In no particular order, I present to y’all a list of some of the works that have been the most influential in my life, my top ten (quite the challenge to narrow it down to ten – shout out to my fellow bookworms) must-read list:

  • The Prophet – Khalil Gibran
  • Life of Pi – Yaan Martel
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  • Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

Happy reading!

For Kyla and All Who Want to Be Happy!

I’ve been watching countless TED talks for my capstone project (for those of you who don’t know, it is a TED talk on ADHD/treatment – tentatively titled: why my diagnosis does not define me), and I stumbled upon this one that may be of great interest to Kyla (since her project is focused on happiness) and any/all who want to be happy (which I imagine is everyone!).

TED Talk: Want to be happy? Be grateful.

In the talk, Brother David Steindly-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar, suggests that happiness is born from gratitude. And that every moment offers an opportunity to be grateful. How can each of us find a method to be grateful? *spoiler alert* He offers very simple advice to “Stop. Look. and Go.” Hope you all enjoy this (14 minute 30 second – ample time for a study break!) lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.

Another link for Kyla and others interested in how to be happier – “The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude.”

Sending you all good vibes during these chaotic next couple of weeks.


Conquering Fears

persons-0015_largeI have a phobia of talking to important people. More specifically, important people who are more than a decade older than me. Anyone who’s been in a class with me knows I’m far from shy and I have no problem speaking my mind. But, something that most may not know (and even some of my best friends are surprised to learn since I’m “such a people person”), is that I freeze/have trouble being myself anytime it comes to talking to someone with >1 credential listed after his/her name. MD. RN. PhD. Anything is fair game. For the first few years of college, I avoided office hours all together because I dreaded one-on-one interactions with my professors. I couldn’t tell you exactly why – academic insecurity, intimidation, a desire to separate the professional from the personal, an element of being star-struck (yes, I am a nerd who would get more star-struck by an exchange with a professor than with Kim Kardashian…), possibly a combination of all of these?

Recently, I’ve come to acknowledge, address, and face these fears. Since I have become aware of it, I promised myself I would make a conscious effort to work on it. How else would I get to where I want to be in the future if I’m too big of a chicken to talk to the experts in the subject? So how did I begin to work on it? Realizing a few things – they were once in your position as a young student, they’re also huge nerds, and, more likely than not, they actually want to spend time (and enjoy spending time) talking about the subject they’ve devoted their life’s work to.

At a conference I attended this weekend in Washington, D.C. with esteemed doctors, scientists, public health workers, etc. I made a commitment to myself that I would swap business cards with at least five people. And I’m very proud of myself for building the courage to carry out this commitment. I made it a point to do research on the work of the attendees before the conference and approached them with questions about these topics. Since many of the areas of expertise of these professionals involved research with asbestos and none of them worked in Michigan, I also asked if they could connect me with anyone in my area who pursued similar research, and explained why I was interested in the work. As expected, they were more than willing to do so, some even ecstatic about my interest. After approaching a couple of these professionals and realizing it could in fact be as easy as (if not easier than) talking to my friends, my worries began to vanish. Shockingly enough, I even started to consider these interactions more exhilarating than threatening.  BOOM. Fear. Conquered.

Do any of you experience similar fears? How have you dealt with them? Any advice/feelings on networking? How do you continue to build on these relationships after they’ve been established?

Those #RAYRAY Questions We’ve All Come to Love and Anticipate

ask-question-2-ce96e3e01c85a38a0d39c61cfae6d42cI think about those questions #RAYRAY asks in the beginning of each class constantly, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this. Sometimes I even jot them down to ask friends the same questions later. When I’m running late for class, my biggest concern/fear is not the consequence (or judgment) that may result from my tardiness (sorry, Ray), but that I’ll miss one of my favorite parts of class – the attendance question. For those of you writing minors who haven’t had the opportunity to take a class with #RAYRAY (ok, I’m going to stop using the hashtag because it’s starting to get annoying – why do people even hashtag things that aren’t clickable? Interesting potential capstone project for you youngins to consider later…), I’m sorry. And if you have the opportunity to do so, I highly encourage it.

