Sixthstageblog.com is written and maintained by Lauren Silver.
Most [begin air quotes] professional [end air quotes] biographical sketches begin with the person graduating from college with a degree in this or that, as though who we were and what we did between birth and when we reach our lower 20’s is inconsequential to our present-day selves. The parts of my story that are relevant to The Sixth Stage begin a bit prior to when I graduated from college, so—at the risk of seeming [begin air quotes] unprofessional [end air quotes]—I’ll start there.
My story may be typical, which means it’s also likely to resonate with you. As a freshman in college, my lifestyle and habits went down the drain as I pursued and set unnecessarily high academic goals and expectations for myself.
I shoveled dorm food and convenience store snacks into my mouth with little thought or concern. At the time, exercise meant typing on my computer. I consumed too much caffeine and slept irregularly. By the end of my second semester, I gained the extra freshman weight I always thought largely was a myth. It turns out, the myth is true—see for yourself here, here, here, and here.
For the first time that I can remember, I took a step back to assess my lifestyle and health-related habits. I came to this conclusion: Somehow, during that first year in college, my all-consuming focus on achieving academic goals made me lose sight of other priorities—ahem—my well-being. But, I don’t accept all of the blame. As has been extensively documented, we live in an environment that makes it increasingly difficult to make healthful decisions for ourselves.
It wasn’t the weight, per se, but what the weight represented. In my case, a complete lack of balance and, to a certain extent, sheer obliviousness (again, the environment). It’s an easy spot to fall into when one is busy and overwhelmed with pressure from competing demands. Unless you’re somehow lucky enough to end up with the no-matter-what-I-can-manage-my-time-and-priorities-perfectly gene, then you probably have a ton of demands on your time. Work—most of us need to pay bills. Family—loved-ones depend on us. Relationships—most of us prefer not to be alone. Children—do I need to explain this one even to those who don’t have them?
After this brief period of introspection, I set out to alter my course permanently, and for the better. Except for one thing—I didn’t quite know how. “Eat better, move more.” What the [BLEEP] does that mean? Even with the Internet at my fingertips, it was not an easy task to figure this out. Eventually, I did. And I’m pretty sure most decisions I’ve made since then—not only on a day-to-day basis, but related to my career and education—are rooted in those pre-college-graduation years.
Pursuing graduate studies in health policy and public health added yet another layer to my views on personal health, the “why” and the “how” of the evidence we use (or don’t use) for improving health at the population level, and how the process of social and scientific research both advances and delays our ability to improve health. My main point here is that I’ve seen up close and personal the Wizard-of-Oz-like research enterprise that we depend on to make sense of the world around us—it’s a behemoth that is both a thing of beauty and a source of confusion and frustration for many of us (myself included).
Lauren holds a Master of Public Health degree from Emory University. Prior to graduate school, she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in public policy studies, focusing on a range of social science disciplines, including economics, sociology, and political science. She continued developing her research skills and subject matter expertise while working for two contract research organizations on a range of health policy and public health projects in the areas of patient safety, quality of care, Medicare and Medicaid policy, physician payment reform, public health infrastructure, rural health, state health care reform, and chronic disease management.
In collaboration with respected researchers in the field, she published in one of the field’s top peer-reviewed journals, Health Affairs. As coincidence would have it, the focus of this article aligns with many of the themes shaping sixthstageblog.com. Lauren has participated in teaching graduate-level courses on such topics as women’s health policy, obesity and society, and introduction to the U.S. health care system.
Most recently, through a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lauren worked on implementing national-, state-, and local-level public health and health care delivery reform initiatives.
***But, what is any web site if not a web site with a disclaimer? Please note that all things published on sixhtstageblog.com are the opinions of the author and no one else (unless stated otherwise).***