are so high can be difficult. However, speaking with employees at a local doctor’s office and their experience with rising cost may shed light on the subject for some.

Jordan Meadows, a small family practice located in West Jordan, provides services such as physicals, blood draws, weight checks, vaccinations and other basic medical services.

Debra Bowen, the general manager of the clinic, discussed factors that contribute to the price of healthcare in the office such as payroll, collections, supplies, utilities, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Keeping quality employees is difficult in today’s economy due to the unemployment rate being so low. And with major corporations offering higher pay for similar jobs, Bowen said it is difficult for smaller clinics to compete for labor.

Bowen said more than half of the expenses to the clinic is for payroll and if they were to significantly raise wages the patient prices would increase significantly as a result. So keeping the balance between quality employees and wages is a constant problem.

Another problem faced by the clinic is outstanding balances on patients’ accounts, which are usually sent to collections. Some patients receive treatment but delay paying for it at the time of service for various reasons. Many of these unpaid accounts can come from patients who have been treated and have since felt better and no longer feel payment is necessary, Bowen said.

Medical supplies are a major cost to the clinic. Bowen said most of the cost comes from sterile equipment for examination, followed by supplies and tests to diagnose different ailments. The most expensive of the supplies are vaccinations. The use of supplies is carefully monitored so only things that are needed are ordered to reduce waste and overstock of unneeded supplies.

While rising costs are affecting most Americans, Bowen acknowledged low-income individuals and families without insurance are particularly impacted. Jordan Meadows offers cash patients a reduced price for their care while barely breaking even on the cost to the clinic.

These individuals are faced with the decision to pay a high insurance deductible or pay out of pocket. Some coverage is minimal due to the plan selected by the patient.

Bowen said these policies, known as catastrophic insurance, have high deductibles such as $5,000, which most patients would not meet in their plan year, so they choose to pay out of pocket. 

This makes treating these patients difficult, especially those who have chronic care needs such as diabetes. Some patients will come in for their initial visit, but don’t return for follow-up appointments due to the price, which can sometimes cost over $100.

Though prices can still be considered high for cash-only patients, Bowen said they are negligibly higher than the prices set by government Medicare programs. Legally the clinic cannot charge lower prices than Medicare without it being considered fraud.

John Neilsen, a family nurse practitioner, said he and the clinic assist patients by reducing prices whenever possible for cash patients, and suggesting alternatives treatments and helping them find discounts on medications.

Neilsen said it is difficult at times when the patient cannot afford their care, but it’s even more difficult when the patient has the ability to pay but chooses not to afford their healthcare due to extravagances in their lives.

A main focus of the clinic is putting people first and doing what it can to help individuals struggling to pay for services by working with each one on a individual basis.

Mariana Alvarado, the receptionist who was assisting patients, said she has dealt with many patients who can’t afford the healthcare.

Many of the patients who have no insurance or poor insurance are notified before they are seen by the provider of the price of the visit. She says it’s difficult when patients are agitated by prices. But she said she does her best to calm them and explain why services are priced as they are.

Alvarado agreed with one of her co-workers. “Being a smaller clinic we develop relationships with our patients,” she said, “and do what we can to help each patient with staying healthy while helping them afford treatment.”

Jordan Meadows provides healthcare at prices that are manageable for the majority of its patients who have good insurance. But the clinic is willing to work with those who are in positions of financial stress or have poor insurance.

While basic healthcare could be considered relatively expensive as compared to other necessities, the breakdown of expenses to your doctor’s office, especially those of smaller practices, add up to and contribute to the final price of the service provided.

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University of Utah students discuss their passion for medicine and science

What university students are enduring now to be successful later on.

Story and slideshow by Ryan Matthew Thurston

It’s late on a Saturday night, and while most students are sleeping, partying or hanging out with friends, Ben Battistone, a freshman from Salt Lake City, is busy studying.

“I spend 15 to 20 hours a week on homework, conservatively. If it’s a test week I spend probably about 30,” he said.

He has a good reason to study. Although Battistone is only 19, he has big plans for the future: He wants to be a doctor.

“My dad is a doctor, so I grew up around it,” he said. “I’ve always been a quantitative person, so the sciences come naturally.”

