Kinks, Curls and Swirls

Welcome to Kinks, Curls and Swirls, a blog series for girls by girls.

Contributors: Members of the Healthy Girls Alliance

Editors: Dr. Ja’Wanda S. Grant & Dr. Ja’Larna J. Grant

BLOG ENTRY 1

December 12, 2020

Mental Health Misery and Social Media Influences, by Khalia McCray

Black People, Younger Users, Democrats More Likely to Turn to Social  Platforms for Activism

 In today’s society, many people battle with mental, physical, and emotional health issues. Life has its battles in general, but because of the pandemic and the divide in our country, our health is under attack. We have to ask ourselves what can keep our mind, body, and spirit in the right place. I feel that social media can have a major influence on our health . 

Approximately 3.81 billion people use social media in 2020. Social media gives us the chance to not only connect with people, but can also help us know what those people like and do. It also helps keep us in tune with everything that is going on in the world, but is that a good or bad thing? In my opinion, it’s both good and bad because not only can it bring us joy and excitement but it can also bring us sadness and grief. 

There are a lot of things going on in the world and some things we cannot handle to see constantly on social media. For example, police brutality has become a bigger problem than ever before. It feels like there is a black life taken every month due to police brutality. I know for me, that is not something I can handle hearing about so I try to stay away from it. Even though that may be a negative part of it, the positive part is seeing people of different races come together to fight for what’s right. There is nothing wrong with staying in tune with what is going on in the world; it is just important to know what you handle and what you cannot handle.

Not only does social media affect our mental health,  it also affects our physical health. I know 99% of people can agree with me when I say that social media is very addictive. Clicking on a social media app when you have something important to do can be the biggest mistake you make. Not only does it trap your mind into what’s going on but it also causes you to lose focus on the more important things. For example, sleeping, eating, exercising, and just practicing good hygiene are all important things to do. Although, sometimes we get so distracted on social media to the point that we either don’t do these things or we lack in these areas. 

Staying up until 4:00 am  in the morning is not good for your physical health because we need at least seven hours of sleep a day. Social media also promotes false beauty standards and expectations. The edited photos can make someone feel like they are not pretty enough compared to other women they may see. These feelings can make someone start bad eating habits so they can look “better” when in reality there is no such thing as a perfect body. Disregarding our physical being for a late-night scroll can come back to bite us in the butt. If your emotional health is not in the best state then social media may not be for you. 

Depression, anxiety, and addiction seem to be a “trending” issue these days. These are serious matters affecting the lives of many people in the world today. Instead of dealing with it in therapy or talking about it, we often use social media as a coping mechanism. Avoiding the problem instead of facing it has become a very common thing. Running from our problems or our fears of facing those problems will not solve anything. In my opinion, social media has caused us to see these things as a ”joke”. We have taken a serious matter and turned it into a laughing matter which is not ok. It has become a toxic outlet for those who suffer from emotional dysfunction. I also feel like it mocks those who genuinely are struggling with an emotional issue and it has to stop. Taking time out of your day to meditate or exercise is very important for your emotional health. Sometimes, just sitting or laying outside in the grass, soaking up the sun, can help you emotionally. 

In conclusion, social media is an exciting part of our lives to help us connect and stay connected to people. It is also a place for us to learn new things, but we still need balance in our life. We cannot let it consume us and change who we are. Making sure your mental, physical, and emotional health is more important than scrolling on social media. There is a whole world beyond the screen on your phone.

Celebrating Breast Cancer Warriors

I couldn’t let October pass by without acknowledging Breast Cancer Awareness Month. When I first ventured into the world of biomedical research, my focus was anti-cancer and cancer chemoprevention. Working with cancer cell lines is a bit removed from the human experiences of cancer and how it effects families and communities. I know many beautiful women who have survived breast cancer and I truly admire their resilience and their drive to live. Let me share the story of few of these SHEROS.

Jubie Banks was my Zumba instructor at Gold’s Gym in Poughkeepse/Fishkill in New York. She was THE most fun and energetic instructor, and I always burned 600+ calories in her class. Yes, I listed two cities because I followed her to both towns for Zumba! Exercise requires a deep commitment and internal motivation to stay active and healthy. There were plenty of nights where I didn’t want to go, especially when it freezing and snowy outside! As the instructor, it’s not so easy to “skip a class”! Jubie would be in an out of class because of chemo or surgery, but would always come back as soon as she felt strong enough to dance! She would have just had a surgery and I would push her way to TEACH us – and still have more energy than we did! Jubie is a breast cancer warrior – I salute you, Jubie!

