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Some Medical Campus ralliers wore doctors’ coats, a reminder of gun victims they treat, others donned orange, the color of the national walkout against gun violence. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
Students and staff on both BU campuses joined the National School Walkout yesterday to protest gun violence, four weeks to the day after a gunman murdered 17 people at a Florida high school.
At least 300 people on the Medical Campus, some braced against freezing temperatures with just their white lab coats, crowded together off Talbot Green. Planned by students at the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, the rally, like those at more than 2,500 middle and high schools and some universities across the country, lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
On the Charles River Campus, the walkout drew several dozen people to gather on Marsh Plaza.
“A national movement has started,” declared Medical Campus keynote speaker Eileen Costello, a MED clinical professor of pediatrics and chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, MED’s affiliated hospital. “I speak for many pediatricians at Boston Medical Center and across the nation who are saying: Stop this now.
“How can members of Congress listen more to the NRA than to the voices of our children?” she asked. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes most suggestions for tightening gun safety laws. “We must stand with these students, our children, and our patients and call for laws that will keep automatic weapons of mass destruction out of civilian hands.”
“We call upon our national, state, and local leaders to take swift and decisive action,” Rebecca Webb (MED’20), one of the rally’s organizers, told the crowd.
Before the rally, BU Today spoke to several people attending the walkout. Co-organizer Aldina Mesic (SPH’18), a research study assistant at SPH, said that she was optimistic that the Florida tragedy, unlike previous mass shootings, would spur action against gun violence.
She cited Florida’s just-passed gun reforms, which include raising the allowable age for gun purchases to 21, something the NRA opposes, as well as an NRA-backed provision to arm school personnel.
“There’s clearly momentum around the country to address it in a number of ways,” Mesic said. “I do think that something will change and something will come of this.”
Co-organizer Anita Knopov (MED’19) voiced similar optimism. “The national dialogue has changed since the Parkland shooting,” she said. “We’ve seen stores distancing themselves from the NRA” by discontinuing discounts and other perks they’d offered to NRA members.
“And we’ve seen individual companies making new rules about the age of…buying a gun,” Mesic added. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 since the Florida shooting.
“We just want to move it from just talking about thoughts and prayers…and expecting our national policymakers to actually do something to address the gun violence in this country,” she said.
Nicole Jeter (SPH’19) took time off from her maternal and child health class to attend the rally because “I have cousins and family that are in elementary schools, and I’ve seen the effect that it [news of violence] has on those children.” The large national walkout, she said, would have the “impact of everyone coming together to voice their opinions and to show the importance of working together.”
“Our MED faculty and students who rotate through our very busy emergency room at BMC see the toll that guns take every day in Boston,” said Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus.
“Students have taken the lead on this issue, starting with Florida, and now across the United States. I see no more effective group out there right now. Our generation has not succeeded. Maybe they can.”
Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old alleged Stoneman Douglas High School gunman, is facing the death penalty if convicted. His lawyers, who have offered a guilty plea in exchange for a life prison sentence, are expected to raise mental health issues to try to save his life. Cruz was a former student at the school where he went on a rampage on Valentine’s Day.
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Move-in Street Smarts
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, West Campus students moving into Claflin, Sleeper, and Rich Halls will be directed to park in the Langsam Garage and lot (formerly known as the Babcock Street garage and lot). Students moving into 1019 Commonwealth Ave. can park in the garage or in metered spaces.
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Student Village residents moving into 10 Buick St. or 33 Harry Agganis Way will be directed to park in the Agganis Arena garage.
On Sunday, August 30, Harry Agganis Way and Buick Street will be closed from 1 to 4 p.m.
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, there will be no unloading of vehicles in front of Warren Towers. Access will be through the Warren Towers garage.
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Buswell Street will be converted to a one-way street going west, from Park Drive to St. Mary’s Street, and going east, from Park Drive to Mountfort Street, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Bay State Road will be closed to through traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Only residents, delivery trucks, and students moving into BU will be allowed access.
On Sunday, August 30, the BU Bridge will be closed for approximately 30 minutes, from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.
It’s officially here: Move-in 2024, the annual onslaught of undergraduates arriving on the Charles River Campus. In anticipation, several BU offices, including Housing, Dining, Parking, Orientation, and the BU Police Department, have spent much of the summer strategizing over details to make it go as smoothly as possible.
