The Anatomy of Resilience

Heading into the NCAA Championships Mar. 6-9 in Middlebury, Vt., Jeremy Elliot has racked up two career victories, seven appearances on the podium, nine finishes among the top five … and three major injuries.

A senior Alpine skier for the University of Utah, the Park City native first sustained a knee injury when he was 15 years old.

Three years later, Elliot was involved in a motocross accident and doctors proposed a surgery that would leave him a 14% chance of paralyses and they also told him that he would be lucky to walk again, much less ski. With the blessing of his parents, Jim and Brigitte, he opted to refuse the operation and was bedridden for three months before wearing a `turtle-type’ of spine support system for nine months, before making a full comeback to ski racing.

Elliot then suffered a second season-ending knee injury before the 2012 campaign began.

So what keeps him coming back?

“I love skiing,” Elliot said. “I never thought about quitting after any of these injuries. It’s just an addicting lifestyle. You are exposed to so many cool people, and you make a lot of connections and close friends. You travel to cool places and amazing opportunities come up, like for example, a scholarship to an NCAA school. The competition side of it is really addicting as well. When you win a race, there are very few feelings in the world that can top that happiness.”

Three major elements composed the body of each of Elliot’s comebacks, beginning with his family.

“My family has been there with me through all of these injuries,” Elliot said. “My dad (Jim) is a big ski fan. He’s also a real student of the sport. It’s not his job, but just as a pastime he studies and watches every single World Cup race. He’s always reading up on the latest news of the skiing world. He’s a good coach for me, mostly for the mental and motivational things and really helped through the last few injuries to keep me looking forward and believing.”

Elliot’s peers on the Ute ski team have also been a major source of inspiration.

“I definitely felt supported by my teammates and coaches,” Elliot said. “When your friends go out to all of the races and are doing all of these exciting things and the most exciting thing you’re going to do all day is go on the spin bike for 30 minutes, it’s a little depressing, but the team was really awesome to me. I still traveled to a lot of the races during the 2012 season and was around them a lot, which helped me to have some fun and get some positive energy going during a time that otherwise would not be so fun, and pretty negative.”

Perhaps most importantly, Elliot used a strong sense of self-motivation to return to the sport he loves.

“It really comes down to mental toughness,” Elliot said. “At a certain level, all of us have the physical attributes to do well in ski racing, but what separates fast from really fast is what your mind will allow you to do and it pretty much comes down to confidence. You can fake it up to a certain point, but it needs to be real confidence.”

Elliot’s self confidence never wavered as he went through the rehab process.

“I never had any doubt in my mind that I could get back to top form,” Elliot said. “After each rehab I went through, I was a lot more confident that if I did all of the right steps, there was no reason why I couldn’t get back to or even do better than the level I was at before the injury. As long as my body is feeling good, then there’s no reason why I can’t do it.”

And that self-confidence and determination may be just what it takes to compete at a very high level this weekend at the NCAA Championships.

Originally published at UtahUtes.com.

The ‘Iron Brigade’ Embodies Wisconsin’s Move ‘Forward’

An enduring quality assigned to the inhabitants of the state of Wisconsin has always been persistence. The state motto ‘Forward’ is not empty rhetoric slapped on statues and used in speeches. The mantra has helped Wisconsin residents strive through adversity since even before it formed as a territory in 1836.

Citizens of the Badger State will not relent in their pursuit to ensure that their ideals are upheld in our current culture and protected in the future. A striking example of the determination of the people of Wisconsin was on display during the Civil War in the 2nd, 6th and 17th infantry regiments in the Union’s Army of the Potomac — the ‘Iron Brigade.’

While the ‘Iron Brigade’ included units from Indiana, Michigan as well as a section of the U.S. Military Light Artillery, three of its five regiments were from the great state of Wisconsin so the nickname reveals the resolve of its citizens.

The ‘Iron Brigade’ spearheaded Union charges in several crucial battles, including three of the deadliest at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It suffered the highest percentage of casualties among any group that served in the Civil War.

