Katie Jones's Blog

Katie is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She graduated from Grinnell College with a BA in History. She is a second year Master of Public Health student in the Community and Behavioral Health department at the University of Iowa. She works for the MPH Department and for the Iowa Cancer Consortium. She is interested in many public health topics, including health disparities, chronic disease prevention, sexual assault and domestic violence prevention, and health communication. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling and playing board games with friends.

This student blog is unedited and does not necessarily reflect the views of the College of Public Health or the University of Iowa.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


I can't believe this week is final's week and this Friday is the College of Public Health graduation ceremony. The past two years have flown by. It still hasn't sunk in completely that I will be done with graduate school at the end of this week. These past few weeks have been especially exciting, with one of the highlights being that I accepted a job offer! I am going to be a Health Education Specialist. I think the job is a great fit for me and I'm looking forward to beginning in June!

Leaving the College of Public Health is certainly very bittersweet. I am excited to begin my post-graduate professional career and put what I've learned in the MPH program to use, but at the same time, I will miss being around my classmates (as well as the faculty and staff) and taking interesting classes. Although I certainly plan to continue to stay connected to the College of Public Health community, as an alum who is close by, it will be quite different from being a current student.

It's been a pleasure blogging for the College these past few months as well! If you're considering going to the University of Iowa College of Public Health and would like to ask me some questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. You can get my email address from Lexie Just by emailing lexie-just@uiowa.edu.

Friday, April 20, 2012

HIV Exposure in Iowa

Last week, I went to an event that was put on by the Sexual Health Alliance of Johnson and Linn Counties called HIV Transmission in Iowa: Criminalization and the Changing Legal Landscape. I didn't know before attending the event that Iowa had some of the strictest HIV exposure laws in the country. I also didn't know that when someone who knows they're HIV-positive exposes another person to HIV without disclosing their HIV status, it's treated more harshly than the same situation is when other communicable diseases are involved, including diseases of similar severity (such as Hepatitis B). I also didn't realize that in many states, including Iowa, it doesn't matter if the HIV-positive person wears a condom, is taking their medication to lower their viral load, or doesn't actually transmit HIV - it's just the exposure to HIV without disclosure that matters legally (with no regard to risk).

They played a clip from this documentary, which looks very powerful and interesting. Nick Rhoades, who is featured in the documentary, spoke at the event.

I'm definitely going to check out this documentary once it's available.

In other news, right now everyone is really excited about the Building Dedication, which is today. I'm really looking forward to it, especially since Thomas Frieden (director of the CDC), Harrison Spencer (president and CEO of the Association of Schools of Public Health), and Senator Tom Harkin will be there!

I also just got back from the Iowa Governor's Conference on Public Health, which was definitely a great networking experience. I met a lot of interesting people and learned about some great things that are happening across the state.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cancer Complexity

Lately I've been reading a lot of articles complicating the idea that finding cancer early is always a good thing. For example, I just read this NPR article about a Norwegian study that found that mammography can lead to the "over-diagnosis" of breast cancer by finding a tumor "that would never have gone on to cause symptoms or death." This is somewhat similar to some of the criticisms of the P.S.A. test for prostate cancer, which caused a lot of men to get treated for prostate cancer when they likely would have died of something else before the prostate cancer caused any problems.

It seems like the critiques of these screening tests go beyond whether or not the screening tests have high enough specificity and sensitivity (both concepts I first learned about in an epidemiology class here!), and have more to do with the nature of the cancers themselves. It's an interesting idea to me that may be some types of cancers aren't as well-suited for a screening test, since finding them early doesn't lower mortality. Apparently that's the cause with testicular cancer, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is "highly treatable at all stages, so finding testicular cancer early doesn't make a cure more likely." Judging from this new Norwegian study and from other recent studies, it sounds like with breast cancer, there may some types of breast cancer that are good to find early while there are a few types of breast cancer that might not have the same benefits to being found early.

All of this adds a lot of complexity to an already complicated health problem. The fact that even within a kind of cancer there may be some types that benefit to screening while other types don't is really complicated to communicate to patients. I think generally speaking it's still very much agreed that the mammography, the Pap test, and the various kinds of colorectal cancer screening tests are still good and important to do. One harm of these findings is that it may lead people to not get screening tests done, since they figure "What's the point?", when in reality these screening tests still save lives.

Anyway, that's just been on my brain lately!

I should also note that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and there are a lot of great events coming up if you're in the Iowa City area. I know I'll definitely be going to the Take Back the Night rally and the Clothesline Project.

And this is an article my friend showed me that I read recently that was interesting: White Until Proven Black: Imagining Race in the Hunger Games - Anna Holmes, The New Yorker
This doesn't have to do with health; it's about race in books (specifically the Hunger Games but it branches out from there). I'm a fan of the Hunger Games and was really disturbed by some of the racist responses to the casting in the movie and I thought this article explored what those responses mean.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Breast Health Summit

I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post! Between spending time on my practicum event, keeping up with school, working my two jobs, and job hunting, my blogging has gone by the way-side. Things have calmed down a little though now that my practicum event is basically complete! My practicum has been organizing, implementing, and evaluating a Breast Health Summit. The Summit itself happened on March 10th in Cedar Rapids. The event was a day-long and focused on African American women, although health care providers and public health professionals were welcome to attend as well. 78 people ended up attending and it went really well.

