I finished attending the National Children’s Health and Climate Leadership Forum. It was actually an impactful conference organized by the AAP and Eco-America. I was able to dialouge with climate leaders from a large swath of organizations including Faith leaders, American Lung Association, and other MD Climate Activists. I even met one fellow pediatrician from New York who private messaged me that she was a “Dr. Plastic Picker East Coast Fan.” I was so touched. Truly.
I am so proud to be our Eco-Champion for the Kaiser South Pediatric Clinics! Jenny Lusung RN at Bonita designated me for that role, so I think that makes it official. Jenny has asked me to write a regular item for the BOTAY Newsletter and this will be my first specific one for our great community. Thank you for allowing me a regular column in this virtual space. I am grateful.
I wanted to highlight the Eco-Choices that our community is making. Sometimes I live in my own head way too much between blogging, going to the beach to pick up plastic alone and trying to move the healthcare sector toward more sustainability. This week I attended the National Children’s Health and Climate Leadership Forum and again talked about myself. But when I get out of my own head and look around, I find the greatest inspiration from our work community. I thought I’d report to everyone the beautiful world I see moving toward sustainability and amplifying eachother’s voices!
It has been one of those off-odd weeks again. I had the motivational talk at Sustainable Healthcare Project at VCU, testified at the County Board of Supervisors re dangers of vaping, and then attended as part of the AAP the National Children’s Health & Climate Leadership Forum. Then I had a 12-4pm virtual work meeting where we reviewed some pediatric projects. I’m really excited about this video well teen visit for MediCAL patients that we are piloting. I asked if it would be okay if I tried to write it up as a paper and everyone was enthusiastic. It’s really innovative. Plus I want a real publication if I am serious about starting a climate change and health pediatric fellowship program, because I want to be fellowship director. There were the usual annoyances at work with upper upper echelon management people, and then there was that annoying HR (actually 3) issues that are resolved but still bother me. I just go to work and not telling people my business. I just tell my real friends and Nurse L and living my drplasticpicker life. I was so happy to help along with San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air to get that anti-flavored tobacco bill passed. I didn’t do my usual running up and down the hallway celebrating, although it was such a big win. I honestly think everyone who has a teenager should give me $5. Your are welcome! I just saved all of us a lot of headaches, literally. I’m just kidding about the $5. But everyone should realize that we all need to pitch it to change laws or pick up trash. Most people do, but the few that glaringly benefit from all the good changes positive people try to make but then continue to be petty at work – I have deleted you from my mind. Yes that is how I deal with that. I just delete them. Gone. Okay, I will never mention this again.
I posted this on my personal Facebook page, and it’s worth reposting on the blog. I have been interviewed by a few news outlets including KPBS and mentioned in Del Mar Times, and will be doing a podcast soon with KevinMD. But the one that has been the most meaningful was this recently completed interview with Voices of GenZ writer Arlene Nagtalon. Rereading our conversation in her article, I felt much the same way when my son talked about his Climate Strike Speech at school. To see our children especially these brave teenagers tackle issues that we as adults have failed at, is inspiriting.
“Its 11PM and trying to coordinate with some key people efforts to get a measure passed tomorrow at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to limit flavored ecigs in order to protect our teens. And it’s frustrating because big tobacco and many forces are out there fighting against such a common sense measure. But when I get frustrated and want to give up fighting for pediatric health and our environment, I think about amazing teens like Arlene Nagtalon. This is a co-worker’s daughter. I was touched when she asked to interview me for the youth on-line magazine Voices of Gen Z. Below is the interview. I’m a bit tired of talking about myself, but I was so grateful to get to know Arlene during our virtual interview. She wrote all about me, but sprinkled during my replies was a true back and forth conversation that was very satisfying. I can tell you it was one of the best most intelligent and stimulating conversations I’ve had in a long time. Check out her article, but better yet check out this magazine. What these young minds are discussing, blogging about and writing – is simply amazing. They get it. They get the issues. It’s their world and they are fighting for a better future. I sound probably hypomanic in the interview because it was so fun to talk with Arlene. Kudos to her mother and father for raising an amazing daughter. Her pediatrician (a friend and colleague) for being her pediatrician. It really takes a community. Anyway just wanted to share why it’s worth fighting big tobacco at 11pm at night and why picking up plastic is worth it, because it’s for our children. It’s true we borrow the world from them.”
Does the world seem out of whack? I had the third HR/middle-management issue come up this weekend. This one came from far left field. I was texting with Chief Boss and I told her if I wasn’t a happy litter-picker these days, I would seriously quit. I realized all these issues likely have to do with the chaos in the world right now. There is a pandemic going on, with greater than 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and we are entering the third wave and bracing for the headlong collusion of flu and COVID which is fluVID. She has had to deal with 10x greater HR issues. I get it. We are all stressed, and therefore everyone is going a little bit crazy. The three issue are now solved (at least in my mind) but geeze-louise people.
Seriously, trying to help run a department if you want to do it right and just and actually improve healthcare within a large bureacracy is hard. It’s so easy to just sit there, draw your compensation, have your pension grow, complain about late patients, point out that they didn’t come on time and just avoid larger structural issues. But that is the problem right? Large systems breed complacency. And MDs have a higher calling to actually improve health outcomes and to agitate. Unfortunately anytime you agitate or make changes, people get all bothered. And then there are the micro-aggressions that women leaders have to go through. It is so real and painful and unfair, that I can’t even begin to explain.
