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Unstoppable Minds

What if big breakthroughs weren’t a cause for a victory lap – they were just the beginning of paths to even bigger ones? That’s what we’re here to find out. Hosted by Dr. Kyla McMullen and Dr. Jeremy Waisome, from the University of Florida comes Unstoppable Minds: a podcast looking into the challenges and triumphs faced by those who are redefining what’s possible.

Unstoppable Minds features the real stories of students and faculty overcoming challenges to tackle the world’s greatest obstacles. Join us as we dive into the breakthroughs and backstories of the people powering real world change from the University of Florida.

A podcast from the University of Florida looking at the challenges and triumphs that come with a life in academia and research.

Dr. Laura Guyer, Mariel White 

Hosted by Dr. Kyla McMullen & Dr. Jeremy Waisome

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  • Mariel White, a junior studying sports management in the College of Health and Human Performance
  • Dr. Kyla McMullen
  • Dr.Jeremy Waisome

Topics Covered

May 19, 2020 18:11 minutes

Episode 2: Undeterred by Disease

Five out of a million people are diagnosed every year. She was one of them. Mariel White talks about her diagnosis with Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA)—formerly known as Churg Strauss syndrome—and the lengths UF went to help her return when it left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Episode Notes & Details

Show Notes

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:00:01] Welcome to Unstoppable Minds, a podcast out of the University of Florida. Looking at the challenges and triumphs that come with a life in academia and research. I'm Dr. Kyla McMullen, an assistant professor of computer and information science and engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:00:18] And I'm Dr. Jeremy Waisome, a postdoctoral associate also here in Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. We know quite well that science research, learning, it's all about trial and error. So we're sitting down with some of our colleagues here at UF who've stared down some pretty big challenges in the quest for knowledge.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:00:39] In this podcast, we've primarily focused on talking to professors. But in this episode, we'll be talking to an extraordinary student and when I say extraordinary, which is a word I don't use often, I really mean it in this instance. I actually know this student personally. And so we're going to hear a little bit about her story.

Mariel White [00:01:04] Hi, I'm Mariel. I am a junior here at the University of Florida. I'm studying sports management. I'm hoping to graduate in the fall of ‘21.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:01:14] So everything went well for the first year of her being here in Gainesville and she assimilated. She joined a sorority. She was living a normal college life and out of nowhere, she just started exhibiting these crazy symptoms. And ultimately, you know, we didn't know if she was going to make it. And by, in my opinion, the grace of God, she was able to make it through this experience and come out of it, but not unscathed. I mean, it changed her life forever. And the story of how she's persevered and overcome all of the challenges that she's faced is remarkable.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:02:08] So Mariel, I know Jeremy is already very familiar with your story, but if you don't mind, I'd love for you to recount a bit of what you were experiencing going into your fall semester of 2017. What happened?

Mariel White [00:02:20] So at the beginning of my sophomore year, I started having neck pain and I wasn't really sure what caused it, but it just kept getting worse and worse. And then I started having flu like symptoms, started feeling really sick. They found that I had two strains of the flu and viral meningitis. I developed blood clots in my legs that were so bad that I couldn't walk. At that time around November/December, I decided I wasn't going to be able to return to UF for the spring semester. And then that's when it really took a turn for the worse.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:02:54] Yeah, we were all kind of concerned that you wouldn't make it at that point.

Mariel White [00:02:59] So I remember going into the E.R.. I remember being checked in, taken to my hospital room, and then I don't remember anything after that for the next two weeks.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:03:09] Wow.

Mariel White [00:03:10] Yeah. So at that time, I first had the three strokes in my brain and when they were trying to stop the bleeding, that's when it caused the fourth stroke in my spine. So all of that caused paralysis, vision loss and gave me trouble with words and numbers.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:03:30] So with everything that happened to you, it sounds like you lost the ability to do a lot of things that, you know, you were just used to doing without thinking about. What tasks became challenging and like, how did you start to recover?