Battistone has been studying at the University of Utah for almost a year. He’s not entirely sure what kind of doctor he wants to be, but whatever his specialty, his primary focus is helping people.

“I want to make a positive difference,” he said. “I really hope people don’t do it for money or job security. You’re sacrificing quality of care. If someone’s in it for the money, they won’t be as passionate and motivated as if they’re in it for the people.”

Helping patients is an essential part of any medical profession. As one doctor told Battistone, “They don’t treat patients, they treat people.” But he says the extra workload is worth it.

“Students in general are under a lot of pressure,” Battistone said. “You have to balance a lot of things in class while being asked to somehow take extracurricular activities. It’s crazy sometimes.”

The tremendous workload is a common theme among science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors. Ben Adams, a biomedical engineering major from Salt Lake City, has experienced similar trials in his pursuit of going to medical school.

“I don’t know that the major is the most important part of it,” Adams explained. “I’ve been considering changing my major to biochemistry or kinesiology.”

Between taking classes and studying, Adams also plays defense for the No. 1 ranked lacrosse team in the nation. Participating in sports has also influenced his career path.

“This summer I had a hip surgery done,” he said. “That doctor was incredible. He did such a great job that it made me think this is maybe something I want to look into.”

Like Battistone, Adams only takes four classes a semester, but considers his workload to be significantly more. Each class requires more work outside of it and contains harder concepts within.

“I’m in 12 credit hours, and it’s supposed to be a lighter load,” he explained. “But I probably spend upwards of four hours a day on calculus and bioengineering.”

Such a workload might seem unfamiliar to students with different majors. But for STEM majors and pre-med students, it’s a common thread that binds them together.

“I think about how the workload differs between majors a lot,” Adams said. “Some kids have 16 credit hours and have more free time whereas I’m swamped the whole day.”

Adams isn’t complaining though. He understands the work he has to put in might be more than someone else, comparatively.

“The end goal is very desirable,” he said. “Helping other people is something I want to do. It’s challenging but worth it.”

Helping people is a consistent theme across STEM majors, even for those who don’t want to go to medical school. Stella Ray is a chemistry major from Park City, Utah, but says she eventually wants to teach the subject in high school.

“I took chemistry all three years in high school,” she said. “I was a teaching assistant and tutor for it as well, and that’s how I decided I wanted to teach it at the high school level.”

Although Ray is only 19, education has always been something she’s wanted to work in. She explained that while chemistry can be challenging, having to work hard to understand the material has given her a greater appreciation for it.

“I like the challenge that chemistry poses,” she said. “Physics makes like no sense to me, but chemistry poses enough of a challenge that I had to work at it, and because of that I ended up liking it more.”

Ray also puts a lot into her studies, but often does so with friends to make things easier.

“The classes that require the most effort are my calculus and chemistry classes for sure,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a ton of work though, since I have such a good support group of friends.”

Interaction with others is something Ray anticipates as she pursues her career.

“I think maybe more so than the subject of chemistry I love teaching,” she said. “That is my No. 1 priority, to become a teacher.”

Ray explained that in high school, she was amazed how different teachers led to different experiences for students.

“A lot of my peers have had different teachers,” she said. “Usually if they didn’t like chemistry it was because of the teacher they had. If you have a good teacher, even if the subject doesn’t come naturally, you’re still going to enjoy it more. I want to be the teacher that makes this subject accessible to everyone.”

Whether they are studying anatomy, chemistry or biology, the students at the University of Utah all seem to be tied together by more than just their workloads. Those who really work at it all seem to have one goal in common: helping others.

 

 

Two single moms open medical spa in Salt Lake City

Story and gallery by ASHLEIGH ZAELIT

Devynne Toote wakes up in the morning and takes her 3-year-old daughter Grei to her mother’s house. She grabs her morning coffee, and gets ready for work. When Devynne gets off around 7 p.m. she picks up her daughter to go home and make dinner together. She gives Grei a bath, they read a bedtime story, and then it’s time for bed.

Toote referred to her life as “work and mom.”

Yet Toote, who is a single mom, doesn’t mind this exhausting schedule because she is turning her dreams of owning a medical spa into a reality. She owns Bye Bye Med Spa with friend Kaeci Durfey, who is also a single mother.