I am waiting for Mr. Plastic Picker to finish a call. He’s staffing for his department this morning, and will be done in about 15 minutes. He said he’d go to the beach with me to talk while I pick up trash. The beach has been a healing place for me the last year, and I am always grateful when he agrees to go with me. I think he is healed next to the ocean as well.
I’m making beer bread right now. It’s amazing how simple it is. Mr. Plastic Picker is Korean-American. I took a Korean History class my Junior year of college at Crimson University because my then boyfriend (the same Mr. Plastic Picker) was Korean, and I had an elective that I took pass/fail. I think I got a B in the class but that was planned, as I put in the minimum effort and I passed the class. I remember calculating out that my GPA was in the mid 3.7ish range (which back then was good for Crimson University) and even if I got an A- in the class, it would actually hurt my GPA. So I decided to take this one class Pass/Fail strategically the spring of my Junior Year so I could study for my MCAT. The MCAT went fine, and I passed the Korean History class. I don’t actually remember much from the class, I think because I put so little effort into it. I do remember Professor Carter Eckert (I think that was his name?) said Koreans were thought of as the Irish of the East. That made everyone laugh at the analogy because of the stereotypes of the drinking culture in both cultures. It was more in reference to the Japanese colonial era of Korean history where the Empire of Japan exploited the Koreans as hard labourers. Much of how the Irish people have been exploited by the British. If you wonder why there is such a visceral reaction to all things Japanese in Korea, you must know the context of that colonial history.
I finally called Aerobin 400 company headquarters and had a really great conversation with Lorraine at extension 701. She wasn’t able to talk to the VP of Marketing who had approved my discount for a single unit for the Costco Price at $224. But I read off his email and sheepishly told her about my off the cuff email and my blogging life as a litter-picker. The economy may be tanking, but the Aerobin 400 composter business is booming. They only had 2 left on their dock in Austin. She said she had put a post-it on it for me, but someone else came out and said that unit had been sold already. I could wait until first week of November, or they actually had returned units that were always practically new. They clean them and sell them at a discount. Lorraine said that they had never had a problem with any of those resold units, and that I could get one for $149. She said she had been hesitant to offer me the resold one since I was a blogger. I exclaimed, “Of course! I would love that one. That is the whole point of my blog, finding the fundamental value of things and reusing and repurposing things!” Plus in the back of my mind, I got it for a even better price at $149! Since the same unit is still sold out at Costco and Amazon has it selling for $428 – I know I am one lucky plastic picking pediatrician. I placed my order and they included shipping cost, which is usually $80, so I am so so so excited that our aerobin 400 is on it’s way to the Plastic Picker home.
Two unicorn-like things happened yesterday. I made Huckleberry/Blackberry Pie Bars from scratch, and I convinced fellow middle and upper managers to provide flu and HPV vaccines at our “flu tables.”
When I was in 8th grade in Junior High, we took US History and for some reason I was assigned the project of making a colonial-era dish with huckleberries. My partner for this project was also a fellow student from a immigrant-nonEuropean background. We had no idea what huckleberries were. This was well before the internet. We used blueberries. The dish did not turn out quite what we expected. I always had this nagging question, what were huckleberries? I stored it in the back of my subconscious for the next three decades. I honestly thought the recipe probably didn’t work out because huckleberries were likely more like a cranberries, or maybe they were more of “nutty” or a savory berry.
And then one of my close highschool friends now lives in Montana, and placed on facebook a picture of his huckleberry bush and I was amazed! There was the unicorn ingredient that I had always wondered about. There was the mythical food that separated me from being truly American, and understanding colonial history. My friend dropped off a tupperware with about 1 1/2 cups of huckleberries and sent a recipe via Facebook of a suggested recipe. His wife is a nutritionist, so I take his food recipe suggestions seriously.
A few days passed, and I kept on thinking about the huckleberries. Presentations. Work emails. COVID-19 Pandeimc. There are things that get in the way of the things we want to do it life. But yesterday morning I had a pressing presentation on HPV vaccination efforts in our HMO, and needed to convince power-brokers outside of pediatrics to lend me some resources. I had slept on the presentation a few nights and visualized all sorts of storylines for my presentation. Sleeping I thought about it. Plogging I thought about it. I talked about it with Mr. Plastic Picker a few times. RN Plastic Picker had already done her part of the presentation, and I had about 7 minutes to fill. I had the right audience that was virtually captive, and I needed to make it worth their while.
I was feeling pretty good last night as I was going to bed. I even started this Hopeful Wednesday post early. I wasn’t sure if I would need the Hope. But I got up this morning and checked CNN, and there are historic floods in the country of my ancestors. People have died. Crops have been submerged and ruined. There will be hunger. The village where my mother’s family has lived at least dating back to the 1400s if not longer, will be submerged with sea level rise. Our village is vulnerable to climate change. Further thousands of miles upstream, China threatens to damn a mighty river, and that will result in catastrophic environmental disaster as fish will die and the river will begin dying. This river is as mightly as the Mississippi. And multinational corporations are dredging already the river banks for the high quality sand that they use to make concrete.