Kern County native creates app meant to protect farmworkers from heat-related illness

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Farmworker’s days are long, their work is tedious and sometimes weather conditions turn the job into a dangerous one. 

“I heard their stories of swollen backs and how their feet would ache after work and just the kind of brutal conditions they worked in, especially back then”, said Faith Florez.

Florez grew up in Shafter, a small farming community in Kern County in a family that is all too familiar with working in the fields and the risks of the job.

“My grandma Estella, she picked roses, cotton, almonds, and then my poppa, her son went on to again pick roses cotton almonds and migrate between seasons between the fields,” she said.

So, the high school senior, who now lives in Los Angeles set out to make a change at farms throughout the central valley.

“I don’t want to hear about a farmworker that died because they were too far away from water and shade,” said Florez.

Flores created the Calor App, which will let farmers now when they could possibly be in danger.

“The application is ultimately designed to prevent instances of heat stroke amongst agricultural workers,” said Florez.

Calor, the Spanish word for heat, began with a simple idea for Florez.

“It definitely wasn’t an overnight thing,” she said.

Her idea, became more of a reality when she submitted it as a proposal to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where a group of graduate students unanimously hose to take on the project.

“I went into it super passionate,” Florez said.

Continue onto ABC News to read the complete article.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What to know about the latest developments in breast cancer research, treatment and prevention

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off on Monday.

Often associated with pink ribbons and 5K walks, the movement has been wildly popular: National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding for breast cancer totaled $520 million in 2016.

The increasing breast cancer awareness comes at a time when women can find substantial improvements in breast cancer treatment.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest developments.

How common is breast cancer?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (besides skin cancer), and the second most common cause of cancer death in women.

Approximately 266,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer by the end of 2018.

In 2015, there were an estimated 3.4 million women living with breast cancer.

What you can do

We’ve known for a while that your risk of breast cancer gets lower with some lifestyle changes. Women who exercise, don’t smoke, don’t binge drink, stay a healthy weight after menopause, and use the pill for a shorter number of years have a lower risk.

Breast mammography, although imperfect, has been instrumental in detecting breast cancer when it does occur. Recommendations regarding screening are controversial: the question is the age that screening should begin.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) recommends annual screening starting at age 40, while the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) believes that you should be screened every two years starting at age 50.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends annual screening at age 45, with the option for women to be screened when they’re 40 if they prefer. The differences reflect changing opinions on what age the benefits of screening outweigh the risks.

New to the scene is breast tomosynthesis, a 3-D screening tool that received FDA approval in 2011. Research has shown better cancer detection rates with tomosynthesis, and fewer “false alarms,” when women with no disease are mistakenly called back for further testing.

In patients with dense breast tissue, screening ultrasounds can improve detection rates. In patients with the highest risk of developing breast cancer, screening breast MRIs, in combination with mammography, have been shown to improve survival.

Continue onto ABC News to read the complete article.

Young Professionals are Shaking Things Up in STEM

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Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski

STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—skills have become increasingly valuable, and careers in STEM are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying. Yet Latinas only account for 3 percent of the industry. Meet two young professionals who are making their mark in their STEM careers, leading the way for other Latinas to enter into these much-needed, highly paid fields.

Meet Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski. At just 23 years old, Pasterski had a job offer from NASA. Stephen Hawking cited her research. And she built her own single-engine airplane from a kit in her garage when she was 14. Once it was certified as airworthy, she took it for a spin, becoming the youngest person in history, at age 16, to build and fly her own plane. That same year, she was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Photo caption: Honoree and physicist Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski speaks onstage during the Marie Claire Young Women’s Honors presented by Clinique at Marina del Rey Marriott. RICH POLK/GETTY IMAGES FOR YOUNG WOMEN’S HONORS

Now, at 24 years old, she has a standing job offer from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Pasterski, a Harvard PhD student, researches black holes, spacetime, and quantum gravity. Her Harvard peers have characterized her as the “Next Einstein.”