Toote met Durfey seven years ago at the Mandalyn Academy, the beauty school they both attended. They became best friends and moved in together.

“We had always wanted to open up a med spa, it was our dream,” Toote said.

After school Toote started doing eyelash extensions. She later started training where she taught students the ins and outs of lash extensions, and even started her own lash company.

Toote was 20 years old when she got pregnant with Grei, and has been working to show her daughter that she can do anything.

“I just want to be a great example for my daughter,” Toote said. “Being a single mom and working full time is not easy but it’s fulfilling at the end of the day when you start accomplishing things. We don’t have time to waste. It’s hard to do alone but both my parents have helped me along the way. What makes the biggest difference is having a support system.”

She said it can be very difficult to balance the need to work to earn a living with the desire to spend time with her daughter.

Toote said it can be daunting to be a single parent and entrepreneur. But she advised other women, “Don’t let the fear of it all stop you. As long as you’re working hard and remember who it’s for, it will all be worth it.”

Kaeci Durfey is a medical esthetician. A medical esthetician specializes in advanced skin care treatments to develop and maintain healthy, beautiful skin.

Durfey provides the service of microneedling. This is a treatment that improves the look of scars, fine lines, wrinkles, stretch marks, and minimizes pores.

She starts the microneedling treatment by cleansing the face. Then she uses a device that stimulates the production of collagen, uses different kinds of light therapy, and removes impurities. Next she applies a topical numbing cream on the face followed by going over the face with a microneedling tool.

Both Durfey and Toote loved their jobs, but they wanted to expand. Opening Bye Bye Med Spa was the first step in their 20-year plan.

Bye Bye Med Spa is located at 4698 S. Highland Drive in Millcreek. Services include Injections like Botox, microdermabrasion to lighten and tighten the skin, eyelash extensions, microblading, waxing, airbrush spray tanning, and even weight loss programs. The spa also gives clients a great selection of everyday skin care as well as supplements.

Toote and Durfey would love to help others accomplish their goals and are leasing out rooms to anyone, even those who aren’t estheticians. Rent starts at $650 a month and includes social media marketing, business financial services, and web design.

Kendall Robbs is a 21-year-old single mom who rents out a room at Bye Bye Med Spa. She provides facial waxing and eyebrow tinting, and she specializes in microblading.

Microblading is a type of permanent makeup applied to your eyebrow. Robbs uses a special blade to tattoo individual hair strokes giving a fuller, natural looking brow.

Kendall moved from Salt Lake City to Orem two years ago for an internship where she learned microblading. She decided to move to Bye Bye Med Spa because the location would better accommodate her clients.

“The location is great, and everyone offers something different vs. other places where everybody just does one thing. Since there are individual rooms each client gets a more comfortable experience,” Robbs said.

Robbs related with Toote and Durfey, saying, “They are young single moms trying to build a career and I just really connected with them being a single mom as well. We just get each other.”

Toote and Durfey have a lot of plans for Bye Bye Med Spa, including offering cool sculpting. Cool sculpting is a device that dissolves fat cells in the area of choice.

They just recently got a laser to provide skin-resurfacing, laser hair removal, and tattoo removal for their clients. Kybella was also recently added, which is an injection that completely paralyzes fat. They would like to partner with a plastic surgeon in the future.

Bye Bye Med Spa is planning a grand opening this upcoming summer but anyone is currently welcome to set up an appointment for a skin care treatment, eyelash extensions, microblading, or spray tanning session.

The confidence of their customers is their top priority. All women and men are welcome, regardless of their color, shape, or size.

 

Medical marijuana versus the opioid epidemic in Utah

Story and gallery by CHANDLEY CHYNOWETH

Utah has the seventh highest drug overdose rate in the United States. Six people in Utah die every day from opioid overdoses, according to Opidemic. Taking opioids prescribed from a doctor can be harmful and cause addiction. It’s important that people are informed about this issue in order to prevent it from happening.

According to Opidemic, opioids release chemicals in the brain that stop the perception of pain. The brain can become accustomed to the pills and demand unnatural levels to dull pain and feel pleasure.