An estimated 1,600 students were expected Monday, among them 700 freshmen and transfers participating in this year’s First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), which brings new students to campus a week early to perform community service at sites across the Boston area. Others arriving Monday were orientation leaders and athletes gearing up for their fall seasons, says Marc Robillard, executive director of housing and dining.
No move-in was scheduled for Tuesday, August 25, but Wednesday, August 26, was expected to be the week’s busiest day, with as many as 2,600 students arriving. It also happened to be the first day of the final freshman orientation session, attended largely by international students and those from far-flung corners of the United States. Scarlet Squad members, the red-shirted upperclassmen who assist first-year students during Move-in, also arrived Wednesday to be ready for the freshmen and their families needing help Saturday and Sunday lugging gear into their new digs.
There will be a lull on Thursday and Friday, August 27 and 28, with only 1,000 students expected each day. Traffic will pick up again on Saturday, August 29, when most of the remaining freshmen arrive ahead of the Matriculation ceremony on Sunday, August 30, where the 3,625 members of the Class of 2023 will gather together in Agganis Arena at 2 p.m.
New students can move in on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. Continuing students can move in Sunday from noon to 5:30 p.m. and on Monday, August 31, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Resident assistants will check students in and parking lot attendants will help direct traffic.
A special Move-in weekend shuttle will run up and down Commonwealth Avenue on Saturday, August 29, and Sunday, August 30, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The shuttle will stop at 13 locations between Kenmore Square and Agganis Arena. This is in addition to the regular BU Shuttle (BUS), which travels between the Charles River and Medical Campuses.
During Move-in week, the BUPD will reroute traffic at specific spots across campus, and officers will be on hand to direct drivers during the following changes:Bay State Road
Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Bay State Road will be closed to through traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Only residents, delivery trucks, and students moving in to BU will be allowed access.700 Commonwealth Avenue (Warren Towers)
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, no vehicles will be allowed to unload in front of Warren Towers. Access will be through the Warren Towers garage only.South Campus
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Buswell Street will be converted to a one-way street going west from Park Drive to St. Mary’s Street, and going east from Park Drive to Mountfort Street, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.BU Bridge
On Sunday, August 30, the BU Bridge will be closed for approximately 30 minutes, from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m., as thousands of freshmen join Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) in the annual procession along Commonwealth Avenue from East Campus to Agganis Arena, for Matriculation.Harry Agganis Way and Buick Street
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Student Village residents moving into 10 Buick St. or 33 Harry Agganis Way will be directed to park in the Agganis Arena garage.
On Sunday, August 30, Harry Agganis Way and Buick Street will be closed from 1 to 4 p.m. for Matriculation.
The Agganis Arena lot (the lower outdoor service lot) will be closed to faculty and staff parking permit holders Monday, August 24, through Sunday, August 30.Babcock Street
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, West Campus students moving into Claflin, Sleeper, and Rich Halls will be directed to park in the Langsam Garage and lot (formerly known as the Babcock Street garage and lot); the garage entrance is on Gardner Street. Students moving into 1019 Commonwealth Ave. can park in the garage or in metered spaces.
The Langsam Garage and lot (formerly known as the Babcock Street garage and lot) will have limited spaces for faculty and staff parking permit holders from Monday, August 24, through Sunday, August 30; the garage entrance is on Gardner Street.
Have a question about Move-in week? Leave it in the Comment section below.
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BU Medical Campus Hosts Annual Health Equity Symposium Researchers, clinicians discuss lowering barriers to care
Sir Michael Marmot, a University College London professor of epidemiology and director of its Institute of Health Equity, was the keynote speaker at the BU Medical Campus Annual Health Equity Symposium on April 10. “Why treat people and then send them back to the conditions that made them sick?” he asked. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
In Baltimore’s Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood, half of the families have single parents, a third of the boys have a criminal record by age 17, and the median household income in 2010 was $17,000. The life expectancy is 63.
In Baltimore’s Roland Park neighborhood, 93 percent of the families have two parents, juvenile arrests are rare, and the median household income is $90,000. The life expectancy is 83.
Michael Marmot, a University College London professor of epidemiology and director of its Institute of Health Equity, offered these stark statistics at the BU Medical Campus Annual Health Equity Symposium, held April 10. In his keynote address, Marmot, a world expert on health equity, described driving through the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood and seeing red slashes marking houses for demolition. “Can you imagine what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where every second house is condemned?” he asked. “Why treat people and then send them back to the conditions that made them sick?”
