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    Black mothers keep dying after giving birth, researchers blame racism

     Tennis superstar Serena Williams recently made international headlines after telling the harrowing story of how, after giving birth to her daughter, she had to demand life-saving treatment from hospital staff who didn’t take her seriously. Her story renewed public interest in a topic that needs more attention: Black women in the U.S. are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women.

    According to the CDC, a pregnancy-related death can occur not only during pregnancy but also within one year after the end of pregnancy. There has been a steady increase in U.S. pregnancy-related deaths, but Black mothers are disproportionately affected.

    In Louisiana, Black women are nearly four times as likely to die within one year of birth as White women, Louisiana obstetrician Dr. Joia Crear Perry, president of National Birth Equity Collaborative, wrote in an essay for The Root. The maternal mortality rate for the state is 19.6 per 100,000 live births, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.Joia PerryWhile chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes are usually said to be the main culprits, research shows that some other issue may be to blame for this disparity: racism.

     In a joint investigation, NPR and ProPublica collected more than 200 stories from Black mothers, and revealed that “the feeling of being devalued and disrespected by medical providers was a constant theme.”

    Black mothers from around the country told terrifying stories about how doctors wouldn’t believe them about health conditions until it was almost too late and even regularly dismissed their pain. These stories revealed how Black women are facing these issues regardless of education and income.

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    The publications also highlighted the story of Shalon Irving, a 36-year-old mother and an epidemiologist from Atlanta who collapsed and died three weeks after giving birth. She insisted to nurses, “It just doesn’t feel right” and was sent home anyway with only a prescription.

    As reported by NPR, Irving was researcher working to eradicate disparities in health access and outcomes who has become a symbol of one of the most troublesome health disparities facing Black women in the U.S. today: disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality.

    Chronic stress caused by racism outside of the healthcare system also influences the health of Black mothers, reproductive justice advocate Elizabeth Dawes Gay, MPH, wrote for The Nation.

    “Black people experience chronic stress resulting from exposure to overt and covert racism and micro-aggression, which can range from something as basic as intentionally avoiding eye contact to the extreme of being harassed, abused, or killed by police,” Gay wrote.

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    Erica Garner on Time.com

    Some believe this chronic stress contributed the tragic death of activist Erica Garner, daughter of the late Eric Garner. Vox reported that the stress of her father’s chokehold death by police, combined with her chronic health issues, could be the reason why the 27-year-old mother died just four months after giving birth to her second child.

    “The US has failed to deal with its high rates of maternal mortality on many fronts — particularly for women of color,” Vox staff writer P.R. Lockhart wrote.

    These grim statistics reveal that something needs to be done about pregnancy-related deaths among Black women. But what will the solution look like?

    Gay said the first step is acknowledging racism’s role.

    “We won’t go far in solving the American maternal-health problem without first acknowledging and then addressing how racism—both inside and outside the health-care setting—harms Black moms,” she said.

    By Anastasia L Semien
    Contributing writer
    Anastasia Semien is an award-winning digital journalist whose work has been published in publications across the country. This article was featured at WeBuyBlack.com. Follow her at @AnastasiaSemien
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    Federal class action suit filed against Johnson and Johnson on behalf of buyers

    Co-counsel Ben Crump says people of color were ‘victimized twice’

    This week, new documents were uncovered as part of existing lawsuits filed by ovarian cancer and mesothelioma victims. The documents indicate J&J knew for decades that cancer-causing asbestos and heavy metals were prevalent in the talc used in its Johnson’s Baby Powder and other products but failed to put a warning label on them. J&J stock prices plummeted after this and earlier disclosures.

    Rosen Law Firm, a global investor rights law firm, and Ben Crump Law, a civil rights and personal injury firm, announced the filing of a federal securities class action lawsuit on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Johnson & Johnson between Feb. 22, 2013, and Feb. 7, 2018, both dates inclusive (“Class Period.”) The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for J&J investors under the federal securities laws.

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    Ben Crump

    According to the lawsuit, throughout the Class Period defendants made false or misleading statements, and failed to disclose that J&J has known for decades that its talc products include asbestos fibers and that the exposure to those fibers can cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. J&J’s denials that talc could cause cancer and mesothelioma were materially false and misleading, and the company concealed contingent liabilities and loss of future revenues from the product. As a result of the company’s actions, the lawsuit claims, investors suffered damages when the true details entered the market.

    Crump said Johnson & Johnson engaged in “cynical tactics to market these products to women of color, while knowing their potential harm.”