One of my favorite questions was posed last year in Writing 220. It went something along the lines of  “even if it’s not true, would you rather have everyone know you as a slut, liar, or stupid?” (Again, this is paraphrasing, so if you were in that course and remember it verbatim, please feel free to correct me!) I answered slut because it says more about the character of the person who is saying it about you (for judging your behavior and choices) than it does about you.

These attendance questions have never failed to evoke interesting discussions, as well as allow me to get to know my peers on a deeper level and, ultimately, improve our classroom community and dynamic. A few questions (since we obviously love questions!) I have for all: What are some of your favorite Ray Ray questions? Where do you think he got this idea? What specifically about the nature of these questions makes us so excited for them?

I’m a Finalist in a Mesothelioma Essay Scholarship Contest – Please Vote!

Mesothelioma-SettlementsHi all,

I was selected as a top 5 finalist for a mesothelioma scholarship contest and could really use your help! Bits of the essay I submitted comes from work I’ve done throughout the Minor in Writing and I’m thrilled to be raising asbestos and mesothelioma awareness.

Voting ends on 11/16 and it’s up to you all to determine if I get $5,000, $2,5000, $1,250, $500, or $250. These funds would help me tremendously as I apply to public health programs and continue to pursue my education. Please, please take a minute out of your day to vote and share – it would mean the world to me! You must vote from a computer (it’s not mobile-friendly) and log on through a Google or Facebook account.

Here is the link to my essay and you may vote on the right side of the page: http://www.mesotheliomahelp.net/scholarship-contest/silent-killer-cortney-segman

Many thanks!

The opportunities are endless…if you can afford them.

Volunteer at a clinic in Panama this summer!!!…as long as you pay a $1,700 program fee and for a $500 flight to get you there. Gain patient care experience and work at a hospital as a nurse’s assistant this summer!!!…as long as you pay $2,200 to take a class that gets you certified to do so. Get an internship with your favorite non-profit organization this summer!!!… as long you pay $700 a month for your housing. Oh and P.S. the opportunity is unpaid. P.P.S. you’ll still have to pay for your apartment in Ann Arbor since we realtors take pride in giving students the BEST service and deals around. These include strictly offering 12-month lease agreements that we know most of you will be stuck paying for during the four out of twelve months that you won’t be living there.

ASF!*!)#$EOWJOSQ!#$)*WUEOCBV^&#)@>MEFANCV(^$)WK. Yeah.

In class this week we talked about all of the services that the University offers that some of us don’t know about. How about a list of opportunities that allows our résumés to grow without making the burning hole in our pockets (aka our student debt) skyrocket even further than I knew was possible? (No, really – how does a 20 year old spend $20,000+ in one year? Oh you know, just take some English, Biology and Psychology classes and you could find out for yourself!)

Earlier this week I contemplated turning down the experience of a lifetime for one reason and one reason only – expenses.

I turned to almost every resource that I knew of at the University to help make this situation work and after being shifted around departments 10+ times and finding myself at the same place where I started off (minus the 15 hours I could’ve spent studying), I’ve resorted to my dear friend eBay to sell some junk and make it possible to be able to afford to take this opportunity. But I can’t help but to be frustrated, overwhelmed and, quite frankly, PISSED off (excuse my vulgarity) and wonder how many of you have experienced a similar situation? Being financially independent, I’ve had to turn down countless opportunities because they simply weren’t realistic. I’m sure there are resources that the University offers to help out us cliché broke college students to “achieve our dreams” outside of the classroom…but where are they hiding? …are they even out there? If they are, they shouldn’t be this hard to find. 15 hours and a few strands of stress-induced gray hair later and ZILCH. Nada. Nothing. SOS – it’s time for a change.

Asbestos KILLS

Did you know that ~125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace? According to the World Health Organization, 107,000+ people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma & asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure – in 2007, my father was one of those people.

If you only take away one thing from this post, let it be this – ASBESTOS KILLS.

