Father

Hello, Sonya –

Father’s Day has been a hard concept for me to imbibe, foreign in its meaning. Father, as a significant part of parenthood, is alive in every breath. To carve out 24hrs in a year to celebrate, a part of parenthood seemed superficial, ceremonial and unnecessary to me. Cultural baggage of rural India bestowed that rigidity on my thought.


Time and place have contrived to accommodate another dimension of love in this inflexible mind. Love is innate to every heartbeat, but a designated day can help highlight those emotions.


Traditionally, father is a guide, mentor, provider and role model for kids.


Truth be told, beneath all that façade of strength and inaccessibility, he aspires only to be a friend.


That’s the Father’s Day present a father awaits.

-Brij

Juneteenth

Hello, Sonya!

Thank you for sharing your Juneteenth message. I’d like to share my own thoughts:

Juneteenth, an amazing amalgam in calendar that merges numerics of days with a month, a unique distinction.

Empowerment with a meaning!

It’s an unbearable shame that some humans, beastly in their predisposition, transiently empowered, morally degraded and profit inspired, unleashed their selfishness on the vulnerable and naive.

Slavery is not unique to a time or place.

It’s time slavery has no time or place.

The US has been transformative in emancipation of humanity. The sin of slavery is foundational to that transformation. That sin needs salvation.

Salvation is in solution, not guilt transference. Empathy is my time travel vehicle.

I’m taking a dive. With due deference, it’s a dive taken by an immigrant who is an American by choice – and proud in his choice.

The context is necessary.

So also is the success of the greatest experiment in human fulfillment, called America. My vantage point is flawed: darts welcome.

At a personal level, when my child sniffled, I feared the worst and failed to sleep. How can one reconcile with the enormity of pain of an unsuspecting mother, whose child was kidnapped, never to return, always to be abused. Abuse, rape, diminished existence, exploitation, murder and lynchings – continued not for decades, but centuries.

Taxation without representation did not seem to rhyme with that crime.

Shredded treaties written in vanishing ink of deceit perpetrated the same crimes to the near extinction of the Native Americans.

Perspective on ownership is relevant.

Notion Americana is ill supported by its territorial claims but favorably anchored by its soaring rhetoric.

A rhetoric that finds favors in my heart.

I came to the USA to seek salvation in soul and flight in spirit.

I’m here to tell you how.

Perfection is a pursuit, and humans are not divine. The American journey is a melody where sad songs tickle, but romance invites.

It’s that prism, if I was a descendant of a slave, I will look through. The road I travel is rough, the road my slave forefathers travelled infinitely worse.

Fairness is a pursuit.

The incline on my side of the road is steeper. That’s why I will seek parity through longer strides and hurried steps. I will overwhelm the prejudice. I will always remember the scars. I will not inflict them on others. My honor demands that. My forefathers encourage me so.

It’s my turn to make the world a better place for my kids. And their friends of all colors. Love will have to be color blind.

But I will never submit to inequitability. The weak smell susceptibility in generosity. My generosity is in self empowerment, shared success and collective enhancement. I forgive, but give no more.

I urge the people in power to empower the weak. Let’s raise the tide.

-Brij

Juneteenth 2021

Hello Brij!

Today is Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. This week, it was recognized as a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

I thought I would share my letter from last year leading up to Juneteenth events.

Until next time….

-sonya

#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