Focus Carolina: Rebecca Tippett 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

As the director of Carolina demography, Rebecca Tippett says the 2020 Census is critical. The data gathered will be used to determine if North Carolina gains a seat in the House of Representatives, and to be sure the communities get their fair share of federal funds for schools, hospitals and roads.

The deadline for the 2020 Census has moved around due to political wrangling, and Dr. Tippett and her team are working hard with the Census Bureau to help North Carolina sign up as many residences as possible.

Rebecca Tippett

So it was originally extended to October 31st. That was kind of verbally committed to and then walked back due to a series of lawsuits. There’s now kind of a stay on this stop. We are planning for September 30th, but we’re hoping for October 3rd.

So the census is constitutionally mandated to be a count of the population. The Bureau is supposed to deliver a count, an apportionment count to the president by December 31st, and it’s a count of the population on April 1st. I think the Bureau has a fair amount of discretion to set the date, but that’s also contingent upon approval from Congress.

So the census is the once a decade count that the government does of all Americans. It’s literally the most democratic and inclusive thing that we do as a country, and it’s vitally important to the function of both a representative democracy as well as the federal, state and local government, and then through everything else into research and business. So the census is used to allocate the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, of which North Carolina is predicted to pick up a 14th feet. And it’s also used to allocate over one and a half trillion dollars of federal funding annually, which North Carolina gets about 44 billion dollars a year.

From there, it’s used to allocate the fair distribution of state and local money and it’s used in everything from planning for disaster responses like hurricanes or the global pandemic that’s going on to understanding where and why should you open a new business.

Host

Due to the pandemic, the Census Bureau has had to ramp up what it calls “doorknockers” to visit homes in communities all over the state and close an important gap.

Tippett

North Carolina has been lagging its 2010 response rate quite significantly. It’s still about four percentage points below where it was in 2010. We’re also lagging the nation more than we did in 2010. So it’s fairly traditional for us to be a little bit lower, but this year we are lower than we would have expected. We’re seeing that although Internet communities are significantly lagging in census response compared to our higher Internet communities, we’re seeing that more broadly across the southeast, that North Carolina, like many southeastern states, have seen these lower patterns of response.

This is the first online census where most Americans are invited to respond online, and has really complicated that because the in-person outreach that had been planned was put on the back burner or canceled completely because of the COVID-19.

The first few months are what’s called the self-response period. So that’s where you or I can fill out the census for ourselves and our household. And the reason why we want that is it’s the cheapest way to collect the data. It’s also the most accurate way to collect the data. So when we’re talking about getting a complete and accurate count, we really want to see high self-response. But we also have a period called the nonresponse follow up period, because as much as we like to get households to respond on their own, many households do not. In 2010, only about 65 percent of North Carolina households self-responded. Right now, we’re at about 61 percent have self-responded in 2020. And the nonresponse follow up operation is when doorknockers go door to door. Typically that hiring and training would have been going on, but the hiring and the training was put on hold because of the pandemic and then they did not start the door-knocking operation until August 11th.

So what we’re seeing right now is that despite all of our efforts, the gap between North Carolina’s self-response rate and the national average has widened in the past few weeks. So as a result, 85 percent of national households have been counted. In North Carolina, it was only like 76 or 77 percent. So we’re seeing a widening gap between the percentage of households counted nationally and those counted in our state, which puts North Carolina and its communities at risk of an undercount. We might not get our fair share of federal funding or those communities might not get their complete representation when we go to redistrict next year.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit Chapelboro.com and click on 9.79 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

 

Focus Carolina: Rebecca Tippett 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

As the director of Carolina Demography, Rebecca Tippett says the 2020 Census is critical. The data gathered will be used to determine if North Carolina gains a seat in the House of Representatives, and to be sure the communities get their fair share of federal funds for schools, hospitals and roads.

Dr. Tippett came to UNC after seeing a job posted at the Carolina Population Center that seemed like it was written for her.

Rebecca Tippett

The Carolina Population Center is over 50 years old, has a long and really great history of doing cutting edge population research at the national and the global level. North Carolina is a dynamic state, it’s changing. It has been changing a lot, particularly since the 1990s, and there was a tension, in that we have this premier global population research center at one of the state’s leading universities, and it was not well situated to answer questions from individuals within North Carolina about how and why their state was changing.

In the early 2010s, there became a proposal to found Carolina Demography. That unit, the initial formation, the job opening got posted sometime late 2012 or early 2013. I happened to apply, I saw it, and I joined UNC on July 1st, 2013, to really start the unit and try to develop it into something that could help leaders and citizens around the state better understand North Carolina and get their questions about population change answered.

The job opening description was just a perfect fit. I had been doing applied demography. I came from Charlottesville, the University of Virginia, where I’ve been working in applied demography, which is basically taking my training in sociology and demography and applying that to business or government or community problems and taking that same approach and using it, though, for kind of concrete shorter term deliverables.

And this was essentially that same sort of work in the next phase of my career, which would be not just working and establishing it, but really thinking about it in new and different ways. Obviously, the unit has shaped a little bit around what I was interested in, but that’s always been a collaborative effort with the Carolina Population Center. And over seven years we’ve grown from being the royal we, with a unit of one, to now there’s seven of us total in Carolina Demography, plus we have three student interns working with us this semester, so pretty substantial increase in the types of work that we can do now because of that growth.

Host

One of Dr. Tippett’s first projects at Carolina Demography was helping identify where students in the state were falling off the educational pipeline.

Tippett

One of the most exciting opportunities I had in the first few years of Carolina Demography was to get connected with the John M. Belk Endowment. And a few years ago, the John M. Belk Endowment, which is based in Charlotte, came to me and said, we really want to understand what’s going on in North Carolina with respect to its educational pipeline, because we’re hearing that there’s barriers to success and we know that we want to move the needle on these outcomes and improve outcomes for all North Carolinians, but we’re not certain where we should be investing and where we are going to get the most bang for our buck. In collaboration with them and with their support, we pursued a research project called North Carolina’s Leaky Educational Pipeline, and we evaluated from high school into the UNC and community college system how North Carolina students were doing and where there were opportunities for improvement and how those success outcomes varied.

From that, one of the biggest takeaways that we had was that there is no silver bullet. There is no single point that drives student outcomes. Rather, there are a series of transition points at which students are lost. And so what it shows to us is that there are multiple points to make improvements and the impact of the loss vary somewhat by region of the state to, in some parts, it’s transition to college is the biggest opportunity for improvement. In other places, we may see that a lot of students make it to college, but they don’t continue for their second year. And that suggests that there may be slightly different approaches or different programs that are needed, but that those then need to be regionalized or localized to really address the population that’s being served.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit Chapelboro.com and click on 9.79 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Robert Joyce 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Robert Joyce pays close attention to the law and administration of elections in North Carolina. A faculty member at the UNC School of Government, he shares important background information on election procedures that everyone should know as they prepare to vote.

Voting in North Carolina has changed over the last 100 years, and Joyce thinks that all three methods might have a different look in 2020.

Robert Joyce

We have three ways to vote in North Carolina. The traditional method is going to your assigned precinct on Election Day and casting your ballot. The second option, which is the newest and now the most popular, which is early voting. Elections officials refer to it as one stop voting. This election runs from October 15, which is a Tuesday through October 31, the Saturday before the election.

And then the third way to vote in North Carolina is absentee by mail. You request a request for absentee ballots. You get your absentee ballots, you fill them out in front of a witness and you mail them back. So those are the three ways to vote: at your precinct on Election Day, at an early voting site somewhere in your county, or absentee by mail.

At one time, 100 percent of voting was done at the precinct on Election Day because there was no early voting and there was no absentee by mail. Absentee by mail voting was introduced in the early 20th century and it has been useful for folks who couldn’t get to the polls, but it has never amounted to more than a few percentage points of the total vote.

Early voting, which was introduced a couple of decades ago, has become increasingly popular, and it has gotten up in the range of about two-thirds of all ballots in recent elections cast by early voting. So something like one-third at the precinct, two-thirds by early voting and a small percentage by voting by mail.

With the coronavirus, there may be a significant number of folks who will not want to go to an early voting site or to their precinct to vote in person, but instead would be interested in voting by mail. The early projections were that that proportion might go up from something like four percent of the total vote — which it historically has been — to as much as 40 percent of the total vote. And if you go to the North Carolina State Board of Elections website, you can see there had been 813,000 requests for absentee ballots submitted to county boards of elections. The percentage of mail-in voting — absentee voting — is bound to go up. Whether it will get to as high as 40 percent, I don’t know, but I think it’ll be way above what has historically been its range of about four percent.

Host

Voting by mail has changed in one significant way this election, as Joyce explains.

Joyce

The General Assembly over the years has changed the witness requirement. It has sometimes been two, it has sometimes been one. A few years ago, the General Assembly changed it to two. In light of the coronavirus might make it difficult for people to get two witnesses together. People might be uncomfortable with the idea of bringing two folks into their home to witness them. The requirement was changed by the General Assembly for this election down to one witness.

So in prior elections, historically, sometimes it’s been one, sometimes it’s been two. For this election it’s one, and that is thought to make it easier for people who have coronavirus concerns. Further, there’s no requirement that the witness has to actually be in the room with you. A witness can be out on the porch looking through a glass door. As long as the witness can see that you are the one who is marking the ballot, the witness has done what the witness needs to do.

When you get your absentee ballot, you put your marked ballot into the envelope. Then on the envelope, the voter signs a certificate saying that you, in fact, mark this ballot and that you’re an eligible voter. And the witness signs the envelope saying that I’m an eligible person to be a witness, and I did witness it and this person did mark the ballot. And so that is the signature requirement of the voter and by the witness. And overwhelmingly, historically, when mail-in absentee ballots have been rejected, it’s been because either the witness or the voter failed to sign. To get 830,000 people mailing something in, some percentage of them won’t do it right.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Robert Joyce 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Robert Joyce pays close attention to the law and administration of elections in North Carolina. A faculty member at the UNC School of Government, he shares important background information on election procedures that everyone should know as they prepare to vote.

Joyce believes the way North Carolina handles its voting is a deterrent to many improprieties.

Robert Joyce

The way that North Carolina does it ensures a fairly clean election. It is, however, always the case that there may be people willing to commit criminal fraud in order to up the vote totals a bit. But anyone who is tempted to request an absentee ballot for dead Uncle Charlie pretending to be dead Uncle Charlie and marking that ballot and sending it back as if he were dead Uncle Charlie, has committed not merely a crime, but a felony. These are serious crimes. You commit a felony in order to vote in the name of a dead person and increase the vote total by one. It is an idiotic course of action. And fortunately, the number of folks who are willing to do that is exceedingly small.

Once you have received your mail-in absentee ballot, you may mail it back, [or] you may take it to the County Board of Elections in person. Those are your options: Mail — or something like FedEx — or in person. The County Board of Elections must receive it by 5 p.m. on Election Day, with one exception. If they receive it up to three days later and it has a postmark which indicates that you posted it by 5 p.m. on Election Day, it will count. So they’ve got to get it either by 5 p.m. on Election Day or you have to have mailed it by 5 p.m. on Election Day, and it has a postmark which shows that and they receive it within the three following days.