One individual, a neurologist, who has been practicing in Provo, Utah, for 28 years, believes that medical marijuana can be an answer to this opioid problem. He asked not to be identified because medical marijuana isn’t legal in Utah, so he will be referred to as Dr. R. He said, “There are over 200,000 new opioid addicts in the United States every year.”

Dr. R mentioned that many of the illicit drug addictions stem from prescription opioids. Oxycodone is the most commonly abused medication. He believes heroine is the most popular illicit drug that opioid abuse leads to because of the falling prices for it in Utah.

In his clinic he only prescribes opioids if the patient is in immense pain. When he does prescribe them it is in low quantities for a short period of time. He will try every other option of medication before he tries opioids because of their negative effects.

If the patient is looking for long-term opioid prescriptions he sends them to a pain clinic that can better manage their pain and medication intake.

When prescribing an opioid Dr. R has three rules: 1. The patient must sign a contract agreeing that he is the only provider for this drug; 2. The patient has to agree to stay within the parameters he supplies; 3. His office checks the patient out on DOPL, which stands for The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. This program indicates what other medications the patient is prescribed. He takes these measures to prevent patient addiction.

“I prefer medical marijuana to opioids, and anecdotally multiple patients have told me medical marijuana works better than their opioids,” Dr. R said. He explained marijuana is known to be a “culture drug,” which is the cause for difficulty in legalization.

Michelle C., a medical assistant who has been practicing in Draper, Utah, for eight years, said opioid addiction is a significant problem. Many patients come to her clinic seeking an opioid prescription.

“It doesn’t matter about your age, gender, or profession, anyone can become addicted and we see all different types of people that are struggling,” said Michelle, who asked not to be identified. If a patient wants an opioid prescription and is in pain, the clinic will prescribe one as a last resort and only for three months at most.

In most cases, Michelle said medical marijuana is a better alternative than opioids. She said it can benefit children who suffer from seizures and birth defects because it has been proven to help them. Cancer patients can also find great relief from it.

Michelle’s sister suffers from LAM disease, which attacks the lungs and is fatal. “My sister lives in Idaho so she doesn’t have access to medical marijuana. I wish that she did because it would benefit her a lot more than the pain pills she is prescribed,” Michelle said. Her sister is in constant pain and she believes that in cases like that, medical marijuana is the way to go.

Michelle does not recommend smoking medical marijuana for health reasons, and says taking the pill form of it is best.

Lee Barry, who lives in California and uses medical marijuana for his back pain, said he used to be prescribed pain pills and began to worry when he started depending on them too much. He increased his dosage because his body became used to the medication. Soon he realized that he couldn’t continue taking them because he was on the road to addiction.

He turned to medical marijuana and said it was a much better solution for him. “When taking my pain pills I felt groggy and in a daze all the time. When I switched over to medical marijuana I felt so much better and didn’t have to worry about addiction,” Barry explained in a Skype interview.

Barry believes medical marijuana is a perfect alternative to pain pills and would never go back to taking them again. It helps his back pain and he feels more like himself than when he was using opioids. He doesn’t know where he would be in his life without it.

Barry, Michelle, and Dr. R all agree that medical marijuana is the better alternative to opioid medications. They all believe that the opioid epidemic is very serious and caution people to avoid taking them at any cost.

If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction you can call 1-800-622-HELP to reach Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline that is free and confidential.

RELATED: Listen to The Politics of Medical Marijuana, a May 2018 episode of KUER’s “RadioWest” that explored “the politics, popular opinion, and policies surrounding legalizing cannabis” in the U.S. and Utah.

 

 

 

 

University of Utah students have many mental health options available to them

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Story and photos by KAYLEE ANDERSON

There’s a rising epidemic on college campus and it’s not what you would expect.

Mental health is becoming a problem and it reaches new heights with young adults between the ages of 19-25, the typical demographic of college students. With so many new stresses coming into play, 49.5 percent of adolescents are affected by some kind of mental health disorder, according to youth.gov.

The University of Utah understands these problems and has many resources for students who need help. For example, the Counseling Center is located on the fourth floor of the Student Services Building. Most students aren’t aware of the services that are provided to them.

Steve Lucero is the center’s associate director. He encourages students to come check out the center and everything it has to offer. Lucero says that depression in college is a normal thing that can happen because of major life transitions, and for most students, college is the first big event that occurs in their lives.