Jubie and Jubie’s Zumbies – Zumba dancing for LIFE!

Another warrior is my college mom, Mrs. Vinson! We had a beautiful surprise reunion when we crossed paths at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Indianapolis in 2018. She brought an amazing group of students from the University of Mississippi to the conference. The UM basketball team just so happened to be playing Butler in Indy, so of course we went to support our team! I believe her passion for serving students and others was a motivation for her to beat cancer! Mrs. Vinson a breast cancer warrior – I salute you, Mrs. V!

My college mom, Ms. Vinson, and her IMAGE students at the UM-BUTLER game in Indianapolis

More recently a dear church member kicked cancer’s tail and she continues to recover and heal. Donnika keeps a beautiful smile on her face and sends ME positive messages every morning – talk about a STRONG WOMAN. Her faith in God’s healing power drives her to remain positive and to keep fighting. Donnika is a breast cancer warrior – I salute you, Sis Donnika!

A few ladies from church supporting Donnika at a local Breast Cancer Awareness walk

I may not get to speak with these women on a regular basis, but each of them has is a true SHERO in my book. It is an honor to see their stories of victory unfold. These women advocate for taking care of our health through prevention. Now that I am in the age bracket for mammograms, I am scheduling to get “my girls” checked. I am also taking care of myself through regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Each of these women have a STRONG mind and STRONG faith – they are warriors. I salute these women and all of the many breast cancer warriors in my circle. Let their stories remind us that a strong mind and spirit help are key ingredients for the win. We celebrate you, WARRIORS!

Susie Strong. Fighter for Life. Custom Ink Fundraising
Isaiah 41:10

Written by Ja’Wanda S. Grant, PhD

Healthy Girls Alliance

The Healthy Girls Alliance is recruiting the inaugural cohort!

The Healthy Girls Alliance is for girls who:

Want TOTAL health
Have big dreams
Are motivated and driven to be their best
Respect themselves and others
Show up on time and ready to participate
Are willing to learn and try new things

DOES THIS SOUND LIKE YOU?! IF SO, KEEP READING TO LEARN MORE!

Who Can Apply?
Girls from the MS Gulf Coast in grades 6 through 12 are welcome to apply. Limited spaces are available for girls outside of the MS Gulf Coast region.

What Will You Do?
Girls will participate in group mentoring sessions led by the founders, Dr. Ja’Wanda and Dr. Ja’Larna.
This semester’s focus is on TOTAL HEALTH: friendships, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and intellectual. Girls will join fun discussions and activities with very special guest speakers!
Girls will be invited to college tours. *Note: Some of these may be virtual as we monitor covid-19
Girls will participate in community service and outreach activities.

What Will You Gain?
Girls will connect with other motivated young ladies and professional women who will help build confidence and sisterhood.
Girls will network with professionals and public figures and learn about different career paths.

How To Apply

Click here to complete the online application form. The application deadline is August 25!

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

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As women, we dread our yearly exam with our gynecologist. We know it is very important to go, but we try to avoid if possible. I can understand, because it’s not the most comfortable nor modest experience. For some, the last pap smear they had may correlate to the age of their last child (who may now be 30, LOL) or it may have been last year. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, we all need to be aware of the importance of this test. As your friendly OBGYN, I would like to encourage and educate you all on the value of that dreaded pap smear.

Why should I be concerned?

Approximately 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. However, with widespread screening the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased more than 50% in the past 30 years.

How can I reduce/prevent my risk of cervical cancer?

GET TESTED!!! This involves having a screening pap smear with or without HPV testing.
A Pap smear test is the cervical cancer screening test that involves collecting cells from your cervix. These cells are examined using cytology by looking under a microscope for evaluation. The results will note if there are normal cells or any abnormal cells. If any abnormalities are detected, your gynecologist will discuss with you managment and treatment options to eradicate the abnormal cells.

When should I be tested?

I’m glad you asked!

Here are a few guidelines from the American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP)

Under age 21: NO SCREENING NECESSARY!!
AGES 21-29: Cytology testing alone every 3 years
AGES 30-65: HPV and cytology “Cotesting” every 5 years (Preferred)
Cytology alone every 3 years (Acceptable)
Ages 65 and over: No screening following adequate negative prior screening.