“Be optimistic about what you believe you can do,” Pasterski said in an interview with Marie Claire. In 2013, she was the first woman in two decades to graduate from MIT at the top of her physics class. “When you’re little, you say a lot of things about what you’ll do or be when you’re older—I think it’s important not to lose sight of those dreams.”

Learn more about Pasterski and STEM at physicsgirl.com.

Sources: hertzfoundation.org; and curiosity.com

Meet Nicole Hernandez Hammer. Hernadez Hammer is a sea-level researcher and environmental justice activist who is educating and mobilizing the Latino communityNicole Hernandez Hammer attends the Build series ‘Smart Girls’ panel to understand and address the ways in which climate change negatively impacts them. This Guatemalan-Cuban advocate speaks from personal experience as well as academic knowledge. When Hernandez Hammer was four years old, she and her family moved from Guatemala to South Florida. There, she learned firsthand about the effect of rising sea levels. Photo caption: Nicole Hernandez Hammer attends the Build series ‘Smart Girls’ panel at Build Studio. JIM SPELLMAN/WIREIMAGE/GETTY

During Hurricane Andrew, when Hernandez Hammer was 15 years old, her house—much like the homes of other Latino families near coastal shore lines—was destroyed. She felt “obligated” to learn more about the issue, and went on to study biology and the natural sciences.

Hernandez Hammer was the assistant director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, authoring several papers on sea
level rise projections, before moving into advocacy. She served as the Florida field manager for Moms Clean Air Force and is now a climate science and community advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In 2015, she was former first lady Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union Address.

Sources: remezcla.com; blog.ucsusa.org

4 Tips on Managing Stress at Work

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Job Stress

Everybody feels stress from time to time at work, but it’s important not to let stress control our lives.

Unmanaged stress can lead to short-term problems like headaches, stomach pains, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Long-term stress can lead to serious health conditions like depression, obesity, and heart disease.

Here are our four tips on managing stress:

  1. Keep a journal
    Track your stressors; over a week or two, note what’s setting you off and how you’re responding to those situations. Note your thoughts, feelings, who was involved, where it happened, and what you did in reaction – did you eat an unhealthy sugary lunch, did you have an extra glass of wine at night? Taking notes can help you identify patterns and help you break your stress cycle.
  2. Break unhealthy responses to stress
    If you notice from your journal that you are delving into unhealthy activities to manage your stress – junk food, alcohol, avoidance, too much TV – try replacing those unhealthy responses with healthy ones. Exercise is a fantastic way to manage stress. Join a yoga class, sign up to a gym, or go for regular jogs before work. Exercise releases endorphins and makes you happier; it can also take your mind off your stresses and make you feel productive.

Other good responses include: taking time out to read, playing games with your family, or doing activities with your friends. Set aside time to do activities that bring you pleasure.

  1. Create boundaries for work
    In the smartphone age, it can be easy to feel pressured into being available 24/7 for work. Establish some boundaries: Don’t answer emails at dinner, switch off your phone after 7pm, take time out to not think about your assignments. It’s critical to disconnect from work and let yourself recharge.
  2. Meditate
    It’s crucial that you learn how to relax and center yourself. Try meditating and mindfulness activities. If you can’t go to a class, there are hundreds of quality apps you can download to teach yourself. Start with just a few minutes a day to focus, do deep breathing exercises, and let go. It may seem small, but by simply doing this every day, you can apply this same focus to other parts of your life.

The American Psychological Association has great resources for dealing with stress: apa.org/index.aspx

Source: mygwork.com

‘Jane the Virgin’ Gina Rodriguez is on a mission to help young women — here’s why

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“One of the biggest blessings about being an actor,” said Rodriguez, is a platform that enables you to speak on important matters.

Gina Rodriguez is best known for her award-winning role in “Jane the Virgin,” but the actress, producer and activist has long championed many causes, especially education. Her latest mission is bringing an end to what is known as “period poverty” and its effect on young women’s school attendance and educational opportunities.

