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February 29, 2020

Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Drug Spending


Doctors prescribing medical marijuana to Medicare patients in place of prescription drugs is helping save taxpayers millions of dollars, a new study reports.
According to a recent study published in the Health Affairs journal, doctors are prescribing medical marijuana to Medicare patients in place of medications that have been typically used to treat seizures, depression, pain, and anxiety.
As a result, the Medicare program—whose patients include seniors and people with disabilities—has saved $104.5 million in 2010 and $165.2 million by 2013. The reason for the savings? Doctors are prescribing other drugs less.
An article in U.S. News & World Report states, “In other words, the government appears to spend less on drugs in states where medical marijuana is a legal option. During the time evaluated, 17 states and the District of Columbia had passed medical marijuana laws. Now, 24 states and D.C. have passed such laws. The laws vary—some specify what conditions medical marijuana can be used to treat, others require the prescription of a licensed doctor. Researchers took these factors into account in their study.”

Medical Marijuana Laws and Savings

If all states had passed medical marijuana laws, authors of the study estimate, then the government and beneficiaries could save as much as $468.1 million a year. This total represents 0.5 percent of Medicare drug spending in 2013, according to U.S News & World Report.
However, the study has some limitations. According to U.S. News & World Report, “…previous studies on the Medicare populations have suggested that Medicare patients make up a small percentage of people who use medical marijuana, and that only 13 to 27 percent of people who used medical marijuana are age 50 or older. They admit their study cannot apply to those that are younger.”

UVM Cannabis Science and Medicine Program

With medical marijuana now legal in nearly half the states across the U.S., including Vermont, there is a dramatic rise in the interest in cannabis science and medicine. Physicians, dispensary managers, and edible creators need to understand the indications, counter-indications, benefits, and risks of cannabis and medical marijuana.
UVM is the only medical school in the nation offering a professional certificate in cannabis and medicine. The eight-week, online professional certificate is designed for clinicians, dispensary personnel, nurse practitioners, physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants, edible creators, regulators, and budtenders
February 28, 2020

10 Ways to Prevent a Cybersecurity Breach at Your Business


By John Burton
Today’s c-level executives would be wise to watch a few episodes of the USA network hit series, Mr. Robot. The technology details in the show are provided by a security expert and former hacker Kor Adana, who recently provided 10 insightful ways to avoid being attacked.
Mr. Robot is one of the most accurate cybersecurity shows to date as Kor breaks down each hacking incident, including precise screen behavior and how the attack operates. He often performs the hack himself and records the screens so everything is as authentic as possible, including typical hacker tools and social engineering techniques.
Here is my take on Kor Adana’s top recommendations to improve your business security.

Double up on passwords

Enable and use two-step verification for sensitive functions whenever it is available. This especially applies to communications such as email and all financial transactions.

Never use the same password twice

Many computer users, including business owners and c-level executives, use the same password for all their accounts. Of course this is the easiest way to remember the password but it makes you very vulnerable to a hacker—imagine the damage they will do if they get that password and use it with all of your accounts. Also consider using password software that will generate very long complex passwords.

Take business mobile security seriously

Many businesses have important mobile apps that store account credentials and a hacker that unlocks your mobile device can quickly get access to all that data. It’s a pain to lock the device every time but using a complex password will slow down or even stop the hack.

Cleverly answer security questions

Your mother taught you to never lie but here is a case where a lie may save heartache and financial loss. Many companies ask a series of security questions when you create the account. If a hacker knows your dad’s middle name, the name of your pet, and other information commonly available on social media, then they have a very good chance of getting into your sensitive information.

Don’t overshare on social media

How many times have you read a post about someone on vacation or at a social event? That’s like an “all clear” signal to a thief. And by sharing birthdays, mom’s last name, and other personal information, you are providing a hacker the tools needed to compromise your security.

Continuously update

Business executives frequently ignore update messages on phones, computers and other devices that run software. Excuses like it takes too long or I might have to learn how to use a new interface (like Windows 10) or I have much more important things to do with my time top the list. The problem with putting it off? Using older versions of the operating system, antivirus, anti-malware and applications open them up to hackers who exploit the known vulnerabilities. Consider the trade-off of spending a little time now or dealing with huge security issues later.

Don’t fall for email scams

Some emails practically scream “if you click here you will be in deep trouble.” But sophisticated hackers have found ways to mimic an email from a trusted associate and insert a URL address that, if you click the link, will go to them. Think about whether Bob in accounting would really ask for every employee’s social security number ASAP. Get into the habit of hovering your mouse over links to see where the reply really goes. If you’re still uncertain, either verify via a phone call or an email to the sender to confirm the situation.

Keep your webcam software updated

Ever heard of ratting? Once the stuff of science fiction, it really is true that hackers can gain remote control of your camera and microphone. Putting tape over your webcam only blocks the view—hackers can still hear what you say. A better approach is to keep the webcam software up to date and disable your camera when not in use.

