June 3, 2020

Reflect: Summer Weeks 2 and 3

Reflect: Summer Weeks 2 and 3

What have I accomplished?

In these two weeks, I learned how to craft a search strategy for a literature review, systematically define my search terms and select relevant papers for the review. Refining my search terms was extremely tedious, given how sparse the literature on my research topic was. That aside, I had lots of fun learning how to compile a seed list to kickstart the sampling process for my research project, which uses social network analysis as part of its methodology.

Apart from that, I did some research to put together an interview guide on Bangladesh’s healthcare system, AMR national action plan and AMR-related policies.

I published a post about 5 pieces of COVID-19 art I enjoyed, as well as a reflection piece on my previous semester at university.

I helped out at my secondary school’s online webinar as a panelist discussing post-secondary school pathways. I hope the session would help students and parents realise that the polytechnic pathway can be an equally esteemed route.

What did I learn?

Nature as the best way to recharge 1

In my last reflection post, I mentioned adopting Cal Newport’s suggestion of setting aside more time for deep, focused work. Well,  he also talks about taking breaks- and he recommends taking walks in nature.

What’s the difference between walking through a busy street and walking through a park or a forest? Well, when you walk through a crowded street, you have to focus on following the traffic rules, avoid bumping into others, watch the road etc. Walking through a crowded street taxes your ability to concentrate. What’s different about walking through nature is that it exposes you to what lead author Marc Berman calls “inherently fascinating stimuli”.

These stimuli invoke attention modestly, allowing focused-attention mechanisms a chance to replenish.

Marc Berman

Recall a time you took a walk by the beach. As you stroll leisurely, you admire the sunset, laugh at children playing and observe the waves crash on the shore. You get to experience interesting stimuli without the need to actively direct your attention towards any particular stimulus. Walking through nature frees your mind from navigating through taxing rules. What walks in nature do is to allow your attention resources to recover. After just fifty minutes, you get a boost in your concentration.

Need a break from work to recharge? Forget Instagram. Take a walk outside instead. 

Bangladesh’s healthcare system

I did some research on Bangladesh’s healthcare system these two weeks. Unlike Singapore and Hong Kong, which has two key actors (public and private), Bangladesh’s health system has four. They are the public sector, private sector, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and donor agencies.

The private sector can be further segregated into formal and informal sectors. The formal sector provides both Western and alternative medical care (Unani and Ayurvedic medicine), while the informal sector comprises largely untrained practitioners that provide Western, homoeopathic or alternative (kobiraj) medicine. Unsurprisingly, the formal sector is concentrated in urbanised areas, while the informal sector provides the majority of the care in rural areas.

Interestingly, NGOs are key players in administering the country’s health services. This sector has emerged primarily in response to the poor accessibility of public healthcare services for the poor.

Another surprising fact about Bangladesh’s health workforce is that they’ve got more doctors than nurses and health technologists combined. The current ratio of doctors to nurses to technologists is 1:04:0.25 (the WHO’s recommended ratio is 1:3:5)!

The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

I loved this book the moment I started. How amazing is the idea that your impressions of any given experience is defined by its peak, pit or ending?

This simply means that if your first day at work had went swimmingly but by sheer luck, ended on a bad note, you’re more likely to remember your first day as a horrible one. It was mind-boggling to learn that my memories may not be representative of my actual experiences, but are instead snippets of the highest/lowest points or simply the way it had ended.

At the core of this book lies the idea that “moments matter”. It first explores what makes defining moments in our life particularly impactful. It turns out that they share a few common characteristics. The book then dives into how we can create defining moments for ourselves and others. Why create defining moments? Well, because it’s these defining moments that enrich life, create long-lasting memories and form meaningful connections with others.

“Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them. What if a teacher could design a lesson that students were still reflecting on years later? What if a manager knew exactly how to turn an employee’s moment of failure into a moment of growth? What if you had a better sense of how to create lasting memories for your kids?”

Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Intentionally crafting defining moments called to mind a quote that I have on my wall:

“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”

Joshua Foer

What if creating defining moments for others turned out to be an effective way of attaining our goals? I’m thinking of fundraising projects, awareness-raising campaigns and optimising care for hospital patients etc. After reading Dietz’s story in the book, I became so inspired. What if we could do the same for hospitals and transform the patient experience? I foresee the outcome to be amazing: increased patient satisfaction, improved patient-doctor relations, enhanced worker morale etc.

Looking forward to this read! 🙂

Antimicrobial resistance in the environment 2

I read many articles about AMR these two weeks. Here is one of my favourite insights.

In Southeast Asia, up to 80% of wastewater from hospitals, livestock, farms, community settings that contain antibiotics are often released into the environment without sufficient treatment.

Pharmaceutical plants in based in India and Bangladesh alone release up to several kilograms of antibiotics into the environment daily. This amounts to tonnes per year! Here, we are not even accounting for untreated wastewater from hospitals, farms and the community.

When it comes to fighting AMR in the environment, political will and resources are still severely lacking. Given the scale of the issue, I had expected more attention, more resources, more urgency. At present, I can’t help but feel helpless. I take consolation in the fact that I am actively working on an AMR project that can hopefully bring such issues to light.

What can I do better in Week 4?

  • You can’t focus on the same kind of work in the afternoon. Draw instead.
  • Take walks after lunch to rest your eyes.
  • Restless or stressed and tried everything else? Take some tea.
  • Put your phone away until your workday is over to avoid distractions from talking to friends (one thing Deep Work didn’t address, but Digital Minimalism might).
  1. Cal Newport, Deep Work
  2. Antibiotic residues in the environment of South East Asia (Lundborg and Tamhankar 2017)

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