Nearly one in five girls in the U.S. have had to miss or leave school because they lacked access to products such as sanitary napkins during their menstrual period, in large part due to economic factors, according to a survey commissioned by Always. Rodriguez partnered with the brand to bring attention to the period poverty epidemic through the #EndPeriodPoverty campaign, which aims to donate 15 million period products to school pantry programs across the U.S.

“Education is the end all, be all. It is the reason I am here today, it is the reason I have had the opportunities that I have had,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez recalled how her education shaped her successful artistic journey. During her sophomore year of high school, Rodriguez’s religious studies teacher taught her about the role of the griot, or storyteller, in West African cultures. Had she missed that class, which inspired her to use acting as storytelling, her trajectory may have been very different, said Rodriguez.

The focus on how menstruation can unfortunately limit girls’ and women’s lives around the world — from the lack of products to cultural taboos, has gained traction. Recently Meghan Markle, who earlier this year married Britain’s Prince Harry, brought attention to the issue in India. In the U.S., women are pushing state legislatures to ensure access to products in places like prisons; New York City became the first to require free tampons and sanitary pads in correctional facilities, public schools and homeless shelters.

For Rodriguez, ensuring that young girls in the U.S. have access to products during their periods is doable.

“I want to bridge that gap. I want to end that statistic that we have here in this country. And we are capable of doing this,” she said. “One of the biggest blessings about being an actor is that you’re given a platform that you can speak on things that matter to you,” Rodriguez said.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

CVS Health Fights Back on High Cost Drugs by Launching Industry’s Most Comprehensive Approach to Saving Patients Money

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New CVS Health initiative seeks to solve one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of consumer financial worry.

Recognizing the threat of rising drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs, CVS Health providing most advanced solutions for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

CVS Pharmacists are key resource for patients in identifying opportunities to maximize their prescription benefits and save money at the pharmacy counter in communities nationwide.

CVS Caremark mitigating impact of high drug costs by providing members and prescribers with robust information and innovative tools to choose lower-cost prescription drugs.

The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of financial worry for consumers across the nation. While CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) has made significant progress in mitigating the impact of high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, for too many Americans annual out-of-pocket drug costs are still significant. In response, CVS Health announced today that it is fighting back by launching the most comprehensive program in the industry to help patients save money on their medications.

According to a recent national poll, commissioned by CVS Health, 83 percent of Americans said they were concerned personally about the impact of rising prescription drug prices.[1] As prescription drug prices continue to rise and enrollment in high deductible health plans grows, many patients are shouldering higher costs for their prescription medicine.

CVS Health will address this problem with a robust set of initiatives, including the new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder, which will enable the company’s retail pharmacists for the first time to evaluate quickly and seamlessly individual prescription savings opportunities right at the pharmacy counter. This new tool further enhances existing savings opportunities the company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) CVS Caremark is currently offering its clients such as the preventive drug lists that make medications for many common, chronic conditions available at a $0 copay. In addition, CVS Caremark provides real-time, member-specific drug costs and lower-cost alternatives to prescribers through their electronic health record system and to CVS Caremark members through the member portal and newly updated app. These programs are part of CVS Health’s commitment to helping consumers find the lowest cost prescription drugs by offering more pricing transparency for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

“Today’s consumers are faced with higher prescription drug prices than ever before and many of them are now paying for a larger share of their prescription drug costs out of their own pockets at the pharmacy counter due to growth in high deductible health plans,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “Until now, patients haven’t had the appropriate tools available to them to help them manage these costs. To address this, CVS Health is giving expanded tools to patients, prescribers and pharmacists so they can evaluate prescription drug coverage in real-time and identify lower-cost alternatives. We are committed to finding the right drug at the lowest possible cost for patients to ensure they are able to access and stay on the medications they need. That’s our promise.”

At the Pharmacy Counter

The new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder enables the retail pharmacist to quickly and seamlessly review a patient’s prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs – with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.

“Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, Retail Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy.

“Armed with the information available through our Rx Savings Finder, our more than 30,000 CVS pharmacists can play an important role by helping patients save money on their medications, providing advice on how and when to take them, and ultimately helping them achieve better health outcomes,” Hourican added. “We are beginning this process with our CVS Caremark PBM members and expect to roll it out more broadly throughout the year.”