Mariel White [00:03:44] Yes, so I lost the ability to do pretty much everything. So I had to learn simple things when it came to the paralysis from sitting up in bed, getting dressed, getting into my wheelchair, getting around in my wheelchair. So all of those steps took a very long time to like kind of build up. But then on top of that, when I first had my strokes, I couldn't read at all. So I had to completely learn how to read again, do simple math. I would look at numbers and wasn't sure what they were, so I had to learn those simple things and also had to adjust to my field of vision.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:04:25] I mean, you lost a lot of things and it was really sudden, but you never lost the ability to work hard. And that's what I admire so much about you.

Mariel White [00:04:34] Thank you.

Mariel White [00:04:37] Yeah. That's something that I've always been like that, but when you go through something like that, it really pulls it out of you. You just kind of have to take it one day at a time and work to kind of get back to where you were.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:04:52] I could imagine you thinking about, "Okay, I was a college student before this happened." Did you ever wonder about your return?

Mariel White [00:05:00] Yes. That was something I was really worried about. As soon as they brought me into the Shepherd Center, they told me that I wanted to be able to return to school for two years until the fall of 2020. So at that time it was January 2018, that felt like forever away. And in my mind, I didn't really know how severe my situation was. I didn't really realize the limitations that I had and how rocky my health still was. So in my mind, I just had to learn how to get around and I'd be able to go back. But it was a really long transition of learning simple things and getting ahold of my health and all of that to be able to get back to the University of Florida. But that's really something that encouraged me to work hard and get back to being myself again so that I could return.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:05:56] So as Mariel was working on her recovery, there was an entire team back at UF that was cheering her on, including like her sorority who raised money for her and even helping her install like different stuff in her house back in Georgia so that she could have mobility.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:06:16] Yeah, that is so supportive. Like that's so important to have as your recovering, you know, to have that support system.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:06:23] By the way, so after everything happened and she was able to recover, she re-enrolled in fall 2019.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:06:32] Oh, wow. She is persistent.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:06:34] Can you imagine?

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:06:36] Not at all.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:06:37] Just a few years later! And I think what really helped her do that is that UF has so much support for students with disabilities. So our Disabilities Resource Center is something that supports over 3000 students across our campus.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:06:53] Oh, yeah, absolutely. I use them for some in my classes, like for if you're a student who needs someone to do something as much as taking notes for you in class or giving accommodations for exams. You know, they have their own private testing rooms, whatever it is you need, D.R.C. will figure out a way to accommodate you. And I've been so amazed in just how much support they offer to students, like it's really good.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:07:19] And another piece of the puzzle that helped Mariel get back to life on campus is the incomparable Cyprus Hall.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:07:28] Oh, yeah. That place is nice. It was opened in 2015 and as part of the reason why U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Florida 6th for inclusion of students with disabilities. Mariel and her service dog Molasses, a.k.a. Lassie, were kind enough to take us on a tour of Cypress Hall to show us how the facility helps her tackle day to day activities.

Mariel White [00:08:00] This is Cypress Hall. It's one of the most successful dorms in the United States, which is really incredible. The mailboxes are lowered so that everyone could get into them. Even the paying mechanisms on the vending machines are at a different height so that everyone can use them. All the accessible dorms are on the first floor. So that's where my room is.

Mariel White [00:08:25] So this is my room and I use the bang bar to open the door. It's like the circular accessible door buttons that you push, but it's vertical so that people who don't have very much function in their hands can just bump into it and then it opens. Most of the rooms have these lift systems to help people get out of bed or into the bathroom. So it goes all throughout the room and the bathroom. It's at the ceiling and there is like the motor, I guess, and then you can attach different things to it. You can attach like a sling kind of thing. So I have my own room and then I share this adjoining bathroom with a suitemate.

Mariel White [00:09:12] So the toilet has handrails next to it that you can move up and down so you can use them if you need to or if not, it also has a bidet, if that's something that you like to use and it flushes just when you close the toilet seat so you don't have to actively push something to flush it. And then in the shower, it's a nice wide stall. There's a shower bench and the faucet is handheld so that you can take it off and use that as you need to. And then the sink is adjustable so it's a good height for me.

Mariel White [00:09:52] I'm not really sure how I would kind of take care of myself independently without having an accessible dorm like this. It's more accessible than I need it to be, but that's great because it means that people who need that level of kind of accessibility and inclusion are able to get it. So and it's great for me because I'm able to benefit from all these resources while I'm here.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:10:23] Mariel, what were you most worried about when you returned to the University of Florida?