I have a good feeling about the way elections are administered in North Carolina. One reason is our bipartisan structure. The State Board of Elections is a bipartisan body. It consists of three members of one party and two members of the other, and which one has the three is determined by the party of the governor. So when the governor is a Democrat, there’s a majority Democrats on the state board of elections. When the governor is a Republican, there’s a majority Republicans on the state board of elections. So who is in charge politically varies depending on the party of the governor, but it is always a bipartisan operation.

Host

According to Joyce, we should know North Carolina’s uncertified winners by the end of election night.

Joyce

Also in North Carolina, we have a history of smooth elections. Not to say they’re perfect and we can have some pretty ugly ones, such as the 9th Congressional District election of a couple of years ago. But for the most part in our history and a structure that seems to work well, we don’t have a problem historically with long lines like you see in some places, and especially is that true since the advent of early voting and the large proportion of people who vote at early voting sites really takes the pressure off Election Day precinct voting.

And finally, with respect to absentee ballots, we have a much more efficient way of handling the counting of mail-in absentee ballots. The way that it works in North Carolina is that the voter, having marked their mail-in absentee ballot, signed the certificate on the envelope and the witness signed the certificate on the envelope. The voter puts the ballot into the envelope, seals it up and mails it back to the County Board of Elections. The County Board of Elections then receives that envelope. And before opening the envelope, the Board of Elections staff looks at the certificates that the voter and the witness have filled out [and] signed, and if those signatures appear to be appropriate and in the right place, then the envelope will be opened and the ballot taken out and put through the scanner. All of this ahead of Election Day.

Then, on Election Day, when time comes to count ballots, the tabulators into which the ballots have been scanned can then be told [to] tabulate, count. So on Election Day, the absentee ballots can be counted every bit as efficiently as the ballots actually cast at early voting sites or at the precinct.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Viji Sathy 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

A professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Viji Sathy combines her expertise in inclusive teaching and innovative educational instruction to challenge and engage her students. She’s actively involved in helping instructors ensure their remote courses are inclusive and accessible. Professor Sathy has been able to adapt her innovative teaching methods from in-person classes to online education.

Viji Sathy

Inclusive teaching is basically a way to ensure that we are working towards equity in our classroom and helping to build equity by the way we structure courses, by the way we facilitate our courses, an opportunity to work with a diverse set of students that we have and really just take advantage of that in the classroom.

When we teach inclusively, we’re really aiming to help all of our students, but we find that this is especially helpful for underrepresented students, our first generation college students. Students are more likely to succeed in these approaches because we’re really baking into the structure of the course good learning strategies and practices, so we’re not leaving it to chance that students know how to engage in the course. So we’re really designing the course in a way that that students can be successful in it. People usually think of customization as like there’s 15 different options for you in a class, and that’s not really what this is. It’s more like almost like a one size fits all, but because that one size is so well-designed, it’s very helpful to a variety of students.

Online instruction is very different for all of us, for instructors, for students, and what I find is that we’re really starting to see some of the differences in our students and their resources very visibly and clearly in this online environment. For example, if they have a poor Internet connection, they may be having additional jobs or competing activities in their house that keeps them from really engaging in our courses the way they might if we were in person on campus. Something as simple as just having a quiet space to study in their house might be very hard to find, and so this remote transition really made clear those differences. We’ve always had differences in our students, but I think being in person sometimes masked some of the differences the students had because we had good Wi-Fi, they had good study areas. And so this is a chance and an opportunity, I think, for all of us to recognize our students come to us with different resources and abilities and to be able to use that diversity to our benefit in the classroom.

Host

One of Professor Sathy’s methods is flipping the harder work students might be assigned as homework to the classroom, where it can be more collaborative.

Sathy

The flipped classroom is the technical term and essentially what it means is that you spend some time asking students to engage with some of the easier tasks related to your course. So they might be listening to a lecture, for example, or reading that chapter of the book. And then when you come to a class, when we meet in person, you use the class time to do some of the harder work. So maybe they’re applying some of the concepts related to what they read or what they listen to in class. What we would think of as sort of the homework becomes part of the classwork. And what’s really beautiful about that design is that oftentimes, like in a course like mine, [in] which the homework can be quite challenging, students are not having to struggle to do that on their own at home without any resources available to them.

Now, when it’s online, it’s a similar kind of thing where we’re all available to help each other and maybe it’s through technology that we’re doing that. But in essence, we’re saying let’s do some of the harder things while we’re together in the same place and time, and you can do some of the easier aspects, like learning vocabulary, for instance, on your own before class starts. And we see that these methods are helpful to all students. Even our high performing students benefit from these approaches, but especially underrepresented students and first generation college students in my courses, there’s a lot of women enrolled in the course, so just in general, this is a very helpful technique but for certain groups for whom grades maybe not always at parity, this is a technique that’s helpful to bring some parity around that. And what’s great about it is that it really makes the best use of the time we have together. It’s beneficial to be teaching each other the material and the practice problems, but also to be doing the practice problems. We’ve all taken exams and we’ve all appreciated when we’ve had practice questions that look like exam questions, right? So what this is doing is emphasizing that practice is really how we learn, and it’s easy to think about, well, if I just read the book or if I listen to the lecture, I’ll understand the material. But that’s not how learning works in the flipped classroom with high structure, with active learning. We’re trying to give students this opportunity so that they feel comfortable when it comes time to show us that they understand how to do that.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Viji Sathy 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

A professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Viji Sathy combines her expertise in inclusive teaching and innovative educational instruction to challenge and engage her students. She’s actively involved in helping instructors ensure their remote courses are inclusive and accessible.

Professor Sathy knew she wanted to incorporate themes into her teaching as to not lose the personal connection with students during remote learning.

Viji Sathy

So one of the things that I did early on when we had the switch to remote instruction, I wanted to figure out ways to connect with my students as we met online, and in thinking about the opportunity of meeting online in our own home spaces—I’ve had dogs for a long time, and every now and then I’ll bring them in for office hours on campus and students will come by to visit with my dogs and cat. I thought, well, let’s take advantage of the fact that we’re all home, let’s put our pets on screen. And I made a little invitation to class that was a bring your pet to class day. And so it was a chance where we could connect before class started if people wanted to show off their pets to tell us who they were. And that was such a fun class because I got to see a variety of pets, and I mean, there were so many different pets that showed up for the meet-your-pets-before-class-starts session and that was really fun.

And then I also was trying to think of more things we could do like that, like teaching a 200 person class, I was always envious of those small classes that were meeting outside in the quad. I could never have that in a 200 person class. So I thought, well, let’s do Zoom outdoors, that’s another way for us to be outside to enjoy what was turning into a really beautiful spring outside. Of course, not requiring either of those things, having pets or being outdoors, but just trying to infuse a little fun into that experience. We could try to think of the things we couldn’t do while we were meeting in a seated classroom indoors and try to take advantage of the ability to do that on Zoom.

I also use this tool called Remind, I’ve used it with my kids’ activities. It’s basically a way to send out messages to a group of people who opt in, and so I offered to have this kind of option for students to opt in to a personal message from me. And I was aiming to do it every day. That was my goal. And it turned out to be a really lovely tool for myself because I focused on one thing that brought me joy that day and I took a picture of it. Maybe I was out on a walk or painting my fingernails. It was really great because students would message me back and say, oh, I also did that today or I happen to love gummy bears too! And it was just a way to connect with them about something that wasn’t even class, but just to have a chance to learn a little bit about each other.

Host

Also a priority for Professor Sathy during the switch to remote learning was making sure all of her students were familiar with Zoom and its features.

Sathy

An important part of inclusive teaching and something we often talk about [is] structure, and what we mean by structure is that we’re building in instruction, the ability to understand how to do something. When we switch to online instruction, I knew that not all my students were familiar with Zoom. I had used it a few times, especially in office hours, but they were always optional activities where students could meet with me online if they needed to, but not everybody had used Zoom at that point. I wanted to create a guide for students about how to use Zoom, so I outlined a list of maybe ten questions I thought they might have about Zoom. And what prompted it was I had seen some discussions on Twitter about some people requiring students to wear certain things on Zoom and I thought, this is crazy, why are people policing what people wear online? So that was an example of a question that answers like, what should I wear when I’m on Zoom? And I said wear whatever you want, like, I’m just glad you’re here in class! And so really just the conversational kind of a format for guide: what do I do when I enter a room, or how do I leave a meeting? Just some of the questions I thought they might have, outlining them and really just trying to make it clear what the expectations are around a new tool.

And that’s an important part of structure and inclusive teaching, not assuming that everybody knows how to do certain things, but rather building in tools and resources so that no one is left trying to figure it out on their own, because when you try to figure things out on your own, you make assumptions. And sometimes those assumptions are incorrect. And it feels really awkward and uncomfortable for somebody who’s always trying to figure out how to do things. It makes it much easier when you provide guidelines for people. If you’ve got something you created that you think is really helpful, like a study guide and you want all your students to engage in it, then you should just make it a required part of your course and maybe it’s an assignment that that they do before the exam so that you are leveling the playing field by making sure that every student is engaging in it.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Mary Palmer 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Dr. Mary Palmer knew at age 16 that she wanted a career working with older adults. Today, at the UNC School of Nursing, she ensures that aging adults get the care they need by researching ways to manage urinary incontinence and other lower urinary tract symptoms.

A deep love and respect for her grandparents drove Dr. Palmer toward a nursing career.

Mary Palmer

I had wonderful grandparents. My grandfathers told great stories. My grandmothers were beautiful, smart, strong women, and I just loved being around them. So at a fairly naive age of 16, I thought, what better thing to do than work in a nursing home and have all of these wonderful older people like grandparents to me who could tell me stories. The naiveté was I did not realize the medical conditions, some health conditions that they would have, but they all became very, very dear to me.

And I’ve often talked to my students about the very first day that I went to apply for a job for a nursing assistant in a small nursing home. I was struck by an odor at the front door. It was just unmistakable and I never had smelled it before. And when I asked one of the nursing assistants who was helping a patient, she says, well, she actually couldn’t smell it. And then she goes, oh, you know, that’s because they wet themselves and they can’t go to the bathroom. And that essentially rocked my world because I didn’t know that people did that. I understood babies could, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that older adults did. And at the moment, I thought that’s just plain wrong. And that’s how I feel many, many, many years later.

I just started teaching a doctoral class and I feel a little bit like a dinosaur trying to do it on Zoom. But I was talking to the students about the topics that they are now studying and helping them to harken back to a day when incontinence was truly taboo. My parents, quite frankly, were horrified. My grandparents were horrified that I wanted to take care of older people with incontinence. And I also wanted to learn more and actually become a researcher to find out “why does this happen.” And in fact, I had written a book after my master’s program based on my graduate work. And my grandmother said to me, “why would a nice girl write about something like that?” And it hurt me, but I understood it. But at the time I thought, we’ve got to get over this attitude. The only way we can improve things is by becoming educated and knowledgeable about it.

Host

Dr. Palmer was not scared off by a subject that she learned was taboo with most adult women and even some doctors.