The Rx Savings Finder will show pharmacy teams:

  1. First, if the prescribed medication is on the patient’s formulary and is the lowest cost option available.
  2. Second, if there are lower-cost options covered under the patient’s pharmacy benefit – such as a generic medication or therapeutic alternative with equivalent efficacy of treatment.
  3. Third, if the patient may be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
  4. Finally, if neither a generic nor a lower-cost alternative is available, other potential savings options for eligible or uninsured patients where allowed by applicable laws and regulation.[2]

Pharmacists can also help patients enroll in the ExtraCare Loyalty Program and sign them up for Pharmacy and Health Rewards. Through Pharmacy and Health Rewards, patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.

At the Doctor’s Office

Another component of the company’s comprehensive savings approach is the recently launched real-time benefits program, which helps bring greater drug price transparency to prescribers and CVS Caremark members. At the point-of-prescribing, providers are able to see the member-specific cost for a selected drug, based on a member’s coverage, along with up to five lowest-cost, clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives based on the patient’s formulary. PBM members have access to the same information on the CVS Caremark app and member portal. Early results show that prescribers accessing the real-time benefits information through their electronic health record switched their patient’s drug from a non-covered drug to a drug on formulary 85 percent of the time. In addition, when the patient’s drug is covered, prescribers using real-time benefits switch their patient to a lower-cost alternative 30 percent of the time. When the prescriber switched to a lower-cost drug, the difference was approximately $75 per prescription.
“We have been working hard to keep prescription medications affordable for patients,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “In fact, in 2017, nearly 90 percent of our PBM plan members spent less than $300 out-of-pocket for their prescription medicines. While this signals progress, for those patients that cost is not insignificant. That is why we are committed to doing even more across our enterprise to help patients find and access the lowest cost drug at the pharmacy which ultimately will help improve clinical outcomes and remove higher downstream medical costs from the system.”

Using Pharmacy Benefit Management Solutions

CVS Health is also making a variety of PBM solutions available to help further drive down drug trend for its PBM clients and drug costs for the patients they support. The company’s Point of Sale (POS) rebate offering allows the value of negotiated rebates on branded drugs to be passed on directly to patients when they fill their prescriptions – and the savings from this program can be significant. In 2013, CVS Health led the industry with the introduction of POS rebates to clients, and today nearly 10 million members are covered by and able to benefit from the program.

In 2017, despite manufacturer brand list price increases on drugs near 10 percent, CVS Health PBM strategies reduced drug trend for CVS Caremark commercial clients to the lowest level in five years, keeping drug price growth at a minimal 0.2 percent. In fact, 42 percent of CVS Caremark commercial clients spent less on their pharmacy benefit plan in 2017 than they had in 2016. CVS Caremark helped members reduce monthly out-of-pocket costs and improve adherence to its highest level in seven years in key categories such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Prescription drug trend is the measure of growth in prescription spending per member per month. Trend calculations take into account the effects of drug price, drug utilization and the mix of branded versus generic drugs as well as the positive effect of negotiated rebates on overall trend. The 2017 trend performance is based on a cohort of CVS Health PBM commercial clients, employers and health plans.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,800 retail locations, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 94 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, expanding specialty pharmacy services, and a leading stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable and effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

###

[1] The Morning Consult poll was conducted from February 22-26, 2018, among a national sample of 1992 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

[2] Prescriptions submitted for reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid or other federal or state programs are not eligible..

Twitter is now specifically focusing on increasing black, Latinx and female representation

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Twitter met or surpassed many of the diversity and inclusion goals it set for itself for 2017, the company announced today. Twitter is now 38.4 percent female, compared to 37 percent in 2016. Regarding underrepresented minorities at Twitter, representation increased from 11 percent in 2016 to 12.5 percent in 2017.