“The magnitude of changes and lifestyles can be a difficult adjustment that triggers depression and anxiety,” Lucero says.

Lucero and the rest of the counselors at the center say that process is quite easy to follow. Students can call or come into the center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Once they are there, they take a survey with a series of questions to determine the measure of distress the students are in.

If the students are in crisis, a crisis center is available at all time for them. Being in crisis is when you are in a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. If they aren’t in crisis mode but still want to get help, they will be assigned a counselor and an appointment time. Group counseling, yoga, workshops, or individual counseling is available. The intake appointment, crisis center and workshops are all free for students. The group counseling is only $5 and the individual sessions are $12. These are very reasonable prices Lucero says.

The counseling center has two advanced practice registered nurses who can prescribe medication, which can be the next step after talk therapy.

Lucero wants more students to be aware of the services provided on campus.

Ashley Nagel is a sophomore at the University of Utah. She says her depression was very much heightened when she first went to college. Nagel says that moving away from her parents in Draper, was very hard and she didn’t realize how big of an impact it was going to have on her mental health and body. Going from a family house setting to a dorm room can be hard for young adults without them even realizing it. Nagel also says that she thought she had to have everything figured out when she first got to college, which heightened her anxiety.

Nagel hasn’t used the services on campus, but she wishes they were a bit more advertised because she feels like many students don’t know they exist. That is what Lucero is trying to accomplish by using social media and presenting to classes and other university groups about the center and all it has to offer.

Nagel says, “My depression is mostly socially related, so when I found a solid group of people that I felt genuinely comfortable with, my depression became a lot less of an issue.”

According to Self Magazine, 30 percent of people who suffer from mental illness never seek treatment.

Devin Johnson, a sophomore at Salt Lake Community College, says drugs and alcohol may have something to do with it. “Everyone just wants to party so they become distant from their real friends and befriend people who just like to use drugs and alcohol because they are so caught up in the having the college experience,” Johnson says.

Salt Lake Community College has a counseling center as well as the University of Utah, but Johnson says he has never been aware of that and doesn’t know where it is located. It is called the Center for Health and Counseling. It provides massage therapy as an option for students, which is very unique, as well and group and individual counseling.

If university counseling centers don’t work out for students there are so many other  psychiatrists around the Salt Lake Valley who are accepting new patients.

Jessica Arbogast is a family nurse practitioner who practices at the Martindale Clinic, which is located in downtown Salt Lake City on 340 E. 200 South, only five minutes from the University of Utah campus. She is willing to take new patients at this time and is very good with adolescents.

The Martindale Clinic is also a part of the Odyssey House, which helps people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. This can be another problem for college students and can increase depression and anxiety.

People who start taking an antidepressant to help with mental illness should avoid drugs and alcohol because it may mess with the medication, Arbogast says. 

She sees a large rise in the number of patients between the ages of 19-25, especially 19-21. “There are so many new stresses that come in play that people in high school did not deal with,” Arbogast says. Some of these newfound stresses include living without a parent, high stress classes, work, lack of sleep and meeting new people.

The Martindale Clinic and the Odyssey House are very affordable options for college students who can’t afford treatment or advising. They also are good options for students who attend other schools, colleges, or just live around the area and want to get help.

Mental illness is a huge problem for students, but there is no more need to hide behind it. So many people are dealing with the disorder and help can be found easily. No battle is too big to overcome.

The time to act is now.

Developing mindful awareness as a proactive approach to ending the stigma on mental illness

Story and gallery by SAVANNAH BERNARDO

As humans, each one of us is unique.

Just as our bones grow, our thoughts grow. Just as our bones develop muscles, our thoughts develop emotions. And just as our bones and muscles have developed the structure that our body is today, our thoughts and emotions have developed the structure that our mind is today.

We all have a different design that makes up how we see ourselves and how other people see us. But this is only half of what makes us unique.

The distinct way that each mind reacts and responds to different circumstances is what makes each human an individual. Each thought and emotion created is a response to a variety of different circumstances that we experience. However, the difference is how each mind will react.