In its first action of the war under Brigadier General John Gibbon, the ‘Iron Brigade’ defeated the forces of Confederate Major General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. The encounter turned out to be a part of the Second Battle of Bull Run.

The ‘Iron Brigade’ moniker is credited to Union General George B. McClellan. He said “they must be made of iron” after winning a critical skirmish during the Battle of South Mountain, an introduction to the Battle of Antietam.

Playing a part in arguably the most famous action of the war, the ‘Iron Brigade’ repelled the first Confederate attack on the opening day and captured Confederate Brigadier General James J. Archer.

We need to do everything that we can to ensure that the ‘Iron Brigade’s’ legacy of perseverance remains a symbol of how the people of the Badger State remain dedicated to their mission and advance forward regardless of the obstacles that they face.

All In for Diversity: A Call to Action for U of U Health Sciences Departments

This project is not authorized by the University of Utah and is only intended as writing exercise to display during an employment application process.

“It takes a village …” is as cliché as it gets in today’s culture.

Yet to thrive in the ever-changing multicultural climate of health care education, the communal value encrypted in this classic idiom remains a necessary factor in the equation of success for University of Utah Health Sciences.

“Something we’re actively working on is really creating an environment that promotes inclusive excellence across the health sciences,” said Associate vice president for Health Equity and Inclusion at University of Utah Health Sciences Ana Maria Lopez, M.D., M.P.H.

“And it’s really thinking that, you know, we are facing complex problems in health care, and to face and address complex problems we need everybody’s voice.”

A two-sided course of action has been cultivated by Lopez to construct an ecosystem of inclusion among the five schools and colleges of University of Utah Health Sciences, aiming to inform and involve the more than 14,000 faculty and staff.

Inform

Lopez believes a world-class healthcare education institution must feature a wide variety of resources to pool from and she has recently arranged for different speakers to visit campus to illustrate her directive.

“We’re a learning community and during the past few months we’ve had the opportunity to learn,” Lopez said.

“We’ve had visitors come and share their experiences. [The author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies] Scott E. Page gave such a wonderful talk where he talked about if you want to be a B institution then you have a homogenous environment. If you want to be A+ you want to have a heterogeneous diverse environment.”

After a series of speakers like Page visit campus, empirical data will be collected and scrutinized to gauge the progress that has been made.

“So I think as speakers come and as we learn, we start to move the needle forward in all of the different constituencies so that we can begin to test,” Lopez said.

Assessments will then be made centered around interviews of select personnel.

“It really is an evidence-based science so there are best practices,” Lopez said. “Then there are experiments that we can do, perhaps in reviewing candidates to blind, gender, race, ethnicity, and look and see what kind of selections are made when we’re blinded. So to really address unconscious bias in a serious way may be one experiment that could be done.”

Involve

Before achieving her grand objective, Lopez also knows it will take a personal touch to lay the groundwork for an ideal campus climate.

“I’m early in the process, and I’m really trying to engage as many folks as possible,” Lopez said. “I am limited by the fact that there are so many waking hours, and the campus and the number of people, it’s a lot. But yeah, so I wish I could do that more quickly, but I do think that that step-by-step meeting folks and engaging people at the one-on-one level is important.”

No one person can be counted on to inspire increases in inclusion, but Lopez has assumed the charge of acting as a catalyst for change by building personal connections with thought leaders across campus.

“The first thing has been to really engage more folks around this, so they’re representatives from each school, from each college, each program,” Lopez said. “Then there are partners that we need to really help work so that everybody feels that inclusive excellence is part of what they need to do.”

A communal approach must be shared among the different departments.

“Right, and really so that everybody feels it’s their responsibility,” Lopez said. “The faculty in medicine, the faculty in psychiatry, they all have specific goals for their faculty, so what’s great for me is to be able to work as a resource, provide best practices, and then have the departments set the path out for themselves.”