While Twitter increased the overall representation of women and underrepresented minorities, it missed its goals for overall representation of underrepresented minorities, as well as underrepresented minorities in technical roles. At the leadership level, Twitter went from 30 percent female in 2016 to 32.5 percent female in 2017, and underrepresented minorities now account for 10.1 percent of employees at the leadership level, compared to just 6 percent in 2016.

Moving forward, Twitter intends to set two-year goals but will continue its practice of releasing yearly diversity reports. The rationale for the two-year period, Twitter VP of Intersectionality, Culture and Diversity Candi Castleberry Singleton explained in a blog post, is to better enable Twitter to assess its progress, “develop specific programming, and adapt our strategies along the way.”

Twitter is also now specifically looking at increasing the representation of women, black and Latinx people — groups that continue to be underrepresented in tech. Twitter is 3.4 percent black, 3.4 percent Latinx and 38.4 percent female. By 2019, Twitter wants to be 43 percent female, 5 percent black and 5 percent Latinx.

“We’re focused on powering positive change by fostering respectful conversations, creating deeper human connections, and encouraging diverse interactions across the company,” Singleton wrote in a blog post. “We’re calling this strategy Intersectionality, Culture and Diversity (ICD) and we’re making it a part of everything we do at Twitter.”

Continue onto TechCrunch to read the complete article.

California hiring underrepresented groups in renewable energy industry

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Clean Energy Jobs-

By Carol Zabin and Robert Collier

As California policymakers speed up the state’s switch to renewable energy, a key question is this: Do the much-touted new green jobs actually go to a diverse cross-section of the state’s workforce, or are disadvantaged communities left out?

According to data obtained and analyzed by researchers at University of California Berkeley’s Labor Center, the answer is that in recent years, a significant share of strong, career-track jobs in the construction of renewable energy power plants statewide have, in fact, gone to low-income residents and people of color.

Our recently issued report shows that the joint union-employer apprenticeship programs used in these projects have played an important role in diversifying California’s clean energy workforce.

In Kern County, local data shows that 43 percent of entry-level electrical workers on solar power plant construction lived in communities designated as disadvantaged by the California Environmental Protection Agency, while 47 percent lived in communities with unemployment rates of at least 13 percent.

Kern County electrical apprentice pay schedules show a clear progression toward the middle class. Current first-year apprentices start at $16.49 per hour plus full benefits and receive wage increases as they move through their five-year training program. Graduates become journey electricians earning more than $40 per hour.

Statewide, the picture is similar. Among the 16 union locals of electricians, ironworkers, and operating engineers that have built most of California’s renewable energy power plants, about 60 percent of new apprentices were people of color.

Diversity varied by trade. Latinos, who make up one-third of the state’s labor force, represented 53 percent of new apprentice ironworkers, 34 percent of electrical workers, and 23 percent of operating engineers. While African-Americans are 6 percent of the statewide labor force, they made up 4 percent of new apprentice electricians, 6 percent of ironworkers, and 9 percent of operating engineers.

The presence of military veterans in these programs also was higher than in California’s workforce as a whole. While veterans are only 4 percent of statewide workers, they comprised 9 percent of new electrical apprentices, 6 percent of ironworkers, and 12 percent of operating engineers.

The weak point in these apprenticeship programs, as with the rest of California’s construction industry, was the participation of women, ranging from only 2 percent to 6 percent among the three trades.

All told, the track record shows that California has made progress toward broadening access for disadvantaged workers to good jobs in the clean energy economy. But this diversity has not been automatic. A key driver of progress is the fact that most renewable energy plants were built under project labor agreements, which ensure union wage and benefit standards and free training for low-skilled workers through state-certified apprenticeships. Recruitment efforts by unions and the projects’ locations were also important since many renewable power plants are in counties such as Kern that have high unemployment and concentrations of low-income communities.

Looking forward, job access in the clean energy industry can be advanced by adopting specific programs such as publicly funded pre-apprenticeship training and local-hire provisions, in combination with project labor agreements.

