UCSB Teaches Thriving During Chaos

UCSB Teaches Thriving During Chaos, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

UCSB Teaches Thriving During Chaos, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

The pandemic has been stressful for all of us, but the abrupt shift to online learning —coupled with social isolation, political unrest, and the loss of just about everything that makes college fun— has been particularly difficult for students.

Last spring, Smaranda Lawrie, a graduate student in UCSB’s Department of Psychological
& Brain Sciences, saw how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted her students’ lives. “My students were really struggling,” she said. “I was teaching a lab course online, and there were a lot of hard conversations with them. There were tears and lots of emotions, so I started incorporating positive psychology practices into the class.”

Using techniques designed to “help individuals be stronger versions of themselves,” Lawrie observed such positive results with her students that they were thirsty for more.

Working with undergrads, particularly Samantha Blodgett, “We thought, ‘Let’s just start a series of talks and see what happens,’” said Lawrie. The speakers they approached were enthusiastic, and students even more so. “We were hoping for 20 students, and we ended up cutting it off at close to 1,000 because we didn’t know how to manage everyone.”

Now, four sessions into the UCSB Resilience Summit and Certificate Program, “I’ve just been surprised about these discussions that students are having during the actual lectures,” said Lawrie, who taught the first course, called Positive Psychology and the
Science of Thriving, before opening up to other lecturers on such topics as mindful
attention training, conditioning for resilience, and overcoming imposter syndrome.

“They are very vulnerable and very open, and it seems like they are really relating to the material and appreciating the information and appreciating the speakers,” added Lawrie, who is trying to make the summit live on. “It’s the pilot year, so we’ll see how it goes. I would love to get this info to as many people as possible.”

Upcoming seminars will discuss finding your inner hero, monitoring mental wellness in students, finding silver linings in negative events, supporting “at-promise” students, post-traumatic growth, and more. See ucsbresilience.wixsite.com/resiliencesummit.

Santa Barbara Independent Cover, Self-Care, January 7, 2021.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on January 7, 2021. To see this story as it appeared in print, please click here.

Dancing With Myself

Dancing with Myself, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

Dancing with Myself, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

A combination of yoga, martial arts, and dance, Nia was introduced to me by my friend Meg Miller, who’s been an instructor at the Montecito YMCA for more than a decade. When the pandemic torpedoed indoor classes,
Miller started an online “Nia Together-Apart” group, sending videos for people to dance from home “with her” every Saturday at 11:15 a.m., her normal class time.

As Queen of the Procrastinators, I left the link in my inbox, red flagged and scolding me for a week before I finally decided to try Nia. I intended to do it at 11:15 a.m., but it was more like 5:15 p.m., when rolled-back clocks made it too dark for my regular walk.

“In Nia everything is based on 52 moves,” explained Miller. “In addition to what is generally known — that moving to music is
good for us — Nia uses findings from neuroscience to create a holistic experience
through dance. I know this sounds a little woo-woo, but plenty of people do Nia purely as a physical fitness experience.”

I cranked up the video in the privacy of my bedroom, figuring I’d come for the cardio and slip in some metaphysics if the spirit moved
me. The last time I danced was in the early COVID days: a TikTok challenge from my son and his girlfriend. After a bit, I started to let loose. Rather than following the leader,
the idea is to listen to your body and enjoy every movement. So I freestyled instead of doing the floor-play, which looked too much
like pushups for my taste.

Although Nia is meant to be danced communally, my freestyle was definitely more “free” in my bedroom than it would have been at the YMCA. Even Miller, who loves the community aspect of Nia, said, “I’ve found a lot more freedom and self-expression doing it without
an audience of any kind.”

My heart rate was definitely elevated, and my spirit did get a little lift. I’ll try Nia again, maybe even next Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

For more information, visit nianow.com.
Santa Barbara Independent Cover, Self-Care, January 7, 2021.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on January 7, 2021. To see this story as it appeared in print, please click here.