Mariel White [00:10:28] So as kind of shallow as it sounds, I was most worried about, kind of, what people were going to think when they looked at me. I was used to just kind of blending in, being just an ordinary student. So that was something that I really kind of had to conquer coming back. Kind of ignoring the stairs and trying to not think bad thoughts when I would notice people looking at me. But one thing that I'm thankful for is when people look at me, they see my dog Lassie more than they see the wheelchair so that kind of helps because it gives them a more positive response to, kind of, when they see us. So, yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:11:12] So what would you say has been the biggest challenge then?

Mariel White [00:11:16] Other than that, it's really been my energy level. That was something I was really worried about coming back because I still have pretty bad fatigue. So learning to kind of balance my classes and just kind of my life outside of that, along with completely taking care of myself and getting around by myself, that's been difficult, but it's gone more smoothly than I thought.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:11:42] Yeah, and I know, like in your classes with your professors, you're not asking for additional accommodations.

Mariel White [00:11:49] I do have accommodations, but I kind of try not to use them, which is good and bad. It kind of pushes me to do it on my own. But I also kind of need to be careful not to overdo it. So sometimes it does really come in handy that I do have those accommodations, but I do try really hard to be just a normal student doing everything that everyone else is doing.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:12:12] It's there for the bad days.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:12:15] So Mariel, I know you found a mentor in Randy Wright at the College of Journalism and Communication as you explore your passion in sports. Can you talk about how that's going and what you've been working on in that world?

Mariel White [00:12:26] Yeah. So I've had some really great opportunities this semester and I'm really thankful for the help that he's given me. So I've interviewed almost all of the seniors from the gymnastics team and have been able to write features on them that have been published in the programs of the gymnastics meets. And one of them was actually put up on Twitter the other day because they were posting something about Sierra Alexander and kind of mentioned me in it to read the feature that I did. So that was really cool.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:12:58] That's exciting!

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:12:59] That is really cool. Are there other things that you're working on?

Mariel White [00:13:03] I volunteered with the Pro Bowl in January, so I actually did that trip totally on my own. I took a bus to Orlando because I can't drive because of my vision. But I booked a bus ticket, booked a hotel room, worked there two days and got some good experience before coming back to Gainesville, so that was cool. My main goal right now is focusing on my career path and what I kind of want to get involved with to see where I want my future to be, so that's a lot of what I'm working on right now.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:13:37] Well, we don't know what we're made of until we're tested and nobody knows better than you that it's our ability to handle what life throws at us that defines who we are. Did you know that you were this strong Mariel?

Mariel White [00:13:51] I always knew I was strong, but not this strong. It felt, kind of, easier because it wasn't thrown at me all at once. It was also, kind of, a slow transition from leaving school to being at home and being sick and trying to figure out what was going on. So in that time, I was able to kind of come to terms with my situation and realize that I was going to have to fight this no matter if I wanted to or not. It's something that you really have to take one day at a time because if you look ahead to the future, it's too overwhelming. You think this is gonna be the rest of my life, how am I going to do this? But if you take it one day at a time, like I just have to wake up tomorrow, I have to do this and this and then the day will be over, we'll move on to the next day.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:14:44] Well, Mariel, I have enjoyed getting to know you and just hearing your story and you are such an inspiration. So what would you say to other students who are facing challenges in their lives as well?

Mariel White [00:14:55] I encourage people to focus on what they're passionate about and work to be able to do that again. I realize over the months of getting back to who I am was that with each new thing that I learned, it made the next thing easier to do. Once I was able to sit up, it made it easier to get dressed and then once I was able to do that, it made it easier to do the next thing. So kind of built that momentum.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:15:23] Mariel White, thank you so much for joining us. You are truly an inspiration.