Here's the save the date I made for the event

One of the biggest take-home lessons I got from the whole experience was a reminder on the importance of working with members of the targeted community in all stages of planning, implementing, and evaluating the event. Women who are leaders in the Cedar Rapids African American faith community were involved right from day one in planning this event. Without their involvement and all the time they dedicated to this project, the event would have been a lot less well attended and not nearly as effective.

The Gazette wrote a great piece about breast cancer in African American women and the Summit before it happened. Some members of the planning committee and two speakers at the Summit are interviewed in it. That article is available here.

In other news, I am planning on following the Affordable Care Act supreme court case closely these next few days! NPR has had some great articles about the case recently, including this one.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Semi-Formal & Ghostbusters

Last night was the College of Public Health Student Association semi-formal, which was a blast and a nice break from school, work, and job hunting. It was great to see people from all five departments there! I think the new building has already helped a lot in unifying the different departments, but this event was a fun way to bring different groups together.

After the semi-formal, I went out and saw a midnight showing of Ghostbusters, which was great as always, although I had forgotten that an EPA agent is portrayed as a bad guy! That was a bit of a bummer. Apparently at least one person actually has used Ghostbusters to illustrate why they think the EPA is bad. I mean, honestly though, even within Ghostbusters, it's not like the EPA wasn't somewhat justified in trying to stop them. In the movie, Dr. Peter Venkman calls the proton packs they use "unlicensed nuclear accelerators" - I can understand why there might be some environmental health concerns with that!

Anyway, not much else is new with me. There are some new pictures of the College of Public Health building, so if you haven't gotten a chance to see if for yourself - check these out!

Here are some articles I've read recently that were interesting:

Latest Drug Shortage Threatens Children with Leukemia - Richard Knox, NPR

What Obama's Budget Proposal Means for Disease Prevention - Betsy McKay, Wall Street Journal

In Women, Heart Attacks Often Strike Without Chest Pain - Scott Hensley, NPR

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trip to the State Capitol!

Yesterday I traveled with a social worker and a group of nurses from the Oncology Nursing Society to Des Moines to talk to state senators about cancer issues. On the way up, I gave an overview of the Iowa Cancer Consortium and the ICC’s legislative priorities for the year. It was really interesting to hear about what the nurses wanted to talk to legislators about.

A lot of them expressed frustration over the current medical home system, which was created to help people under the IowaCare plan. IowaCare covers low-income people who don’t qualify for Medicaid but aren’t insured, but unfortunately if they have cancer, they have to go to the UIHC in Iowa City to get their treatment, even if they live on the other side of the state. Many of these patients have difficulty paying for transportation to get to Iowa City and don’t have a place to stay once they get here. A medical home model had been created to allow IowaCare patients to get their primary care needs met closer to home at certain clinics, but this has caused many of its own problems, as there is no standardization for what the clinics can provide for these patients. Fortunately, a lot of this will change once the Affordable Care Act is implemented, since the majority of people in IowaCare will qualify for Medicaid once it’s been expanded (and then won't be required to go to Iowa City for specialty care), but until that happens, these patients still need help.

We were able to meet with four senators, including the senator from my hometown (Sen. Hogg of Cedar Rapids, who high-fived me when he found out I went to high school where his kids go) and my own senator Joe Bolkcom. Both Hogg and Bolkcom and another senator we met with, Sen. Dvorsky, are already really involved in cancer prevention and control efforts, which is wonderful. We were only able to talk with each of them for about ten minutes, but we left them each a folder filled with information about our legislative priorities and a copy of the Iowa Cancer Plan. It was a good trip!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pandemic! (the board game)

Last night I played the board game Pandemic with some friends. I've been wanting to play this board game for a while (I'm a big fan of board games) and this one was really fun, and definitely the most public health-related board game I've ever played.

One of the neatest characteristics of this game is that it's cooperative. Although everyone is a unique professional with different skills, they all work together to try to contain four different diseases that are quickly spreading across the globe. You win if you find the cures for the four diseases before too many outbreaks occur or you run out of cards to draw. Unfortunately last night we were not able to beat the spread of the diseases and ended up losing, but I'm looking forward to playing it again soon! Hopefully our loss doesn't reflect my real-life public health skills!

Anyway, I could talk about board games forever, but here are some articles I read recently that you may also find interesting:

Cancer is just as deadly as it was 50 years ago. Here's why that's about to change. - Charlie Jane Anders, io9

Child abuse experts call for U.S. campaign - Frederik Joelving, Rueters

Researchers say malaria deaths are twice the official count - Richard Knox, NPR