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.  

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With Renegade Pride,

sonya