What if I have had a hysterectomy?

Total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix): ou do not need additional cervical cancer screening as long as there is no history of cervical cancer or high grade dysplasia

Supracervical hysterectomy (removal of uterus only with cervix still intact): You will still need to receive cervical cancer screening per age appropriate guidelines

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations
HPV is a very common sexaully transmitted disease in the United States. Almost everyone who is sexually active will get an HPV infection at some point in life. Diseases caused by HPV are genital warts and cancer. At least 13 types of HPV are linked to cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, vagina, and mouth. That’s where the HPV vaccine comes in. This vaccine is proven to reduce risk of HPV related cancers by 99% especially if received before sexual activity. It is recommended starting at age 9 and approved up to age 45. This is not a mandatory vaccine, but does provide excellent benefit to reducing your risk of cervical cancer.

So, what should i do?

Duh, go see your gynecologist tomorrow… No just kidding. But I strongly urge you to adhere to the guidelines and stay compliant with your doctor. An abnormal pap smear or HPV positive testing does not mean you have cancer. Your doctor will explain everything to you and how to treat these abnormalities. Early detection and prevention is key. We have come so far in decreasing cervical cancer by the screening modalities and that by itself is amazing. Take charge of your health and your body.

Take care,
Dr. Jalarna J. Grant, MD

With a new year brings resolutions toward better health, new attitudes and new beginnings.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist PB#168

What’s Your Why?

#FreedomFriday

I am fortunate to have worked in spaces that allow me to mentor and support the amazing journeys of youth scholars, activists, thought leaders, and seekers.

Last week I spent a few days sharing career advice with undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs.  In one of the sessions, I shared a small vignett of my educational journey. I realized that in preparing to do so (as in times past), it brought up uncomfortable memories. I could be angry and point fingers, but what I have chosen to do is to help those coming behind me. I also realized I didn’t use some of the power I had out of fear, lack of confidence, and lack of guidance.  I can’t save them from all of the racism, gender  bias, microaggressions, setbacks, or failures. But I can share my experiences and lessons learned, while also being a part of the solution through providing equitable and accessible education.

The organizations and grant initiatives that I am affiliated with are focused on diversifying our STEM and biomedical workforce and the academy.

When I was a child, I always asked “Why is this?”, or “Why is that?”  I have always been inquisitive and curious about the way things are, and the reasoning behind actions or decisions.  Now, I ask those questions about the representation of women and people of color in decision making spaces and in our institutions of higher education. As a chemical engineering undergraduate, I had zero professors who were women or persons of color in my department. I was blessed to have two black men professors for one semester of calculus and one semester of chemistry; however, that was in my entire 5 years of college. (Yes, I changed my major a few times but I finally made it out – Thank You Laude!)

Now I ask the question, “Why haven’t things changed over the past 20 years since I graduated from college?”

It’s not easy being the only one in: the room, a class, a meeting, a lab, a deparment, a program, or any space. It is particularly difficult when your otherness is a threat or unwelcomed in the space.

There are those soldiers who are called to kick down those doors and fight on the frontlines for change. I have realized that I am the general.  An army general is responsible for combat readiness or troops as well as strategic decision making during and after war. Because I have been on the battlefield, I can detect land mines and I also know some of common threat tactics.

This leads me to My Why (well, at least one of them).  I help young girl scientists strategize on the battlefield as they fight to pursue their dreams of becoming engineers, mathematicians, astronauts, physicists, health professionals, environmentalists, and the list goes on. Why? Because I know the struggle perosnally and now I’m in a position to help open doors, create doors, and shatter ceilings! Of course, I support girls on other pathways. In all cases, I remember my journey and realize everything I’ve learned is a step ahead for them.

I have other passions and interests, but this is one that fueled the launch of Celebrate Sisters Foundation with my sister.  We are here to share our knowledge, experiences and networks to girls interested in and pursuing STEM fields.

On this #FreedomFriday I am honored t help girls freely express their big dreams and aspirations with strategy and insight from my experiences. That’s My Why!

What’s Your Why?

Ja’Wanda S. Grant, PhD

(l) With Xavier students and faculty at the  Leadership Alliance National Symposium.

(r) With Leadership Alliance Doctoral Scholars at the closing ceremony