Palmer

It was in the mid-80s, I applied to Hopkins School of Public Health, and I did this really intentionally. I felt that I had a solid background in nursing and I really wanted to study incontinence and understand why it happened, but mainly I wanted to prevent it to see what we could do that it didn’t happen to older people or any person. I thought, what if I could get to bigger groups of older people instead of the one patient that I’m taking care of. And again, it was an embarrassing topic and it was sort of not one that was pleasant. And I remember sitting with the department chair one day and he said to me, okay, you’ve convinced me that this is the geriatric public health issue. You’ve shown me that it’s prevalent. You’ve shown me that it’s associated with significant comorbidities. You’ve shown me the cost. And they weren’t just the direct dollar cost, but the indirect costs to quality of life, to work productivity and so forth.

And he says, the final thing that you showed me is you can talk about a taboo. Urinary incontinence is defined as an involuntary loss of urine, so there’s no intent behind it. And I felt very, very fortunate and actually was able to write my dissertation on the prevalence, incidence, remission and risk factors for incontinence in nursing home residents.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Mary Palmer 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Dr. Mary Palmer knew at age 16 that she wanted a career working with older adults. Today, at the UNC School of Nursing, she ensures that aging adults get the care they need by researching ways to manage urinary incontinence and other lower urinary tract symptoms.

Dr. Palmer enthusiastically tries to bring the taboo subject of incontinence into the open, encouraging more conversation about it.

Dr. Mary Palmer

[If] anybody asks me to talk about incontinence, I say “where, when?” And I will talk to—I love talking to undergraduate students who haven’t started their clinical experience to say, “number one: remember, age does not cause urinary incontinence.” We see this in young people. I’ve been doing research with researchers in Australia, Korea and China with college students, and we find that there is incontinence in college students; women who have just recently given birth, there’s a high prevalence of incontinence; and then we see during the menopausal transition, a little bit of a spike of incontinence. And then we do see incontinence that’s associated with comorbidities such as mobility impairments, and then, of course, cognitive impairments like dementia. But it’s not just older people that have this issue.

Basically, women tend to accept it as a part of being a female, being a woman, that is sort of part and parcel. It becomes almost normative to individual women, that this is something that happens. And when we would talk with women about incontinence, they would say, well, my mother had a weak bladder, so I must have a weak bladder. And this is sort of, you have to put up with it and deal with it. A lot of people don’t seek help for incontinence. And all of the research I’ve done when we’ve asked the question, “did you ask your health care provider about incontinence,” less than half would say no, that they didn’t talk about it because they didn’t see it as a medical problem, but more as a hygiene female kind of problem.

Host

Slowly, Dr. Palmer is bringing the subject of incontinence into her classes and clinics, increasing awareness among undergraduate and graduate students.

Palmer

I have to say that it’s not a topic that is of great interest to the students. But having said that, students are always appreciative of learning more about it because they realize that, believe it or not, there’s still not a lot of information that filters through into curriculum about incontinence and lower urinary tract symptoms, incontinence is only one. And so this is why being offered time to give lectures, and I must say the faculty is very, very supportive of me coming and wanting to talk about it.

And what I love about students, not just at Carolina, but wherever I talk, is they are curious, they are patient advocates and then they see the importance. The bulb—you can see it go off. They’ve realized this is not just incontinence, where this is involuntary leakage of urine, but this is about the person and how the person responds to it and the deep embarrassment and shame that a person can feel and how it impacts dignity.

I talk a lot about dignity with students, and that really, really resonates. I’ve had students who’ve come to me after lectures and say, “I want to study this more. I want to take this to clinical experiences,” or will send me an email and say, “we need to help this incontinent patient on my unit.” And so that has been very, very exhilarating because it’s like the ripple effect that it’s affecting many people.

And then I have students who are in the graduate programs who want to study it through a quality improvement kind of program, through research. I have a doctoral student right now who’s looking at pelvic floor muscle exercise programs and how effective it is for different outcomes. Her ultimate plan is to take it from the individual woman who’s using that program, to scaling it up to populations. And that’s incredibly exciting, to have students who are planning to go out and broaden this experience for other people and to take it to more and more students. So I am very encouraged about it. But I would say the students know, “I better ask about incontinence and find out about its impact on the person and the person’s lifestyle and their sense of self and dignity.”

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu

Focus Carolina: Terry Magnuson 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Terry Magnuson leads Carolina’s $1.1 billion research enterprise for scientists from across disciplines who work to solve the most pressing challenges of our time to benefit the people of North Carolina and beyond. In 2018, under Vice Chancellor Magnuson’s leadership, UNC was ranked 12th in the nation and the volume of research performed and fifth in federally funded research, mostly from the National Institutes of Health.

Terry Magnuson

We tackle tough challenges and we do so with multidisciplinary teams of top researchers and trainees that have diverse perspectives, which delivers creative solutions and UNC is one of America’s top research university. So we tackle problems and brain and cancer, data science, environment, opportunity, world culture, precision health and fighting infectious disease, that’s just to name a few. So our goal is we find cures and treatments for diseases and develop new technologies and new industries for North Carolina. It is special and I’m going to do all I can personalize that when I was being recruited at Carolina.

I also had offers at other institutions and in fact, I wasn’t even going to come and visit Carolina. But when I got down here the first day on campus, I called my wife and said, this is the place I want to be. I want to be here because the environment is so special and how people work together and get along.

Let me talk a little bit about the Institute for Convergent Science. And the goal here is that it provides innovation framework based on bringing disciplines together for problem solving, developing new technology and risking them to ensure the fastest, most successful path to commercialization.

And so the institute enables research to bring together people from the natural sciences, which would be chemistry, biology, with the help of their science, which could be genetics or medicine or dermatology or the neuroscience center. It does so to solve the problems at hand, because one has to look at a systems approach to problems and with the infrastructure what happens then is it helps drive breakthroughs and creates exceptional outcomes.

Host

Dr. Magnuson initiated Creativity Hubs like Carolina that incentivized the unparalleled collaboration required to win funding and that can develop into startup companies.

It’s a pilot funding program where we put a significant amount of dollars on the table to attack new problems. We put the call out, describe that it has to be involved in faculty from different schools. And then we let our faculty focus on what the creativity is and what the problem is. They submit the proposals and then they undergo a very detailed review and some are fit for funding. For example, looking at what happens when the eastern coast of North Carolina gets hit by hurricanes and how we can use that information to predict what would happen when a hurricane comes. It has to align with our pan-campus research priorities that is green and verifying cancer, data, science, environment, opportunity, well, culture, precision health and fighting infectious disease.

These are very broad umbrellas and the proposals that come in a line under one or more of these umbrella. In terms of industry and our research, one thing we’re doing is developing a very robust clinical trial infrastructure that will draw an industry. And when I say industry here I pharmaceuticals that want to do clinical trials and that really is important for clinical applications of our discoveries. Sixty six percent of our proposals are multi- investigator, which means that it involves multiple things in the same department principal investigator, that’s the faculty that run the laboratories and the research program. And thirty seven percent of our proposals involve PIs from multiple schools across campus.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit Chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Terry Magnuson 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Terry Magnuson leads Carolina’s 1.1 billion dollar research enterprise for scientists from across disciplines who work to solve the most pressing challenges of our time to benefit the people of North Carolina and beyond.

Vice Chancellor Magnuson is proud of UNC’s celebrated research on the novel coronavirus and that much of the lab work has continued during the pandemic.

Vice Chancellor Magnuson

Microsoft Academic ranked Carolina the top university in the US for coronavirus research. It’s based on the volume of research that comes out of Carolina, both by grants that are awarded here and the publications that are published and the citations to those publications and how the results are used across the world. An example is that since March, we’ve developed over 300 grant proposals focused on COVID-19 that total 164 million. And today 69 million has been awarded and many of the proposals are still under review.

We have six key themes focused on COVID-19 research. One is just fundamental mechanisms of virology. The other is therapeutics and vaccines. The other is protection and forecasting, clinical trials, remediation research and then outcomes and impact research. Virtually every school and the college on campus are participating in COVID-19 research.

We have programs in terms of vaccines and treatments and they fall under kind of three buckets. One is testing and we have developed testing kits that have been FDA approved and employed at UNC Hospitals. We’re developing antibody methods for rapid, repetitive testing and that really is very, very important for campus surveillance on a weekly basis. And we also have a program on wastewater testing, and that will help us manage further contamination and outbreaks. And then if we look at treatment, we work with top pharmaceutical companies on antiviral drugs like Remdesivir. We have the Marsico Lung Institute and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and they partner on respiratory delivery of antivirals. And we have many clinical trials ongoing at UNC Health, one of which is the convalescent plasma trial, and that’s using antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat new patients. And then for prevention, we’re developing antivirals and vaccines as strategies deployed for both the current and also for future pandemics.

Host

The number of Carolina students involved in laboratory research, both as part of their education and as eventual careers, is growing at a rapid pace. And Dr. Magnuson knows why.

Magnuson

More than 60 percent of our undergraduate population conducts research in our laboratories, and that’s a pretty high number. And what that indicates is that there is a real interest in the STEM fields. We have almost 11,000 graduate professional students on campus, and many of those, when they graduate, a lot of them stay in the Triangle area and work in the companies here. And we also have over a thousand post-doctoral trainees on campus. Post-doctoral trainees get their degree, their Ph.D., M.D., or whatever at another university, and then they come here and work in our lab as an apprenticeship.

That is something very special to Chapel Hill. People do not want to leave here. It’s hard to get people to go somewhere else. And that is unusual. In March, most universities completely shut down. We ramp down to about 25 percent capacity so we could keep our critical research going. For example, continuing our COVID research, which is very critical. We have one of the world’s best experts in coronaviruses. And then in June, we ramped up research to 50 percent capacity for people coming back to the laboratories with appropriate physical distancing and all the protection.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: John Bamforth 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

As head of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, John Bamforth is leading Carolina’s effort to find new antiviral treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s looking ahead to be prepared for future pandemics.

Since arriving at UNC in 2019, Dr. Bamforth’s team has been working on another novel coronavirus that he anticipated will be coming someday. Appropriately, his team is named READDI.

Dr. John Bamforth

READDI is Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Discovery Initiative. The challenge right now is we’re all in the middle of COVID-19, but unfortunately, what COVID-19 demonstrates is lack of preparedness for these types of events. We’re trying to work out why these novel viruses seem to be occurring more frequently. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll end up with one of these appearing again sometime in the future. And so the purpose of READDI, really with the virologists particularly at UNC, is trying to get ahead of this. So trying to put a strategic plan around being ready for one of these next challenges, and so the goal of READDI is to have five novel antivirals against three viral families through phase one testing, which is the safety testing that goes on in drug development within five years, which is a really significant stretch goal. We had to develop a vaccine once COVID-19 appeared.

So the science here, the trick that we’re trying to play here is what happens in a host cell when challenged by a novel virus. The virus can’t grow without a host cell, so we’re trying to look at what is the impact on the biology of the host cell when challenged by one of these viruses. If we can understand the biology and have a drug ready to go against the biology of what might happen in the host cell rather than attacking the virus directly, then we’ve got a chance of projecting one of these treatments that might cover an emerging virus that appears in the future. It’s a bit of a leap. It’s trying to understand the science from a bit of a different lens, but it is about the only way that you can project in this way and plan strategically for one of these events.