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

O’Connor Family and AHA! Engage Students on a Hope Ranch Annex Property

Organic farming utilizes the interconnectedness of nature, but an even more bountiful example of community connectedness has sprung to life on the Littlest Little Farm.

Tucked away in the Hope Ranch Annex neighborhood, this dynamic collaboration brings together teens from AHA! to work alongside two facilitators/farming educators to create, maintain, and grow a biodynamic farm. And it all takes place at the home of Laurel and Matt O’Connor, who host the farm in what is literally their backyard, working alongside the team to turn a little less than half an acre of “hard pan dirt” into an impressive urban farm.

Along with revitalizing the land, the Littlest Little Farm has also sparked something special in the teens. “At the beginning of the program, I’ll admit I was reluctant to join because I’m normally not someone who enjoys the outdoors,” said Owen Hubbell, a senior at San Marcos High. “But the amazing facilitators and environment allowed me to enjoy the outdoors more than I ever have before. I was able to learn about the value of nature and the value of taking care of it. Not only that, but I also learned the science of farming, which was very eye-opening to me, because I was never aware of the amount of work that goes
into farming. The feeling of watching something grow and develop, and to do it with a community of people I trust, is a gift I will never forget.”

The Littlest Little Farm, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, was indeed inspired by the documentary The Biggest Little Farm. Both Laurel (a clinical therapist) and her friend Jennifer Freed (the cofounder of AHA!’s nonprofit social-emotional education
program) were fans of the film.

“I was having my dream of wanting a farm, and she was trying to figure out how to bring a farming program to the teens,” said Laurel. “It happened really fast. Jennifer is a visionary; she’s amazing. That was in the summer a year ago, and (with support from the Manitou Foundation and other generous donors) we had kids with boots on the ground in early
November.”

Under the guidance of two AHA! alums — Julian Castillo, a clinical therapist, and Stevie
O’Connor, a facilitator (and Laurel and Matt’s daughter) — teens learn about soil nutrition, composting, row planting, amending soil, irrigation installation, worm composting, and noninvasive and chemical-free pest and weed management at the same they’re building social and emotional skills and self-awareness.

“I work with a lot of adolescent boys, and it’s definitely way better to meet outdoors and explore something than just sit there,” said Castillo. “The bigger picture that I like to tell them is that this is a little part of changing the world. The soil can actually sequester carbon. A lot of them have taken home not only plants and produce, but they’re starting
their own little home gardens. So we really think it’s a lot bigger deal, and I think they’re getting that it’s a much bigger thing than just putting stuff in the ground.”

“It’s exciting to see teens get excited about their impact on the planet,” said Stevie. “Also, we’ve harvested a ton in the last couple of months, so the teens are able to take some home and then we donate the extra produce to the Unity Shoppe. It’s great to be able to give that fresh produce back, because we want this to be appreciated.”

“Once we get more volume going, then we can expand to give to other nonprofits,” said Laurel. “So many people are always like, ‘Thank you so much for this,’ and I always feel like I’m the one who should be saying, ‘Thank you.’ I feel so lucky. It’s just a win-win situation. And especially given this time. Things are hard, and this is just such a positive
experience out here every time. It’s just a feel-good place for all of us. And we all come together in a safe way and get in touch with ourselves, with each other, with the soil, just all of it. It’s really amazing.”

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

Gym Handy

Originally published in the November 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

There’s no need to miss a workout since DreamQuest Fitness (dreamquestfitness.com) launched its mobile gym experience.

The brainchild of fitness trainers Jose and Tiffany Fernandez, the fold-out trailer housing all the necessary equipment in a hygienic workout space comes to exercisers’ homes and offices in the Conejo Valley, Moorpark, Simi Valley, and Calabasas.

“It wasn’t until the pandemic struck that we both realized the necessity for a mobile gym,” says Tiffany. “We believe there are a vast number of people, like us, who are fitness-minded and feel uncomfortable with our new normal.”