    “Johnson & Johnson devalued Black lives by expressly marketing a product to Black customers that they knew for decades to be harmful,” Crump said. “Given that many Black workers’ retirement funds depend on government pension funds that invest in this stock for their retirement, Johnson & Johnson victimized them twice, jeopardizing their physical and their financial health.”

    In the 1990s, Johnson &Johnson began a concerted effort to boost the sales of its baby powder by “targeting” Black and Hispanic women, according to a company memorandum made public in recent lawsuits that led to multimillion-dollar verdicts against the powder manufacturer. In the past, Black women have reported significantly higher use of feminine hygiene products, including genital powder. A 2015 case-control study in Los Angeles found that 44 percent of Black women reported using talcum powder, compared to 30 percent of white women and 29 percent of Hispanic women.

    Rosen said the class action lawsuit has already been filed. Anyone wishing to serve as lead plaintiff, must move the Court no later than April 9, 2018. A lead plaintiff is a representative party acting on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation. Anyone wishing to join the litigation should go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases-1288.html or contact Phillip Kim or Daniel Sadeh of Rosen Law Firm toll-free at 866-767- 3653 or via email at pkim@rosenlegal.com or dsadeh@rosenlegal.com. Rosen Law Firm represents investors throughout the globe, concentrating its practice in securities class actions and shareholder derivative litigation. Since 2014, Rosen Law Firm has been ranked #2 in the nation by Institutional Shareholder Services for the number of securities class action settlements annually obtained for investors.

    Ben Crump is well known for representing clients in a wide range of civil rights and personal injury cases and is a former president of the National Bar Association. He has been recognized by the National Bar Association as the Nation’s Best Advocate and listed on The National Trial Lawyers’ Top 100 Lawyers. His firm also focuses on practice areas that include class actions, personal injury, wrongful deaths, and workers’ compensation.

    The Rosen and Crump firms announced a partnership earlier this year to expand and diversify reach and help bring justice to organizations and individuals impacted by securities fraud and corporate misconduct throughout the world.

     

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    Middle school engineers, teacher tackle water robotics

    When the buzzer sounds, the students in Ingrid Cruz’s eighth-grade marine robotics class hop into action. Their mission? Compete against other teams to guide a remote-controlled underwater vehicle along the bottom of a pool to recover critical equipment—using only the robot’s camera to see.

    Cruz’s students attend the Scotlandville Pre-Engineering Magnet Academy, a science, technology, engineering, art and math-focused middle school. Its curriculum offers courses such as game design, computer applications and multimedia production. The goal is to get students interested in science and math topics past middle school, planting the seed of encouragement to pursue these subjects further in high school and college.

    Though some of the robots developed by Scotlandville’s students have started earning them ribbons, it took a little trial and error for the course to gain its footing. “The first day of our marine robotics competition three years ago was the first time our robot had ever been in the water,” Mrs. Cruz said. “As soon as it got wet, everything fell apart.”

    Part of the issue was a lack of access to a pool where they could test their robot prior to competing. When leaders at the ExxonMobil YMCA learned the school needed access to water, they put in a plan to let them use the facility’s pool. ExxonMobil also provided grants so the students could take swimming lessons and water safety courses. “So now we get to test our robot in an actual pool, in the deep end, and we’re having more success because of that,” Cruz said.
    But it takes more than a pool to develop underwater robots. It’s crucial for the students to strategize and work as a team, skills they learn throughout the school year leading up to the competition.

    “The students absolutely must demonstrate teamwork,” Cruz said. “Building the robot is not easy, and when one student has an idea and somebody has a different idea, they have to learn to work together and test everyone’s ideas to see which one works best.” Cruz said it took her students about three months to build their last robot.

    The applications of the technology they test at the YMCA pool go well beyond marine applications. Just to name a few, fields like archeology, aviation, oil and gas, and even space exploration all use remotely operated robots.7 SPEMA Robot

    “The missions have relevance to real life,” Cruz said. “During one, the kids had to maneuver the robot inside a shipwreck and identify some of the packages inside the ship. In another, they had to open a power source and replace a battery inside, so they had to install a gripper on the robot.”

    It may be a few years before Scotlandville students start careers in robotics or engineering, but that hasn’t kept them from being exposed to some of the biggest names in remotely operated vehicles. After a 2016 competition, for instance, representatives from one local company were so impressed by the students’ enthusiasm, they asked one of Scotlandville’s teams to show their technology to some of their managers.

    “We’re making the robotics courses relevant to the kids, letting them know that this is a viable pursuit,” Cruz said. “Developing these underwater robots is a first step that could inspire our next generation of engineers and innovators.