The horrid truth is that all deaths and illnesses related to asbestos are entirely PREVENTABLE through an international ban on asbestos. The US & many other countries across the globe must STOP importing asbestos & pass legislation to BAN ASBESTOS. The US Environmental Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, and the National Toxicology Program have all declared asbestos a proven human carcinogen – so why hasn’t it stopped being used?

The “near-magical properties” of asbestos, from its tensile strength to its ability to resist fire, heat, and acid, resulted in popular use and the development of a thriving asbestos industry.  Countries across the globe contributed to this industry for decades prior to the discovery of its detrimental health effects. Industrialized countries have used this inexpensive, naturally occurring, fibrous mineral for a wide array of products, including pipe and ceiling insulation, ship-building materials, brake shoes and pads, bricks, roofing, and flooring. The manufacturing, import and export, and use of asbestos in every day products continue despite publication of scientific evidence that proves the life-terminating effects of the material.

Safe exposure to asbestos does not exist, and there is a clear scientific consensus internationally that asbestos, in all its forms, and even at low doses, is a proven human carcinogen. When inhaled, asbestos fibers take the form of a very fine dust and proceed to penetrate deep inside of the lungs, gradually causing inflammation and fibrosis of the lung tissue or membrane and causing cancerous changes that may lead to a lung tumor. Fibers may also venture outside the pleural cavity and cause localized fibrosis, pleural plaques, or cancer of the pleura, mesothelioma.

According to the WHO, there is no threshold at which asbestos dust becomes dangerous to a person’s health, so exposure to any amount of asbestos can potentially lead to cancer. Twenty thousand asbestos fibers are relatively even smaller than five human hairs, so thousands of people are oblivious to the fact that they are exposed. The fibers can linger and alter bodily functions, like cell division, for a latency period of 20 years or more from the time of exposure, before symptoms of respiratory disease or asbestos-related cancer are even detected. Physicians have found extreme difficulty in treating most asbestos-related illnesses because most have no cure.

Even with its well-documented dangers, the process of banning asbestos across the world has been a slow struggle. A number of countries have already taken steps in the right direction and implemented a ban on the use, development, and import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. However, some highly industrialized countries, including the United States, have only stopped using five of the six naturally occurring fibrous minerals of asbestos.

The legalized form of asbestos, Chrysotile, is a white mineral derived from the configuration of serpentine asbestos and accounts for more than ninety-five percent of the asbestos ever used around the world. The countries filled with Chrysotile defend their usage by titling it a “less hazardous and less carcinogenic” form of asbestos. The Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association claims on its website that the use of Chrysotile in manufacturing “is safe for the workers, environment, and the general public.” The scientific world, however, has provided sufficient evidence to support that all forms of asbestos, including Chrysotile, are carcinogenic, responsible for asbestos-related cancers, and cause death for thousands across the globe. An international ban on the use of asbestos is crucial because even though exposure limits could be technically achieved for “controlled use” of Chrysotile asbestos in the United States, the residual risks and environmental exposures to products in use or to waste remains too high to be acceptable.

The primary arguments against a worldwide ban on asbestos are essentially economic. An ad placed in The Times of India by India’s Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association claimed that asbestos cement products are “strong, durable, economical, energy efficient and eco-friendly.” They may possess these qualities, but since when did fibers being released in to the air and contaminating our environment as these materials weather, erode, break or are cut by saws and other power tools become considerably “eco-friendly?”

There are alternative materials to asbestos cement sheets and pipes that can provide this same strength and durability mentioned in the ad. Fibre cements, “a mix of cement and fibres which may be cellulose, polyproylene, polyvinyl alcohol or aramide fibres” could replace the asbestos cement, which accounts for ninety percent of the asbestos market today.  An alternative to any traditional use of asbestos exists. Substitute products may be more costly than asbestos, but many must consider that this cost is miniscule in comparison to the exorbitantly high cost to society of asbestos-related diseases. Journalists have tracked nearly $100 million in public and private money spent by groups in Canada, India, and Brazil since the mid-1980s to keep asbestos in commerce. Critics call the asbestos industry “unethical” and “almost criminal” and compare their strategy to the tobacco industry: “create doubt, contest litigation, and delay regulation.”