Book a fitness assessment, a one-one-one or group personal training package, or open workout sessions (from $12 per hour) for up to 12 participants (face coverings required) via the website.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

Apeel’s Santa Barbara Appeal

Apeel's Megan Opp, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Apeel’s Megan Opp, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

In a creation story fit for a feel-good film, the food-preservation company Apeel Sciences was founded by UCSB grad student James Rogers when he heard a radio story about global hunger while driving through California’s lush farmlands. He wondered how so many could be so hungry when there was much food around.

Upon learning that the culprit is spoilage, the materials science PhD candidate developed a product—made entirely from natural things in the food we already eat—that slowed down the rotting of various fruits and vegetables. Rogers won UCSB’s New Venture Competition, and the seeds of Apeel quickly began to sprout, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation due to the promise of fighting malnourishment around the world.

That was around 2012. Fast forward to today, and Apeel, which is headquartered in Goleta and employs nearly 200 “Apeelers,” is growing like crazy, developing products for dozens of produce categories and working with a range of partners, from small organic growers to the world’s largest food brands.

In late August, Apeel, which is currency valued at more than $1 billion, announced a partnership with the largest German retailer that will put Apeel-treated avocados and oranges in more than 11,000 EDEKA and Netto stores.

And they’re just getting started. I spoke with “Chief People Officer” Megan Opp about Apeel’s appeal.

WHY IS EVERYONE SO EXCITED ABOUT YOUR COMPANY? The technology and product are so innovative and world-changing. We are thankful for UCSB for providing a strong pipeline of incredible talent, which of course includes our founders. People have the opportunity to positively change how the world accesses and enjoys fresh produce. What’s exciting is that it all started in this beautiful community of S.B. and has grown very quickly into a global company.

Most of our R&D happens right here at headquarters, but innovations can come from any part of the world. You can be based in Santa Barbara but also have opportunities to travel and work in new places. This is one of the most globally mobile companies I’ve seen, where we’ll give these opportunities as a way of sharing our company values and culture in different locations and also as a way to grow in one’s career and skills and global mindset.

WHAT ARE SOME HIGH AND LOW POINTS OF BEING A BIG EMPLOYER HERE? We’re extremely fortunate to have great access to top tech talent who have chosen to study and live in the Santa Barbara area. We’ve also been able to attract talent from surrounding metro areas, including L.A. and the Bay Area. We always notice an uptick in applications from the East Coast and Midwest during winter months! Like any region for tech talent, Santa Barbara isn’t without its challenges. Santa Barbara’s cost of living and housing availability is one.

WHAT ARE SOME CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN SANTA BARBARA COMPARED TO OTHER TECH HUBS? Our employees are very philanthropic, connected with nature, and embrace all of the outdoor adventures and amenities this area has to offer.

DOES BEING A HUMANITARIAN-FOCUSED COMPANY LEAD TO A CERTAIN TYPE OF EMPLOYEE? We are a global company that hires talent based not only abilities but the aligned belief in our mission—enabling a world that works with nature; we use food to protect food—and wanting to be part of something that will change the world. We hire and reward people with strong alignment with our values, which include humility and teamwork. We support each other and want to see us all succeed so that Apeel produce will be available throughout the world.

HOW ARE YOU HANDLING HIRING DURING COVID? Food waste is a global crisis, and we are continuing to aggressively staff up to be able to tackle this issue head-on. Even through this challenging time of COVID, we’ve come up with creative ways to create a welcoming virtual environment for candidates and new hires. We always put people first and have created additional programs to support our working parents and caregivers and all of our employees during these challenging times.

We feel so fortunate to be based in the Santa Barbara area with so many benefits within our reach!    apeelsciences.com

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

 

Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20

 

Virtual Health Care: Right Here at Home

After the July 2020 acquisition of Goleta-based InTouch Health—for approximately $150 million in cash and 4.6 million shares of stock—Teladoc Health is well positioned in the global telehealth market and also a large employer here, with about 230 positions in Santa Barbara County. Joe DeVivo, Teladoc’s president of hospitals and health systems, discussed the technology, ever more important during COVID.

