Monday, July 28, 2014

Finding Purpose in Life

Nichole is a student at San Jose City College. She is also on-call in the OBGYN department at a Kaiser hospital. She hopes to transfer to UCLA in the Fall of 2014 to major as a family nurse practitioner.

All the classes she has been taking at City College have helped her in specific ways. “My psychology courses have enabled me to better understand the mind, rather just putting a label on someone with a problem. My math courses have broadened my knowledge and have allowed me to feel more confident with my calculations with medications. But more than the classes, it is the discipline of time management I have acquired as a student that has helped me the most. Students often complain that they don’t have time to do anything extra, like volunteering at a hospital, but developing a routine can help you do that. This is what has helped me continue with my studies and still find time to volunteer.”

But Nichole has gone further than volunteering at a local hospital. Between semesters at City College, she has been traveling to Peru as a medical volunteer. Currently she is part of two organizations – “International Volunteer Headquarters” and “Go Abroad.” She works in clinics and small hospitals, focused mostly on low-income families. Compared to hospitals in America, hospitals in Peru are run-down and their level of infection control is very poor. “I have been able to demonstrate to hospital staff better ways of controlling infection. I have also participated in an outreach program to provide healthcare to poor pregnant women. They face tremendous challenges, so offering them emotional support has also been a significant part of what I do.”

Nichole first began volunteering in Peru in December of 2013. She travels to Peru every 2-3 months and spends about 3-5 weeks at a time there. (She leaves for Peru at the end of the month after completing a summer statistics class at City College.) She uses her volunteer time to hone her expertise and prepare for state exams, while helping those who most desperately need medical help.

Peru is a poor country. 75% of the population would be labeled low-income or poor by U.S. standards. She mainly volunteers her time around Lima. Nichole is fluent in Spanish. In one of her first encounters, she worked with a pregnant woman who had been abused. At the time of her admittance, the clinic was very busy and she had to wait for an hour. “Just by listening to her, I was able to bring a smile to her face. I will never forget that. Being the medical field, we rush so much we fail to see the humanity of patients. Volunteering in Peru has definitely helped me see patients as people, not as checkmarks. Another experience I will never forget was waiting with a 4-year-old girl while her mother was delivering a boy. In the time I waited with this little girl, I was able to teach her to count from 1-10 and write her name!”

“But overall, the most life-changing experience for me has been in assisting children with cancer. These children would come to the clinic about 3 to 5 times a week to receive their treatments. You wouldn’t know by looking at them that they were facing death. They were filled with such joy at the most simple pleasures of life! If children so young could have such positive attitudes in what was often end-stage diagnoses, how could I, or for that matter, anyone, complain about the trivial stuffs of life? I learned perspective from these children that I would never have learned had I stayed in my own comfortable cocoon!”

As to why she does what she does in Peru, Nichole says a better question would be “why not?” “Like many 22-year-old college students, I rarely used to think about how our experiences shape us. We are busy with fun and friends and thinking beyond the following week is not a priority. So when I volunteered my time in Peru, I couldn’t imagine how the experience would shape my life. I would not be the person I am today had I not traveled to Peru to help poor women and kids with my medical know-how that I acquired here in California. I have learned how to be childlike by witnessing the resilience of street children in Lima. I have seen the joy and gratitude of people who have nothing in life. Being in Peru has made me realize how much impact I can have just by giving a few minutes of my time. I have become a better listener. I have found time for soul-searching. I have learned that when you truly give of yourself, you get infinitely more in return.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Improbable Events, Statistics and World Cup 2014

Brazil will be hard-pressed to defeat Germany without Neymar, its star striker, in the World Cup semi-finals on June 8.

Improbable, however, doesn’t mean impossible. With Neymar, Brazil’s chances of winning was good. In his absence, the probability of winning has dipped significantly but it hasn’t become zero either.

Brazil will be looking for inspiration to 1962 when the World Cup was held in Chile. The team had lost its wunderkind, a brash young player named Pele, who had torn a thigh muscle midway through the first half of the Brazil's second game in Chile, a 0-0 draw with the Czechs. His replacement, a 22-year-old player named Amarildo, scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Spain in their next match and another in the final against Czechoslovakia that Brazil won 3-1.
Dribbling genius Garrincha was another who took up the slack, scoring four goals in the next three games as Brazil beat England, Chile and Czechoslovakia again to win their second World Cup in a row.

The question is: Is there anyone in the current Brazilian squad who can take up the roles of Amarildo and Garrincha?

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has hinted in training that midfielder Willian is his choice to replace Neymar against Germany. Other options include Ramires, Bernard and Hernanes. Brazil’s woes are compounded by the fact that captain Thiago Silva, the team’s defensive leader, collected his second yellow card against Colombia and will be forced to sit out the game against Germany.

Sentimental favorite Brazil should win against the machine-like and relentless Germans. If the claim is made that Brazil will win even in Neymar’s absence, the null hypothesis says, no, Brazil will lose. The alternative hypothesis, of course, is what the claim says: Brazil will win.

So here’s hoping that the Null will be rejected. Let’s hope p-value is less than 0.05 or even 0.01.

None of the players expected to take up the slack in Neymar’s absence – Willian, Ramires, Bernard or Hermanes – are anywhere close to the wizardry of Amarildo or Garrincha.
But Brazil is hosting the World Cup. It should come down to a question of mind over matter, or flair and finesse over physicality and stamina.

Let justice prevail: Brazil over Germany!

As for Argentina against Holland, this is a chance for Lionel to cement his legacy. If Messi can deliver and help Argentina win over Robben and company, he will be compared favorably with Maradona even in Argentina. The Dutch are relentless like the Germans but they also given to frequent dives and theatrics. Justice again please: Argentina over Holland!

Brazil against Argentina in the finals, now that's a match for the centuries!