Countries feel that using asbestos benefits them economically, but in reality the effects are far-reaching: “using asbestos now will damage a country’s economy for more than 30 years by making future generations bear the responsibility for compensating victims and the financial burden of looking after them.”  For example, in Germany, the cost of meeting victims’ medical expenses and paying financial compensation to victims and their families has reached 290 million and will continue to escalate resulting in a much higher expense than if they used a safer substitute material. The use of asbestos financially cripples the economy of many countries, and the use of substitute materials will be less costly in the future and help save thousands of lives.

While the struggle to ban asbestos continues and awareness grows, temporary solutions must suffice. Foremost, awareness must be spread to people, especially workers, exposed to asbestos. One worker in India, Ravindra Mohite, shared his heart wrenching story on the blog of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization website (“‘India Through My Eyes’ – Ravindra’s Story”). He recalls that in his time working at various facilities with asbestos, “none of the workers were ever informed of the hazards of the material with which they worked.” He goes on to explain, “[we] noticed warning labels on the bags but company officials never explained the hazards nor outlined appropriate safety measures for handling asbestos.” Forty-one workers from the company, including Mohite, were diagnosed with Asbestos-related disorders, and one of these workers died almost immediately after diagnosis.

Notification to workers being exposed to asbestos is crucial, so that they may monitor themselves with medical surveillance and detect illnesses as early as possible. Monitoring is necessary even after an individual is no longer exposed because these diseases usually have a latency period of up to 30 or even 40 years.  With early detection of asbestos-related illnesses, treatment is much more efficient and results in a longer life expectancy. For example, in studies among patients whose mesothelioma was detected early on, the life expectancy ranges from two to five years, while the median life expectancy is four to eighteen months.

When my father was diagnosed with stage-four mesothelioma, the most progressive stage of the cancer, the doctors said the particles had been lingering in his system without any symptoms for 25 years and estimated he had one month to live. Ironically, while working and trying to make a living for himself, he was unknowingly exposed to a deadly material that was going to financially cost him more for treatment than what he was making at work, and eventually cost him his life. He went against the doctor’s estimate and fought with the cancer for seven years. In those seven years, he overcame surgeries, numerous chemotherapy sessions and lived his life in a constant struggle.

Asbestos-related cancer victims go on to die painful, brutal deaths.  In the last sixth months of my father’s life, similar to what many patients will endure, he could not eat, hardly slept, had a tube shoved up his nose, and suffered excessively as a result of exposure to this material. Exposure to asbestos did not only result in a physical and emotional struggle for my father, but for my whole family. Even if other members of my family, anyone my father influenced, or myself were not directly exposed to it, we all had to face the consequences of asbestos. Asbestos not only affects millions of its VICTIMS, but also billions of FAMILIES, FRIENDS, and COMMUNITIES around the WORLD.

To protect the health of all people in the world – industrial workers, construction workers, spouses and children, now and in generations to come – it is essential to spread awareness and ban asbestos universally. More than TWO MILLION TONS of this material are produced each YEAR, and according to the International Social Security Administration, figures for asbestos manufacture and use have begun to climb again. Asbestos lingers not only in the workplace, but also in the environment. In countries where asbestos is being used today, asbestos-contaminated dust accumulates in thousands of communities. Safer substitutes to replace this silent killer have already been implemented successfully in 52 countries.

The only realistic and sustainable answer to this pandemic is complete removal of asbestos worldwide. The primary influence on governments to ban asbestos comes from the voice of the public. Very rarely do people see a story on asbestos in the media, but when the public is educated and acts on the information, the greatest success is seen. The fate of hundreds relies on citizens to promote awareness and come together to demand all countries to ban the manufacture, trade and use of all types of asbestos and asbestos-containing products as soon as possible.

Ultimately, what’s worth more – an inexpensive material or our LIVES?