So it’s a 500 million dollar fundraise one way, shape or form to be able to do this. We’ve already had funding, obviously from our institute, from the University and from the state of North Carolina, but we still have a significant gap that we need to fill by doing that in a multitude of different ways to global effort through the lens of the university. So as we got into COVID-19 and we decided to double down on READDI, we went to many as 20 universities around the world and asked them if they wanted to get involved in the science effort. I don’t think anybody turned us down. They all basically saw the need and were willing to collaborate, which is great.

Host

To help with funding and the speed of production, Dr. Bamforth says READDI is also a commercial product.

Dr. Bamforth

We also talked to a number of pharmaceutical companies, I think 12 is the last number I remember off the top of my head. And again, we didn’t have anybody who said this is a bad idea. So we’ve already started projects with three pharmaceutical companies and I think we’ll bring those on board as we move forward. The feedback has been really good. Everybody understands the need, I think, because of what we’re all going through right now. I think everybody gets we’ve got to be in a better place than we’ve been for this go around. That’s why there’s so much energy around the concept right now.

The good news is there is a little bit of an example here that we were involved in at UNC. Everybody’s heard of Remdesivir, which is the antiviral that we’ve been using for emergency use from the FDA to treat patients with COVID-19. That actually came from some work, some collaboration between ourselves and Emory and some other folks at Gilead Pharmaceuticals. And Remdesivir was actually developed to treat Ebola many years ago when the Ebola outbreak came about. But it was sitting there on the shelf ready to go when COVID-19 appeared, the studies were done very rapidly and were demonstrated that Remdesivir helps patients recover more quickly than they would. And we basically were following that model with what we’re trying to do with READDI. We’re trying to get these drugs against a broader array of three viral families. We’re trying to do a similar sort of thing so that these drugs are sitting there ready to go as potential treatments if another of these viruses emerge. And obviously, Remdesivir is in the in the news because President Trump was put on Remdesivir.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: John Bamforth 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

As head of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, John Bamforth is leading Carolina’s effort to find new antiviral treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s looking ahead to be prepared for future pandemics.

Dr. Bamforth’s team studies multiple virus families, at least three directly related to COVID-19 and the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Discovery Initiative, or READDI.

Dr. John Bamforth

The three viral families—this is going to sound very technical—but coronaviruses, so COVID-19, the family COVID-19 comes from; flaviviruses and alphaviruses. Those are the three viral families. Now there are there are others, but we decided those were three that we would focus on. The science here is, particularly for the public, is sometimes hard to understand, and we understand that. The reality is, as we’re seeing in many examples, unfortunately, we’ve all had some sort of exposure to the challenge here. But we believe that you’re going to need and we’ve seen it with COVID-19, you’re going to need both vaccines, once one of these viruses emerges, [and] the treatments alongside those vaccines. The reality is vaccines tend not to be perfect. You know, not everybody that takes a vaccine is covered. You still get breakthroughs where patients get these diseases. And so when they do, you need to have the treatments like antivirals sitting on the shelf ready to go in the armamentarium to treat these diseases.

So, yes, we’ll still need vaccines, but we’ll also need treatments to go alongside that. We can play a really important role coordinating that effort around the world and we’re excited to do it. As I say, we’ve had lots of positive response to that because we’ve dug into talking to all these groups, you know, from universities to pharma, even the federal government. You know, we’ve had lots of good dialogue with all the folks that we’re hearing day in, day out from the federal government right now with Project Warp Speed. We’re working on campus with Project Warp Speed on COVID-19. We’ve got one of the best animal models for COVID-19. We’ve got so much expertise on the UNC campus. We think we can do a good job to coordinate this type of effort around the world.

Host

Dr. Bamforth credits READDI founders Nat Moorman and Mark Heise from the UNC School of Medicine, who work alongside Dr. Ralph Baric, in making Carolina a leader in the study of emerging coronaviruses.

Dr. Bamforth

The beauty that they bring to it is they all have slightly different expertise in terms of knowledge of viral families. Dr. Baric’s expertise is very firmly in the domain of coronaviruses, and he is world renowned. Mark and Nat have expertise in the other families we talked about. As a combination, the three of them [are] pretty remarkable individuals, very driven to provide these sorts of solutions to the world. And they’re not only good on the therapeutics, which is exciting, but they’re also very good at building models for new diseases.

Dr. Baric published a scientific paper recently that shared, I think, one of the best animal models now of COVID-19 so it can act as a very helpful screen for therapeutics of COVID-19, and he’s been inundated with requests from around the world to use his animal model to see if these novel therapeutics can work in COVID-19.

One of the things that has happened over the last nine months or so as COVID-19 emerged…the scientific effort around novel therapeutics and the vaccines, of course, has been remarkable. There are over 700 vaccines and therapeutics being developed for COVID-19 in various manifestations. Dr. Baric has been in pretty significant demand because of his expertise and because of some of the models that he’s built. I have to say on the whole, the behavior of folks on campus at UNC, at other universities, pharma, when we’re talking to folks in government at a grassroots level, we’ve had no issues talking to folks like this, and they’ve all understood the challenge. They’re all committed to come up with solutions for patients. And so it’s been actually quite reassuring to see. I think people have that purpose ahead of them and are excited to try and come up with solutions, solutions for the long term. None of us want to be living in the Zoom world for the rest of our days. That’s what’s been a great motivation to bring people together on a project like READDI to be focused on getting to a better, longer term solution.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Patricia Johnson 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

An audiologist, Patricia Johnson is dedicated to helping patients hear better. With masks mandated in many areas during the pandemic, she offers practical advice to make sure you can communicate effectively and remain safe.

Dr. Johnson found herself caught right in the middle of protecting people from the virus and the compromised communications that those safety methods would cause.

Dr. Patricia Johnson

As soon as we could see the pandemic coming down the pipeline, as a clinician, my thought went straight to masks. What a disaster masks would be for my patients with hearing loss, as well as everyone else. Masks do two things: they purposely are a barrier, obvious. They’re protecting germs from getting in and out. But the material covering your mouth actually filters out high-pitched sound. And what are your high-pitched sounds? Those are a lot of our consonants, like “F,” F, as in Frank and “Ph,” which provide the majority of the clarity in the meaning to the words that we hear.

So step one, we have filtered out some of our consonant sounds and then step two, they block our lips. I know a lot of people say, well, I’ve never been a trained lip-reader, I don’t lip-read. Wrong. We all read lips. It’s an innate talent. Some people are really, really good at it. Some are not so much, but we all do it, especially if we’re struggling to hear, if the lighting is poor, if there’s any kind of background noise.

Our eyes and our ears are very tightly integrated. Our eyes kick in to help our ears out. Masks have blocked all lip-reading. So for all of us, it’s as if we now functionally have a mild hearing loss. And if you already had a hearing loss, you can just go ahead and add this right on top. And I’ve had so many patients now come in for the very first time who have had hearing loss for a while. They’ve been getting by because of lip-reading. That was their compensatory strategy for years. “I know I have a hearing loss. I’m struggling, but as long as I can see your face, I’m going to be OK.” Well, masks have pulled the crutch from underneath of them, and they’re coming in saying, how can you help me.

In terms of the best mask to use, it’s the one you’re going to wear. But I would say that there are masks on the market that have window panels right over the mouth. You can buy them online. There also are patterns you can find to make them at home. That restores the lip-reading.

And I think if you regularly interact with someone with hearing loss, whether it be Grandma who you’re going to visit, or a coworker who has a hearing loss, if everyone in the room had a mask that had a panel, that would be a tremendous benefit to that person.

Host

Dr. Johnson is passionate about helping people regain their hearing and enhancing their lives no matter their age.

Johnson

Hearing loss is tremendously emotional because hearing keeps us connected to people. This is how we stay socially engaged, is how we talk and share ideas and thoughts with other people. So when there is a breakdown in the hearing and when there’s a breakdown in that communication, there’s also now going to be a breakdown in my relationships as well.

It’s very common that someone comes in to have their hearing tested, but they’re also bringing with them quite a bit of baggage of feelings of shame, even though you did nothing to deserve your hearing loss; anger, because they feel like if their spouse or friends would just accommodate them, then this wouldn’t be a problem; embarrassment. I mean, so many other feelings come wrapped into it, which on the flip side of it makes my work tremendously rewarding, because if we can address the communication barrier, if we can treat the hearing loss as best we can…hearing aids are just one tool. It’s not the end all be all of hearing services, but it’s a tool. There are other types of accessories we might consider. If we can treat those personalized barriers that that person has told me about and improve their quality of life, the smile; the spouse who says thank you, you saved my marriage; the tears that sometimes come; that’s what makes it all worth it, because people have probably dealt with that problem for decades by the time they see an audiologist, which is far too long. But, you know, we’re trying to restore people back to their own lives through their ears.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Patricia Johnson 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

An audiologist, Patricia Johnson is dedicated to helping patients hear better. With masks mandated in many areas during the pandemic, she offers practical advice to make sure you can communicate effectively and remain safe. Dr. Johnson is thankful and grateful to have both students and colleagues in the profession of audiology who themselves have hearing loss.

Dr. Patricia Johnson

They are just the best advocates for their patients. They’re so trusted by their patients because they get it. They understand. I can spout from second-hand experience or what I observed, but our students who are coming into our profession, who have a hearing loss are just our biggest asset. But right now with the pandemic, with the switch to remote learning and the bit of in-person clinical training that we are doing with all the masks is proving the same challenge to them as our patients. So we have been working with them to come up with solutions of how can we facilitate their learning and make sure that they have equal access to everything they need through the doctoral program. In all of our labs that we have on clinic, the students, the T.A., everyone is wearing those clear masks that have panels so that they can read each other’s lips because it’s not just can the instructor be heard and seen, you’re learning from your peers. So we all wear masks in our clinical labs.

The other option that is not a new option is something called CART: Communication Access Real-Time Translation. It’s available from the UNC Accessibility Resource and Services Office, both for students and faculty, I should say. And so when I am teaching a course remotely through Zoom, there’s actually an extra person enrolled in my class participating. And it’s the CART provider and she types what I’m saying in real time, using a very specialized shorthand of typing. And my student with hearing loss is able then read it on her screen in her home, the written transcription of what I’m saying, and it’s really just a remarkable service.

If we think about classroom settings, where the teachers at a distance and wearing a mask that is blocking their lips, that is so difficult that a Zoom class where we can actually see each other’s faces, unmasked might actually be better. Now, depending on the hearing device that you wear, wearing headphones over top a pair of hearing aids is not always the most comfortable. But if you were just anyone who’s struggling to hear, wearing headphones during a Zoom call I think always is beneficial both for sound quality and for hearing.

Host

When she is out of the clinic or classroom, Dr. Johnson is in the community talking to people who suffer from hearing loss.