Always connect securely

Free Wi-Fi doesn’t always mean safe Wi-Fi. Studies show that most popular resorts like Disney World often have bogus Wi-Fi spots planted there by hackers. Double check with the store or resort manager to verify which Wi-Fi is secure. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks and never do sensitive financial transactions over unverified links.

Be smart when attacked

Take every precaution possible to prevent an attack. But if you sense an active breach, unplug and shut down all systems and get a security tech involved. They will likely want to wipe your system clean and help you improve your security procedures to avoid an intrusion in the future.
Business leaders live in a strange new security world and find themselves smack in the bulls eye of the hacker world due to their trusted position. Following these 10 tips will go a long way to covering your back and avoiding the negative fallout from business cyber crime
February 27, 2020

Alumni Advice: Eva Antczak Creates Inspiration at the Google Food Lab


Eva Antczak ’07 is program manager of the Google Food Lab, a platform for people in food policy, farming, corporate food service, healthcare, technology, corporate food companies, and academia to use their knowledge to solve pressing food system issues.
AlumniAdvice_newWe talked to Eva about her senior thesis on Vermont cheesemakers, managing the Google Food Lab, and why technology and innovation are critical to a sustainable food system.

You graduated from UVM with a degree in environmental studies and Spanish. What made you shift gears and focus on nutrition/food systems?

Food and agriculture have always been my passions, but once I began taking classes in environmental studies at UVM, I realized I could apply those interests to the study of local, regional, and global food systems. After taking classes in sustainable development, anthropology, herbalism, food science, and cheese and culture, I studied abroad for a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico. This experience anchored the information I had learned in a cultural context in which food, agriculture, and nutrition are intrinsically embedded.

Tell us about your senior thesis on artisan cheesemakers in Vermont.

I interviewed livestock farmers and cheesemakers across the state to better understand how and why cheese is such a strong part of Vermont’s identity, and what the biggest challenges, such as government policies, farming knowledge, and marketing, were to the success of these markets. These conversations were enlightening and energizing. I knew I wanted to continue to immerse myself in food systems work.

After graduate school, you ended up in San Francisco. Did your job at the Center for Food Safety bring you there?

After two years of traveling, working on farms, and volunteering for food and agriculture organizations, I attended graduate school at Tufts University in the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program. I gained a new perspective on food and nutrition policy, global agriculture, hunger and malnutrition, industrial food systems and trade, and local/regional foodsheds. I thought I would pursue food policy more deeply, even spending a summer at the USDA, but by graduation, I was still unsure which angle interested me the most.
Having never lived on the West Coast, but knowing there was a vibrant food scene, I landed in San Francisco. I took a position at the Center for Food Safety, a public interest nonprofit that works to protect human health through sustainable and organic agriculture. As a policy coordinator, I worked with the legal team on projects involving confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and GMOs.

You also worked for Farm Aid and FarmsReach.com before your position with Bon Appétit @ Google. What made you want to work for Bon Appétit @ Google?

I worked with FarmsReach, a small start-up providing services and resources to support small to midsize farmers across California, for nearly three years before joining Google. I wanted to not only explore the lens of food outside of the nonprofit, start-up world but also examine how to combine food with the power of Silicon Valley’s technology. I knew there would likely be the resources—whether engineers, partnerships, or capital—to have a bigger impact.

Could you describe your job at Google Food Lab?

I am the program manager of the Google Food Lab, which is a platform for thinkers and doers in the food space to apply their collective knowledge to solve our most pressing food system issues. We convene twice a year for summits at Google offices and between summits work on projects tied to our key focus areas. I plan all the summit programming (speakers, panels, work groups, keynotes, themes, agenda, etc.) while also managing core projects and communications throughout the rest of the year.

What is Google’s philosophy regarding food?

The Google Food program’s vision is to inspire the world to use food experiences to develop more sustainable lifestyles. We take a holistic approach, thinking beyond just minimizing our negative impact to how we can enrich the planet, our employees, our communities, our partners, and our suppliers.
Food plays a central role in supporting Google’s culture. Inspiring food experiences provide fuel for innovative thinking and collaboration among employees. By creating exceptional food experiences, Googlers will be happier, healthier, and more productive and creativ
February 26, 2020

A Geochemist Finds Her Element with Craft Beer


Penny Higgins is a vertebrate paleontologist and geochemist who loves to brew beer. Penny, who lives outside of Rochester, New York, hopes to eventually open a craft brewery with her husband. She recently enrolled in the UVM Business of Craft Beer Program to figure out how to make her dream career a reality.
We talked to Penny about why she loves brewing beer, what she is learning from the UVM program, and her 10-year plan to open a brewery in rural upstate New York.

When and why did you start brewing?

starting-a-brewery
Penny Higgins
I started brewing maybe three years ago. It was on a whim. I enjoy beer, and I thought I might try brewing some. It was good, so I kept on brewing. One of my favorite things is to brew beers to honor the host cities of the big geoscience meetings each year. I’ve brewed a chili lager for a meeting in Houston, Texas, that wound up being too hot for me to drink. My favorite beer that I ever brewed was a Baltimorphic Complex, honoring the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting that was in Baltimore last year.