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    Oil and gas industry challenged to engage STEM talent in Black communities

    WASHINGTON DC–When it comes to preparing the next generation for careers in science, technology engineering and mathematics, also known at STEM, Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said that leaders in the oil and natural gas industry have to answer the “awareness question.”

    “There are many people out there, today, that don’t really understand the oil and natural gas industry or the opportunities that it can present for them, their families and for well-paying careers,” said Gerard. “It’s incumbent upon us, as an industry, to have this dialogue more often and to intensify this discussion, so that people really understand,” the connection between the oil and natural gas industry and their everyday lives.

    The American Petroleum Institute and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, recently hosted a panel discussion focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM careers and in the oil and natural gas industry. API, the only national trade group representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, according to the group’s website, supports 10.3 million jobs in the United States and nearly 8 percent of the U.S. economy.

    The panel discussion coincided with the release of a new RAND report titled, “Postsecondary Education and STEM Employment in the United States.” The report, which was prepared for API, examined national education trends and the relationship between degree attainment and employment and wages, specifically in STEM fields.

    “Many of tomorrow’s best paying careers, at all levels, will require some kind of training or education in a STEM discipline,” said Gerard.

    STEM degrees can lead to higher earnings and can help to close the wage gap between Blacks and Whites. Those higher earnings are even more pronounced in the oil and gas industry.

    Blacks with STEM bachelor’s degrees earn $45.15 in hourly wages in the oil and natural gas industry, compared to Blacks with non-STEM bachelor’s degrees, who make $28.10 per hour, according to the RAND report.

    Whites with STEM bachelor’s degrees make slightly more per hour than Blacks with STEM degrees working in the oil and natural gas industry ($45.26 vs. $45.15).

    The hourly wage gap is higher between Whites and Blacks with non-STEM degrees that work in the oil and gas industry ($37.73 vs. $28.10).

    According to the 2016 report titled, “Minority and Female Employment in the Oil & Natural Gas and Petrochemical Industries, 2015-2035” by IHS Global prepared for API, “nearly 1.9 million direct job opportunities are projected through 2035 in the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries” and “African Americans and Hispanics will account for over 80 percent of the net increase in the labor force from 2015 to 2035.”

    Gerard said that over the next 10 years about 50 percent of the oil and natural gas workforce is going to “turnover.”

    According to the IHS Global report on minority and female employment in the oil and natural gas industry, Blacks accounted for 6.7 percent of the total workforce.

    Gerard said that as the current workforce reaches retirement age, the industry will need a rising generation to fill those jobs. Understanding the demographic shifts the industry has to get more aggressive in addressing that challenge, added Gerard.

    “If we’re going to do the things that are necessary to move the needle to impact those 1.9 million jobs, we have to go where most people don’t want to go and that’s in the Black and brown communities,” said Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., founder of STEM NOLA. “We often talk about STEM in a way that a common man and common woman really can’t grasp.”

    Mackie, who is an engineer in New Orleans, said that millions of Black and brown boys play football and basketball every Saturday, dreaming of making it to the NFL or NBA, even though their chances of achieving that goal are statistically low.

    “If we’re going to solve this problem, we have to go to the communities and make sure that on every Saturday there are a million Black and brown kids doing STEM, hoping and believing that, 15 years later, they will become,” millionaires and billionaires, said Mackie.

    Mackie runs a program that exposes elementary and high school students from underserved communities to STEM principles and STEM careers.

    Gerard said that leaders of the oil and natural gas industry recognize that they have to engage more effectively with minority communities, in order to build relationships and train and recruit their future workforce.

    “We need help from people who have been on the frontlines for many years,” said Gerard.

    Overton said that working with groups like the National Newspaper Publishers Association can improve the oil and natural gas industry’s outreach in the Black community.

    Overton also shared an anecdote about the African American women who were depicted in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

    African American NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan predicted that an incoming IBM computer would displace “human computers” in the 1960s. In anticipation, she learned the computer language Fortran, and she taught it to her team of Black women mathematicians. When the IBM arrived, the team was ready and took over new jobs operating the IBM, Overton said.

    “We are in this moment of rare opportunity…we can be proactive instead of reactive, like those women in ‘Hidden Figures,’” said Spencer Overton, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

    Mackie said that in order to increase awareness about STEM careers in the oil and natural gas industry, programs have to be culturally and environmentally relevant.

    “When we start talking about STEM education…sometimes it’s disenfranchising our children, because it’s not exposing them to the possibility of the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industry,” said Mackie.

    Mackie said that the nature of work is rapidly changing, driven by innovation and technology; that rapid change has the power to change lives for those individuals who have access to the resources to harness those tools.