Additional progress is likely if state lawmakers approve SB 100, which would commit California electricity providers to obtain 100 percent of their power from clean energy sources by 2045. This would drive further growth of renewable energy construction, which in turn would create more jobs and more openings in state-certified apprenticeship programs. The net result would be an important step forward along California’s path to meeting its climate challenge while simultaneously broadening access to middle-class jobs.

About the Authors
Carol Zabin and Robert Collier are director and policy specialist, respectively, of the Green Economy Program at the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley.

Source: startrends.xyz

 

This Scientist Made a Major Discovery By ‘Playing’ With Bugs

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Stephen Baca

By Catalina Gonella

While hiking the hills of Kenya and coming across “amazing spiders” and other creatures, Stephen Baca rediscovered his childhood love for bugs. Sitting around a campfire later one night, he decided to concentrate his studies on just that.

Baca would go on to pursue entomology, the branch of zoology that is concerned with insects, and then earn a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. It was a choice well made, because in the past few years, the 31-year-old has become a world authority on the evolutionary history of a family of burrowing water beetles known as Noteridae. While conducting his research, he also has helped to clear a path for underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields.

“When I was younger, I didn’t realize you could do this for a living,” Baca told NBC Latino.

Beetles

Turning an obsession with crawling things into a career

As a kid growing up a part of a proud Hispanic-American family in New Mexico, Baca had always been interested in anything that crawled. He would even host lizard catching competitions with his cousins as a kid. “I suppose I was always the one who wanted to learn more about them,” Baca recalled.

When he was in middle school, one of his teachers happened to be an entomologist who would bring his bug collections to class. Fascinated, Baca began collecting insects himself.

“In middle school, I was this weird guy. I like to think endearingly weird guy, but I don’t know for sure,” Baca said, laughing. “I used to carry around a jar and forceps in my backpack, in case I saw anything cool.”

High school, on the other hand, was boring for Baca, and he eventually lost track of his passion for insects.

When he got to college, he decided to major in business, figuring he would set himself up for a “decent career.” He ended up leaving school after only one year.

“I just didn’t have the patience for school at all,” he said.

After that year, Baca worked several jobs, from delivering pizza to waiting tables and bartending. After spending a summer working on a ranch in Montana, he decided he would go back to school. This time, he stuck with it.

Baca started out at a local community college and eventually transferred to the University of New Mexico where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology.

It was around this time that he traveled to Kenya and experienced his career-altering epiphany. The things that crawled, such as the marching army ants, were what excited him. “I was just like, man this stuff is amazing, I used to love this as a kid!”

When he got back, he connected with a professor who allowed him to volunteer at his lab conducting research on aquatic beetles. After six months, Baca visited Peru to conduct fieldwork, and that’s when he got hooked. “It kind of snowballed from there,” he said.

Now, Baca is living out his childhood dream. Having earned his Nicaragua_w_caimanmaster’s in entomology, he is now working toward his doctorate in the same field at the University of Kansas. Or as he puts it, “getting to play with bugs all the time.”

Overturning a water beetle world

Recently, Baca was the lead author of a study that delineated the evolutionary history of Noteridae. His work was published in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Working with co-authors Emmanuel Toussaint and Andrew Short of University of Kansas and Kelly Miller of University of New Mexico, Baca was able to determine the relationships of 53 species of Noteridae. His study completely overhauled the classification within the family of aquatic beetles.

“It’s important to note that papers like this, that especially when they result in large changes in the classification, have a lot of downstream impact,” Floyd Shockley, an entomologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told NBC Latino. “Especially on the large community of amateur collectors that just enjoy collecting beetles,” he said. The impact on museums, and other places that house insect collections will also be major, according to Shockley.

While conducting the study, Baca and his team discovered faults in a computational method for partitioning genetic data—the “k-means” method. The researchers sent their results to the developer of the computational method, who decided the model should be discontinued.

The method was just gaining traction, but the discovery by Baca will prevent other biologists from getting inaccurate results by using it. “The developer had already realized there were issues with it,” Baca said. “We were kind of the last nail in the coffin.”