Our perceptions and reactions to other people’s emotions is the reason for the stigma surrounding mental illness. Because we are unique, we all have a different story comprised of thoughts and emotions. But how often are we mindful of the details in this story? Once they come into awareness, we as a society become mindful. And only when we are mindful will we be able to stop reacting — and start being proactive.

ZOOMED OUT  

Stigma occurs when we are unsure of how to react. Instead of trying to empathize, our lack of understanding causes a shameful judgement. This is stigma. And its mark of disgrace is left on those diagnosed with a mental illness. For many generations, stereotypes and misconceptions have caused stigmatization against people who have been diagnosed. But if we are all humans with these unique minds, why is our first reaction to judge what we don’t understand?

Mayumi Shill, 22, programs coordinator at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), describes this as a “zoomed out view.” While zoomed out, many people diagnosed with a mental illness are blamed for their disorder. There is a common curiosity as to why someone cannot just choose to be happy. This concern implies that they must be doing something wrong, and that there is a simple fix to the problem.

Just be happy.

If only life were that simple. However, simplicity does not always amount to happiness. Along with finding happiness comes facing adversity.

Andrew Smith, 35, a psychologist at the University of Utah Hospital, said, “Many people will experience some kind of mental difficulty in their life span.” But this is normal. This is what makes us human. “We’re all in this human experience together,” he said, and it’s important that we “help normalize that experience, together.”

EVERYONE HAS A STORY

That human experience is our story. Shill, with NAMI, said, “Everyone has a story, everyone has a different journey, and just because you don’t struggle with a mental illness, doesn’t mean that the person next to you isn’t.”

So let’s zoom in. If we take a moment to listen to the details, we will be able to hear the real story. And most importantly — accept it.

Samantha Shaw, 20, a junior at the U, said sharing her story was the best decision she ever made. Shaw was diagnosed with depression during her sophomore year of high school, but still had the thought, “This can’t be real. I can just choose to be happy.”

Even her boyfriend at the time advised her to smile more and be grateful she didn’t have something more serious like cancer.

Shaw said she felt like she had become trapped inside of her mental illness. “I felt very defined by it,” she said.

But little did she know, this was just part of her human experience.

After high school, she found her outlet in creativity and consistently wrote down her thoughts and emotions through poetry and short stories.

Her mindful awareness allowed her to accept her emotional state, rather than react to it. She was being proactive. This acceptance led her to talk about her mental illness more openly and no longer be defined by it.

PROACTIVE RATHER THAN REACTIVE

The Counseling Center at the U, supports this proactive approach. Staff are actively educating students through presentations on campus about their services. Lauren Weitzman, director of the University Counseling Center, said their underlying goal is to normalize everybody’s mental health.

It also provides an important service called the Mindfulness Center. Free workshops are held on the third floor of the student services building. Students may drop in for meditation to learn mindfulness strategies to help manage stress and anxiety and check in with their overall mental health. “Everybody can benefit from it, and it can help everyone’s well-being,” Weitzman said.

And while being on campus is convenient for students, the Counseling Center also refers people to a variety of additional resources around the Wasatch Front, including NAMI.

NAMI is a national nonprofit advocacy organization that provides help and hope in relation to mental illness. It has a range of peer taught support, education and school programs that are available to the public.

Along with these programs, it offers everybody the chance to stand together and pledge to be stigma free.

By taking this pledge we are joining together as a society.

We are recognizing that we are all humans with a unique story. But as Andrew Smith, the psychologist at the University Hospital, said, we are in that human experience together. And as we bring awareness and acceptance into our mentality, we are practicing mindfulness. Only when we are mindful, Smith said, will we be able to “do a better job at supporting each other.”

Opioid addiction in Utah: Can the battle be won?

Story and slideshow by RYKER JACKSON

Bradley Hieb had been using drugs since high school. After becoming addicted to opioids, his marriage fell  apart and his children were taken from him twice. The first time was for a month, the second time for seven months. His addiction to opioids escalated. The third time he was found using opioids, his children were taken from him and nearly put up for adoption. That was when he went to detoxification.

Don C. was nearly sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. Don, a young, successful businessman from the Bay Area, had been involved in illegal practices to satisfy his desires for opioids. This landed him in jail a few times, where he would continually ask for opioids, his drug of choice, even from behind bars. This addiction became so all-consuming  that he thought about jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge on more than one occasion. He was given one more chance by a parole officer.

