Shout out to @femaregion1, @RIHEALTH, and others for an amazing experience with COVID vaccination in Providence today, a great illustration that public health is as much a social science as about medicine and biology. A short thread explaining why: ↵
I was accompanying a person who is very, VERY scared of needles. They wanted to get vaccinated, but were also really afraid of doing it. We went to The Dunc [@DunkinDonutsCtr]. Very smooth, quick, efficient. We get to the point where we get assigned a vaccination booth. ↵
The lady senses that this person is really nervous. They can't see the face (mask), but the voice gives it away. They ask, "Are you really nervous about this?" They say yes. I'm expecting the usual, "Oh, don't worry, it's nothing", etc. But no: ↵
"Would you be more comfortable doing it in private?" Yes, they say. How much more private, I wonder, the shots are already administered in booths; but they meant the whole thing, including 15 minute wait. So they give a signal. ↵
We are transferred over to a totally different, completely private region of the place (marked "no entry", and then some separation). There are several private booths set up there. The person who handles the vaccination card leads us there. Shortly after, a FEMA admin. ↵
Soon after, the nurse. Everyone is SUPER calm, soothing, chill. They administer the shot. Then I find a FOURTH person there. I can't figure out her role, but she's chatting with the patient while I help out with the paperwork. ↵
The fourth person is basically like a counselor, who is so calm, so engaged, and so good at keeping a gentle conversation flowing, that the shot is entirely forgotten. The nurse leaves, but the other three stay the full 15 minutes before discharging. ↵
Why does all this matter? Because this person:
1. Is not going to have a traumatic memory.
2. Is ready to come back for a second shot.
3. Is going to tell others "Oh, it really wasn't a big deal".

But I think there's a fourth, even more subtle, effect. ↵
Nervousness is contagious. If you have one person shaking and trembling, or sobbing, or worse (imagine a kid) screaming, everyone else gets worked up. Worse if (think a kid) screams *inside a closed booth*. People freak. Their own experience will feel worse. ↵
This way, they've diverted all these people away, improving the *perceived* experience for both those who need this level of support AND those who •don't•!

Best part: This person said they'd take their second shot in the regular facility. ↵
Overall, the #RhodeIsland setup at the Dunc was just phenomenal. Good directions, good flow, etc. Really cute touches that remind you of attending a game: you can check in at the box office, and when we left we got a printed ticket stub (w/ vaccine printed on it). ↵
I confess, this also made me sad. There are lots of places in the world that just cannot afford anything like this. They can't take 4 people out for 15 minutes just to administer to one patient. ↵
I used to do vaccine and health clinics in India (long story). You'd have babies just screaming away, a doctor doing their best to keep things calm, but not really succeeding, but people had to just keep rolling through. ↵
Parents were so grateful for a vaccine that nobody was looking out for the comfort and relaxation of the patient. (Or, they were looking for it at a lifelong, not momentary, level.) ↵
I will still gladly take an assembly line of jabs over the alternative! But if we can afford to treat people with compassion, imagine how many more people would take better care of themselves and not have to choose! ↵
We love to trash on public services in the US, but this was a shining moment (amongst, no doubt, many others we don't notice). This is certainly not the "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!" FEMA. They and everyone else actually did do a heck of a job. •

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More from @ShriramKMurthi

15 May
@georgemporter @trello We've tried it to run Bootstrap. For many years it went well. But lately it has not been working so well for us. A bit more on this below. For my personal todo it was really bad because I didn't get email updates (maybe it does that now?). ↵
@georgemporter @trello We use it for our household shopping lists, and it's fantastic for that. Works on all devices, cards are nice and lightweight, etc. But back to managing a group. ↵
@georgemporter @trello One of the virtues was how cards would disappear instantly on everyone's screens when one person archived them. Bootstrap is very distributed, so on a call (pre Zoom) it was vital for everyone to have a shared view, and Trello syncing provided that. ↵
Read 7 tweets
26 Apr
Here's a productivity technique I've been using for a month and has worked really well. It reduces distraction, focuses effort, and sets targets. It assumes most of your tasks accumulate as emails. I'll explain it in a short thread. ↵
Some of my inbox entries are big tasks that require a lot of thinking: e.g., correspondence with research colleagues on experiments, results, and papers. They take time and require me to engage deeply. Often interleave email, calls, and shared docs. ↵
But several things are small and, for external reasons, annoying. Examples: I need to: authenticate into a site, look up some info before replying, handle a few things similarly, add entries to a calendar, etc. ↵
Read 33 tweets
25 Aug 20
This is a #BookReview of a book I wish I'd read a long time ago: @Ram_Guha's "India After Gandhi". If your Indian education was like mine, I think you'll want to read it. I also know this will irritate some of my Indian friends (but do read through). Here goes: [thread»]
Guha's premise is that Indian history has tended to halt at 1947 (or 30 Jan 1948). Everything after that is sociology or political science. He wants to fix that, and spends over 900 pages doing so. I found the book gripping and wanting more. »
My hunger was stoked by my so-called education in social studies. History and civics were about memorizing, not analyzing. I could name a 100 kings but not tell you what any stood for. We had a vague sense of an Indian nation, hundreds of miles wide but an inch deep. »
Read 28 tweets
15 May 20
@bodil This is how you know Racket is a production tool meant for real software engineers, whereas the student languages are obviously not. If it can't generate confused SO posts, it doesn't really exist in the professional's mind. Without struggle, there is no triumph. »
@bodil More seriously: over the years, I've come to feel that slightly inferior technologies are better — not in the Gabriel sense but because they create communities (of support and help) and ecosystems (of tools). It's my own theory of worse-is-better. »
@bodil Every "tool" is actually a "weakness", but it keeps a community together. There's a way for people to contribute. It's like a game that leaves little bonuses lying around. If a novice can make a small contrib, even better. They feel good, and now they've made a commitment. »
Read 6 tweets
11 Apr 20
@maxsnew @samth To begin with, imagine if someone wrote an article about education from the perspective of videoconf tools. You'd think that's a tiny part of what goes into education, and maybe this is missing the big picture. Ditto an economics perspective. »
@maxsnew @samth Why would an emergency shift to online "accelerate a permanent shift"? If you have a building problem and someone brings in a temp trailer, do people assume we'll stay in the trailer forever? But the very phrase assumes a strong trend that doesn't really exist. »
@maxsnew @samth This old trope about "online superstars" has been played out. This is what everyone thought about MOOCs, too. And yes, there's a bit of preferential attachment. But it didn't put everyone else out of business. »
Read 25 tweets
7 Feb 20
I see increasing calls for conferences to allow remote presentation. This is a terrible idea that will ultimately lead to good things. Some thoughts. »
I understand the motivation. Travel is expensive. Visas are hard. CO2 is a thing. Harder still with mobility/health issues or living far from the action. And they're gatekeepers. »
But here's the thing. Conferences are not primarily meant as write-only media. It's in the very name (roots: conversation, getting together). Focusing on talks misses most of the value. »
Read 11 tweets

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