Lisa Wehr's Public Health Blog

Lisa is originally from Sigourney, Iowa. She attended Iowa State University and received her bachelor’s degree in Music in 2010. She is currently a first year Master’s of Public Health (MPH) student in community and behavioral health (CBH). Lisa works on the medicine-psychiatry unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). Through this blog Lisa hopes to let people learn about the CBH department.

This student blog is unedited and does not necessarily reflect the views of the College of Public Health or the University of Iowa.

14 October 2011

Environment and Health

This is an extremely random post of only slightly related thoughts. My only excuse is that it's a Friday.

The environment plays an interesting role in my life. I could go on for hours about the topic. My interest in the environment really enhanced (maybe even resulted in) my interest in food, environmenalt health, and other public health topics. This video isn't related to health, but it's about the environment and definitely one of my absolute favorites. You should all watch it. Right now. Seriously.

Mr. W

heehee. It never fails to make me laugh. And to think that Germans are unfairly accused of being humorless.

Also...the topic of environment constitutes my first academic "contact" with public health (and specifically public health at the University of Iowa). I attended the Environmental Health Sciences Institute for Rural Health (EHSI) from the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC) in 2004. The two people I distinctly remember from that are David Osterberg and Peter Thorne (two college of public health faculty). And my final project was on antibiotic use in animals. I wish I could say it was a defining moment in my public health interest, but I honestly have no memory of any defining moments in my public health interest.

And if you really want to see another video only marginally related to health (via my convoluted logic) watch this parody of all the communication campaigns.

The first minute never fails to make me laugh. After that I just lack Star Wars knowledge. (In full disclosure the only Star Wars I have ever watched is the Family Guy version.)

And one final bit of random:
Is there a standard height for couches and other furniture? Every couch I have ever owned has been just high enough for tennis balls to slip under. Like this.
Every week or so I have to do a dog toy "rescue mission." This was last night's haul (with the accompanying dust bunnies)
And in case you were wondering, those really are paint rollers in the picture. What can I say? Zef's a cheap date. And literally 5 minutes after I took this picture another tennis ball succumbed to the couch.

12 October 2011


In the professional sense, that is.

I have heard for years how important relationships/networking/who you know are in life. But since starting college, and particularly since starting graduate school, that point has finally started to hit home.

When I started college as a music major I naively thought that I was going into a field where success was based purely on performance and relationships only mattered once you had the job. I learned very quickly that it was no different than anywhere else. Yes, the ultimate job offer was based purely on performance (in professional orchestras this is achieved by screened auditions, where the auditioners cannot see or speak with the auditionee...they only hear their playing). However, it took some serious networking to be invited to those screened auditions. This was achieved through conferences, masterclasses, lessons with professionals, competitions, and other such activities.

These relationships are just as important in public health. That didn't surprise me as much as the helpfulness of everyone I have worked with in public health. I am currently looking at various ideas for my practicum. I'm not planning on completing it until summer, but I figured an early start gives me more opportunities to find something I am really interested in and more time to figure out the little details. I have done some "cold call" type looking, but the best results have come from asking people I know. Randomly contacting AHECs, researchers, and others often results in somewhat uninspiring responses. Not because they don't want to help, but because you are just one person among many who are probably contacting them and they don't have a personal connection with them.

The best talks/leads I've had so far come directly from people I know. It started by talking with residents on the unit I work in at UIHC. I started here because the integration of psychiatry and primary care is what I'm interested in and many of our residents come from combined internal medicine/psychiatry and family practice/psychiatry programs. This led to mention of a staff doctor who does research and is known to be extremely helpful to interested students. In talking with this doctor we determined that his current work might not be the best fit for what I want to do, but here comes the better part. He knows someone who is currently working on something that appears to be precisely what I'm interested in and he introduced me to her. And the best part? He offered that if things didn't work out with this other researcher he would be willing to carve out something within his research. Wow. I also have some conversations in the works with my nurse manager and the nurse educator for the behavioral health services at the hospital.

My suggestion: ask.

I know it's not easy, and I am one of the worst offenders. I hate asking people for help. I'm always afraid of being a nuisance, getting rejected, or other awful things. But the truth is, most people aren't like that. In fact, I have yet to come across someone who has told me or acted as if any of those things are true. I had trouble asking around about practicums, but the world has not stopped turning, and no one has chewed me out yet. I was afraid to ask a physician if I could interview him for a class project, but when I did he was not just willing, but excited to. And he led me to another physician, saving me from having to make a cold call.

There are never shortages of opportunities to talk and meet new people. Speakers are constantly coming through the college and university, there is a plethora of conferences in the field, and we have an amazing faculty available to us. Make use of it while you're still here.

And don't forget that tomorrow I'm attending the Iowa Rural Health Association Annual meeting and will be tweeting at with hashtag #IRHA11

10 October 2011

Social Media

In a discussion with other members of the CBH student association we have decided that specific social media accounts for CBHSA are not necessarily practical or more useful than what we already have. I already use quite a bit of social media so I have opened up my personal accounts and use them for a lot of public health related links and thoughts.