It is no longer a secret that the nation is facing an epidemic: opioid addiction. Utah is among the states hardest hit. The opioid crisis cost the United States $504 billion in 2015.  On Oct. 26, 2017, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency: “Ending the epidemic will require mobilization of government, local communities, and private organizations. It will require the resolve of our entire country.”

Utah has the seventh highest drug poisoning death rate in the nation, according  to the Utah Department of Health. Utah is also home to a wide array of treatment centers. Cory Markisich, executive director of Wasatch Recovery Treatment Center in Cottonwood Heights, said Utah has some of the best addiction treatment facilities in the country. So, what is the best treatment? What works? Markisich said that group therapy is the best solution.

Group therapy capitalizes on peer support from others who are facing similar trials all while being guided by a professional counselor. The support felt by those who are going through the same situations and struggles is the largest benefit of the program. “The problem is usually something else. They are trying to cover something up,” Markisich said. Group therapy helps counselors and patients both to understand what that personal trial is, and how it can be solved without the use of opioids.

Markisich, who studied finance and social work at the University of Utah, has been with Wasatch Recovery for five years. He is aware of some of the unique struggles faced in the Beehive state.

“In Utah, we have a weird dynamic where we have strong LDS culture and there’s a lot of guilt and a lot of shame, more so than you get in other areas,” Markisich said. “Most of the people that I’m treating, they’re not coming in for alcohol and cocaine. What’s happened is they were given a prescription, and it’s not against the Word of Wisdom to take their prescription, but they are completely abusing that prescription,” he said. The Word of Wisdom  is the health code of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which prohibits illegal and harmful substances.

“They’re great people, what’s happened is they’ve just spiraled out of control,” he said. Markisich said that often the substances are abused to treat depression or anxiety. Patients may be taking opioids for their back, only to soon realize that it helps treat their depression. This leads to dependency and addiction.

Markisich and his colleagues do not tell their patients that using drugs is bad. What he tries to do, and what it is massively more successful, is getting to the root of their addiction, whether that be depression, anxiety, or something else entirely.

He said that sometimes people have a hard time understanding recovery. Often, he needs to tell his patient’s husband, wife, or parents that recovery is not like taking a car in to get repaired. Solving an addiction is not like getting an oil change. It requires time and consistent effort to avoid relapse.

Markisich said the addictions affect people mentally and emotionally. They suppress painful memories for people, and provide temporary respite from daily stresses. It is in the resolution of those painful memories and daily stresses that the addiction is more fully overcome, and not only in the physical time one refrains from the substance abuse.

Treatment begins with detoxification, then often moves into a full-time residential program at a recovery center. Such was the case with Hieb. He was in Odyssey House’s residential program for 23 months. Then the patients can move down to part-time treatment, which is usually five hours a day for five days a week. This leads to the patients becoming more independent and attending  meetings such as group therapy sessions. This allows for their environment to slowly get larger until they can handle daily life again.

Hieb said it is critical for patients to detox completely from opiates in a structured environment as quickly as possible. Hieb said recovery is a process, and is most effective when patients move from multiple services to fewer over time, like he did.

Markisich agrees, saying there is no cookie-cutter solution to the problem for every patient.

Hieb’s life has changed a great deal since his initial detox. “If I didn’t burn my last bridge, I don’t know if I would have ever made it,” he said. He was able to retain custody of his children and is now the program director at New Roads Behavioral Health in Cottonwood Heights. “The reason I am a director is because of my passion for the therapeutic community.”

Don C., who asked to remain anonymous because not all of his family knows about his past, has had a similarly remarkable recovery. He came to Wasatch Recovery as a client in November 2016. He now works in detoxification and said he gets to see people at their worst. He said he knows how to help them because he has been in the same situation himself.

Wasatch Recovery’s motto is fitting for anyone seeking treatment options: Instill hope, teach resilience, and achieve recovery.

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$250,000 Awarded to the Moran Eye Center

by Erica Hartmann

SALT LAKE CITY- Research to Prevent Blindness has awarded two grants to the Moran Eye Center to support research to the causes, treatment and prevention of blinding diseases.