Are you thinking about changing careers and opening a microbrewery?

I’m not sure if a career change is coming soon, because I really enjoy my work. I’m a vertebrate paleontologist and geochemist with research focus on ancient climate. However, the paycheck that comes with my job as a research associate at the University of Rochester is dependent upon the whims of major funding organizations, like the National Science Foundation, and the administrators of the university. I’ve held this job for almost 12 years now, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll continue to be employed even for another year. Should I lose my current job, opening a microbrewery may be my next career move. Starting a microbrewery is part my husband’s and my ten-year plan. In ten years, we want to be in a position where we could lose our jobs and still be able to support ourselves financially without having to move. Operating a brewery might be the way to go.

Why did you enroll in the UVM Business of Craft Beer Program?

I started in this program to explore the realities of operating a craft brewery. Would it be possible to start a brewery and continue my job at the University of Rochester? Or would I have to leave academia and do a complete career shift? When I began the UVM course, I had planned on keeping my job and running a brewery on the side, but since taking Fundamentals of Craft Beer course, I’ve realized that probably isn’t realistic. If you ask me now whether I will definitely start a brewery, the best answer I can give right now is a hefty “I don’t know.”

How did you learn about the UVM Business of Craft Beer Program?

I learned about this from Brew Your Own magazine. There was a story on opportunities to learn more about brewing. The UVM program caught my eye because it was about how to run a brewery, not just how to brew beer. As a geochemist, brewing beer is just another kind of chemistry. But the business end of things…that might as well be explained in hieroglyphics. I had talked to a few people about the art of running a brewery, but I knew what I needed was formal coursework. This program was perfect.

What has been your experience taking an online course at UVM?

I’m completed the Fundamentals of Craft Beer course and plan on enrolling in the Business Operations course this fall. This is my first online course experience. It has been a little strange to me because it’s been many years since I was last a student and now I teach at the university level myself. In general, I’ve enjoyed the experience. I particularly liked that each module was arranged to go each week from Wednesday to Tuesday, giving us already-have-a-full-time-job participants the weekend to get our homework done and still have time to review other students’ posts.

Are you finding the coursework challenging?

The work itself was interesting and challenging. Were I not so darn interested in the material, I might have considered it difficult, based upon the time and energy I had to put into it. In the end, I wish I had more time to work on the exercises and respond to my peers’ posts. I really enjoyed the interaction and got a lot out of it. The estimate of 6-10 hours a week of coursework was spot on, but you could easily spend a lot more time.

Why would you recommend the program?

The UVM craft beer program is perfect for anyone who is considering starting a brewery but lacks business experience. Sure, there are books out there. But at least for me, formal coursework with instructors on-hand to answer questions helps accelerate the learning and allows you to avoid big mistakes. Plus, it also puts you in contact with some important names in the craft beer industry, which can potentially give you a boost when getting started.

What is the craft beer scene like in Rochester?

Craft is going crazy in Rochester. There are currently more than 10 craft breweries in Monroe County, which includes Rochester and the greater metropolitan area. I live about 30 miles east of Rochester in Wayne County. Though it is about the same size as Monroe County, there is not a single brewery of any kind in Wayne County, although there is a cidery and a winery. Because Wayne County is less populated and largely agricultural and industrial, that may explain why there are no breweries. My hope is that I can open a brewery that taps into the rural culture of where I live. We’ll see if I still want to do that after finishing the UVM course.
February 25, 2020

Zika Fears Hit Home in the U.S.

It has been feared for months that mosquitos would start spreading the Zika virus in the United States. Those fears may have been realized this summer in Florida.
Senior officials at the Food and Drug Administration said last week they have asked blood donation centers in two Florida counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, to stop collecting blood for the time being, according to National Public Radio.
Investigators have ruled out travel as the cause of four cases of Zika virus in those counties. The individuals with the virus had not traveled to places where Zika is endemic and don’t appear to have contracted it through sex—leaving a possibility that they got the virus from being bitten by infected mosquitoes in the U.S.
If they did acquire the virus from domestic mosquitoes, it could mean that others in the area also may have acquired Zika virus locally, and may have donated blood without knowing it was infected, according to NPR.
First identified in Uganda in 1947, the Zika virus simmered quietly for sixty years, occasionally causing a mild dengue-like illness across parts of central Africa and equatorial Asia, according to The Challenge of the Zika Virus: An Emerging Arbovirus Disease study by Frances Delwiche, library associate professor at Dana Medical Library at UVM. However, since 2007, three large outbreaks have occurred: first in Micronesia, then in French Polynesia in 2013-2014, and as an epidemic involving Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America in 2015-2016.
Earlier this year, the UVM Vaccine Testing Center announced that it would be involved in the clinical trials and research on a vaccine for Zika virus, which was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization on February 1, 2016.
Over the past decade, the WHO has declared four global health emergencies, and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the Zika outbreak in the Americas have happened in the past two years alone.