Johnson

One of my personal interests is community engagement — getting out into, particularly, senior centers, local libraries, the Orange County Department of Aging, [those] types of programs — to educate the public about audiology, about the impact of hearing loss. What are the practical things that they can do to hear better? Because unfortunately, when I say to someone I’m an audiologist, a lot of those people have no idea what that is. Unless you yourself have a hearing loss or a loved one who has a hearing loss, you may not be interacting with my profession very much. So, as many platforms as I can find to get out and advocate for my patients or their caregivers to better understand what it is that we do is where I love to be: in front of people and as an educator, teaching them about their own hearing loss and what they can do.

Especially when we get into the territory of hearing aids, [there is] a lot of misinformation about how hearing aids work, where to get them; people don’t know where to go. They see the full page color ads in their newspaper that are flashy. They see the promises that these hearing aids are going to cure your hearing loss. And it’s just not the case, or at least it’s not going to be a cure. And that needs to be done using research based methods. I’m trying to get out there so I can save people money so they don’t go down the wrong track and waste a lot of money on hearing aids that don’t work, but also steer them into the right direction where they are going to get the benefit and the change in their quality of life that they’re looking for. I’ve done presentations in the back room of Wal-Mart, wherever the people are, kind of where I want to be.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Mike Piehler 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Mike Piehler is an environmental scientist who is leading Carolina sustainability efforts. He harnesses the University’s deep faculty expertise to link sustainability practices across research, teaching and service work for North Carolina and to champion student ideas for change.

Dr. Piehler was named chief sustainability officer by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, who wants sustainability to be an integral part of Carolina’s next generation.

Mike Piehler

The chief sustainability officer has three major responsibilities. They are to oversee the University’s sustainability enterprise, which is distributed throughout operations and academic units, and bring them together to provide maximum value to the University in this space.

The second job is to develop a consistent plan to reach short and long term sustainability goals. We’ve been focused on a program called the Three Zeros Initiative, limiting our greenhouse gas emissions, limiting our water use and limiting our waste production.

And then the final responsibility is to serve as the chair of the Carolina Sustainability Council, and this is a newly constituted body that the chancellor put forth on Earth Day this year.

When the chancellor launched the Carolina Sustainability Council and asked me to lead it, he had ideas for how we could move forward with our sustainability efforts, building off of our past successes. And what we want to do is focus on attaining both our near-term and aspirational sustainability targets. By that, we mean goals for the next year versus goals for something like a period of 10 years. And with all of those, be certain that we’re communicating all of our efforts as we go along.

We also wanted to intentionally harness Carolina’s deep and broad student and faculty and staff talent to advance sustainability on campus. This means really looking hard within our university for people who are doing innovative things, have exciting ideas, and will be able to help us find solutions to some problems that are pretty challenging. So this has been a really fun part of our early efforts, and that is to look across the University and see where the talent lies and find that it’s everywhere. There is great strength on the operational side. The folks who are charged day to day with limiting waste, for example, or providing electricity, there is tremendous talent that can be coupled to some strategic ideas about how we can do things better in the near and short term.

We also want to be certain that we’re telling our story, let people know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and whether it succeeds or fails. And people are really interested in the full scope of efforts that are undertaken, not just the successes, not just standing on top of the mountain and celebrating, but rather what goes into this pathway.

Host

Dr. Piehler believes that one important aspect of the ongoing efforts at increasing sustainability at UNC is the transparency of his team’s reporting.

Dr. Piehler

A lot of things around sustainability involve infrastructure and big long term projects that involve sometimes really complex regulatory environments. It’s not simple. We think it’s critical that as best we can within the limitations that we face, tell the story of the efforts that we’re taking. These are really good people trying to do the right thing. And does it always work out? Absolutely not. But there are always reasons why and there are always reasons why we’ve learned from our failures and are moving on to new efforts.

All of the other missions of the University around education, research and service intentionally have this feedback loop where you are connecting products from all three of those parts of the University’s conventional mission to the execution of our sustainability efforts.

We have so much great communication capacity on campus already. We will have a committee specifically charged with being certain that we are identifying the things that are going on across campus, throughout sustainability and the things that are going on within the council itself and highlighting those will have some conventional approaches through websites and through stories that are written, will have really active, we hope, social media presence. And then we’ll also do some conventional communications across campus and through our neighbors in the surrounding areas, throughout the state and honestly throughout the country as it’s relevant.

We don’t feel that the time has passed for traditional media. It’s a great way to communicate, and it is a way that many of us who have been around a little bit longer, are very comfortable [with], and we think that that’s an important part of our strategy. And I look forward to that because it is an area where people have made up their minds and there’s a narrative, a lot of which is centered around Carolina’s walked away from sustainability. And it’s just simply not the case. I guess it’s just the nature of the times. There’s a lot of skepticism and I think some just really forthright communication would be great.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Mike Piehler 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Mike Piehler is an environmental scientist who is leading Carolina sustainability efforts. He harnesses the University’s deep faculty expertise to link sustainability practices across research, teaching and service work for North Carolina and to champion student ideas for change.

Dr. Piehler’s new sustainability council will be part of UNC’s new strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.

Mike Piehler

You think about Carolina and it’s effectively a small city. It’s a complex thing to run. But the amazing talent that we have within the energy sector, people who are managing energy at the building level and our energy management group and then people who are managing energy at the scale of the whole University and the energy services group are just doing remarkable things. And what my hope is for the new sustainability efforts is to tack on to the work that they’re doing in their day to day efforts to do the very best work they can to make the University as efficient as it can be and then connect that back perhaps to this a little bit more strategic group who gets to think ahead a little and bring back ideas and run them past these amazing experts who are working in all these areas that matter so much to us around energy, around water and around waste.

And when you think about sustainability, some people think of it as an ethic or something that you should want to do because it’s the right thing. And I think that’s absolutely the case. But sustainability is almost always efficient, also. It is trying to work towards no waste. And when you have waste, it’s almost always a result of an inefficient process or a process that’s not working perfectly. So anything you do to increase sustainability and directly limit waste or decrease resource utilization is likely to have positive economic effects in the relatively near term as well.

Working within the framework of Carolina Next has been a great fit for our relaunched sustainability efforts. We are really focused on not only having a great strategic plan, but having a strategic framework to execute that plan. And that’s really what Carolina Next is. So it aligns really well with our philosophy in terms of how we’re going to move forward. So to do this, we will have our Sustainability Council, which has experts from throughout campus, undergraduate students, graduate students, amazing faculty, amazing staff members who all bring specific skills to help us understand problems and try to find solutions.

Host

Practical examples of what Dr. Piehler’s council will be working on include locally sourced food and products for Carolina Dining Services and continuing the concentration on recycling.

Piehler

Carolina Dining Services is a good example. You’ve had the value chain shift a little bit as we have had the pandemic and things are a little bit more difficult to move around, particularly in the early days. But if you think about all of the things that the University acquired, there are opportunities for almost all of them to think about considering sources that have been produced without all raw materials or with entirely reused materials. So I think paper products are a reasonable example.

Locally sourced has layers of benefits. In the beginning, obviously, it’s benefiting local farmers, which is a positive thing for the economy of the adjacent areas or right around the University, which is a positive economic success. And economic activity can help stabilize the environment in many cases, where if you have people who are succeeding in ways that are environmentally benign, then that sustains more success. The reality is that these sustainability efforts and environmental efforts are really only going to continue on into the future if economic reality supports them.

So one portion of locally sourced agricultural products and food is that economic benefit to the immediately adjacent areas. But it’s also the idea that the farther away your food is grown, the farther it travels, which has direct negative effects on the environment through, more often than not, greenhouse gas emissions through shipping.

Recycling is still really, really important in waste management. And so that will continue to be a big focus on campus. There’s been some attention paid recently to recycling not being the answer for certain classes of materials. And I think plastics are one of those where it’s not the only answer. So we will have it as a tool for certain and we’ll be looking for ways to maximize the effectiveness of every tool we have. But that’s another area where it was so interesting to learn about the depth and breadth of the University’s expertise in that area.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Lisa Carey 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Dr. Lisa Carey is one of the world’s leading experts in breast cancer research. At the UNC School of Medicine and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, she works every day to better understand the disease and to find new treatment options.

Dr. Carey knows that deaths from breast cancer have dropped 40 percent, saving more than 300 thousand lives in the last 20 years. Many of those women were treated for the HER2 protein.

Dr. Lisa Carey

We have more than 250 thousand women in the U.S. diagnosed every year. For a long time, [it] has been a major cause of illness and death in the U.S. But the good news is that in part because of early detection and a lot because of better treatment, we’ve had this massive change in the likelihood of dying of the disease. It’s dropped about 40 percent over the last couple of decades. I had a grandmother who actually died of breast cancer when I was four. And, you know, at that time, most women who got it actually died of it. And now it’s only 20 percent or so. So these are massive strides. We’re not done, but these are massive strides.

So it’s about 20 percent of breast cancers have too much of this protein called HER2. It’s a normal protein that controls sort of growth of the cell. When you have too much of it, it becomes basically unregulated and it’s like having the gas pedal stuck down and so the cells start to grow just wildly. That 20 percent was actually a major contributor to death because it was a really, really aggressive kind of cancer. And that was true right up until the late 1990s and into the early 2000s when drugs were developed that actually targeted HER2 and by taking the foot off the gas pedal through these drugs was an amazing change in the ability to treat it, if the cancer had already spread to the body and was metastatic. And even more importantly, to cure it up front so it doesn’t come back. Interestingly, HER2 positive breast cancer, which was our worst prognosis kind of breast cancer, is now one of our best prognosis kinds of breast cancer simply because of the advent of not just one, but several really effective anti-HER2 drugs.

Once you have a cancer, we test for it. There isn’t a way to see if the person is prone to getting that kind of breast cancer. But once an invasive breast cancer is detected, it is routine to test for whether it’s the kind that’s HER2 positive.

Host

A large part of Dr. Carey’s research in precision medicine is about over-treating cancer patients when they do not need certain types of therapies.

Dr. Carey

The drugs we have for HER2 positive breast cancer, we have like five of them now, are incredibly successful. They help us turn metastatic disease into a chronic disease, and women with that kind of cancer, even though we can’t cure it once it becomes metastatic, they now live for four or five or longer years on average. And we now incorporate two, three, four of them into the curative setting—what we call the curative setting means the point where they’re not metastatic. And if we’re successful, they never become metastatic and they are cured of disease and it never comes back.

The problem is that we now use a lot of these drugs for everybody. And so now part of the next step in tailoring therapy and trying to be rational in the way we use these drugs is trying to figure out who needs all four of the drugs, who only needs one of the drugs, who needs chemo, who doesn’t need chemo. There’s actually already some emerging information where if you take the combination of how big the tumor is and where it is and isn’t, plus a much more deep understanding of the biology of the cancer, lets us figure out who we need to be more aggressive with and who we can be less aggressive with. And this is really important.

Some of our earlier research in partnership with the patients when we were trying new drugs, we actually asked the patient to allow us to obtain biopsies from the cancer which were given to scientists who are experts in this field. And our question for the scientists was pretty simple. For the cancers that responded well, tell us why, and for the cancers that didn’t respond, tell us why. And they did. And it turns out that there’s a number of features of the cancer that make them either hypersensitive to the drugs we give or less sensitive. And so you could make the argument if they’re hypersensitive, you might not need as many of the drugs. We also found that that whether or not the patient’s immune system was actually recognizing the cancer and was revved up matters a lot in whether the cancer shrinks in response to therapy and how well the patient does.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Lisa Carey 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Dr. Lisa Carey is one of the world’s leading experts in breast cancer research. At the UNC School of Medicine and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, she works every day to better understand the disease and to find new treatment options.