Passing on the STEM “bug”

Baca is also passionate about the work he does as the president of University of Kansas’ chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

He became involved in the group back when he was an undergraduate at University of New Mexico through one of the school’s biology professors, Maggie Werner-Washburne. When Baca asked her for a recommendation letter to help him get into grad school and the National Science Foundation, “she agreed, but only on the condition that I go to a SACNAS meeting.”

Though he didn’t really know what SACNAS was at the time, he agreed to attend. “I loved it because the whole time, they were just kind of talking about the things that I felt were sort of lacking in my life before,” Baca said.

In high school, no one had asked him what he liked or was interested in. “I didn’t know that I could make a career out of this stuff,” said Baca. “And that’s kind of the fun thing about sitting here now, is that I had no idea this was ever possible.”

“And that’s kind of one the reasons that I like to get into some of these outreach groups,” Baca explained.

He was nominated to become the president of University of Kansas chapter shortly after deciding with a group of students that he should lead because he was the oldest of the group. “We’ve been pretty ambitious about it,” said Baca. They just celebrated their one-year anniversary and recently became recognized as an official chapter. Baca’s goal is to continue to do more outreach work, to undergraduates and especially to high school students.

“One of the things I’ve learned more than anything in doing this,” said Baca, “is that putting yourself in a position where you can talk to people or sharing your story and giving them a little bit of advice, letting them know that there are resources out there for them, and people advocating for them, is where the most profound effect comes from.”

Sources: NBC News, NBC Latino. View original article at: nbcnews.com/news/latino/how-latino-scientist-made-major-discovery-playing-bugs-n733251

This Geriatrician Says To Do These 5 Things To Live Longer

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A healthful diet can reduce risk for disease and increase longevity

Good nutrition plays an important role in how well you age. Eating a healthful diet helps keep your body strong and can help reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis.Studies even show a link between healthful eating and longevity.

“As we age, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing some key nutrients. Appetite and taste can suffer from loss of sense of smell and taste or from side effects of medications. Bad teeth can make some foods difficult to chew or digest,” said Arthur Hayward, MD, a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute. “So choosing foods carefully is smart.”

Here are five tips to help you get the nutrition your body needs:

  1. Avoid empty calories.

Foods with empty calories may contain very few vitamins and minerals. “Convenience foods,” such as packaged snacks, chips and sodas, are common sources of empty calories. Avoid the “bad” carbs—foods that have white flour, refined sugar and white rice.

  1. Choose nutrient-rich foods.

Eat a variety of foods. The more you vary the foods you eat, the more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you get. For example:

* Eat lots of fruits and vegetables—Choose fresh, frozen or no-salt canned vegetables and fruits in their own juice or light syrup.

* Eat foods with protein—Protein is found in lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and cheese, cooked beans, peanut butter and nuts and seeds.

* Get enough calcium and vitamin D—Calcium and vitamin D are found in milk and milk products, including yogurt and cheese. They are also in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens) and tofu.

* Include foods high in vitamin B12—After 50, the body produces less gastric acid and absorbs less B12, which helps keep blood and nerves vital. B12 is found in milk, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.

* Eat high-fiber foods—This includes fruits, vegetables, cooked dried beans, and whole grains.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids.

Drink plenty of fluids—enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Fiber and fluids help with constipation.

  1. If your appetite is poor, eat smaller meals.

Try eating smaller meals, several times a day, instead of one or two large meals. Eating while socializing with others may help your appetite. You might also ask about changing medicines. Medication can cause appetite or taste problems.

  1. Eat soft foods.

As we approach our senior years, chewing food is sometimes difficult. Choose low-sodium canned vegetables or cooked fruits and vegetables. These are often softer. Chop or shred meat, poultry or fish. Add sauce or gravy to the meat to help keep it moist.

For healthy recipe ideas, check out Kaiser Permanente’s Food for Health blog at https://foodforhealth.kaiserpermanente.org.

In addition to eating a balanced diet, aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Ten-minute sessions several times a day on most days are fine. For more information, visit kp.org and everybodywalk.org. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk with your physician.