Study Epidemiology at UVM

This fall, UVM is offering an Epidemiology Graduate Certificate to provide students with a framework for problem solving and critical thinking in analyzing disease and health-related conditions within a given population
February 24, 2020

Report: Lack of Cybersecurity Skills Are Leaving Companies Vulnerable

Photo: Flickr
Information technology managers in today’s workplace are finding it difficult to protect their networks as a lack of cybersecurity expertise is leaving companies open to attack.
A report by Intel Security, “Hacking the Skills Shortage,” interviewed 775 IT decision makers involved in cybersecurity at their organization or business. The study points out that 82 percent of the participants reported a lack of cybersecurity skills at their workplace. One in three said the shortage makes them prime hacking targets, and one in four said it has led to reputational damage and the loss of proprietary data via cyberattack.

A Lack of Cybersecurity Skills in the Workplace

The report is based on research from tech market research firm Vanson Bourne. Respondents represented the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Israel.
Other findings:
  • More than three out of four (76 percent) respondents believe their government is not investing enough in cybersecurity talent.
  • High-value skills are in critically short supply, and the most scarce being intrusion detection, secure software development, and attack mitigation. These skills are in greater demand than soft skills in communication and collaboration.
  • A majority of respondents (53 percent) said that the cybersecurity skills shortage is worse than talent deficits in other IT professions.
  • Respondents ranked hands-on experience and professional certifications as better ways to acquire cybersecurity skills than a degree.
  • Countries can change this shortfall in critical cybersecurity skills by increasing government expenditure on education, promoting gaming and technology exercises, and pushing for more cybersecurity programs in higher education
February 23, 2020

After Studying Science, Business and Health, Alumna Megan Resnick Lands Her Ideal Job


This fall will be the first time in eight years that Megan Resnick hasn’t been a student at UVM. With three college degrees under her belt from UVM—a B.S. in molecular genetics, an MBA, and a master of public health—the Burlington resident is now a quality improvement project liaison at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, where she is focusing on healthcare literacy, costs, and access.
We talked to Megan about working in public health, the importance of wellness initiatives, and why she’s intrigued by the combination of business and healthcare.

How did you go from an MBA degree to enrolling in a public health program?

The combination of business and healthcare has always interested me. Healthcare is a unique industry as standard consumerism does not apply. However, it is still critically important to control costs to ensure everyone can get efficient, effective, and affordable care.
My interest in healthcare and specifically public health increased throughout my MBA studies, during which I was able to take healthcare electives such as Policy, Organization, and Financing in Healthcare and Strategic Planning. At this time, UVM was working diligently to get the public health program up and running, so I eventually enrolled.

How has the UVM public health program enhanced your career?

The UVM Master of Public Health program provided a foundation of knowledge in areas such as epidemiology and public health policy, as well as an in depth understanding of healthcare reform specific to Vermont. I regularly draw from public health concepts I learned through this program in my professional life, and my biostatistics textbook even sits on my desk at work.

What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont?

As a quality improvement project liaison, I work internally and externally with providers and employer groups to ensure our members are receiving appropriate care when and where they need it. Our goal is to identify and knock down a variety of barriers to quality care such as cost, access, and health literacy.
I’m also a certified wellness culture coach and, in my opinion, this is one of the biggest areas of opportunity in healthcare reform. Through wellness initiatives, we can try to help create sustainable behavior changes. It is important for individuals with conditions, such as high cholesterol, to get their cholesterol checked; but it is behavior changes, such as exercising and healthy eating habits, that are going to alter the results. I could not ask for a better place to work.

Why would you recommend the UVM public health program?

The UVM public health program is fantastic. The courses are interesting and relevant and the professors are very engaged. I really appreciated that this is an online program because it made it possible for me to balance working full time and being a student. At the same time, being at UVM meant that I could talk to my professors face-to-face when I needed.

What made you return to UVM for your two master degrees?

I never left, in fact this will be my first fall semester not registering for courses at UVM since 2008. I had a wonderful undergraduate experience and it didn’t really cross my mind to continue my graduate education anywhere else.
February 22, 2020

How to Grow Your Own Beer Hops

Photo: Flickr
By Lynn McIlwee
BrewingWork.com
Ever thought about growing hops in your backyard or at the brewery? Hops are pretty easy to grow and are a hearty plant that will return year after year if you tend to them properly.

