#GetVaccinated

Hello, Brij!

On Saturday, I read that almost one-third of Kern County is at least partially vaccinated – boosted partially by the expansion of vaccine eligibility in Kern County to include anyone over 16. This week, all Californians 16 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine.

At Bakersfield College, we’ve been promoting vaccines as a public health necessity. I’ve been sharing updates from our vaccine clinics on my personal blog, sonyachristianblog.com. We’ve held several clinics on our Panorama Campus, and we have also held clinics in Arvin and Delano to reach our more rural populations.

But I know that vaccine hesitancy is still a concern for many, and helping to ease those concerns is our next big challenge. I wanted to share a few videos that we’ve created at BC to help assuage fears.

We also had Student Health & Wellness Center Director Cindy Collier speak about some of the myths surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine:

I know that we must all work together to end this global pandemic. It’s exciting to know that in California, our cases are down and Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes we can continue on this trajectory to reopen our state’s economy on June 15. But I know that in order to achieve these ambitious goals, we must all do our part over the next few months.

What’s been on your mind, Brij?

Until next time….

-sonya

Crack of Dawn

A physician prepares COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic hosted by Bakersfield College.

[The following article was published as a Community Voices op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian on March 11, 2021]

It’s been a long time coming. Spring this year seems to have bounce in its step. The pandemic seems to be slipping in the rearview mirror.

As a bonus, the flu virus yielded to COVID-19 precautions and called in “sick.” We have virtually no flu this year. Prevailing preventative measures that effectively eliminated flu, in the face of continued rampage by COVID-19, is a testament to remarkably high contagiousness of COVID-19. A contagiousness that can be only contained through a relentless campaign of near universal vaccination.

Virus hesitancy is emerging now as our current and present challenge.

A high rate of infection in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic hugely burdened the country. These upfront costs are now turning into investments. Between confirmed and asymptomatic infections, there are roughly 100 million Americans with a spectrum of immunity.

Increasing vaccinations and a substantial base of naturally immunized bring us proximate to community immunity, ahead of schedule. Remember immunity to the SARS-2 virus was a burning question this time last year. Development of vaccines that would be safe and effective was a figment of hope. An accelerated schedule condensed into a matter of months, a first in vaccine development.

We did incur huge losses in life, health, education, business, career development and economy in general. The damage, both widespread and disparate, could have been worse still.

Science saved us. Until now, a relatively stable virus allowed us a path forward. Lately, the virus has been exhibiting its evolutionary genius. Its variants latch on better, evade adaptive immunity of previous infection, skirt the vaccine and pack a more pungent punch. The cat and mouse game is on.

It is well established that the most effective way to limit variants is to limit virus replication, by limiting virus spread. Vaccination limits infections by eliminating vulnerability. Preventative measures limit infections by keeping the virus at a bay.

As vaccine production and access increases, vaccine hesitancy is emerging as the next challenge.

Vaccine hesitancy is multifold.

There is a well choreographed effort by the anti-vaxxers, piggy backed by usual social media instigators and hostile actors from across the world. These actors can barely hold their glee as we self destruct in an intransigent melee.

No, the vaccine won’t give you a third eye. Bill Gates has not invented nano particles with embedded video cameras to record all your moves.

The argument of rushed development for political reasons is looking tired. Vaccine development is the result of genius and indefatigable efforts of scientists and leadership involved in Operation Warp Speed.

Both Presidents Trump and Biden have taken the vaccine with their spouses. That’s vaccine bipartisanship. Let’s build on it.

When seen through the prism of fetal cell, a vaccine can be a hard hill to climb for the faithful. Borrowed breaths from a compromised conscience can be a corrupt bargain. Facts are at variance though. There is no component of immortalized lineage of lab grown cells, derivatives of remote fetal tissue, that is incorporated in the vaccine and injected into the human body. The Vatican has made its position clear. There is decency and divinity in saving human life. The vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus to the vulnerable and more likely to protect by literally being a human shield between the virus and the vulnerable. The concept of greater good encouraged by the Vatican is by no means an endorsement of birth control but pandemic control. Pope Francis took the vaccine.

The high contagiousness of COVID-19 and its evolutionary versatility demands a very high percentage of public immunity to get over the hump.

Now is not the time to sit on the fence and allow the virus to morph. The vaccinated are protected and protect. Vaccine hesitancy is counter to civic responsibility. The crack of dawn is an invitation to step outside and live life to its fullest. Let’s avail it.

Time to be all aboard.

Adios Team Virus.

Salud Team America.

Chaos Theory and Vaccine Side Effects

Hello Sonya! Thank you for sharing your exciting conversations about the future of learning. I’ve been thinking a lot about the immediate future with regards to our nation’s vaccine rollout process over the next few months, and I wrote a Community Voices piece for the Bakersfield Californian where I shared some of my thoughts on how to get the vaccine to more Americans.

