Reading Roundup for 31 January 2024

A waning gibbous moon hovers over the nighttime horizon, flanked by snow and ice-covered mountains in Antarctica.

While performing the closing phase of my Master’s of Community Development capstone project, researching and applying for jobs, and getting back into the natural swing of household duties, I’ve decided to accept that I need to adjust my expectations regarding the frequency of posts I make for this professional blog. Radical Acceptance is one of the Dialectical Behavioural Therapy skills I have had the most difficult time with in the past; however, in accepting that it is alright not to live up to the high expectations I have for myself, I think that it will lead to a better work-life balance and a more settled experience as a new community development professional.

To that end, in this now-monthly column for this blog, I have decided to review all the “reading recommendations” I’ve posted to my Mastodon account on a near-daily basis and pick out the three to five articles which I think have made the most impact on me in the previous month. They will be presented in no particular chronological order, but they will be arranged into themes, almost like I’m writing my own episode of This American Life.

Solidifying Career Ambitions

As I began my job searching in earnest, I also began using LinkedIn more extensively—not just to see how things have been going for my friends in their various industries, but also to keep in touch with the alumni associations for both the University of Victoria and California State University Fullerton. (Yes, I’m aware of the inequity issue with LinkedIn. I have a piece on that that needs additional time in the oven.) One of the topics I wrote about in my statement of intent for my master’s program was that I hope to one day help marginalized children find their place in the world. I was surprised, then, to learn that a program which began during my undergraduate years at CSUF is very much like one I would like to found and/or for which I’d like to be a director in Canada.

Written by Taylor Arrey, this item from the university’s news feed is about the 25th year anniversary for the Guardian Scholars Program which helps former foster children successfully navigate a post-secondary education, including the provision of financial and social-emotional supports. Initially begun at CSUF in 1998, according to Arrey the program is in place at all 23 of the California State University campuses; I have to know if similar programs exist in Canada and how I can start to work for or with them. On a personal level, I’m impressed by Arrey’s writing style for this and this opinion piece she wrote for The Daily Titan in 2021 about the fact that students who pursue liberal arts Bachelor’s degrees over STEM degrees are not doomed to a life of financial instability and are not worthy of shame or scorn. No wonder she ended up becoming the Editor-in-Chief near the end of her time in undergrad and then had a paper published in a SAGE journal.

A Tale of Two Provinces’ Search for Qualified Doctors

In Canada, each province has its own healthcare system which is responsible for the management, organization, and administration of services. How two provinces have responded to the lack of qualified family doctors or surgeons is the theme for these next reading recommendations.

On the side of the provincial border where I live, I was pleased to read this article in The Times Colonist by Cindy E. Harnett on how a collaboration between politicians, clinicians, members of the local business community, and volunteers in the Comox Valley region in British Columbia helped reduce the number of people who do not have a family doctor from 19% to 3%. Harnett notes that the success of the recruitment of new family doctors to the region can be attributed to not just a dedicated social media campaign which highlighted the benefits of living and practicing in Comox Valley to prospective practitioners but the new payment model which was introduced in 2023. Called the Longitudinal Family Physician Payment Model, it seeks to respond to findings indicating that family physicians would like to spend more time with their patients and more flexibility in how each physician chooses to run their practice. I was very pleased to read this article because it is an excellent real-world example of the community development principle of how extensive stakeholder consultation can result in the creation of innovative and effective tactics and strategies which will lead to the successful implementation of public policy.

Hopping over the border to the east, however, reveals a different story that speaks to how alleged favouritism and cronyism by a senior Alberta Health Services administrator led to a rhinologist studying for a PhD at the University of Alberta to uproot his half-American/half-Canadian family and move them to Nebraska after he was denied a fellowship. Reported on by Charles Rusnell for The Tyee, a whistleblower complaint (PDF) from five doctors (including the American rhinologist) details and the recent article summarizing the situation describes some rather serious allegations against the administrator who took control of the U of A search committee and did not disclose that the candidate he preferred was one with whom he had financial ties, among other tactics. This whole story boggles me because I (perhaps naïvely) hope that any person who is in a public administration office would recuse themselves from any search or hiring committees where their presence would raise even the spectre of creating insurmountable conflicts of interest.

American Politicians and Their Ongoing Lack of Integrity

My interest in the last story highlighted in this column began when I read this article from Native News Online which is written by Levi Rickert (who is also the publisher and editor in chief) about the objection by Navajo Nation president Buu Nygren to NASA allowing commercial enterprises to use the space agency’s resources to launch a flight that would result in cremated human remains (or at least a portion of them) inhabiting the moon forever. The rebuttal by the CEO and chairman of one of the businesses which sponsored the flight was included in an article by Marcia Smith in Space Policy Online, noting that there had been a period of public comment where the Nation could have registered their objection at any time. While that may be true and while the lunar landing did not take place due to a propellant malfunction, that’s not the part of the story that angers me the most.

I am most infuriated by the fact that back in 1988 a former Navajo Nation president protested a similar space flight that actually resulted in a lander purposefully crashing into the moon in July 1999, thereby scattering the ashes of a United States planetary scientist onto its surface. Back then, the agency had promised to consult with Navajo Nation and other tribes before certifying any payload requests; judging from the contents of Nygren’s letter, Navajo Nation was not even made aware by NASA that such a payload request for a commercial flight was being considered. The act of comprehensive consultation with First Nations leadership is a pretty crucial one because if the United States even wants to catch up to Canada when it comes to its human rights record around Indigenous folks, they need to have the integrity to stick to the consultation promises made by previous administrations.

Waning gibbous moon at Port Lockroy, Antarctica” by Liam Quinn is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.