Tips on How to Grow Your Own Beer Hops

When and Where to Buy Rhizomes

Order your rhizomes early (Feb/Mar) to ensure that you get your desired plants when they are ready for shipping (Mar/April). Consider buying hop twine to support your bines as the twine will support 100lbs and mature plants are very heavy. One good wind storm and your precious hops could come tumbling down. Sources for ordering rhizomes in North America include:
Canada: Hops Connect (BC), Left Fields/Crannóg Ales (BC), Prairie GEM Hops (MB), Clear Valley Hops (ON) and Four Horses (NS)
United States: Hops Direct (WA), Willamette Valley Hops (WA), Freshops (OR), US Hop Source (CO), American Brewmaster (NC)

Where and How to Plant

Keep your rhizome moist until ready to plant and only plant when there is no chance of frost. Select a spot where there is a lot of sun—southern exposure is preferred by your hoppy little friends. The planting area should have a trellis or hop twine secured for the climbing wonder to reach up to 25 feet.
Prepare the soil by digging a hole about 1foot deep and 1 foot in diameter. Fill the hole with fresh top soil, compost and peat moss. Plant the rhizomes approximately five (5) to eight (8) feet apart to give the roots ample space to grow. Plant your rhizome 1-2” deep horizontally with the root side down and bud(s) pointing up. Water the area daily to keep the rhizome moist but not soaked. Now wait patiently for about two weeks for your new baby to poke through!

Growing

Year One: In the first year, do not cut away any of the bines as you will build a stronger root structure by leaving them intact. Let them grow, clock-wise, up the trellis/twine.
Years Two Onward: Select two or three strong bines and let those climb—cut away the rest of the growth as it comes up. By selecting a couple of bines, the plant puts its energy into making hop cones and they will produce larger cones. When your bines reach the top of the trellis, carefully pull off the bottom 3 feet of leaves. This allows more oxygen flow around the base and there is less likelihood of getting diseases.
Year Three: You have mature plants and should receive a good yield

Watering

Keep your hops well hydrated but not water-logged. Your soil composition (sand, clay, dirt) will play into how well the water is absorbed. The best time to water is in the morning as your plants will have time to dry out should the leaves get wet and watering at night can attract pests to your wet leaves.

Fertilizing

Use 20-20-20 in the spring when new growth starts. When the burrs appear, use 15-30-15 or similar. Adding compost to the soil is also encouraged.

Pests

Aphids and spider mites are mortal enemies to hops. Inspect your plant regularly to ensure these little creeps aren’t using your hops as a Holiday Inn. If you’re lucky, lady bugs will stake a claim on your plants and eat the aphids.

Harvest

Your hops are ready for picking when they are a) springy—doesn’t stay compressed when squeezed; b) dry and sticky to the touch; c) have a strong hop odour—rub one on your fingers and take a nice, hoppy whiff; d) lupulin—look into the hop and if you see a thick yellow substance, lupulin is present; d) there’s no visible yellow powder. Wear pants, a long-sleeved shirt and gloves for picking unless you like red scratches.

Drying

Find a room that is free of wind, light and where bugs won’t get in. You’ll need to lay the hops on a window screen or some other apparatus that allows air flow to the top and bottom. Having a fan in the room, positioned so that it won’t blow your hops across the room, helps as well. Turn them daily. You will know they are dry when they’re springy to touch, lupulin falls off easily and the central stem will break (not bend). This takes 2-3 days. Now weigh, label and vacuum-seal them for the freezer until you’re ready to brew.

Winter Sleep

Your hops need to rest up so they can come back strong next year. If it’s the first year for your rhizome(s), let the entire plant die back before you cut it a few inches from the ground. The bines will put nutrients back into the soil and make the plant stronger. After year one, after harvesting, cut it at the 3’ mark (where you’ve removed the leaves) and let that die back before reducing it to about 3”.
That’s it. Like I said, growing hops are pretty easy to grow and don’t need too much TLC if you follow the basics. Happy growing!
February 21, 2020

UVM Alumna Creates the Right Solution with Chemistry and Public Health


Lyndelle LeBruin, a project manager at the Laboratory for Clinical Biochemistry Research (LCBR) at the UVM College of Medicine, has spent most of her academic career studying chemistry. But when her interest in clinical trials research led to her job at LCBR, she decided to enroll in the UVM Master of Public Health Program to enhance her skillset.
Lyndelle, who grew up in the West Indies on the island of Dominica, describes herself as a dedicated, conscientious, and goal-oriented professional. Her goals are to continue to make positive contributions to the fields of public health and translational research in the future.
We talked to Lyndelle about her work and how the fields of chemistry and public health play a role in helping people live better lives.

What made you decide to pursue the master of public health?

I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in chemistry and went on to earn a master’s in chemistry at UVM. While working on my master’s thesis on the self-assembly of collagen mimetic peptides, I always felt the need to connect my science background to population health and to further translational research that could improve public health.
I decided to pursue the Master of Public Health upon joining the LCBR to both enhance my knowledge base and skillset as I continued to work in clinical trials research, and to make a greater contribution to both public health and translational research.

Could you describe your job at LCBR?