The two grants were given to Dr. Gregory Hageman and the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Hageman was granted a $150,000 Senior Scientific Investigator Award and the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences received $100,000. Department Chairman Dr. Randall J Olson will direct the usage of this grant.

Hageman is the Director of the Moran Center for translational medicine and has written more than 100 referred publications. His primary research interest is the assessment of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible worldwide blindness.

Olson, the CEO of the Moran Center, is a specialist in the research of intra-ocular lens complications, as well as corneal transplants. He has also been selected as one of the 15 best cataract surgeons in the United States.

The RPB is the world’s leading voluntary organization supporting eye research. They’ve awarded grants totaling $4,765,300 to the University of Utah.

Olson stated, “We are grateful to the RPB for their charitable gifts and continual support of our research. These gifts will further the studies that will lead to treatments and cures for devastating eye diseases.”

Their goal is for no person with a visual impairment to be without hope, knowledge and treatment. For more information on RPB and the grants visit www.rpbusa.org.

Plastic surgery on the rise

Story and slideshow by MIA MICIC

As today’s society becomes more and more concerned with their looks, the amount of people getting plastic surgery is increasing drastically even though many risks come with it.  According to an article posted on the Plastic Surgery Portal, “there were 39% more people who had breast augmentations in 2010 versus 2000.”

Roya Fargam, who works for Dr. Kimball M. Crofts, said, “I definitely think that in these past couple of years plastic surgery has gotten more popular and more people are getting procedures done.”

Crofts owns AESTHETICA medical spa in Lindon, Utah. He graduated from the University of Utah Medical School in 1989 and now works as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

“The challenge of taking normal and enhancing it to a super normal state, or to take severely injured or disfigured individuals and restoring that person to near-normal state was conceivably invigorating, I had to be part of that,” Crofts said.

AESTHETICA offers many plastic surgery procedures, including breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction, liposuction, lower body lift, laser skin resurfacing, ear surgery, facelift, eyelid surgery, and much more.

“Breast augmentation is by far the most popular type of surgery that patients want,” Crofts said. This number for this surgery continues to grow more and more every year. An individual who has this procedure done can end up spending more than $10,000 once they are done paying for the surgery, implants, medical fees and prescriptions.

When it comes to plastic surgery there are many risks involved such as scarring, bleeding, infection and nerve damage. Patients go into these procedures knowing the risks, yet they still continue on with the surgery.  Also depending what kind of procedure is done the recovery stage can sometimes take up to a couple of months.

“I don’t think many patients really realize how many risks can come with plastic surgery procedures, but it is a risk they take and will have to deal with any consequences after,” Fargam said.

Crofts added: “Yes, of course there are risks with every procedure, but if it is done right there is nothing to worry about.”

Patient Sadey Hall agreed to share some details about her surgery that she just had done recently. Hall got liposuction done on her legs  because she thought they were a “little too big.”

“I felt insecure about my legs and figured that was my only solution,” Hall said.

“The recovery stage was definitely not fun, and if I could go back in time I would have probably held off on this procedure just because there are other solutions besides plastic surgery,” Hall said.

In the end patients who go through plastic surgery get affected in different ways. According to the American Psychological Association, “people report increased satisfaction with the body part they had surgery on.”

On the other hand other individuals who have had plastic surgery refuse to get more done. “My liposuction was my first and last surgery that I will have, it was not necessary for me to get it,” Hall said.

Another source that has a huge effect on the rise of plastic surgery is the mass media. The media portray what women should supposedly look like and if they don’t look a certain way the media encourage individuals to get plastic surgery.

“Women always bring in pictures of celebrities and say they want their breasts or legs to look like the picture,” Fargam said.

Having plastic surgery is a very big life changing decision, and when something is changed on the body there is no undoing it. Before having any type of surgery individuals need to think it through and decide if that’s what they really want.

“When someone comes for a consultation about a certain procedure, I always make sure and ask them if this is what they really want, because once the surgery is done there is no turning back,” Crofts said.

Anyone who has plastic surgery needs to remember while they are having these procedures done that their life is in the hands of someone else. If plastic surgery is not needed but only “wanted” then the patient should rethink all the complications and decide if it is really worth it in the end.

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