    Some education advocates fear that Black children, oftentimes don’t have access to those resources.

    “America is in trouble,” said Mackie. “We have to make sure that we expose every kid to the possibility of STEM, because the future will belong to those that can play in it and create it and all of our kids deserve that possibility.”

    Gerard noted that the oil and natural gas industry contributes to the production of the energy efficient screens found on windows, the paint on the walls in our homes and offices, the fiber composites in the carpet, and the plastic components in smartphones.

    “We have to make our industry more relevant in those conversations, so that rising generations realize that there are vast opportunities up and down the continuum,” said Gerard. “So, we don’t scare them with the STEM conversation, but we teach them that everything that they do is grounded in this industry and the opportunity within that space is very significant.”

    Gerard continued, “If we can work on this together, we’re going to see a lot of opportunities out there, because people will start making those connections between [the oil and natural gas industry] to things they take for granted and to well-paying careers.”

    By Freddie Allen 
    NNPA Editor-In-Chief

     

    PHOTO CAPTION: Calvin Mackie,Ph.D., engineer and founder of STEM NOLA, talks about diversity and inclusion in the oil and natural gas industry, during a panel discussion at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

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    Mackie appointed to LaSTEM Council

    Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., of Gretna, was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to the LaSTEM Council. Mackie holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and is the President and CEO of the Channel Zero Group. He formerly served on the faculty at Tulane University where he researched heat transfer, fluid dynamics, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Mackie is also the founder of STEM NOLA, an organization which serves to expose, inspire, and engage members in New Orleans and the surrounding communities about opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    The Louisiana Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Advisory Council (LaSTEM) was established to coordinate and oversee the creation, delivery, and promotion of STEM education program; to increase student interest and achievement in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; to ensure the alignment of education, economic development, industry, and workforce needs; and to increase the number of women who graduate from a postsecondary institution with a STEM degree or credential.

    ONLINE: http://www.channelzro.com

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    McGuire, leader in student education, wins national chemical award

    For more than 46 years, Saundra Yancy McGuire, PhD. has been helping students realize their academic potential. A nationally recognized chemical educator, author and lecturer, she has travelled the globe promoting sure-fire strategies to help students, including those underrepresented in science and math professions, to be successful in their coursework and careers. In recognition of her work and the thousands of students she has impacted, McGuire has been awarded the 2017 American Chemical Society, or ACS, Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences, sponsored by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

    “I’m very humbled to be the recipient of the ACS Dreyfus Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. I gratefully accept this honor on behalf of all of the individuals who made it possible. They include my nominator, LSU Professor Isiah Warner, and all of the colleagues and students who supported the nomination,” said McGuire, director emerita of LSU’s Center for Academic Success and retired assistant vice chancellor and professor of chemistry. “When I look at the previous winners of this award, I am very honored to join this distinguished group, and I am even more determined to ensure that all students, especially disadvantaged students, are encouraged to pursue and reach their dreams.”

    As a chemistry major at Southern University and A&M College, McGuire learned early on that the right support can make the difference between failure and success. She enrolled at Southern University with plans to major in chemistry despite the fact that she had not taken chemistry in high school (she skipped her senior year).

    “I was successful because of wonderful faculty members and supportive peers who helped me overcome the gaps in my preparation and excel,” said McGuire.

    Later in graduate school, McGuire decided to give extra support to the students in the introductory chemistry course for which she was a teaching assistant during her first year at Cornell University.

    “I knew that these underprepared students were capable of success, but I doubted they would excel without someone working with them to help them learn how to understand the concepts and develop effective problem solving strategies,” said McGuire.

    McGuire is the author of “Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation.” She spent 11 years at Cornell University, where she received the coveted Clark Distinguished Teaching Award. She joined LSU in 1999, and has delivered her widely acclaimed faculty-development workshops on teaching students how to learn at more than 250 institutions in 43 states and eight countries.

    “My effectiveness with students increased exponentially while at LSU. I learned so much from Sarah Baird and other learning strategists at the Center for Academic Success, and I developed what we now refer to as the metacognitive approach to learning,” McGuire said.

    Metacognition allows students to analyze their own learning and take control of their study behaviors. This approach has proved to be a remarkably successful way of helping students make the transition from being memorizers who regurgitate information to being critical thinkers who can solve novel problems. 

    “I’ve always found student transformation intoxicating, and I love celebrating student success,” said McGuire. “My inspiration comes from the reactions of students when they see that they can succeed and that they don’t have to give up their dreams.”