A lot of people are concerned by the potential side effects of the vaccine, so I decided to venture a little bit into your area of expertise and use chaos theory to explain it. Hopefully I do not kill the theory through my analogy, which may provide a parallel to understanding immune-mediated side effects.

A simplified version of chaos theory is the Butterfly Effect – the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings here in Bakersfield could create a hurricane in Australia. There is an emphasis on the sensitivity of the initial events that generates a non-linear and astronomically large response through interconnected feedback loops. The immune system in our bodies is a huge and complex organism. When it becomes tweaked by a virus, vaccine or other phenomena, we do artificially create a butterfly effect.

In some, that effect could take a fatal turn. But in my opinion, nations will accept these side effects as a better bargain than the virus, and COVID vaccines are here to stay. Which takes us into another theory, which is the theory of the greater good…

I enjoy having this fruitful conversations with you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

-Brij

Conversations About the Future

Happy New Year, Brij! I’m so grateful that we have such a gifted advocate for public health right here in the Central Valley. Thank you for your insightful commentary that places these complex global issues within a local context, like your recent discussion with Richard Beene on the importance of coming back for the a second treatment of the vaccine.

I’ve spent the last few months having some really fruitful conversations about education and the future. We can’t really build the future that we want for our students if we don’t start by talking about what that future would even look like. Once our visions of the future are in alignment, we can start actualizing them in a productive way with our students. In my role as Chair of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, I had the privilege of putting together an eight-part seminar series on the future of learning. Hundreds of educators from across the West Coast, Hawaii, and the pacific came together to engage with our panel of speakers from across the world of academia, policy, and workforce development. Throughout the seminar series, participants got to ask questions of each of the panelists and comment on their work, and you could sense our disparate visions for community college access, curriculum, and equity beginning to come into alignment with each session.

Sonya Christian on student learning.

During the Seminar Series, a number of themes began to emerge. One of the most dominant themes that emerged is that academia as a whole, and community colleges in particular, need to find ways to recognize the social construction of learning and the learning that our students have gained before they even step into the walls of our institution.

A most crucial component to this is technology, and we had Wayne Skipper from Concentric Sky to explain the innovative approach to open badging and micro-credentialing through the Badgr platform and Bakersfield College’s Program Pathways Mapper.

Bill Moseley and Wayne Skipper talk about badging and micro-credentialing.

I was honored to simply be in the company with so many bright minds in the field of higher education, and I look forward to continuing our conversation about the future of learning as we continue to build it as BC, ACCJC and beyond. Brij: what is the future of medicine, in your eyes? How can we leverage our knowledge of the human genome to transform humanity? How can we safely and efficiently bring the clinical experience directly into people’s homes, especially in rural areas where there are less hospitals and health resources in general?

It’s a wrap for me.
Until next time….

-sonya

Happy 2021

Brij Bhambi receives the COVID-19 vaccine.

Happy New Year, Sonya!

I’ve been busy helping the community build awareness around vaccinations and the fight against COVID-19. I wrote at length about the logistical challenges of administering the COVID-19 treatments in the Bakersfield Californian last week, reinforcing the importance of acting as responsible citizens with our individual behaviors while encouraging everyone in the community to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

I was also invited to answer some questions about the vaccine during the Richard Beene Show on KERN Radio. I would encourage everyone to listen in, as we had an honest and informative yet straight-forward and hopeful conversation about the logistics around COVID-19 vaccination in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. I also came on the show a few days ago to share my thoughts about the situation in the Capitol, calling upon the community to come together in love, compromise and camaraderie.

Today, I wanted to wish you a heartfelt start to 2021. It pains me to enumerate what went wrong with last year. The COVID catastrophe wrecked health, education, business, travel, finances, families, and fun, smothering life. The pandemic came in rising waves, punishing our exhausted humanity like ulcers growing on sores.

Helplessness punctuated loneliness. Some leaned on their vices more than usual. Nostalgic memories that weave the tapestry of our lives failed to find the precious moments in 2020.

It took a while, but rays of light are piercing the dark clouds. The vaccine is here, even if the rollout will take a while. Our prayers have found their wings, and we will ascend again, tempered by adversity, reinforced in spirit and reinvigorated by hope.

Let’s welcome the new year and the new decade. Happy 2021, Sonya, and Happy New Year to everyone in Kern County and around the world.

-Brij

Vaccine Nirvana

Hello, Sonya! I hope that you and your family are safe and that you are having a good holiday season. Here are some thoughts that I wanted to share with you about COVID now that we’ve entered a critical phase in our fight against the virus.