(*sources available upon request)


(courtesy of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization – for more info visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org)

  1. Asbestos is a proven human carcinogen and there is NO safe level of exposure.
  2. Asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung and gastrointestinal cancers, and an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. The average life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient is six – twelve months.
  3. Asbestos diseases have a 10 – 50 year latency period from initial exposure to development of disease.
  4. Chrysotile asbestos accounts for nearly 95% of asbestos mined and exported today. The top five asbestos producing countries are Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and Canada.
  5. 55 countries have banned asbestos, but the U.S. and Canada have NOT.
  6. The World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 workers die annually from exposure to asbestos. Asbestos has been mined and used in a broad range of products, materials, and applications including construction, insulation, shipyards, and many other industries.
  7. Asbestos fibers can be nearly 700 times smaller than human hair and are odorless, tasteless, indestructible fibers that can remain suspended in the air for seconds.

Bio (better late than never, right?)

Who said selfies were a new phenomenon?
I tend to speak (and write, if the situation permits) in stream of consciousness. You’ve been warned.

I drink an alarming amount of coffee (I know the names of at least one barista at ~15 coffee shops. I realized the severity of my problem when I ran into a barista I knew while I was traveling in Chicago. Don’t worry, there is an intervention in place.)

I used to have a shopping problem too..and then I ran out of money. And maxed out my credit card.

I guess you could say I have an addictive personality.

I’ll strike up a conversation with just about any stranger at any time. This may or may not have put me in one or two life-threatening situations.

I’m Chaldean (No, that’s not a cheese. Yes, somebody has seriously asked me that question before. To make it simple, Chaldeans are Christians that originated in ancient-Mesopotamia and now settle in northern Iraq…or Detroit, MI.)

I’m first generation. Both of my parents were born in Baghdad, Iraq. God willing, I’ll be the first to graduate college in my family.

While we’re on the topic of family, I’m an older sister to two of the most annoying, yet lovable (big) little brothers. My family means everything to me.

I want to work in Pediatrics. And I’ve already almost kidnapped ~128021 kids from my research job at Mott Children’s Hospital (I’M JUST KIDDING – PLEASE DON’T SEND ME TO JAIL. OR FIRE ME.) I love babies. And senior citizens. And everyone in between (not really, but I just felt like I had to say it).

I have a phobia of deer. I wish it had a cool name at least, but it’s just deerophobia. My body goes into fight-or-flight mode every time I see a herd of them. They stalk me. No, really..who else do you know that has been t-boned by a deer on 3 separate occasions?

My ultimate goal in life is to make it to the Instagram popular page. Judge me.

Every time I conquer a public transportation system, I throw a mini-life accomplishment party in my head. Punch bowls and all.

I have a slight obsession with the brain & all things neuroscience.

Speaking of brains, my thoughts teeter between those of an over-the-hill woman about to hit menopause & a 5-year-old boy on a daily basis. Some call it multiple personality disorder, others prefer ADHD. Take your pick.

I’m a workaholic. (I’m sure almost everyone in my 220 section has wondered how many jobs exactly does this girl have?? – right now it’s just three.)

If running in heels was an Olympic sport, I would take the gold.

I’m an insomniac. (it could be the coffee, but nobody really knows..or cares.) My peak hour of productivity is ~4AM, so I like to think that it works to my advantage.

If I could be cast in one show for one episode it would be Friends. No doubt. Except they’ve stopped making new episodes. Not surprising since EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY FAVORITE SHOWS tends to do so *sigh* (I’m still bitter toward that beyotch Mischa Barton for demanding to be killed off The O.C.)

I’m a firm believer that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. (I guess if you want to be technical, the same can be said about some investments if you play them out the right way – but let’s not even go there, smarty pants.)

I fall in love with fictional characters on a monthly basis – Ari Gold from Entourage, Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl, Joey Tribbiani from Friends, etc. You name it & I’ve probably fallen in love with him once or twice.

I try to do one thing a day that scares me. But sometimes I chicken out.

Embrace your innate weirdness. Always.