In her career as an oncology researcher, she has found that no other university matches the collaboration found at Carolina.

Dr. Lisa Carey

We’re sort of famous for that, particularly in the cancer realm I can speak to because I know my colleagues at other places around the country. We really have a culture where people are expected to collaborate from a research standpoint to try and understand what each other is doing and how that might help. I’m living in the clinical realm and so I take care of patients. I was in clinic yesterday and I took care of a whole bunch of patients. All of them had breast cancer. All of them have clinical challenges that I know very well. It’s expected and appropriate and a cultural norm at UNC for me to find out and learn from and know what the scientists working in this arena are doing, because if they’re doing something that’s actually really interesting and might be ready to be tested in the clinic and might help my patients, I want to be part of accelerating that. That’s also true of finding out what’s happening in the community. Our School of Public Health is famous for a reason. They do amazing work with, how is breast cancer and other cancers experienced by people across the state, how is it different in people who come from a more urban environment or more rural environment? How is that experience differently from women of color versus women who are white? I also talk to them a lot. And that’s and to be honest, we have these systems here that facilitate those conversations. We have people being cared for with breast cancer all across the state at UNC affiliates, we all have the same medical record system. So it’s easy for us to communicate with each other and we try and help each other as much as we can. That was the thing that was already known even when I was a trainee. And it was made very clear to me when I was looking for jobs that this was a different kind of place.

A good place to look for that is some of the communications that come out of Lineberger that tend to kind of highlight the things that people are doing [with] head and neck cancer, breast cancer. And almost always what you’ll notice is that the things that we’re proudest of didn’t involve just one person. They’re not one researcher working in his lab or in a silo of one form or the other, it’s people working together and accelerating what they can do. One of my friends who’s at Dana-Farber says UNC punches above its weight.

Host

Dr. Carey always wanted to be a researcher and preferred internal medicine. However, she was unsure if she wanted hands-on treatment with cancer patients. That is, until her residency at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Carey

I was a researcher before I was an oncologist and I published in orthopedics and cardiovascular disease. And I always liked to do research and I knew I would do research, but I didn’t know what kind of medicine I wanted to practice. I knew I wanted to do internal medicine. And I had to say oncology was incredibly appealing because of all the science that was coming out. I had a lot of trepidation and a lot of nervousness about actually caring for cancer patients and whether that would be a really depressing life to live.

We were residents who used to do these things. We took a block of time a week at a time, and we were basically on call all the time and lived in one part of the hospital or another. And I was assigned for Christmas of my second year in residency to the cancer hospital, the cancer center, and thinking, oh, God, this is going to be horrible because it’s not just solid cancer, but it’s cancer over Christmas, the same time with people who are only in the hospital over Christmas because you have to be. And for many of these people, that’s really bad news. And this is going to be really sad. I got there and I was just blown away by the esprit de corps. These people were amazing. The patients were amazing. They were outward facing. They were honest. They were like just not sitting around being sad. They were remarkable. And I remember thinking to myself, either only good people get cancer or this is the human nature. This is how people react to, like, really bad things happening. The human spirit. It’s remarkable. That made the decision for me. I want to be with these patients. That’s how I decided to become an oncologist.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Mike Ramsey 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Perseverance has paid off for Mike Ramsey, Carolina’s inventor of the year. He created a small version of a mass spectrometer which allows first responders to quickly identify harmful airborne chemicals at a disaster scene. Before joining the chemistry department at UNC, Dr. Ramsey worked at a startup in Tennessee, called 908 Devices. While there, he invented and perfected a portable spectrometer.

Mike Ramsey

Mass spectrometry, one could argue, is the most important chemical characterization technique that we have in our toolboxes as chemists. It basically measures the molecular weight of a molecule. So a fundamental characteristic of a molecule and measuring its molecular weight, if you measure it accurate and you can actually uniquely identify the chemical makeup. A miniaturized mass spectrometer to the point where it can actually be carried around by an individual has been a goal that people have been striving for at least four decades.

Why would one want such a tool? Because of its ability not only to characterize molecules, those compounds are that are floating around. You can detect these molecules that very trace quantities, part per million or part per billion of particular hazardous materials. People are using it as first responders, law enforcement. Our military is also using it. There’s a broad range of hazardous materials. They might be toxic industrial compounds. They might be explosives, they might be illicit drugs, a whole range of materials that one would want to identify. First responder, a firefighter, law enforcement scenario where they might see bags of white powder, some innocuous material, or is it actually fentanyl that’s been cut with talcum powder or something of that sort?

Those are various scenarios where this tool could be used in and has been used in. The product that is sold by 908 Devices. There is at least one of these units and every state in the US and some 35 countries around the world in terms of a US distribution domestically, mostly fire departments are common to use this tool. Some law enforcement border patrol also is using these hand-held mass spectrometers to identify potential drugs that are crossing the border.

Host

The smaller spectrometer that Dr. Ramsey developed has dramatically changed the way dangerous compounds can be detected.

Ramsey

There are laboratory mass spectrometers that actually fill entire rooms. Common laboratory, mass spectrometer might several hundred pounds. You couldn’t get your arms around them, certainly wouldn’t be able to lift them. The handheld device that we have out there weighs nine pounds, including the battery. It operates for several hours. So it’s roughly twelve by eight by five inch rectangular cube, to give you a feel for dimensions. I got into miniaturization field.  My original training is actually in laser technology and laser spectroscopy, but I got interested in microfluidics.

We were using tools that came out of the microelectronics industry to make sure the pipes that were the dimensions of a hair, for example, Micron, the 10 micron and dimensions. And we had a lot of success and miniaturizing these devices to do chemical and biochemical experiments. Because of those successes, we studied what else can miniaturize? And so we picked out mass spectrometry because it’s such a powerful tool and it has the ability to uniquely identify particular molecules and as well as to do it at a high sensitivity.

We started building these small mass analyzers in 1996 and we discovered that if we shrink the dimensions of the mass analyzer, the sub millimeter scale, that we could then do mass spectrometry at unprecedented pressure. Mass spectrometer is typically conventionally done at extremely low pressures. That requires vacuum pumps that are big and expensive by moving mass spectrometer and from these very low pressure regimes and to these relatively high pressure regimes, we can use a simple mechanical pump to generate those types of vacuums.

The discovery that we could do mass spectrometry at these extremely high pressures, pressures that are a million times higher than conventional mass spectrometry. That’s what really allowed us to shrink this mass spectrometer into a handheld device.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

 

Focus Carolina: Mike Ramsey 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Perseverance has paid off for Mike Ramsey, Carolina’s inventor of the year. He created a small version of a mass spectrometer which allows first responders to quickly identify harmful airborne chemicals at a disaster scene. Dr. Ramsey has started three life science companies and has been a part of 165 patents for inventions that have been approved, such as the portable spectrometer.

Mike Ramsey

I would say an academic sort of peer-reviewed publications that are maybe the primary metric that we measure success through. I would say patents are more challenging to get issued than to get a peer-reviewed manuscript published. Somehow I was always interested in patents, I  first report of invention that I submitted when I was at Oak Ridge National Laboratory after I submitted the report of invention. Three years later, someone called me up asking me questions about it. Of course, by that time we had published the work and so it was no longer patentable.

That’s where I started. And when I got into this microfluidics work, people saw the value or felt like there was value in them. That’s where my patenting career really started, was with those microfluidics patent. Microfluidic devices or devices where we use techniques out of the microelectronics, industry, lithography and those sorts of tools to make very small features, features, pipes essentially that are on the micron scale or even on the nanoscale, essentially an interconnected plumbing network that is has these very small dimensions.

Host

During years in the private sector, Dr. Ramsey has collaborated with universities like UNC that steered his next move toward academia.

Mike Ramsey

I started my career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and over the years I continued to climb up through the technical ladder until I became a corporate fellow, which was the highest-ranking position on the technical ladder at Oak Ridge. At the same time, I started my first company Caliper Technologies and that sort of opened my eyes to the outside world. The national laboratory is set inside a secure fence and sort of a secluded workspace that we live in. And I guess once I spent a year at Caliper Technologies, which was in Palo Alto at the time, that exposed me to what it’s like to live outside of a secure fence.

Over the years, I always had interest in academia and decided to start pursuing it more seriously. And I made a list of different universities where I would like to be. A UNC was at the top of my list. Thankfully, that became reality in 2004. UNC was interesting to me. First of all, geographically, it was in a location that is similar latitude to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and UNC has had the top ranked analytical chemistry program in the country for decades.

And there were also a number of faculty members that I knew very well, one of which I went to graduate school with and one that I worked with at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. So I was familiar with the faculty and they were also top ranked. So I actually have given several seminars at UNC in the department of chemistry over the years. Chapel Hill has a really nice small town. When I was a Caliper Technologies in 1998, I spent a year there with my family and we lived in Menlo Park, which had a very nice small town feel.

And I think Chapel Hill has a very similar flavor. Number of small shops and nice restaurants and plus all the advantages that the university provides in terms of the social event, arts and whatnot. My wife is a chemist as well. She worked in my group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory the last 10 years we were there and when we moved to UNC, she continued to work in my research group. Then my son lives in Raleigh and he’s working in the I.T. sector. I’ve been pretty lucky in my life.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

 

Focus Carolina: Elizabeth Frankenberg 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Elizabeth Frankenberg is the director of the Carolina Population Center. Her work focuses on how individuals and families respond to unexpected changes such as economic crises and natural disasters, and how government programs and policies can help them adapt.

Dr. Frankenberg’s educational and professional journey has taken her from growing up in Hillsborough and attending UNC, then to Princeton and Penn, to UCLA and back to North Carolina, where she spent nine years at Duke before coming over to run the Carolina Population Center.

Elizabeth Frankenberg

The Carolina Population Center is a group of faculty. We have about 70 faculty affiliates from all over campus, and we all share an interest in population processes, population research and the help of populations. And so we take on various projects, we do a lot of work together, but we also work with other folks across the university to do research projects related to population topics. And it was founded in 1977; it’s one of the older population centers in the country.

There’s a couple of things that CPC’ers are really known for. One is longitudinal data collection. We have a number of surveys in the United States and in other countries that have gone on for multiple decades. So we follow the same people over time and try to track the evolution of their family life, their health, their well-being. We had studies in China, but also the United States, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia. So that’s one piece, and so we try to incorporate new technologies. One of the things that has really revolutionized survey data collection is that now you can collect small samples of blood or saliva and then run much more sophisticated tests for health status than you used to be able to do, doing things like measuring cognitive outcomes, using tablets and laptops, something that wasn’t possible 30 years ago, but it’s possible now. So we try to stay on the cutting edge of data collection technologies and expand the ways we collect data to tap into some of those technologies.