My tumblr blog is a collection of all the interesting links I come across in my days. The reason for a separate blog is that there is such a large number of them and I don't write full blog posts. It also serves as an archive for myself so I can easily find links I know I've seen before. Not all relate to public health, but a great number do (because that's what I'm interested in). And quite a few include brief comments by yours truly ;) The link for that is

I also have a twitter account. The twitter account links to both this blog and my tumblr blog. I also use twitter as a quick and easy way to write real-time updates on conferences I attend. I'll make sure to announce it on this blog when I'm at a conference and tweeting (if you're impatient the next one I'm attending is the Iowa Rural Health Conference on October 13 and I will be using the hashtag #IRHA11). My twitter name is lwehr. You can see it here or follow it on your favorite platform (I personally like tweetdeck).

I have also dabbled in Digg, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, but don't use them very much. Are there any sites I'm missing?

Also, the APHA hashtag is starting to see some activity as the annual meeting moves closer. Check out #APHA11

October 10-16

CBH Events
Oct 12, 11 a.m., Faculty cadidate seminar, 283 EMRB
Oct 12, 11:30-1, PATTC Webinar (presented by one of our own students, Bob Rohret!), register here

CPH Events
Oct 11, 12 noon, MPH Seminar. B111 Med Labs
Oct 12, 11-1, CPH Info fair, EMRB Atrium (Be like me a recruit all your friends to public health)
Oct 13, 11-1, CPH Info fair, 2600 University Capitol Centre
Oct 14, 10:30 a.m., CPHSA meeting, BSB 1-107

Other Public Health related events
Oct 13, all day, Iowa Rural Health Association Annual Meeting, Johnston, IA (I will be attending this)
Oct 13, 3:30-6 p.m., UI Sustainability Rally, Kinnick Stadium, register here
Oct 14, 1 p.m., ECO Hawk Waste Audit of Burge/Daum Residence Halls, basketball courts behind Burge (U of I)

07 October 2011

Cheap Food

When we discuss the challenges of healthy eating one popular argument is the high cost of healthy foods. Recently I came across this article by a dietitian with a meal plan to eat healthy for one week for $36 (for one person). That works out to just over $5/day, or about the cost of a single McDonalds combo meal. Take a look at the article, meal plan, and shopping list and see what you think. Does this seem like a viable solution? One thing that could be an issue would be prep time and knowledge.

As an aside regarding homemade vs fast food check out this article. I think my favorite argument is the one regarding the time cost of fast-food:
Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you’re too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work.
The original article on cheap healthy eating also doesn't address food deserts. (Speaking of which did you know that the Economic Research Service within the USDA actually has an interactive map of food deserts in the United States. Cool, huh?)

 I don't think there will ever be a simple "one-option" solution to better nutrition for everyone. However I do think that ideas and articles like this one, which offer alternatives to common arguments and get us thinking outside the salad bowl are a good start.

05 October 2011


Another typical day at school.

Environmental Health lecture about workplace health.

Then it was Designing and Implementing Interventions. We discussed the application of theory in designing health interventions and then each student discussed the theory/theories they intended to use for the intervention that is our semester project.

The more I write the more I wish I had taken a technical writing course at some point. Don't get me wrong, I manage, but having more background experience would be nice at times. I've been browsing the open courseware at MIT and found the materials for both a general scientific/technical writing class and one specifically focused on medicine and public health. When I get some time I'm going to look into what's available on them. But unfortunately I know that looking through online class materials will never be as good as getting critique from an instructor.

Tomorrow we have an early journal club and then I'm headed down to Sigourney for the afternoon. As part of my Communicating with the Community class I have to interview "key stakeholders" for my project. Tomorrow I'm interviewing a primary care provider. Tonight was spent revising my interview guide in preparation.

And on a side note: I made my own butter! It's pretty easy and it tastes absolutely heavenly. This plays into my mild obsession with "real food" Real food is a term coined by Michael Pollan. Here is a brief article explaining it, if you want something more in depth I would suggest reading his book In Defense of Food.

03 October 2011

Fat Tax

Denmark's new "fat tax" on food containing more than 2.3% saturated fax has caused an explosion of news stories.

This is the latest attempt to reduce obesity, the public health concern of the century.

My question is what happens with the income generated from the tax? Will it be used to fund more obesity treatment/interventions? That would seem a logical choice and probably the one to make the most health difference.

This BBC story is brief but brings up some interesting questions.

Similar ideas have been discussed for soda and the like in the United States. With this move by Denmark perhaps we will get actual evidence on the efficacy of such interventions.

02 October 2011

October 3-9

CBH Activities/Meetings
Oct 6, 8:30 a.m. Journal Club W421 GH
Oct 6, 11 a.m., CBH Seminar-Julie Ansager, 283 EMRB

CPH Activities/Meetings
Oct 5, 7 p.m., ECO Hawk meeting, IMU Purdue Room
Oct 7, 3:45 p.m., CPH Open Forum, 1117 MERF
Oct 7, noon, Start Somewhere Walk (link)

Other Events related to public health
Oct 5, 1 p.m. CDT, Policy Webinar (using policy as a tool to improve population health), link
Oct 6, 10 a.m., Webinar on Final Review of Healthy People 2010, link
Oct 7, (all day) HIV/AIDS Conference @ hotelVetro, Iowa City