That is all for now, folks!


Symbiosis of Science & Religion

I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on science and religion – both the overlap and the disconnect between the two. About a month ago or so, I stumbled upon an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, Strength to Love, which prompted me to think about my own faith and its challenges. The passage discusses a symbiotic relationship between science and religion:

“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.” 

Growing up I was raised in a household where there was absolutely no questioning the “rules” or opinions of the Catholic Church, you were just supposed to follow them – religion is the way, science is not. And it didn’t help that almost everyone I was constantly surrounded by in my conservative Catholic community carried a similar perspective.

As I progress through college, and my science background continues to deepen with my skepticism, I’ve found myself struggling as I try to frame my views with one or the other – either science or religion, but not both. With the introduction to new ideas and the constraints that come with living in a conservative environment removed, I’ve experienced countless frustrations and found myself overwhelmed with cluttered thoughts, attempting to make sense of the two. I’ve also encountered numerous other classmates and friends facing similar ordeals as well.

I think my upbringing caused me to believe I had to choose one or the other. When I came to U of M, the views I had formulated growing up were challenged by some peers who identified as atheists or agnostics and defended their views solely with science – science is the way, religion is not. In my opinion, however, I’ve come to realize that both have their limitations and one can’t fully deny the existence or operate without the other. In formulating new personal views and reevaluating existing ones, I currently rely on BOTH religion and science, which I feel is best summarized above by MLK’s explanation of the symbiosis of the two.

Hot mess

My little cousin (a junior in high school, unfortunately) asked me to edit his paper for him…I didn’t even know where to begin. Perhaps by wiping my tears away?

According to Janice Shaw Crouse, “In the past three decades the rate of American children who are either overweight or obese increased by 300 percent.” Childhood obesity is one of the biggest concerns in our society today. Childhood obesity starts off with everything around the children such as, school lunches, fast food restaurants, and also what they have at home. Parents are not to blame for this issue. The blame for this issue is the fast food industries and the government.

Fast food chains spend more than three million dollars a year on television advertising that targets children (Shaw Crouse). These advertisements include cartoon characters to interest child. Children just want to eat what they think is cool, these advertisements get their attention. Half of all advertising on children’s shows is food advertising (Shaw Crouse). There are so many negatives
on childhood obesity and not enough positives, so how could you blame parents?

Children are getting less exercise daily and watching more television. In many communities, many schools have even taken away recess time and physical exercise outside (Shaw Crouse).  The less exercise these kids get the more they will gain weight. Kids will get use to the fact of eating bad and playing video games, that can lead to many other things like not doing their homework which is very important. Government system is also to blame. They are forcing schools to choose a nonprofit
organization to improve schools meals and nutrition (Bornstein). The problem with this is that schools will go into debt, or allow unhealthy options and generate revenue. “Schools loose money everyday because it costs more money to prepare meals than the reimbursement they get from the federal government,” Donald Schumacher said, the medical director for the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine. Schools can raise prices of course, but this might result in fewer kids buying
nutritionally balanced lunches. This defeats the purpose of advertising healthy eating. Unhealthy foods are cheaper than the healthier foods so the school makes more money (Wilson).

In 1955, Dr. Marc Jacobson who sits on the American Acadmeny of Pediatrics Obesity leadership work groups said, McDonald’s fries were 210 calories but the large portions more often consumed today are 500. A coke was 6.5 ounces, versus 20 ounces in today’s plastic bottle. No wonder, he said, that U.S. kids have an obesity rate of 15 percent, and that another 15 percent are over weight (Jacobson). Parents have no say in this type of things. They can be to busy working their butts off to be focused on their kids that’s why they are not to blame for anything. “Trying to control a teenager- that’s trying to knock down a solid brick wall with your bare hands” Childhood obesity lawyer Grant
Varner stated. The main source is all that is happening to these kids are the advertising and the television. Should the government do something about this? How can they do something to stop all the bad television commercials? They can sue any of the televisions networks that advertise unhealthy foods and start putting healthy foods as an alternative to these commercials.