WHAT DOES TELADOC DO? The mission of Teladoc Health is to transform how people access and experience health-care around the world. With virtual care, we are enabling patients to access care on their terms—from general medical issues like cold and flu to chronic conditions, including mental health, and complicated medical issues.

HOW HAS THE COMPANY GROWN? Teladoc Health was established for what has come to be known as virtual urgent care: providing access to board-certified physicians via phone, app, or website for acute health needs like cold, flu, upper respiratory issues, pinkeye, and more.

Through multiple acquisitions, the company not only expanded globally, now operating in 175 countries, but also added clinical capabilities, covering more health conditions across the spectrum of care, including dermatology, mental health, expert medical services, and more.

HOW IS THE PANDEMIC AMPLIFYING THINGS? COVID-19 has exponentially increased the number of hospitals and health systems utilizing virtual-care platforms as well as expanded the use cases for those who had already deployed a virtual-care platform. While we knew in January that the InTouch transaction would play a key role in our growth, we couldn’t have predicted the level of need it’s enabling us to meet for hospital systems now motivated to create comprehensive virtual-care strategies.

Our pipeline with hospitals and health systems remains strong for the rest of 2020 and 2021, set to grow over 35 percent in 2020. Teladoc Health is now partnering with more than 60 of the top 100 hospitals.

WHAT IS INTOUCH FOUNDER YULUN WANG’S CURRENT ROLE? In his capacity as fellow with Teladoc Health, Yulun Wang will now focus on the importance of growing virtual health-care opportunities for underserved populations around the globe with the World Telehealth Initiative. We will continue to foster the Teladoc Health relationship with UCSB, and we also see expanding opportunities for students to participate in Yulun’s work with the World Telehealth Initiative.  intouchhealth.com

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

 

Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20

 

The Cutting Edge of Robotic Surgery

Robots are no longer a futuristic notion. In fact, they’re becoming more and more common in nearby operating rooms. Robotic surgery is an advanced form of minimally invasive surgery that makes use of computer-controlled robots to do what humans can’t—and also to do what surgeons can, only better.

Think about how bulky human hands are when compared to a robot’s. “The robotic instruments are articulated at the end of the instrument where the working end is, so the working end can move like a hand would, as if it had a wrist,” explained Dr. Anne Rodriguez, a gynecologic oncologist and breast surgeon who heads up the Cottage Health Robotic Surgery team.

“That gives you the ability to maneuver much more than you would with a straight instrument. And that ability can get you into small spaces, can get you into difficult spaces, and can allow you to do a lot finer technique, so to speak.”

In 2019, the Cottage Robotic Surgery Center performed 574 robotic surgery procedures with the da Vinci XI manufactured by Intuitive. The most common surgery was hysterectomy, with 117 of them performed last year, said Maria Zate, the hospital’s public relations manager, followed by prostatectomy and hernia.

Dr. William Gallivan of the Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara is a big proponent of the technology. “In 2005, I started using computer navigation,” said Gallivan. “It was new technology back then, and I haven’t gone back.” He’s performed robotic surgeries on knees since 2014, tallying 350 surgeries as of August 2020, using the NAVIO Surgical System and recently the MAKO Robotic-Arm System.

The precision advantages of robotics for knee surgeries are critical. “When we use robotics, we can actually do a better preservation of bone,” he said. “For young people who want to be active, they will be able to have a very high level of activity. We’ve got this technology that allows better preservation and maintenance of bone and other soft tissues and is very effective.”

Rodriguez also pointed out the advantages of the robots for surgeons themselves. “You’re basically sitting at a console to control the instrument rather than controlling the instrument at the bedside,” she said. “So ergonomically, it’s easier on the surgeon and that gives advantages both short-term and long-term in terms of your ability to continue to do surgery.”