Health disparities—any difference in health outcomes between populations—are a tough nut to crack. They involve myriad factors that lie outside the traditional healthcare system, such as housing, employment, racism, gun violence, immigration status, availability of food, and access to public transportation.
Hospitals, medical schools, and healthcare providers are starting to tackle these disparities, from many different angles. The half-day symposium was part of that effort, said event co-organizer Jenny Siegel, a School of Medicine assistant professor of medicine. The symposium gathered researchers from across the Medical Campus to network, find future collaborators, and learn about health equity efforts at BU and throughout the area.
“It’s a new time in healthcare,” said Thea James, a MED associate professor and Boston Medical Center associate chief medical officer and vice president of mission, speaking at the symposium. Healthcare providers need to go beyond treating emergencies over and over, said James—“those are just downstream consequences of what happened upstream.” They need to help dismantle the barriers that keep patients from thriving and shift focus “from charity to equity.”
Speakers, panel discussions, and a poster session captured both the breadth of the issue and the many programs attempting to address it. Researchers presented posters on topics that included improving hospital experiences for patients with autism, how doctors can address immigrants’ legal needs, and disparities in prenatal screening. Third-year medical student Anita Knopov (MED’19) presented data on racial residential segregation and firearm homicides. Her study noted that black people make up 59 percent of firearm homicide victims, but only 14 percent of the US population, and her work correlated these homicide rates to areas with high racial segregation. She said she decided to research the topic after seeing a preponderance of patients with gunshot wounds or scars. “The term ‘health disparities’ is a huge umbrella,” she said, “but the first right to health should be a right to live.”
The health effects of violence also came up during a patient perspective panel, where BMC patient Sarah Zene related leaving a violent husband decades ago. “I never knew there was help for battered women until I went to my doctor and she told me about it,” said Zene. “I think if I didn’t ask for the help, I would be dead by now.”
Zene’s story offered some prescriptions for overcoming health disparities with a holistic array of treatments. After a doctor helped her escape a bad relationship, a violent neighborhood, and a drug addiction, she said, her healthcare team at BMC turned to treating her diabetes and high blood pressure. The hospital staff tackled her health conditions not only with medication, but also with acupuncture and Zumba, and by providing her with fresh food and teaching her how to cook with fewer carbs. “My diabetes was out of control, and now it’s under control,” she said. “It’s what you eat!”
In his keynote address, Marmot said he was heartened by his visit to BU, and he noted a growing interest in the social determinants in health throughout the world. He said colleagues often complain that Americans aren’t interested in solving these problems, but he disagrees. “There is a great deal of activity in the United States, it’s just not at the federal and state government level. Seeing places like this is hugely encouraging.”
Facebook is taking new action to inhibit the spread of harmful content. The new restrictions begin by limiting the reach of groups and individuals, incrementally escalating to closing problematic groups and removing members who continue to violate Facebook’s rules and community standards.
These changes will roll out globally over the next few months.Facebook Targeting Harmful Content
The overall focus of the new restrictions is to inhibit and ultimately stop the spread of harmful content. Harmful content is defined as hate speech and misinformation.
One of the focuses is to make it difficult for these groups to continue to grow, regardless if they are public or private, with restrictions leading up to the closing of those groups.
The other focus is on problematic individuals. Facebook groups that contain many members who tend to break the rules will see increasing restrictions because of those members that will limit the reach of the group content.
Facebook will also impose tough restrictions on problematic individuals who breake the rules that will limit their ability to spread harmful content.What is Misinformation?
It’s interesting that Facebook is using the term “misinformation” and not “disinformation.”
Some definitions of misinformation and disinformation are the same.
But there is a difference between the two words. The definitions are evolving to have precise meanings that distinguish one from the other.
Misinformation is information that is in error, though not with an intent to deceive.
Disinformation is information that is erroneous and propagated with a willful intent to deceive.
“Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is communicated regardless of an intention to deceive.”
“Disinformation is false or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive. This is a subset of misinformation.”Targeting Group Recommendations
Facebook is limiting the spread of hate speech by no longer recommending groups that tend to spread harmful content. The intent is to discourage the proliferation of hateful groups by making them harder to find.