Mariel White [00:15:29] Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:15:36] Now that we know a lot more about her health and how she's overcome this, it's amazing to see her. We ran into each other on campus the other day, you know, and so to see her back on campus thriving and doing well and really not taking her diagnosis as a death sentence, because that's really what it could have been, it's outstanding. Her spirit, her ability to overcome, her willingness to share her story... It's beautiful. And it's a story of redemption.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:16:17] Yeah. I'm also super inspired by how she holds herself accountable and how she really stresses just being treated like any other student. And, you know, she's someone who has very visible disabilities as well as some that are invisible, like cognitive challenges and energy levels. So she's truly remarkable.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:16:36] I think it's amazing how you can approach challenges and have like a certain mindset that will help you accomplish things that most people might see as impossible.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:16:47] The same way that the sports world embodies perseverance and accountability, having these exact same qualities are going to take her a long way as she moves into her career in sports communication.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:16:57] I think so, too.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:17:01] This is Unstoppable Minds, a podcast out of the University of Florida. I'm Dr. Kyla McMullen.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:17:06] And I'm Dr. Jeremy Waisome. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:17:16] Unstoppable Minds is produced by Endeavor Content and Catherine Welch. Managing Producer Samantha Allison, Creative Development by 160over90 and Benjamin Riskin. Engineering and Post-Production by Ameeta Ganatra and Adam Allison.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:17:32] Unstoppable Minds, owned by the University of Florida, is created with many thanks to the talents of Alisson Cark, Emily Cardinali, Matthew Abramson, Brianne Lehan, Wise Clairvoyant and Brian Sandusky.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:17:45] If you like what you're hearing, please rate review and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can find out more information about our show and the awesome professors at University of Florida by visiting our web site at ufl.edu/unstoppableminds. Until next time, go gators!

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  • Dr. Laura Guyer, faculty in the Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
  • Dr. Kyla McMullen
  • Dr. Jeremy Waisome

Topics Covered

May 12, 2020 17:51 minutes

Episode 1: Unpacking Bias in Healthcare

Do you think everyone receives the same quality of care when they visit the doctor? According to professor Laura Guyer from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, not always. Hear how she leads the only undergraduate academic program in the country designed to teach students across disciplines how to address barriers and take on unseen bias in healthcare.

Episode Notes & Details

Show Notes

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:00:01] Welcome to Unstoppable Minds, a podcast out of the University of Florida, looking at the challenges and triumphs that come with a life in academia and research.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:00:11] I'm Dr. Kyla McMullen, an assistant professor of computer and information science and engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:00:18] And I'm Dr. Jeremy Waisome, a postdoctoral associate also here in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. We know quite well that science research, learning, it's all about trial and error. So we're sitting down with some of our colleagues here at UF who've stared down some pretty big challenges in the quest for knowledge.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:00:39] So this corona virus is really taxing our health care industry like nothing that's ever come before it. And I think it's something that we just were not prepared for as a country, as a world, honestly. And it makes me wonder what communities are most susceptible to the virus as a result of not really having access to the understanding of the impacts of what it can actually do. Like, I've learn things about viruses that, you know, I didn't learn in high school or college. It's super important that we expose people to health literacy so that they can make informed decisions about their health care.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:01:24] Thank goodness we have a UF faculty member here who has dedicated her research to making sure that people are educated and they know what's going on in the health care industry and they're filling these gaps of understanding.

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:01:37] My name is Dr. Laura Guyer and I'm a master lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Center for Gender Sexualities and Women's Studies Research. I'm also an adjunct associate professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:01:59] So Jeremy, Laura actually leads a minor in health disparities in society, and it's the only program in the nation for undergraduates to learn about health disparities, cultural competency, health literacy. The overall goal for the program is for students to think about and consider the lives of people in marginalized communities and figure out a way to just help them and meet them where they are, explaining things in a healthcare setting so that people aren't just relying on information that they get from uncredible sources. You know, they're able to actually have information in an accessible way.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:02:36] I think it's interesting that there aren't more programs like this available to students across the country, because we know that there's marginalized communities all over the United States.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:02:49] And I would even think, too, that having this kind of minor, like since we're the only ones on an undergrad level, it probably encourages people who are from underserved populations to want to pursue health care background. That probably didn't consider it before. Yeah, absolutely. So, Laura. Who exactly are we talking about when we say marginalized communities?