Other advantages include shorter hospital stays and faster recoveries, in part because there is less need for narcotic pain medicine.

“About 95 percent of my patients are wide awake with a spinal anesthetic,” said Gallivan. “It’s the safest way to do it, and the patients have more fun being awake.” Patients can listen to music (“unless it’s something bad,” he laughed) and watch 3D models and cartoon versions of the operation.

Virtually scar-less, single-site surgeries can also be handled by robots, such as single-incision hysterectomies. Rather than making several incisions, the robotic process makes just one incision through the belly button, which decreases blood loss and shortens recovery time.

“Robots have obviously been used for a long time by the aviation, automotive, and military [sectors], and then health care,” said Gallivan. “But the robotic technology has never diminished or exited from an industry that’s adopted it. It’s not going anywhere. I’m a firm believer that this technology we’re using is here to stay.”

THE BIRTHPLACE OF MODERN SURGICAL ROBOTICS

UCSB graduate Dr. Yulun Wang is considered one of the fathers of modern surgical robotics. The founder of both InTouch Health and Computer Motion, Wang developed AESOP, the first FDA-approved surgical robot (1990), and the ZEUS Robotic Surgical System. ZEUS was used in the world’s first tele-surgery procedure, known as the Lindbergh Operation, in 2001. The da Vinci surgical system now used by Cottage Health was developed by Intuitive Surgical following its merger with Computer Motion in 2003.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

 

Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20

 

Local Ingredients at Your Door

805 Living September 2020, Local Ingredients at Your Door, story by Leslie Dinaberg.

805 Living September 2020, Local Ingredients at Your Door, story by Leslie Dinaberg.

For home cooks, there’s nothing better than bringing the farm—or ranch or fishery—right to your door with a CSA delivery. With much of the food earmarked for restaurants going unclaimed, local purveyors have modified their financial models to deliver fresh food to consumers’ homes. With the enormous bounty of the Central Coast available, it may never be a better time to find businesses like these:

Santa Paula–based Prancers Farm (prancersfarm.com) delivers a fresh assortment of staples, including beans, rice, oranges, lemons, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, strawberries, bananas, onions, and lettuce, with eggs, sweets, sauces, and other items available as add-ons.

Larder Meat Co. (lardermeatco.com) of San Luis Obispo supports small family farms on the Central Coast by delivering monthly options like pasture raised meats, heirloom chicken, heritage pork, and grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Owner and chef Jensen Lorenzen includes a pantry item, seasoning and recipes to make preparation a snap.

Get Hooked Seafood (gethookedseafood.com) is a community-supported fishery that delivers a specific type of seasonal seafood from Santa Barbara fishermen each week. Additional fish and pantry items can be added to orders, which also come with the scoop about who caught the fish and how and where it was caught, as well as cooking tips and recipes.

805 Living, September 2020.

805 Living, September 2020.

This story was originally published in the September 2020 issue of 805 Living. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

 

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

This special section for the Santa Barbara Independent features the following stories (click on links to read them or click here to see the issue as it appeared originally.

Introduction to Active Aging

Aging with Grace and Humor: Etta “Honey” Miller Celebrates 105th Birthday

Providing Healthy Food for Healthier Lives 

Time to Move to a Senior Living Facility? Westmont Living Experts Answer This Question and More

The Shift to Telemedicine: Dr. William Gallivan’s Orthopedic Institute Lead the New Way

Healthy People, Healthy Trails: Broad Collaboration is Taking Seniors Into Nature

Building Better Bone Health With Osteostrong: Wellness Studio Fights Against Osteoporosis

Reverse Mortgages 101: Mutual of Omaha’s Montecito Office Offers Planning Advice

When Families Help Families: Mission Villa’s Brother-Sister Transition Team

Meet the Society of Fearless Grandmothers: Seniors Band Together to Fight Earth’s Destruction

The Cremation Quiz: Simply Remembered Educates About End-of-Life Options

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.