Source: NewsUSA

3 Things to Know Before You Pick a Health Insurance Plan

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MassMutual

Choosing a health insurance plan can be complicated. Knowing just a few things before you compare plans can make it simpler.

  1. The 4 “metal” categories: There are 4 categories of health insurance plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These categories show how you and your plan share costs. Plan categories have nothing to do with quality of care.

Which metal category is right for you?

Bronze

  • Lowest monthly premium
  • Highest costs when you need care
  • Bronze plan deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your insurance plan starts to pay — can be thousands of dollars a year.
  • Good choice if: You want a low-cost way to protect yourself from worst-case medical scenarios, like serious sickness or injury. Your monthly premium will be low, but you’ll have to pay for most routine care yourself.

Silver

  • Moderate monthly premium
  • Moderate costs when you need care
  • Silver deductibles — the costs you pay yourself before your plan pays anything — are usually lower than those of Bronze plans.

Gold

  • High monthly premium
  • Low costs when you need care
  • Deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your plan pays — are usually low.
  • Good choice if: You’re willing to pay more each month to have more costs covered when you get medical treatment. If you use a lot of care, a Gold plan could be a good value.

Platinum

  • Highest monthly premium
  • Lowest costs when you get care
  • Deductibles are very low, meaning your plan starts paying its share earlier than for other categories of plans.
  1. Your total costs for health care: You pay a monthly bill to your insurance company (a “premium”), even if you don’t use medical services that month. You pay out-of-pocket costs, including a deductible, when you get care. It’s important to think about both kinds of costs when shopping for a plan.

When choosing a plan, it’s a good idea to think about your total health care costs, not just the bill (the “premium”) you pay to your insurance company every month.

Other amounts, sometimes called “out-of-pocket” costs, have a big impact on your total spending on health care – sometimes more than the premium itself.

Beyond your monthly premium: Deductible and out-of-pocket costs

  • Deductible: How much you have to spend for covered health services before your insurance company pays anything (except free preventive services)
  • Copayments and coinsurance: Payments you make each time you get a medical service after reaching your deductible
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: The most you have to spend for covered services in a year. After you reach this amount, the insurance company pays 100% for covered services.

So how do you find a category that works for you?

  • If you don’t expect to use regular medical services and don’t take regular prescriptions: You may want a Bronze plan. These plans can have very low monthly premiums, but have high deductibles and pay less of your costs when you need care.
  • If you qualify for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs OR want more of your costs covered: Silver plans probably offer the best value. If you qualify for extra savings (“cost-sharing reductions”) your deductible will be lower and you’ll pay less each time you get care. But you get these extra savings ONLY if you enroll in Silver plan. This can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year if you use a lot of care. Even if you don’t qualify for extra savings, Silver plans offer good value — moderate premiums and deductibles, and better coverage of your out-of-pocket costs than a Bronze or Catastrophic plan provide.

If you expect a lot of doctor visits or need regular prescriptions: You may want a Gold plan or Platinum plan. These plans generally have higher monthly premiums but pay more of your costs when you need care.

  1. Plan and network types — HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO: Some plan types allow you to use almost any doctor or health care facility. Others limit your choices or charge you more if you use providers outside their network.

Types of Marketplace plans

Depending on how many plans are offered in your area, you may find plans of all or any of these types at each metal level – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Some examples of plan types you’ll find in the Marketplace:

  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO): A managed care plan where services are covered only if you use doctors, specialists, or hospitals in the plan’s network (except in an emergency).
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A type of health insurance plan that usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. It generally won’t cover out-of-network care except in an emergency. An HMO may require you to live or work in its service area to be eligible for coverage. HMOs often provide integrated care and focus on prevention and wellness.
  • Point of Service (POS): A type of plan where you pay less if you use doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that belong to the plan’s network. POS plans require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A type of health plan where you pay less if you use providers in the plan’s network. You can use doctors, hospitals, and providers outside of the network without a referral for an additional cost.

Source: Healthcare.gov