The LCBR focuses on understanding risk factors for heart disease, stroke, venous thrombosis, obesity, diabetes, aging, and frailty using a wide variety of assays in population and family-based research settings. Faculty and staff at the lab are trained in medicine, the basic sciences, epidemiology, and biostatistics, and they apply their training to large-scale, multi-center clinical trials and epidemiological-based studies.
I work in a project management role on the D2d Study at the LCBR. We are the Central Laboratory for this double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, coordinated out of Tufts University. In my current role, I use quality control measures on a daily basis to monitor sample processing, storage, and data quality. In addition, my role allows active participation in designing study research protocols, training and certifying clinical staff, and managing requests from the Coordinating Center and active field centers in this clinical trial.

What is the most important skill you learned in the UVM Public Health program?

I appreciated the emphasis placed on the proper dissemination of data and public health information. This included, but was not limited to, the effective use of short reports, blogs, discussion boards, and journal reports to communicate information. The correct dissemination of health information and findings is a skill that is integral to public health and research, and this was constantly reinforced throughout the program.

Why would you recommend the program to others?

The program has many positive attributes. It is a flexible yet robust program that allows students to work full time while pursuing graduate school online. The program also has many well-trained, resourceful, and very personable instructors who offer great guidance to students. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who has the desire to become formally trained in public health.

What are some of the common threads between chemistry and public health?

The fields of chemistry and public health both play a role in helping people to live better lives. Chemistry, allows for the molecular design of tools and systems to facilitate this process. Public health encompasses conducting of research, the dissemination of findings, and ultimately policy implementation, in an effort to improve population health.

Why are you passionate about your work?

My work combines health, science, and clinical research, and I trust that it will provide a wealth of information and resources for future research and policies to improve population health. I know that every skill that I learn, and every task that I do, plays an integral role in improving the health of the United States, and by extension global public health. This is something that I remain passionate about, and do not take for granted
February 20, 2020

Will Medical Cannabis Break the Painkiller Epidemic?


The U.S. is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Prescription opioid overdoses killed more than 165,000 Americans between 1999 and 2014, and the health and social costs of abusing such drugs are estimated to be as much as $55 billion a year.
An article in Scientific American points out that the opioid problem has led experts to search for a less dangerous alternative for pain relief—and some research is pointing to medical marijuana.
Over the past 15 years, physicians started hearing that patients were using cannabis instead of prescription opioids to manage pain.
Researchers examined whether some states’ legalization of medical cannabis had affected the number of opioid overdose deaths. A study published in 2014 noted that between 1999 and 2010, states that permitted medical marijuana had an average of almost 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths each year than states where cannabis remained illegal.
Medical cannabis is unlikely to prove a replacement for opioids in all medical situations. For example, prescribing opioids is relatively uncontroversial in end-of-life care and in treatment of acute pain from cancer, major surgery or broken bones. But for pain not caused by cancer, medical cannabis may prove a better candidate in the long run.
On June 8, Ohio joined 24 other states (including Vermont) and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical cannabis. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considered two state governors’ petitions to reconsider marijuana’s Schedule I status, but ultimately denied the petitions in August. However, the agency announced a policy change that could encourage U.S. research by boosting the number of authorized marijuana manufacturers
February 19, 2020

Making the Leap from Working Professional to Pre-Med Student


If this is what “brave” is, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Being “brave” means feeling scared. However, it’s what many people have called me over the past several months as I’ve shared my ambitious (crazy?) plan to transform from a communications professional into a medical doctor.

Why I’m Planning on Going to Med School

No longer satisfied with living vicariously through the lives of my clinical friends and coworkers, who I have had the privilege to work alongside at the UVM Medical Center for the past eight years, I finally gathered up my courage and applied to UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program (nope, they don’t let English majors just walk into medical school). For the next two-ish years, I’ll take all those science courses I dodged the first time around in college—trying to maintain a stellar GPA while juggling my husband and kids and multiple jobs.
I also need to gain valuable patient care experience, and feel very fortunate to have landed a position in non-invasive cardiology as a cardiology technician. I’ve learned to perform 12-lead ECGs (though I sometimes get tangled in the leads) and have been trained to assist with stress tests (think treadmill tests).

Feeling Right at Home

It has been so gratifying to care for patients for the first time in my life. Frankly, I’m humbled every time I walk into an inpatient room and enter the lives of people at their most vulnerable. I’ve been stunned by the kindness and patience of many patients, who are often in pain, as they tolerate me learning the ropes.
I’ve also come to appreciate the warmth and candor of all the employees I’m meeting for the first time—RNs, technicians, LNAs, respiratory therapists, unit secretaries, schedulers, and so many more. This hospital is supported by a cadre of wonderful, talented people that I am pleased to call my colleagues.
If the next step—physics, chemistry, biology is as gratifying as this one has been, I can’t wait to get started.
-Kim O’Leary lives in Essex and is a student in the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.
February 19, 2020

How to Network and Sell in a Social Setting


Photo: Flickr
By Dawn McGinnis
What is it about person-to-person networking that can be so infuriating?  Everything I read says that mingling at business-related events will lead to more business opportunities.
Unfortunately, many of these events are filled with salespeople just like me.  The ritual seldom varies: when I tell them about my company they say “give me your business card and I’ll pass it along to the right person.”  Raise your hand if you have heard this, too, and have dutifully given your card.  Is your experience like mine? When I follow up with the right person they have no idea who I am or why I am contacting them, which can be an embarrassing way to begin with a prospective client.
When I am looking to grow my business I go where the decision-makers are.