You can ask people to take their own samples of things. [In the] era of COVID, that’s increasingly something that’s appealing. You can also send interviewers to their home to take a fingerprint and collect a small amount of blood and use a tiny little machine to get a read-out of something like an iron level or their inflammation level. It is possible for people to take their own specimens and send them in, but also for visitors to households to collect those specimens and actually provide information right then and there. So we use a variety of different techniques.

Host

With an interest in lower and middle-income families, Dr. Frankenberg visited Indonesia as an undergraduate and returned after the cataclysmic tsunami that hit there in December of 2004.

Frankenberg

These waves followed the same line as the earthquake. There were two sets of waves that parallel the shore that slammed into the coastline about 15 minutes after the earthquake. And in some places, those waves were 30 meters tall, enormous waves. And they had the power to destroy everything in their path in many areas. So in those places, mortality tended to be extremely high. Some villages, 96%. That was our most affected village. Other villages, on average, it was about 30 percent of the population that was killed. If you think about that, it’s really an extraordinary thing to think about losing a third of your population within a 15-minute span.

The health effects, I would say, are still unfolding in populations that were badly exposed to the worst effects. Post-traumatic stress reactivity went down over time and after about three years were not different on average in the badly affected areas relative to the areas that were not affected. The amount of resilience that humans are capable of when affected by an event like this is really quite remarkable… that people were able to regroup and figure out ways forward, get back into housing, re-formulate families and pick up and eventually go on with their lives.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill On Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Elizabeth Frankenberg 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Elizabeth Frankenberg is the director of the Carolina Population Center. Her work focuses on how individuals and families respond to unexpected changes such as economic crises and natural disasters, and how government programs and policies can help them adapt. Dr. Frankenberg was moved by stories of families torn apart by the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and how the survivors recovered and the help they received through the mini mobile lab.

Elizabeth Frankenberg

I think back over time to interviewing people and spending time in Indonesia. One of my favorites probably was a group of siblings whose parents were killed in the tsunami. And we came across them maybe five years after the event, at which point they were back living together in a home in their original communities. The oldest at that point was about 20, that they were living without any parents or adults. And they had gone to a couple of different homes with family members right after the tsunami. But they really wanted to come back and be in the town or the village, really, that they were from. They were living there with some distant relatives still in their village. That was a really interesting story to me, that they’d been separated, but then coming back together in their original location five years afterwards.

I did not get to drive mini mobile lab around, but I did see it in action, and it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to provide people with real time information about their health that would otherwise be complicated for them to obtain. I really love being able to tell people right then and there what’s going on with some of these measures that would otherwise not be easy to get for them.

Another piece is that high resolution satellite imagery is really changing how we’re able to characterize damage, but also reconstruction. So we’ve been experimenting with methods to process high-resolution imagery and develop markers, both of damage and reconstruction, and then look at how those markers track to the data that we collect on the ground. And they’re just really powerful indicators that are going to really change how well we’re able to characterize damage in a fast way after these sorts of events and then also track recovery.

You can tell the expanse of change with much greater precision so you can use satellite imagery to capture what has happened for a large area in a way that on the ground would take much more time and effort to try to pull together and collect. You can count buildings if you really wanted to, but you can also look at the share of land cover that goes from water to bare earth to buildings and then compare that to what it looked like before and chart changes, changes both in initial destruction and later, recovery and rebuilding.

Host

DEEPP is a creativity hub and collaboration across five centers at UNC: marine and environmental scientists, geographers, sociologists, planners and demographers like Dr. Frankenberg.

Frankenberg

I’ve been really excited to visit Carolina to put together a project that looks at hurricanes and storms and floods in the eastern part of the state. There’s certainly some similarity to the kinds of flooding that occurred in Indonesia as a result of the tsunami. And so we are working on designing a survey and then also combining the survey with satellite imagery and with geophysical models of storm surge and flooding, and there’s such great scientists in North Carolina interested in those issues.

DEEPP is a project that has some initial pilot funding from UNC. It also just received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support the work. And what it stands for is the Dynamics of Extreme Events, People and Places. And if you think about North Carolina, over the past five years, we’ve had several major hurricanes that have involved significant property damage, but also a long-term recovery project, and our goal is to combine the techniques and survey methods, demography and economics with geophysical models of storm surge and flooding and with remote sensing efforts to understand where water goes in order to try to develop a more in-depth understanding of the impacts of hurricanes and also how people recover from them over time.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill On Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Ada Adimora 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

A noted researcher, Dr. Ada Adimora studies how HIV is transmitted in African American women, especially in underserved populations in the South. She recently received Carolina’s Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor given to faculty.

Dr. Adimora is co-director of the UNC Center for AIDS Research, or CFAR, which supports the infrastructure of studies focused on the HIV epidemic.

Dr. Ada Adimora

So what does the UNC Center for Research do? We basically provide infrastructure to support research concerning HIV, really doing clinical and behavioral research, educational outreach, translational research, and the consortium brings together three institutions that really work together closely and are tightly integrated. And the three institutions are UNC, which we clearly have expertise in preventing diagnosing and treating HIV. And then there’s RTI, Research Triangle Institute, [or] RTI International, as it’s called now [which] brings knowledge, behavioral sciences and pharmacology in particular. And FHI 360…their role is to really create interactions at an international level with HIV prevention. So we all work together really closely to catalyze and support HIV research.

So in the early part of the AIDS epidemic, a lot of research, although not all of it was pretty focused on people’s individual risk factors for getting HIV. And so a lot of scientific questions asked, what are the things that the individual did that made them get HIV? A lot less attention was given to environmental factors and how the environment influences people’s risk. We looked specifically at how social, economic and political factors like mass incarceration, racism and poverty increase people’s risk for getting HIV above and beyond risk behaviors. And a lot of these forces are interrelated.

Host

When Dr. Adimora moved to North Carolina, she found more to learn about HIV and her colleagues at UNC have provided the kind of collaboration that is so heralded at the University.

Dr. Admiora

When I finished my Infectious Disease Fellowship years ago, it was pretty early in the AIDS epidemic and I happened to move down here to the South, and I was having trouble understanding why this disease was spreading so rapidly and pervasively throughout Black communities. And it was clear to me, from talking to Black patients with HIV, that while some people did have the traditional risk factors like injection drug use, crack cocaine use, et cetera, a certain proportion of Black people with HIV really didn’t have what people would consider to be high risk behavior. And as a Black person and understanding what so many Black people experienced, specifically the effects of racism, I wanted to study how that impacted people’s risk for HIV and the behaviors that affect HIV transmission. So this combination of talking to patients and looking at other epidemiologic studies and my own observations as a Black person sort of informs my approach.

So I came to North Carolina and I worked with State Health Department for almost two years in the communicable disease control section. I used to come to infectious disease rounds here at UNC and I got to know the clinicians in the disease group, and I was recruited by Dr. Fred Sparling when he was Chair of Medicine. And I have terrific colleagues in the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and in the UNC Center for AIDS Research. People are just incredibly collegial and collaborative. And I’ve gotten so much help over the years. I always hesitate to name specific people. Mike Cohen was my chief till he just stepped down about a year ago, but he was extraordinarily helpful in my career and really inspired and supported me. This is unquestionably the most collegial of any research intensive university, and that’s really the thing I like most, that all of my colleagues are incredibly supportive and they’re so accomplished.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill On Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Ada Adimora 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

A noted researcher, Dr. Ada Adimora studies how HIV is transmitted in African-American women, especially in underserved populations in the South. She recently received Carolina’s Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor given to faculty.

Dr. Adimora studies how the environment in which people live can greatly impact their chances of contracting HIV/AIDS as much as personal behavior.

Dr. Ada Adimora

In the early part of the AIDS epidemic, a lot of research, but not all of it, was pretty focused on people’s individual risk factors for getting HIV. And a lot of scientists were asking what are the things that the individual did that made them get HIV? But there was a lot less attention given to environmental factors and how the environment influences people’s risk. Our work looked at specifically how social, economic and political factors like mass incarceration, racism and poverty increase people’s risk for getting HIV, above and beyond individual risk behaviors.

Many of these social forces are interrelated. You know, incarceration really decreases your likelihood of getting any job at all and certainly increases your risk of poverty. Sexual networks spread HIV and other sexually transmitted infections throughout the population, but social forces affect the types of partnerships that people can and do have. Other social forces like policing and sentencing inequities, contribute to the disproportionate imprisonment of Black people, particularly Black men. And this, with other forms of racism, decreases the number of Black men who are available in the population for women. This can increase the likelihood of multiple partnerships, which in turn can help spread HIV through a community. Poverty, which is in part due to racism among Black people, tends to destabilize long-term partnerships and marriages. That’s actually pretty well known. Residential segregation by race, another social force also affects the types of partners that people have.

Host

Dr. Adimora says her research goes beyond why so many Black Americans engage in non-monogamous sexual relationships.

Dr. Adimora

What we really were attempting to do was to move beyond studying individual behaviors, to studying social networks and sexual networks, really, that facilitate transmission of HIV. And we documented a higher prevalence of non-monogamous partnerships among Black Americans than among other Americans. But it’s important to note that these non-monogamous partnerships were largely related to lower marriage rates among Black Americans for a number of decades. But it’s important to note that these non-monogamous partnerships were in large part a product of social and economic factors like poverty and a lower ratio or a number of men to women, which discourages long term monogamy.

This low ratio of men to women is because of the higher rates of mortality among Black men due to violence and also disease, and incarceration further lowers the ratio of Black men to Black women. Because of this lower ratio of men to women, Black men have tended to be less available for partnerships.

The first studies that we did were done in North Carolina. In some of these initial studies, we looked at risk factors for heterosexually acquired HIV among Black people in our state. We were looking mainly at people who acquired HIV through sex, but certainly the other big way people can get HIV is through needle use, injection drug use. So, yes, women can acquire HIV from bisexual men. They can also get it from men who’ve acquired it from other women because women can give it to men. Women can also get HIV from injecting drugs and they can get it from men who’ve gotten HIV through injection drug use. This work really sort of located the causes where some of the causes of the higher rates of HIV in the social and economic contexts in which Black Americans live.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill On Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

Focus Carolina: Penny Gordon-Larsen 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Penny Gordon-Larsen leads the Obesity Hub, a diverse group of researchers from nutrition to behavioral health to data science, who work collaboratively to solve the challenge of obesity. This team is working to go beyond a one size fits all to predicting the optimum approach for each patient. Dr. Gordon-Larsen says understanding obesity involves far more than the amount of food people consume and the level of exercise they get.

Penny Gordon-Larsen

Obesity is a huge issue in this state. Most recent numbers in 2017-2018, over 42 percent of adults were obese. That’s according to CDC data for the U.S. In North Carolina, the prevalence of obesity here is 33 percent and that’s up from 20 percent in 2000. So in those 20 years, a very steep rise. We really have seen that our sedentary lifestyles and our habits of eating away from home, larger portion sizes, all of these factors really play into a considerable amount of weight gain when we look at the population level. Obesity is a really complex disease and so we wind up studying obesity from a very molecular and genetic level all the way up to the societal and policy level factors that influence behavior and food purchasing and physical activity for individuals across the entire globe. And so it’s a really complex problem that requires a lot of different levels of research. The message to eat less and move more is really more simple than the actual disease of obesity, because we know that there’s a range of biological and physiological issues that really set individuals up for weight gain, both for the initial weight gain and the maintenance of higher body weight and so it’s really more complicated. And there’s a lot that we need to learn about obesity. One thing that we do know is that once you start to gain weight, it is difficult to lose the weight. And so the best thing we can do is really prevent people from that initial weight gain and to help people maintain their body weight at a healthy level.