According to Facebook:
“That’s why we’ve taken action to curb the spread of harmful content, like hate speech and misinformation, and made it harder for certain groups to operate or be discovered, whether they’re Public or Private. When a group repeatedly breaks our rules, we take it down entirely.”Global Rollout of Restrictions on Civic, Political and New Groups
Facebook announced in January 2023 that it would permanently stop recommending civic and political groups to members in the United States. The reason is to show less divisive content to members.
Facebook will now begin rolling this out worldwide:
“…we recently removed civic and political groups, as well as newly created groups, from recommendations in the US.
While people can still invite friends to these groups or search for them, we have now started to expand these restrictions globally.”New Facebook Restrictions on Groups
Facebook is targeting groups that spread hate and misinformation with new tactics that seeks to stunt their popularity. The goal is to make it difficult to find groups that violate community standards.
Among the new measures targeting harmful Facebook groups:
Demote groups that violate rules within the recommendation system
Warn users of pattern of Community Standards violations when attempting to join problematic groups
Limit group invite notifications of problematic groups
Demote group content in member news feedsNew Facebook Restrictions on Individuals
Facebook is instituting a tiered level of restrictions against individuals who post harmful or misleading content. Members who fail to follow the rules will see their privileges revoked or limited. Failure to change will eventually lead to removal from Facebook.
Facebook also said that groups that engage in serious harmful activities will face immediate removal without going through the escalating series of punitive actions.
This is how it will happen:
“We believe that groups and members that violate our rules should have reduced privileges and reach, with restrictions getting more severe as they accrue more violations, until we remove them completely.
And when necessary in cases of severe harm, we will outright remove groups and people without these steps in between.”Facebook Reassess Meaning of Engagement
Facebook has been facing scrutiny for the harmful behavior and divisiveness that some say Facebook’s own algorithms encouraged. Facebook’s algorithms previously encouraged engagement regardless of the reasons for that engagement, such as rage or hate.
This new approach seems to redefine what qualifies as quality engagement, seeking to discourage negative forms of engagement that can lead to harmful and even unlawful behavior.Citation
Changes to Keep Facebook Groups Safe
Alcohol consumption has been a part of human activity for millennia though not everyone does so responsibly. Back in the 1800s, public health officials first took note of the issue of alcohol abuse, which was known then as intemperance. They were keenly aware there was a link between the amount of the fermented byproduct consumed and both short and long term effects on personal health. Yet, while the social and psychological impacts were apparent, the actual consequences at the physiological level would require time.
Over the last 150 years, the medical problems associated with alcohol have been elucidated with more than enough concrete evidence to support them. The major diseases include cardiovascular disorders, loss of bone mass, onset of cancer and the most common of all, liver disease. The compiled data also suggest the major contributing factor is not the alcohol itself, but the inflammation caused by its ingestion. The immune system is negatively affected, leading to the propensity for more frequent dysregulation.
Whenever inflammation is suspected as a cause of long-term medical consequences, the microbiome must be taken into consideration. However, until recently, little has been done to find any links between the nature of the microbiota and the onset and/or progression of disease. One of the few meaningful studies to show any links was published in 2012 when an American team of researchers found chronic alcohol consumption led to changes in the nature of the bacteria in the colon. Yet how this change happened and how it impacted health was left unanswered.
However, in the last few weeks, two important papers have been published to highlight how bacteria contribute to the overall effects of alcoholism. The first deals with the interactions between the host and the microbiome during alcoholic liver disease. The other reveals the effects on the microbiome and body as a result of only one binge drinking event.
Alcohol liver disease (ALD) is the most common liver-related medical problem and has been intensively studied to both understand as well as help to resolve the condition. Unfortunately, there are few answers. What has been known is the understanding of the gut-liver axis, in which changes in the gastrointestinal system contribute directly to functions in the liver. With this information at hand, a duo from the University of California took a closer look at how the gut-liver axis may involve the microbiome. What they found highlighted the scope of the problem and the reasons for its intransience.
Instead of only one specific link, they found many. The first confirmed the earlier observations of a change in the microbiome. As alcoholism progressed, the gut underwent a form of dysbiosis. The levels of good bacteria, such as the probiotic Lactobacillus, dropped while those of potential pathogens rose. They also highlighted an overgrowth of these bad bacteria leading to an increase in toxins and other liver-damaging chemicals. Inflammation would subsequently occur, leading to increased permeability of the gut. At this point, those damaging byproducts would be easily translocated to the blood serum and the liver. Over time, the damage would become unstoppable and eventually, disease would occur.