Changing the Approach on How to Network

I had almost totally given up on networking when I decided to try a different tack.  Instead of going to events that I knew would be filled with other salespeople (I’m looking at you Chamber of Commerce, Anytown, USA), I now focus on opportunities to get in front of the ultimate decision makers: C-level managers and business owners.  Instead of rolling in when the room is nearly full, I am now often one of the first people there.  This gives me a chance to look at name tags (if they are laid out) so I can see who will be attending, and, as those people arrive I will be ready to engage.
I don’t eat or drink when I am working because I think it is sloppy to ask for an executive’s consideration holding a plate of food or offering a hand that’s greasy from eating chicken wings.

Making an Impression with Decision-Makers

When I have their attention, I introduce myself and ask them something specific to their industry, why they are at the event, or make other conversation in a business vein.  From my telephone calls with people with “C” in their title, I know that they don’t want to talk about how they are today and what they think about this hot/rainy/cold (fill-in-the blank) weather.
Once I feel that they are focused on me, I give a very short description of what our company does.  I don’t use sales phrases like “we have a proven track record of success in your industry” or “our clients rave about how much money we save them.”  I simply describe what we do and then ask if I can call them to talk further.  Usually they are surprised by this direct approach and often say yes or, at the very least, give me the name of another person to call.  I don’t ask probing questions or try to qualify them.  Because I have done my homework ahead of time I have already decided that their business is a potential fit.
If I call someone they referred to me I introduce myself by saying “I saw George at the business event earlier this week and he said that you are the person I need to call.”  If you doubt the potential of this approach I’d like to boast for a moment:  my company has a great contract with a company that started with me walking up to the owner at a business holiday party.
In the beginning I was terrified to approach business executives and pose this direct question.  What I have found is that they appreciate how I am mindful of their time and don’t talk their ear off.  If they agree to take my call I send a followup email the next day suggesting times in the next two weeks.  Sometimes they use this as an opportunity to disengage from the process, and that’s OK because the next time I see them I will ask if the timing is better for a conversation.  Surprisingly, I am able to schedule a call with them more often than not.
Now that you know my secrets you must be curious about where to engage with decision-makers.  Business journals around the country sponsor events throughout the year that are perfect for this approach. Best Places to Work, 40 under 40 and Business Growth Awards are some examples.  Also, look for local awards events based around a person or concept.  For example, in Vermont, our Businesses for Social Responsibility (a great organization that focuses on people, planet, and profit) gives an annual award to the person who exemplifies a strong commitment to the environment and workplace.  Look around your community for events that typically attract business owners and managers, and prepare for short, meaningful conversations.
I will always enjoy attending a variety of networking events because I love a party.  But when I am looking to grow my business, I go where the decision-makers are
February 18, 2020

How the Vermont Craft Beer Industry is Finding Success in a Crowded Market


By Emma Marc-Aurele
The craft beer industry has contributed over $271 million to the Vermont economy while the industry has added a total $55 billion to the United States’ economy. The craft beer business is growing exponentially each year. According to the Brewers Association, 1.5 breweries open every day throughout the United States. In 2011, there were 2,033 breweries open in the US and that number more than doubled by 2015 when the Brewers Association recorded 4,269 as the running total.
That same trend has occurred in Vermont: in 2011 the state had 22 established breweries and by 2015 that number doubled to 44. With 9.4 breweries per capita, Vermont is ranked first for number of breweries based on population and is recognized as a leader in this booming industry.
In 2015, Vermont produced 261,654 barrels of craft beer, ranking 20thin the US, according to the Brewers Association.
“There are no signs of a let up in demand for high flavored craft products driven by millennials who favor craft products,” said Greg Dunkling, program director of the University of Vermont’s Business of Craft Beer Program.

