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University events and lectures Preview/Review (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)

A preview and review of some U events and lectures occurring Nov. 11–Dec. 3

Compiled by Adam Overland

November 10, 2010


The average American—and I admittedly lead the charge of the average—doesn't understand our health care system or the reform legislation, but those who attended the School of Public Health's (SPH) roundtable (many already knowledgeable practicing or soon-to-be practicing health care professionals) walked away healthier of the mind at the least.

More than meets the eye
I cynically noted that the state of Coffman Union Theater half-empty meant that people are likely more interested in Transformers the movie than transforming health care. But the truth is, it's all very complicated, especially from the outside looking in. So as someone whose only connection to the industry is a mother who is a nurse, it was nice to hear a point of agreement among a distinguished panel of private, public, and academic leaders (including professors Lynn Blewett and Daniel Zismer)—that the system needs to change, and it will, one way or another. That's the uncomplicated fact.

The roundtable kicked off with a keynote lecture delivered by George Halvorson: "Health Reform: Where Do We Go From Here?"

Halvorson is currently chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest nonprofit health plan and hospital system.

One thing that needs to change, said Halvorson, is process. He noted that 1.7 million people get sick each year—or sicker—as a result of hospital-associated infections. It's a startling point to make—you go to a hospital for care, only to get some new illness you didn't have before treatment. The outcome of this irony is billions of dollars in treatment and tens of thousands of deaths each year.

Some other startling statements from Halvorson:

   • People diagnosed in the late stages of cancer who go on to receive standard treatment (chemo, radiation) live 29 days less than people who simply enter hospice.

   • We treat diabetes correctly only 8 percent of the time.

   • We treat asthma correctly only about half the time—and we don't know which half we've treated correctly.

   • If people walked 30 minutes (or two times for 15 minutes), four days per week, diabetes would be cut by 40 percent—and by 60 percent if a person also lost 10 lbs. The Medicare system, which is on course for insolvency in less than 10 years, could be saved by this action alone.

Finding balance
Associate SPH professor Daniel Zismer echoed that last thought in the panel discussion following the lecture, saying that health care is geared not toward keeping people healthy, but to help them once they're sick.

It sounds to me a little like ignoring the sound of lose lug nuts and an out-of-balance tire until the tire falls off and is chasing you down the highway. The question, says Zismer, is "will the patient do their part?"

Halvorson said the health care system will be moving toward team care (with, say, a nutritionist sitting alongside a cardiologist), preventative measures, patient focus, and a uniform (and universal) medical database for tracking treatment and outcomes (so we can treat asthma correctly and know when we do it right). As for the legislation itself, professor Blewett said it will likely go up for a "repeal all" vote in the House. The repeal won't pass the Senate, but it will stir up emotions.

I've watched the push and pull in the news media and the political sphere for more than a year now without developing much of an understanding of the problems and the proposed solutions. Away from the rhetoric, it was nice to hear that the disagreement isn't so profound as I've been led to believe, at least when it comes to the fundamental: It's broke. Fix it.

SPH holds several roundtable events per year. Archives of past events are online at SPH Roundtable.


If you're interested in learning more, Halvorson has written several health care reform books, including the recently released Health Care Will Not Reform Itself: A User’s Guide to Refocusing and Reforming American Health Care. He also wrote Health Care Reform Now!

The College of Continuing Education also has a class called Will Health Care Reform Work? An International Perspective, coming up on Nov. 15.

--Review by Adam Overland


Rapson drawing 165The Importance of Drawing: Ralph Rapson’s Legacy, opening reception. Nov. 11, all day, HGA Gallery and ALA Library, Rapson Hall. Free. Runs through Jan. 9. The influence of Ralph Rapson on architecture is profound. One of his most admired skills—besides designing outstanding, humanistic architecture—was his exceptional ability to draw. This exhibition features examples of Rapson’s work in addition to that of many of his Minnesota colleagues and students. His style is characterized by the strong use of line to define three-dimensional form; absolute mastery of the use of shade and shadow to define these forms and give them materiality; and buildings and landscapes populated by believable characters of all shapes and sizes, ages, genders, and nationalities. 

Author event: Marina Nemat, memoirist, Prisoner of Tehran. Nov. 11, 7:30–9 p.m., Northrop Auditorium. Free. Nemat’s memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, recounts her experiences as a teen who was imprisoned and tortured after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Nemat was incarcerated in Evin, the notorious prison where two young Americans arrested while hiking in northern Iran have been held for more than a year. In her new book After Tehran, Nemat writes of gaining asylum in Canada and the courage to tell her story. 

Will Health Care Reform Work? An International Perspective. Nov. 15 and 22, 6:30–8:30 p.m., St. Paul, Continuing Education and Conference Center. Cost: $75. This short course offered by the College of Continuing Education's LearningLife program asks the question that's on everyone's mind. There's only one way to find out if the course answers that question. But it does pose some interesting facts up front. For example, the United States’ closest peers in the world are the other G7 countries (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan). On average, they spend less than half as much per person on health care as we do, yet, their citizens live longer, and fewer of their babies die during the first year of life. What do their health care systems have that the United States does not? The two classes will examine the important differences between the U.S. health care system and those of other countries that are most like us.

John Nyman, a health economist and professor in the U's Division of Health Policy and Management, SPH, instructs. 