As we close 2020, the holiday season and family festivities invite. Pandemic fatigue peaks. Virus spreads relentlessly. The vaccine promises to bridge the troubled waters, but restlessness refuses to walk the bridge to safety on the other side. Science can’t triumph with failed adoption.

Sacred lives can be saved by compliance to common sense. We won’t discuss masks on the other side of COVID-19. What’s a few more weeks among friends we know and undiscovered friendships that await the random walk of life. Health care workers, law enforcement, firefighters, grocery workers, elderly and sick are begging for your cooperation during this homestretch.

The vaccine cavalry is on the way. In due time, let’s roll up our sleeves and get fortified with immunity. I will be standing in line waiting my turn for nirvana. We will make up for lost fun in 2021.

I’ve shared more of my thoughts on “vaccine nirvana” in Community Voices. I hope you will take a look: https://www.bakersfield.com/opinion/community-voices-vaccine-nirvana/article_62687420-3a42-11eb-897d-7b97935320c6.html

I really appreciated your perspective on women in education, Sonya. In a future piece, I will respond to your celebration of women. Examples abound in medicine.

-Dr. Brij

Celebrating Women

Hello, Dr. Bhambi! I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving and start to the Holiday season. November was an historic month for women with the election of Kamala Harris, the first woman of color and the first South Indian to serve as Vice President of the United States. As the child of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris’ election to the second-highest office in the nation represents a fulfillment of the promises that America’s founding fathers established in the formation of this great Republic.

As an immigrant from South India who can speak the same language as Kamala Harris’ mother Syamala Gopalan, I felt immensely proud and reflected on it on Twitter.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks reflecting on how far women have come in our society just within my lifetime, and how far we still have to go. In October, the Pre-Law Club at BC and our Women’s History and More Committee came together to host a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, commemorating her legacy of advocating for gender equality in the law. We had some heartfelt commentary in the tribute from Judge Susan Gill, BC professors Olivia Garcia and Pearl Urena, Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Cynthia Loo, Judge Robert Tafoya and more.

On November 17, I helped launch an important new organization with several women leaders in the community college system, including Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzales and KCCD Trustee Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, who was an important mentor to me during her time as a BC administrator. The California Community College Women’s Caucus gives women in higher education the chance to fellowship and share their experiences with their colleagues and start important conversations that help move the needle on encouraging more women to take leadership roles at community colleges.

Speaking as chair of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, or ACCJC, I focused my remarks at our inaugural meeting on Tuesday around some research about women in accrediting commissions for community colleges. Among the seven accrediting commissions recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or CHEA, there are five women presidents, or 71 percent. Among those same seven commissions, only two of the chairs are women, which is 28 percent. ACCJC is the only commission with more women commissioners than men with 12 of the total 20 commissioners, or 60 percent. Among the 213 total commission members of these seven institutions, only 86, or 40 percent, were women.

Representation on accreditation commissions like this are important because they determine the standards to which institutions of higher learning are held. The CCC Women’s Caucus will help women break through all the glass ceilings of educational leadership, whether it’s college presidents, trustee members, or accrediting commissioners.

Dr. Bhambi – I’d love to hear your thoughts about women in the medical field and how leadership opportunities for them have expanded over the course of your career. Stay safe, and I hope to talk to you again soon.

-sonya

The Debate

Hello Sonya! These are some thoughts that were running through my mind after watching last night’s debate…

Divisions run deep. Divide is not red and blue anymore. Fragmentation has taken over the division as the shaky center is flanked by the cantankerous fringes. The notions this nation was built on are lost in commotion. Conversation is allowed no accommodation. Decency is allowed no constituency. We are in a zero-sum game. Team spirit is an obsolete term.

The prevailing sentiment is “What can you take from your country?” Profit from blood, sweat and tears is the new business plan. The golden goose will be sacrificed and golden eggs will be supplied no more. Benjamin Franklin said that there is gold underneath this earth, as long as you dig it one till at a time.

In the 1770s, Thomas Payne said “These are the times that test the soul of men”. Those times are back again.

China presents a threatening paradox. Over the preceding several decades, the Chinese government have homogenized a country of 1.3 billion. In contrast, however, we have a deeply fragmented country of 330 million people. The West hoped that financial emancipation would find an echo in political emancipation and facilitate democracy in China. The reality has unfolded in a thoroughly unpredictable manner, and is sadly rich in irony. The virus that originated in China has wrecked the Main Street economy, deepened existing cultural chasms, further poisoned political discourse, stressed the voting process and corroded democracy. Blame is not confined to COVID, though. The virus afflicting US is not singular.

These times should try souls of men.

What’s been on your mind, Sonya?