Host

At the Carolina Obesity Hub, Dr. Gordon-Larsen directs a large collaborative effort involving more than 27 faculty members at UNC.

Gordon-Larsen

They come from 16 different departments and from six schools across the university, as well as five centers and institutes. And so we’re all coming together to really try to understand why two people who consume the same diet and exercise equally can have very different susceptibility to weight gain. And we’re tackling that question from a very biological and genetic level all the way to the community level factors that might influence weight gain. And we know that it’s a very complex relationship. And so we’re doing our best to look at the single factors, but also how all these different kinds of factors interact to influence weight gain.

We’re looking at the tiny chemicals in the blood that are released from food and those are called metabolites. And we look at those genes and metabolites and how some of those factors may be signals that somebody is at more or less risk for weight gain. And we look at the people who might be more susceptible to weight gain. And we see when they live in areas that have a lot of opportunities for them to be physically active, are they more likely to exercise and keep the weight off, even if they are more susceptible to obesity than people who live in different kinds of environments and different kinds of communities.

So how do you make a plan that really fit somebody that makes them happy to consume the diet, that they don’t feel restricted and that you match the kind of exercise to what works best for an individual. And so that kind of tailoring really makes it a lot more likely that people will follow the lifestyle behaviors that will help them maintain a healthy weight.

Provost

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

 

Focus Carolina: Penny Gordon-Larsen 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

Penny Gordon-Larsen leads the Obesity Hub, a diverse group of researchers from nutrition to behavioral health to data science, who work collaboratively to solve the challenge of obesity. This team is working to go beyond a one size fits all to predicting the optimum approach for each patient. After studying obesity for most of her career, Dr. Gordon-Larson leads a 200 million dollar research project at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Penny Gordon-Larsen

The reason I became interested in obesity is partially because of my history. I was a chubby kid and it was not a great experience. And so I wanted to do all that I could to help other people and especially children, to help protect them from weight gain. And one of the things that’s most important about that is being told the reason that you are heavy is because of something that you are doing wrong. And that has really led me to try to understand what are the biological and genetic factors that really reinforce weight gain for people that is beyond their control and how can you best leverage those kinds of factors to help people learn how to manage their diet in a way that best matches their lifestyle and their own practices. Because obesity is such a complex disease, you really do have to tackle it from very different specialties and very different perspective. We have people who are experts in health behavior and in lifestyle modification and we have the School of Medicine where we have clinicians who have the expertise in obesity medicine and we have experts out at the Nutrition Research Institute who are experts in precision nutrition.

We can do these really neat kinds of experiments in mice and then we can parallel those experiments in humans. And it gives us a good sense of some of the factors that might be more genetic or pathways that might be really important avenues for new kinds of treatments. And so those kinds of targets, when we look from all of those different directions, can shed light on obesity and a much better way than if you just look at the disease from a single perspective or a single scientific background, because you just can’t answer the question with something that is so complicated as obesity.

Host

Dr. Gordon Larson’s team is working with two new apps that can closely monitor participants behavior while collecting data to enhance this precision treatment.

Gordon-Larsen

I’m partnering with Deb Cate, who is a professor in health behavior and in nutrition, and she is a leader in these kinds of apps for both intervention messaging, the messages that give people guidance and reinforcement for what they’re doing, as well as collecting the diet and activity behavior. She is using this really great intervention app that allows her to monitor diet intake their exercise patterns and their daily weight that they’re collecting. And so with all of that information, she’s able to tell people, keep going you’re doing a great job, or maybe you want to change this or maybe you want to change that. And so it’s a very personalized approach to the intervention. And then we’re also working with researchers from RENCI, the Renaissance Computing Initiative on campus, and they are helping us with a data analysis app that will help us very rapidly be able to collect blood to generate information on genetics and on molecular markers and diet data, to be able to pull all of those data together and rapidly understand the connection between the diets people are consuming the markers in their blood and the genetic susceptibility to hopefully be a clinical tool that can give a sense for the biological susceptibility to weight gain that could be really useful in a clinic.

We have a tremendous culture of collaboration at Carolina. There’s no barriers to people working together and they’re such great excitement and enthusiasm around so many different areas of science, but particularly around obesity. We have so many experts working from so many different kinds of disciplines who are all eager to collaborate and work together to solve obesity, that it’s just an incredibly exciting place to be.

Provost

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill on Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

 

Focus Carolina: Elaine Westbrooks 1

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

As the university librarian, Elaine Westbrooks oversees 10 libraries and nearly 10 million volumes. Her goal is to ensure that the Carolina community has the resources it needs to continue creating knowledge, learning and to preserve the unique history and culture of North Carolina for future generations. Westbrooks presides over a library system that is very specific and far more diverse than many users realize, from students to faculty to researchers.

Elaine Westbrooks

Most people are familiar with our Davis Library, as well as our Wilson Special Collections Library. But we have libraries that are dedicated to the health sciences, the arts, science, music. And so it’s a great library system and it’s definitely one of the best in the country and I’m really proud. It’s a big comprehensive research library. But what’s most exciting is the fact that it’s much more than books, manuscripts. There’s musical recordings, there’s data sets, software, image collections. Library collections that they are much more diverse than they ever have been when we think about those 10 million volumes.

What that does is it creates that comprehensive collection that anybody in the state of North Carolina can walk in and have access to it. And when I think about people walking in, we get nearly three million visitors a year. And that was actually pre pandemic. When we look at how people access information today, most of our users come and see our website. So we’re getting over 10 million people who are coming to our library virtually. And that is basically emblematic of the world we live in today.

And this is a world where a lot of information is digital. People have expectations to access information digitally, and we’re happy that we’re able to be that research library and the digital age for our students, faculty, our staff, as well as all the citizens in the state of North Carolina. I can tell you that we have people from all over the world who use our library system, and we’re really proud of that fact. We cater primarily to the state of North Carolina and our students, faculty and staff. But we have scholars from all over the world who come to us because of our unique collections and because of the unique expertise that we have.

Host

Preserving and making accessible the history of North Carolina has remained one of the most cherished challenges and responsibilities for Westbrooks and our staff.

Westbrooks

We have approximately 250 staff, and that includes librarians and archivists, as well as librarians focused on rare books, IT, fundraising. And this library system has evolved quite a bit over the years. And so right now, a lot of our staff are very much focused on data, data visualization, how to curate data, how to preserve data preservation in our DNA. It is so critical to who we are. Nobody does it on the planet like we do. I think it’s really important that we are that place where people can depend on. They can depend on us to make sure that future generations of North Carolinians have access to the rich history of the university as well as the state, whether it’s Orange County or Durham County or Asheville.

We are very invested in that history. And our strength is not just the state of North Carolina, but we’re very much focused on the history of the American South. We have a premier repository for the history of the American South. And that is one of the reasons why our scholars from all over the world either come to Chapel Hill or they access us online through the Web. This deep mission to preserve the history and culture is something that actually libraries have been doing for thousands of years.

We believe that we have to continue to preserve the history, whether it’s analog form, like a book, but also increasingly the history is digital. And so that means email. That means data sets. And so we are continually trying to find new and innovative ways to preserve a history and culture. And that’s why our digitization program is so important, because we want to get as much information in the hands of people in the state of North Carolina. And the best way to do that is through digitizing thousands and thousands and millions of items that people can access from home at night in their pajamas, they can get access to the amazing manuscripts and books and journals from their computer at home.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill On Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.

 

Focus Carolina: Elaine Westbrooks 2

Provost Bob Blouin

Welcome to Focus Carolina, an exclusive program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I’m Provost Bob Blouin and I’m excited to share this series of interviews with our Carolina faculty here on WCHL.

Host

As the university librarian, Elaine Westbrooks oversees 10 libraries and nearly 10 million volumes. Her goal is to ensure that the Carolina community has the resources it needs to continue creating knowledge, learning and to preserve the unique history and culture of North Carolina for future generations. Since the UNC libraries have been digitizing material for years, it was not a difficult transition for Westbrooks when the pandemic hit.

Elaine Westbrooks

Over the past 20 years, libraries have already begun that digital transformation. And so, of course, it was traumatic in March and April when everybody was mobilizing to provide different kinds of services in light of the pandemic. We did shift some of the services that were primarily basic services. We do lectures, we do musical events and all of those have shifted on to Zoom. And I think what’s been most impressive is the numbers are bigger than ever and we’ve been able to have events and have 200, 300 people attend via Zoom when prior to the pandemic we would likely get maybe 30, 40 or 50 attendees.

So I felt like the shift has been a seamless shift for us. And I think that’s in large part due to the amazing staff that I have who are very flexible and we are so focused on providing the best possible service to our faculty, students and staff.

So, for example, we have an African-American archivist and she has been very much focused on community driven archives. And what does that mean? That means that the traditional model, where a library goes into a community and acquires materials and then brings it back to Chapel Hill. And so we basically take possession and we control those items for future generations. And so now what we’re doing is we’re shifting that model and saying it’s no longer necessary for us to bring materials back to Chapel Hill.

We want to work with the community and we believe that community should drive how materials are archived and preserved and that we focus on teaching people in the community to preserve their very own history. And so we feel like there are a variety of ways that we can help communities, whether it’s oral histories or helping teach them how to digitize materials and ways that they can last for long periods of time. We just want to be of service to everybody in the state, and that has forced us to change our business model and our service model. And that’s where the community driven archives comes in. And that’s just one example of some of the things we’ve been able to do.

Host

Westbrook says that advanced technology at the library is something that would shock some members of another generation.

Westbrooks

One of the things I always say is we’re not your grandmother’s library. We’re a library that, of course, we love books, right? We’ll always have books. But in today’s world, technology is really critical. That’s a critical part of the student experience. And so we’re able to provide those technologies in our library spaces. Students would never be able to have this technology on their own, but they’re able to access it at the library and they’re able to work directly with library staff who can help them take advantage of the technology.

They’re able to use technologies to create images, to create videos, to podcast. And so the idea that that students only write papers is just not true anymore. A lot of our students are coming to the library to produce multimedia podcasts and do all these kinds of scholarly projects that go far beyond a 15 page paper. And we take that seriously.

We feel that the library is a learning space that includes technology, but a place where students can be curious, they can wander, they can innovate, they can engage with other students, they can engage with faculty and staff. And so we want the library to be that place of choice for students to come, for a quiet place to study. But also they’re going to be surrounded by technology. They’re going to be surrounded by expertise. And they also have that community of people who are empowered to learn and to be better students and to go out and change the world.

And that’s just really important for us as a library.

Blouin

Thank you for listening to Focus Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To hear more interviews, visit chapelboro.com and click on 97.9 The Hill On Demand or visit thewell.unc.edu.