"The International Climate Change Negotiations: The Road from Copenhagen." Nov. 17, 11:30 a.m., Mississippi Room, Coffman Union. Free. It seems like climate change is likely to happen before any agreed-upon climate change legislation is put into place. Renowned environmental law professor Daniel Bodansky will speak about such negotiations in this second of two lectures in the 2010-11 Lecture Series on Law, Health & the Life Sciences. He'll discuss the outcomes of last year's Copenhagen climate change conference, the prospects for the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun this December, and the chances for a new legal agreement on climate change, either to supplement or replace the Kyoto Protocol. 

Exhibit opening reception: Painting Zombies: Permanence/Impermanence. Nov. 19, 6–8:30 p.m., Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Regis Center for Art. Runs through Dec. 15. Nothing says impermanence like death, but a grim sort of hope for permanence lives on in the chance that any of us could, at any given moment, become zombies. Or at least that's what media has lately led me to believe. Of course, as everyone knows, even that less than desirable state could be cut short with a well-placed blow to the head. In any case, the exhibit Painting Zombies may have you contemplating how current social and political environments affect the process of art making, what role art plays in times of uncertainty, and how art theory and practice help negotiate and formulate mediated information—at least, these are the questions the curators posed to the artists. The exhibition’s title is a satirical nod to the notion of resurrecting a supposedly dead artistic form. The exhibit showcases the contemporary relevance of living painters, featuring 19 artists whose works exemplify and stretch the bounds of 21st-century painting practice. 

The Role of U.S. Forests in Carbon Markets and Energy Policy. Nov. 15, 3–4 p.m., 110 Green Hall, St. Paul. Free. U.S. forests provide numerous benefits to the American public, including places to recreate, vital ecosystem services, and fiber for an assortment of products used daily. They are also important for sequestering carbon, supplying fiber for renewable energy generation, and providing raw materials for solid wood products that provide long-term carbon storage. An important focus of the debate over how to manage our forests currently centers on how best to achieve national energy goals, including the reduction of greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon. A panel of heavyweights representing government, industry, and conservation will discuss the role of U.S. forests in national energy policy. 

Frontiers in the Environment: "Lester Brown Was Half Right: What We Can Learn from China’s Food System," featuring Jim Harkness, president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Nov. 17, noon–1 p.m., IonE Seminar Room R380, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus or via UMConnect. China faces the challenge of feeding 22 percent of the world’s population on 9 percent of its arable land. What does this really mean for China’s farmers, the environment, and the world? And what can we learn from China’s experience as we grapple with challenges of development, environment, and hunger? Harkness, who lived and worked in China for 16 years before joining the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, examines the challenges of feeding China and explains why, despite two decades of dire warnings, China’s growing appetite has not brought famine to the rest of the world…yet. 

Debut recital of award-winning clarinetist and faculty member Alexander Fiterstein with School of Music faculty Timothy Lovelace, piano. Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m., Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall, Ferguson Hall. Free. Winner of a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant Award, Fiterstein has been praised by the New York Times for possessing a "beautiful liquid clarity." So when he plays for free, you should go see him. The program will include works by Brahms, Debussy, and Weinberg. Fiterstein is recognized for flawless technique and consummate musicianship combined with graceful phrasing and a warm, soulful tone. Considered one of today’s most exceptional clarinet players, he has performed in recitals and with prestigious orchestras and chamber music ensembles throughout the world. 

"Washed Away? The Invisible Peoples of Louisiana’s Wetlands and the Deepwater Horizon Tragedy," with Don Davis. Dec. 1, 4–5:30 p.m., 125 Nolte Center. Free. From the earliest historical times, Louisiana’s marshes have appealed to a broad cross-section of ethnic groups. The coastal lowlands are a landscape in which humans seem tiny and inconsequential. Even so, the diverse assemblage of peoples that moved onto near sea-level marsh sites made a good living off the land.

Most of the marsh dwellers’ settlements were temporary, since they could be washed away in the blink of an eye. In many instances, they were indeed lost just that quickly to unannounced hurricanes that destroyed them completely. In the process, these hamlets vanished from the historical record, for the marshlands gave no quarter. It was a place that humankind avoided, the government considered worthless, and many proclaimed the land unfit for human habitation.

Don Davis is director emeritus of oral history in the Sea Grant College Program at Louisiana State University, and is former administrator for the Louisiana Applied and Educational Oil Spill Research and Development Program. Davis has been involved in Louisiana coastal-related research for more than 40 years. He is currently administering a Louisiana Sea Grant project to develop an extensive oral history of the Louisiana Wetlands. 

Common 160A Night of Hip-Hop: Featuring a Lecture by Common. Dec. 3, 8 p.m., Great Hall, Coffman Union. Tickets are available online or in person at the Coffman Union and St. Paul Student Center Info Desks. Common, known as "The King of Conscious Hip-Hop," is a Grammy Award-winning rapper and actor who advocates for the power of following your passions. The son of a teacher, Common found refuge in the educational system as a child. His many professional and personal successes are the result of a solid foundation gained while in school and at home with his mother. To give back, Common started the Common Ground Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes educational programs. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. 

Find more Twin Cities events using the U's events calendar.

University events and lectures preview/review is a periodic column (about every two weeks) highlighting events and lectures recently past and soon-to-come on the UMTC campus. Faculty and staff are invited to contribute. Review submissions should be no more than 500 words, previews 200 or fewer. Both are subject to review by the Brief editor.