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:03:16] So we're talking about populations that we don't often think about when we're setting the table: who are the people who are missing, perhaps people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community. We could think about those who practice minority religions. We can think about those from minority racial and ethnic communities. Also think about those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, disadvantaged communities.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:03:48] So what are the challenges that these groups face when it comes to health care?

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:03:52] Part of the difficulty is that as marginalized people, they're on the outskirts of society. They don't often understand their health. They may not have a strong background in science. They may not have strong literacy skills.

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:04:09] The other part of that is that we as health professionals aren't always trained to provide inclusive care. We don't learn how to provide health care for people with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:04:27] That's really interesting. I'm someone who's very educated and have my PHD engineering, but I'm a new mom. And as a black woman, you're probably very aware of the health disparities that exist with black maternal mortality rate. Absolutely. And I personally felt like I needed to advocate for myself because that disparity doesn't even have socioeconomic status or education level related to it. It's just a racial bias that exists. I can't imagine not knowing how to advocate for myself, what language to use and all of those things.

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:05:05] Well, and like you said, you're an educated person. The unfortunate reality is that we assume that educated people understand health. I can look at you. I can see you're an educated and intelligent person. You're nodding your head appropriately. I'm assuming that you're understanding the two questions that we ask that we should never ask. Number one, do you understand what I'm saying or what I've told you? Because adults will nod and say yes, even if they don't understand. The other terrible question that we often ask is, do you have any questions? The reason that's a terrible question is because if you don't understand your health well enough, you can't formulate a question. And when I ask you if you have a question and you say no. My assumption is I've done a good job when in fact, that's not at all the case. I'm the expert. I should be asking you the questions to verify that you understand.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:05:59] That's amazing. Yeah. That's something that I've ever thought about.

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:06:03] Well, the other point that you brought up that was really excellent - you said you had to learn to be an advocate for yourself. All of us need to be advocates for ourselves, even those of us like myself, who's a health professional. I need to be an advocate when I visit my physician, because my position is my position, the expert in medicine. But I'm the expert in my life. Right. And so I have information that if I don't know to advocate and share, my physician won't have time in the 15, 20 minutes dedicated to my appointment to think, to ask me everything that's important. So for me to learn how to be an effective advocate, that's something that I try to talk to my students about. I teach through the lens of the patient's experience because in medical school and dental school, pharmacy school, we will learn how to provide care for a variety of patients.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:06:58] It seems like part of the issue with patients' ability to advocate for themselves is whether or not they feel they can trust their doctors. There have been so many documented times in history where medicine has used black bodies, you know, for its own investment, like the Tuskegee experiment.

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:07:14] Absolutely.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:07:15] I know personally as a black woman, you know, my parents and their brothers and sisters to go to the doctor can be so challenging. What are some ways where you think we can start to rebuild that trust between minority groups and their doctors?

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:07:30] That is a terrific question. You know, we talk about implicit biases, those unconscious biases that all of us have. So health professionals have biases.

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:07:42] Patients also have biases. I do an activity with my students in class where I show them a picture of 16 random people and then I ask them to work in groups and tell me who do they think makes the highest income and who do they think lives in a rural community? And then when we finish the activity, finish talking about who we put where. And finish laughing. I remind them that every patient there going to see has had some kind of experience with health professionals. And it's good to ask, I think, if you want to build trust: tell me about the kinds of relationships you've had with your other physicians or other dentists.

Dr. Jeremy Waisome [00:08:24] Right. That's so great.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:08:27] So it sounds like better communication between the patient and the doctor is the first step to rebuilding that trust, which makes so much sense. I can also imagine that language and language barriers are a huge issue there. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Dr. Laura Guyer [00:08:41] That is such an interesting and current problem in health care. If you accept federal dollars ie. Medicare, Medicaid for payment, you must provide access to health care in the first language of the patient. Well, how do we do that in this country? We speak more than three hundred seventy five different languages besides English.

Dr. Kyla McMullen [00:09:02] Wow.

Jeremy Waisome [00:09:03] So what about like a percentage of the students who are enrolled who speak another language? Do you know what that is?\

Laura Guyer [00:09:09] I do. About sixty seven percent of the students speak a language other than English at home. We are 22 percent black and African-American. We are about a third first generation of college students. We are about a third immigrant. About a third first generation Americans. The students who self-select for the minor in health disparities are a very different group from the traditional undergraduate student at UF.