A Pioneer of Craft Beer

Dunkling seems to think that Vermont’s top spot in the craft beer industry can be attributed to Greg Noonan, the founder of Vermont Pub and Brewery in Burlington and author of the famous “Brewing Lager Beer” guide. Noonan’s guide to brewing was written in 1984 and became the go-to-guide for small-scale home brewers and even some larger scale professionals.
A number of today’s brewmasters in some of the most famous breweries in Vermont (Lawson’s Finest Liquids, The Alchemist Brewery and Hill Farmstead Brewery) worked under the mentorship of this great beer pioneer. These successful breweries are consistently ranked at the top of the charts by beer consumers as well as in regional and national beer awards.
In 2015, RateBeer.com announced Hill Farmstead Brewery as the number one brewery in the world. The Alchemist was also recognized by RateBeer.com in 2015, when they earned third and fourth place spots on the list of top beers in the world. Focal Banger took the third place spot while Heady Topper landed right behind its fellow brew in fourth.
Long lines in local retailers stocked with patient consumers in search of their products are a testament to not just cold suds but exceptional beer. With the help from Greg Noonan, these three breweries have helped Vermont become a leading contributor to the growing and global craft beer industry.
The state of Vermont’s regulatory support has also contributed to the rise of Vermont’s craft beer industry. Before Noonan, Vermont’s law stated that establishments could not sell alcohol in the same place it was produced. With the realization for potential in their fellow brewing community members, the Legislature changed the law to help create a craft-beer community at its finest.
High quality beer and a simple business strategy seem to be the main goal when talking to brewers. In terms of what it takes to become a successful brewery in Vermont, the CEO of 14th Star Brewery, Andrea Gagner, further emphasizes Miller’s point to make high quality products, while also having the flexibility to adapt to the changing palates of these hop-driven consumers.
Gagner says that 14th Star Brewery aims to “grow slowly and organically” and become “good corporate citizens” which seems to be the trend of most breweries in the area. This business of high quality brewing encourages breweries to grow slowly and focus on the integrity of their product, which in turn allows community involvement and the use of local ingredients.
Bill Mares, a knowledgeable craftsman of craft beer and co-author of the book “Making Beer,” is another leader in the industry.
He and business partner Todd Hair, who has worked in well-known breweries like Magic Hat and Switchback, recently opened up The House of Fermentology on Pine Street in Burlington Vermont.
They are unique in that they are a “blendery” and are producing a line of sour beers. Although their product may be distinct from the others, it seems even they have this same idea of focusing on the quality of the drink.
The obvious problem with this “staying-small” craft business strategy is ensuring that these companies can brew good beer consistently in order to keep customers happy and coming back for more.
Mares said, “We have to brew really good beers all the time. We can’t afford one bad batch.”
For a company that does not rely on volume, the small amount of beer that these partners invest their time in need to be at the same level or better than their local brewing competitors. These breweries seem to be under this same pressure to be consistent in the high quality of their batches.
Thankfully for them, over the years there have been some advancements in brewing technology that make the process a bit easier. Mobile canners have been helpful to smaller brewers in getting the product to markets outside the local community.
They allow these small businesses to package their products so they can be placed in retail establishments statewide, and across the country. Without these canners, they have to depend on only draft distribution and are at the whim of restaurant and bar owners.
Founder of Otter Creek Brewing (and current Shumlin Administration official), Lawrence Miller, is quoted in the book “Making Beer.” He puts it, “The state adapted to what we needed without blowing open the door to create an unstable market. There was a good camaraderie among all brewers, professionals, and amateurs. The home brewers were the educated consumers who could then educate the public to be more appreciative of good beer. The brewers benefited from these open-mouthed people willing to come back and say what they thought. If you were a brewer and open-minded you could adjust. Some who could not adjust, are not around anymore.”
Now with this new technology, consumers can see and become familiar with the product in stores and are able to purchase it more conveniently.

Beer Business and Strategy

So with all these new brewing inventions and flavors, where is this trending industry headed?
UVM’s Dunkling said: “As beer styles become more experimental and breweries push the envelope expanding the traditional definition of a beer style, consumers transition from other alcoholic beverages into this sector. There’s simply too much flavor to ignore.”
Dunkling and his fellow staff members provide industry specific knowledge that people require to either gain employment in the industry or to undertake their dream of someday launching their own brewery. In 2014, overall beer sales were only up 0.5 percent, while craft beer sales increased by 17.6 percent.
Along with this increase in specific craft sales and Vermont’s leading standings in number of breweries per capita, Dunkling’s UVM program seems like the perfect way to take advantage of Vermont’s brewing success and help continue the growth of the industry.
UVM’s program includes both business strategies as well as some of the fundamentals of brewing craft beer. Overall, though, this growth in the craft beer industry seems to be larger than just beer. Many industry analysts relate the craft brewing sector to the broader locavore food movement and the desire of consumers for “local, high-end artisanal products,” Dunkling said. This want for beer brewed in a consumer’s backyard is more than beer and emphasizes local, local, local.
Paul Sayler, co-owner of Zero Gravity Brewing, is quoted in “Making Beer” saying, “At its most basic, beer is a cottage industry. And Vermont is a state where cottage industries spring up. It’s Yankee craft and ingenuity at work. Add to that Vermont’s strong culture of local foods and small scale.”
Some may wonder if this explosion of craft beer in Vermont is simply just a fad and eventually some may see the state as an oversaturation of craft breweries, but most think that the demand for a quality beverage will never go away.
Darby Kitchel, manager of Switchback Brewery feels that the massive amount of breweries stands out as a tool for inspiration to brew better beer.
Kitchel said, “It creates a sense of competitive spirit, which makes for good drive to make better beer and, in the end, run a better business.”
Emma Marc-Aurele is a freelance writer from Burlington. This story first appeared in the July issue of Vermont Business Magazine