    McGuire earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, magna cum laude, from Southern University in 1970, and her master’s degree in chemical education from Cornell University in 1971. She earned her PhD in chemical education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1983. Her many other honors and awards include the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers and the 2002 Dr. Henry C. McBay Outstanding Chemical Educator Award from the same organization. In January, she was awarded the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS.

    McGuire has been very active in the ACS for over 40 years beginning as a member of the ACS student organization during her senior year at Southern University. She was named an ACS Fellow in 2010, chaired the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs from 2002-2004 and was a member of the committee from 1999 to 2004.

    McGuire will be honored at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in conjunction with the 253rd ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.

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    SUNO researcher partners with PBI to continue DNA forensic research

    Pressure BioSciences, Inc. announced it has entered into a Collaboration Agreement with Southern University at New Orleans to focus on improving and extending the applications of the Company’s unique and patented pressure cycling technology platform for the detection of DNA in forensic samples.

    Pam Marshall,Ph.D., interim director, Forensic Science Program SUNO is an expert on sexual assault kit examination and collection practices and will lead the program with Pressure BioScience Inc.

    While a graduate student in the laboratory of Professor Bruce Budowle (a recognized key opinion leader in forensic science) at the University of North Texas’ UNT Health Science Center, Marshall and her colleagues showed that incorporating PCT into the testing protocol for poor quality bone enabled more DNA to be detected as compared to standard methods. As part of the collaboration, Marshall will continue this pioneering work. She and her team at Southern University also will investigate other important areas in which PCT might enhance forensic sample testing.

    “A critical yet often difficult task in forensic analysis is the extraction of high quality DNA from challenged or inhibited samples,” said Marshall. “My previous work with the PCT platform gave me an appreciation for this powerful and enabling technology. My published research established that improved quality and quantity of DNA could be extracted from human bone samples with PCT, as compared to bones not treated with PCT.”

    Marshall said she believes that several projects undertaken during the collaboration could help establish PCT as a standard method in forensic science. For example, in an effort to reduce poaching, the extraction of DNA from seized African Elephant ivory samples is an important yet very difficult challenge at the present time. “We believe PCT might enable the recovery of greater amounts of DNA compared to current methods,” she said. “If successful, this could lead to the use of PCT for the extraction of DNA from a variety of difficult samples. This will be one of the first projects undertaken.”

    “We are pleased to support Dr. Marshall and her team in their development of new, improved, and expanded applications of the PCT platform in the testing of forensic samples. We believe their efforts will result in commercially profitable PCT-based products for PBI, possibly before the end of 2015,” said Nate Lawrence, vice president of marketing and sales for PBI.

    “In addition to the possible development of new PCT-based products, we are pleased that the collaboration also will support the Forensic Science program at SUNO,” said Mr. Richard T. Schumacher, President and CEO of PBI. “This program provides students with the course work, skills and experience necessary for success as a forensic scientist. This role is critical to our criminal justice system, since investigators, courts, and the public depend on forensic scientists for accurate and timely information.”

    Mr. Schumacher continued: “Our country needs well educated, professionally-trained, forensic scientists. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently estimates an approximate 20% increase in job growth in the forensic science field over the next six years. However, although the number of forensic science graduates nationwide is high, the number of graduates among underrepresented minorities is highly inadequate. That is why we are pleased to support educators like Dr. Marshall and universities like SUNO who are at the forefront of developing the next generation of highly skilled forensic scientists, with a vast majority from underrepresented populations.”

    Southern University at New Orleans was founded in 1956 to expand academic opportunities for Blacks. Today, SUNO still serves as a beacon for those looking for educational advancement in an environment that provides the personal attention some students need for success. With our mission in mind, we plan to be America’s premier urban institution of higher learning in the field of Forensic Science, providing educational access to students ready to contribute to our city and nation. In 2013, SUNO successfully implemented the Forensic Science Bachelor of Science degree program. SUNO is the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Louisiana to offer this degree and one of four nationwide. The BS in Forensic Science degree program is committed to producing technically knowledgeable and skilled graduates equipped with the basic foundational science and laboratory problem solving skills necessary for success in the crime laboratory. Upon completion of the Forensic Science program, graduates will be prepared to function as forensic scientists, or for advanced study in such areas as forensic science, biomedical research, medicine and law. Please visit the University’s Web site at www.SUNO.edu.

    Pressure BioSciences Inc. develops, markets, and sells proprietary laboratory instrumentation and associated consumables to the estimated $6 billion life sciences sample preparation market. PCT customers also use our products in other areas, such as drug discovery and design, bio-therapeutics characterization, soil and plant biology, vaccine development, histology, and forensic applications.

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