Jeremy Waisome [00:09:37] It sounds like it's hitting really close to home for those students.

Laura Guyer [00:09:40] Very close to home. Yes.

Jeremy Waisome [00:09:42] So even if the students are speaking English or the patients are speaking English. Medical instructions and health information aren't always written in the most accessible manner. So you have students who are enrolled in the minor and they're learning to write medical handouts. Is that right?

Laura Guyer [00:10:00] Yes. We're learning how to simplify medical concepts. We don't in health care often think about literacy as being something we should be concerned about. Right. With regard to the handouts that you were talking about, most are written at maybe the 12th grade level. Well, people don't read the same level of formal education. So if we have handouts that are written at the 12th grade level, that would require more than college education to read and understand. And again, remember, people don't understand their health. Right. So learning how to simplify handouts and take complex concepts and make them easy is really important.

Jeremy Waisome [00:10:40] So your career has really been balanced between academia and the health care system. That brings a really interesting perspective to this, like real world experiences that you can take into the classroom with you. How does your work in these two arenas influence each other?

Laura Guyer [00:10:58] So I teach the two courses that are the bookends for the minor in health disparities in society. I teach the cornerstone that you build everything on. And then the capstone is what holds everything together at the top of the arch right over the door.

Jeremy Waisome [00:11:13] You're speaking my language. I'm a civil engineer over here.

Laura Guyer [00:11:16] You shouldn't be talking about corner stones and caps. So in the capstone experience, I place students in 37 different community agencies locally that serve different populations with health disparities. We have some clinics that serve people who have low incomes who are uninsured or underinsured. Some agencies serve people in rural areas, some people with disabilities. It's really terrific that my work in the community has been able to inform my teaching because I've been fortunate to work in clinical care in a hospital. I have worked in public health and I've worked in academia. So being aware and having those relationships is what enables me to have a robust practicum program. I know those students are going to get an outstanding learning experience. And because I know the students, I know I'm sending to the agency students who are going to meet the needs of their agency.

Kyla McMullen [00:12:18] So speaking of your students, it it sounds like your program offers its students really robust training across all areas of health care. What kind of career paths have your students chosen after graduation?

Laura Guyer [00:12:29] It's really exciting to see where they're going. The majority of those who enroll in the minor and or take my courses are interested either in a health care profession or public health. Some are interested in health care administration. There are, again, several who are working in the community at the Latrobe County Health Department in different positions. Other students go into medicine. They go into pharmacy, dentistry. Some students have been interested in journalism and communications. I have about 5 percent who have gone to law school, so they go in all different directions.

Jeremy Waisome [00:13:08] What are you hearing not just from your current students, but also from past students? That gives you hope that this minor is having an impact or having the impact that you wanted to have.

Laura Guyer [00:13:18] They have names to explain what they've lived. Number one. Number two, all of them are going to be participating and receiving health care. So they are learning to become more effective advocates for themselves. And on behalf of their family members, those who do go into health professions do enter with a more solid foundation. They really are more advanced. They've only learned concepts as undergraduates, but they've had experience working with the communities that are underserved. And I'm seeing more students gravitate toward areas of medicine that are related to primary care, such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, maybe emergency medicine, OBGYN, dentistry. So I'm I'm seeing students move into areas where they can use the information that really influenced the direction of their careers in their undergraduate years.

Kyla McMullen [00:14:21] So, Laura, right now, U.S. is the only institution offering this kind of program to undergraduates, teaching them how to close the gap around health disparities, cultural competencies, and health literacy. So what would be the impact of health care for marginalized communities if this was offered at most colleges and universities?

Laura Guyer [00:14:38] We would build a better medical student, a better dental student, a better graduate student, and they in turn would go on to be better professionals. And the idea is that if we can lay a stronger foundation at the undergraduate years in social and behavioral sciences, like we do in basic science, why don't we prescribe learning about the social determinants of health and about cultural competence and about literacy and health literacy, like we prescribe learning about chemistry and biology and anatomy and physiology.

Jeremy Waisome [00:15:16] That's so great.