-Brij

Embers and Coronavirus

Sonya, I have been thinking about…

The Western US is in the grips of a catastrophic fire season that has artificially turned the thermostat down, as crowded embers in the skies have dimmed the Sun’s scorching light.

These Martian skies invite difficult questions with uneasy answers. Is this the new normal? Are we on the threshold of a world in constant turmoil with unpredictably hastened climate change? Will the changing climate amplify the cascading threat? Will human resolve be able to answer the call and save us? Then there is the virus.

For now, masks offer us the best protection from these fires, as well as the coronavirus. Particulate matter in the air is significantly amplified by the fires. At about 2.5 microns, this particulate matter is akin to invisible missiles that wreck our immunity at multiple levels. Heart attacks and strokes can be precipitated for those at risk, and lung maladies are exacerbated for people with asthma, emphysema and other respiratory conditions.

The expanding footprint of humanity is constantly encroaching upon shrinking animal habitats. These interactions facilitate the possibility of novel pathogens being transferred to humans and precipitate pandemics. Much like in case of climate change, human actions need to be cognizant of these predictable and avoidable catastrophes, and COVID-19 is exhibit one.

Coronavirus and other diseases like to hitch hike on vulnerability exacerbated by hostile environments. Weakened immunities are like RSVP invitations to viruses, but the particulate matter and the viruses both yield to masks. Our defenses are made porous by individuals who do not take the proper precautions on a personal level, but like a phalanx, our wellbeing is impervious when we act collectively to wear masks and keep ourselves safe during this siege on our immune systems.

Let’s walk the talk. We are stronger and better together.

What’s on your mind, my friend?

– Brij

PS: This Friday, Oct 2nd, marks the 151st anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, a saintly man who unleashed the power of nonviolent resistance to dislodge an oppressive regime. To defeat oppression through peace has timeless relevance…now more than ever.

Welcome, friends

It took me 32 years of life before earning the qualifications fit to serve Kern County. Since 1992, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside leaders in cardiovascular care at Central Cardiology.

We strived, and to a large extent succeeded, in elevating heart care to a world class level right here in Bakersfield. In 1999, we collaborated with the best physicians in the community to build Bakersfield Heart Hospital, a temple dedicated to heart care. Our mission to be the best cardiovascular team in the world continues, with recruitment of the finest physicians and leading technologies available, as well as an enduring commitment to compassion.

I believe that health, along with faith and education, are the pillars that support integrity of life.

Bakersfield has been fortunate to have Dr Sonya Christian, a mathematician, philosopher and scholar, as the president of BC since 2013. Dr. Christian is an unassuming intellectual giant who cloaks herself in humility, innate curiosity and a gentle demeanor. A couple years back, my work serendipitously afforded the luxury of a chance encounter with Dr. Christian, and our shared conviction toward the betterment of humanity seemed to find a natural station at the intersection of healthcare and education.

Health and education need robust infrastructure and intense personal drive, so I was flattered when Dr. Christian asked me to participate in this endeavor. Together, we intend to share our experiences and thoughts, and we look forward to expanding our learning through this platform.

We count on your active engagement. Words should heal, and actions should pave a better life. Let’s make the world a better place.

— Dr Brij Bhambi

Welcome to BhambiAndChristian.com, a blog about the mind, body and spirit of the Central Valley.

My name is Sonya Christian, and I’m proud to serve as the 10th President of Bakersfield College since 2013. I often say that I’m the luckiest and happiest college president in the world, and I truly believe that. I see education as the gateway to the American Dream, and I’m so proud of my colleagues at BC for making that dream accessible to every single person in Kern County. Our nationally recognized student success initiatives are already creating positive outcomes, and I’m confident that we will only continue to transform lives in the San Joaquin Valley as our initiatives grow and expand.

I met Dr. Brij Bhambi two years ago, and have been inspired by the intensity, precision, and gentle care with which he approaches problems – in his role as a healing physician committed to the health of individuals, or in his community work he applies that same brilliant mind to to building a healthy community.

Brij and I started talking about collaborating together in the early days of the triple crisis we currently face of a pandemic, the economic crisis and the re-emergence of racial unrest.  I’m excited to have these public conversations with Dr. Bhambi in this digital space to promote healing through education.

I’ll be sharing the careful work of our BC students, faculty, and staff, helping to grow the Central Valley. Dr. Bhambi will use his beautiful prose and rhetoric on a range of topics with the goal of healing divides and building unity.

We hope that you will join this dialogue as we collectively strengthen our friendships and deepen our understanding of each other, during good times, but particularly during polarizing times.  

Follow us by entering your email.  You will get a confirmation email that you’re on the list, and every time we publish a new post, you will be notified via email.

With Renegade Pride,

sonya