The long-term effects revealed the importance of the microbiome in alcohol disease and the need for moderation in consumption over time. Yet, the data offered little to demonstrate the immediate effects of a binge night. That, however, was unveiled by a team from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who found that even one abusive night of drinking could have significant health consequences much worse than a hangover.
The team asked a group of 11 males and 14 females, none of whom had any history of alcohol abuse, to drink enough alcohol to qualify for a binge drinking session. For the next 4 hours, at 30 minute intervals, and at 24 hours after consumption, blood was drawn and tested for levels of toxins, immunological activity and bacteria activity. As expected, all levels were raised significantly over the first few hours, suggesting a process of bacterial overgrowth and subsequent inflammation was occurring.
Based on the results, the short term effects appeared to mimic the long-term ones. With a single drinking event, the bacteria were activated – presumably through alcohol-related environmental stress – leading to an increase in toxin production. Inflammation was then triggered, leading to permeability and translocation of the toxins into the blood. The overall effect on the body would lead to decreased feeling of wellness due to inflammation as well as other behavioral problems including fatigue, mood changes, cognitive dysfunction and disturbances in sleep rhythm.
While the studies reveal the detrimental consequences of both binge drinking as well as overall long term abuse, neither focused on the effects of moderate drinking. In contrast, other studies have highlighted benefits from the occasional bottle of beer, glass of wine or shot of liquor. Ironically, the mechanism behind this positive result is manifested through the reduction of inflammation.
The dichotomy of the research reveals the double-edged sword that is alcohol. When used properly, it may be good for you yet when abused; it can lead to immediate as well as lasting problems. In terms of the best way to move forward, especially with the Memorial weekend approaching, the best way forward can be best summarized as follow: you can have a good time with some alcohol but if you end up running a tear, it might cost you and your microbiome dearly.
Amazon Tap and Echo Dot join Alexa in the connected home
In an unexpected surprise this Thursday morning, Amazon has just announced two new devices in its Echo connected speaker lineup. Dubbed the Amazon Tap and Echo Dot, both units feature the Echo’s digital assistant Alexa, or connect to it in some way. Both are available for pre-order starting today, although the Echo Dot has a pretty interesting buying process, which we’ll get to in a moment.
First up is the Amazon Tap, which can be summed up as being a portable version of the standard Amazon Echo speaker. In addition to supporting the same Alexa voice commands, the Tap functions as a Bluetooth and WiFi connected speaker, complete with stereo sound and 360-degree audio.
The name Tap comes from the fact that it operates on a “tap to use” basis, as opposed to being always on like Echo that remains at home. With a weight of just 1 pound, Amazon says a full charge will have the Tap pumping out music for 9 hours, or keep it in standby for up to 3 weeks. Speaking of charging, it’s powered through a charging dock that connects easily to the speaker’s base.
The Tap has a price of $130, and Amazon says orders will begin shipping on March 31st.
Next is the Echo Dot, the little hockey puck-resembling unit. This basically contains the brains of the full-size Echo, but removes the speaker functionality, allowing users to connect it to their own speakers and introduce voice recognition functionality. It can be connected to audio systems over Bluetooth or with an audio cable, and with its tiny built-in speaker, can be used as a smart alarm clock.
Amazon notes that the idea for the Echo Dot came from customers wanting to add Alexa voice command technology to their other smart home devices, minus the need for a speaker. So in addition to connecting to third-party audio systems, the Echo Dot works with things like thermostats, lights, and more. It features the same “far field” voice recognition as the original Echo, so users can make requests and give commands from 20 to 25 feet away, even in noisy environments.
The Echo Dot is priced at $90, and will also start shipping on March 31st, but here’s the odd thing about getting one: you can’t just go on Amazon’s website and order it. Customers need to already own the standard Echo speaker or the Amazon Fire TV. So they need to ask Alexa to order an Echo Dot.
It’s an interesting tactic by Amazon to further the use of its Alexa platform, plus they can see how customers make use of both the Echo Dot and regular Echo in the same home. But then again, the company states that the Dot can be used completely independent of the Echo speaker, so it doesn’t make sense to limit it to people who already own the latter. Here’s hoping they make the Dot available to everyone soon.
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