Kyla McMullen [00:15:17] I love that. Dr. Laura Guyer, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you.

Jeremy Waisome [00:15:34] I don't know that as a student, you know, you choose your major, you decide like, I want to pursue this. And oftentimes, it can be one course that changes the trajectory of your future, and my expectation is that, of course, like health disparities in society might do just that. These students who are coming from disciplines all over our campus are now deciding to join that frontline and to really make a difference for marginalized communities.

Kyla McMullen [00:16:08] Yeah, that's so true. You get these classes that open your eyes to something that you had no idea even existed or was an issue. A lot of times we just learn the what in undergrad and not the who and the why and who this impacts and why it's important for society and the broader picture.

Jeremy Waisome [00:16:24] Yeah. And right now the who is really apparent. Right. Because all of us are so deeply impacted by what's going on beyond the confines of our campuses. And I mean, most of us aren't even on our campuses anymore.

Kyla McMullen [00:16:36] Yeah, that's one of the real values of the program.

Kyla McMullen [00:16:41] This is Unstoppable Minds, a podcast out of the University of Florida. I'm Dr. Kyla McMullen. And I'm Dr. Jeremy Waisome. Thanks for joining us.

Kyla McMullen [00:16:55] Unstoppable Minds is produced by Endeavor Content and Catherine Welch, managing producer Samantha Allison, creative development by 160 Over 90 with Benjamin Riskin, engineering and post-production by Ameeta Ganatra and Adam Allison.

Jeremy Waisome [00:17:11] Unstoppable Mines owned by the University of Florida is created with many thanks to the towns of Alisson Clark, Emily Cardinali, Matthew Abramson, Brianne Lehan, Wise Clairvoyant and Brian Sandusky.

Kyla McMullen [00:17:25] If you like what you're hearing, please rate review and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can find out more information about our show and the awesome professors at University of Florida by visiting our web site at UFL.edu/unstoppableminds. Until next time, go gators.

Podcast Headshot



  • Dr. Kyla McMullen, assistant professor in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering's Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering.
  • Dr. Jeremy Waisome, postdoctoral associate in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering's Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering.

Topics Covered

May 12, 2020 1:40 minutes

Unstoppable Minds Trailer

Listen to the breakthroughs and backstories of the people powering real world change from the University of Florida. Hosted by Dr. Kyla McMullen and Dr. Jeremy Waisome from the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering's Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering.

Episode Notes & Details

Show Notes

Hi, I’m Dr. Jeremy Waisome

And I’m Dr. Kyla McMullen

Together we host Unstoppable Minds: a new podcast from the University of Florida looking at the challenges and triumphs that come with a life in academia.

We’re sitting down with students and professors to hear about the unstoppable things they’re doing to combat the world’s most formidable foes. Challenges like preventing brain trauma.

“And we want to develop unique features inside of the helmet to be to stop this energy that’s going through the helmet, through the skull, through the brain…”

Unpacking bias in medicine. “You know we talk about implicit biases, those unconscious biases that all of us have, so health professionals have biases. Patients also have biases.” Reversing childhood blindness and drilling into Antarctic ice in search for hidden life. “You can have all the planning that, um, you could possibly do, and still get there and the weather shut you down.”

And as the coronavirus has turned the world upside down, these stories of unstoppable achievers will uplift and inspire in this time. When it feels like our lives are in flux. So be on the lookout for the premier of unstoppable minds.

You can find us at ufl.edu/unstoppableminds. Or subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening right now.

Unstoppable minds. Questioning everything. Redefining impossible.

Podcast Headshot



  • Dr. Brent Christner, associate professor in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Department of Microbiology and Cell Science.
  • Dr. Kyla McMullen
  • Dr. Jeremy Waisome

Topics Covered

May 26, 2020 Coming Tuesday, May 26

Episode 3: Unearthing Life in the Arctic

It took a decade of planning and effort by Brent Christner and colleagues to demonstrate that life exists in lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Three, half-mile boreholes, $10 million dollars, and 1 million pounds of equipment later, he’s sharing what they discovered under the ice.

Coming Tuesday, May 26

Episode Notes & Details

Show Notes


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