The principal goal of Lopez’s personal connections will be to accountability and influence of individuals throughout University of Utah Health Sciences’ colleges and schools.

“Some people might say, “Well, we have to attract people from the outside, growing your own takes time,” all of these are true but we’re in it for the long term,” Lopez said. “We know that in order to care for our patients we want to be more reflective of the population. The University of Utah is so committed to quality and excellence. In order to do that, we need to address inclusive excellence from all ends.”

But after the significant investment of resources and time required to carry out these plans, Lopez believes Utah Health Sciences will improve its influence on the health and well-being of Utah residents.

“I think that the impact would really be seen in moving the institution forward from a quality and an excellence perspective so that we will really be better than we were.”

The University of Utah “village” will reap the benefits for the foreseeable future.

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Above and Beyond

Many college students focus first on obtaining their degree and then figuring out what to do with from there. When most students began to apply for summer jobs or internships, Utah’s senior Nordic skier Parker Tyler was applying for a patent that could help shape the future of healthcare.

Parker Tyler surpasses expectations in the laboratory and in competition.

Many college students focus first on obtaining their degree and then figuring out what to do with from there. When most students began to apply for summer jobs or internships, Utah’s senior Nordic skier Parker Tyler was applying for a patent that could help shape the future of healthcare.

The Biomedical Engineering major is collaborating on the development of an athletic tape that could deliver ibuprofen through the skin. Somehow she’s found the time to claim a spot in the top 10 seven times over her career.

“We developed this idea and then we worked with the TechVenture Series, where you start out with all of these big competitions like TechTitans, OpportunityQuest and the Utah Entrepreneur Series where people from all over Utah submit their ideas,” Tyler said. “We finished third in OpportunityQuest and that was great for our idea. The goal is to go from patent, which we filed two years ago, to meeting people in the industry who will be able to develop our medical device.”

Tyler’s inspiration for the idea was fostered through coursework taken early during her academic career at Utah.

“There’s a class that you take during your sophomore year where you join a program called `Invent’,” Tyler said “You have a whole semester to identify a problem, which can be anything in medicine, and come up with a solution that could possibly spark an idea for a medical device or invention. My partner for the project and I started looking at needs in sports medicine.”

This could just be the beginning of Tyler’s impact on the world through medical innovation.

“My future will be in developing and inventing medical devices,” Tyler said. “It’s really interesting. My interest was sparked when I did a bio-immersion program this summer, where I got to work with laparoscopic surgeons at the university.

I was able to go into the operating room and watch them perform surgery and try to come up with ways to improve the surgery and the overall procedure. Going through the whole process of identifying a need and coming up with a solution was fun. Hopefully, someday I will be doing research here at Utah to help people who are affected by debilitating diseases.”

Through all of her success in research and academics at Utah, Tyler still points to her experience as a member of the Ute ski team as a crucial part of her personal and professional growth.

“You have to work really hard at both skiing and Biomedical Engineering,” Tyler said. “In skiing, you have to train really hard and be independent, the coaches and team expect that you are training as hard as you can even when there is no team training.”

“Engineering is the same way. You have to put yourself out there to do the homework and the studies as well as the extra research — I also work in a research lab for Dr. Robert Hitchcock, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Utah. The desire to learn is what inspires me because it’s really interesting to be in the field where you have to identify problems and design medical devices or solutions to fix them.”

Nearing the end of her final season of eligibility on Utah’s Nordic ski team in 2013, Tyler has finished on the podium twice and been among the top 10 in seven races through her career.

“I don’t really see myself doing anything much more difficult in my career than skiing and being an engineering student at Utah,” Tyler said. “The past four years have definitely been a challenge. I have learned how to manage my time and work with people all while balancing school, skiing and the research I do.”

Whatever she chooses to do with her career, Tyler’s continuing desire for knowledge will represent the University of Utah long after she is done skiing for the Utes.

Originally published at utahutes.com.