Health and Wellness During COVID-19

Published November 15, 2021

Happy fall! 🍁🍂 Happy belated Halloween and Veteran’s Day!

We’ve missed you! School has kept us busy but that hasn’t stopped us from completing our 14th edition!

In fact, back-to-school is what inspired us for this edition. We have noticed one big theme that comes up every day: COVID-19.

Among other topics, health is one of the biggest concerns in regards to COVID-19. We broke the topics of health down into two major topics: physical and mental health. For physical health, we focused on the vaccine and clinical trials by interviewing Dr. Alan Metz, Dr. Ritesh Patel, and Dr. Jae Jung. We also spoke with several anonymous individuals to hear their reason or experience in getting or not getting the vaccine. For mental health, we interviewed Pooja Mehta about mental health and policies in school. We believe mental health is an incredibly important issue, especially with teenagers, which has only become more apparent during the pandemic.

Cheers to good health!

-Leeya and Adalia

Vaccines, Clinical Trials and COVID-19: Based on interviews with Drs. Alan Metz, Ritesh Patel and Jae Jung

“When [you] think about getting a vaccine or not [you] shouldn’t only think about [your] own health, but [you] should think about the health of society…There is this element of social responsibility where people need to think beyond themselves or their own family…It’s a responsibility for the community.” -Dr. Alan Metz

Many of us have a limited understanding of vaccines. We know that getting a vaccine helps to protect us from a virus. We know that a vaccine is injected into our arm or leg muscle via a shot. Many of us have gotten one if not many vaccines over the course of our lives. For example, when we were younger, we may have gotten a shot to protect us from the measles, mumps and rubella (awful diseases that have nearly been eradicated). And, every year, near autumn/winter time, many of us get a flu shot, which does not prevent us from getting the flu but significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization or death, if contracted.

In late 2020, a new vaccine entered the spotlight. It has been through clinical development trials and, in the United States, approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This vaccine is aimed at protecting us from one of the most noteworthy viruses of our time: the novel coronavirus disease of 2019, otherwise known as COVID-19.

To learn more about these topics, we interviewed three people: Dr. Alan Metz, Dr. Ritesh Patel and Dr. Jae Jung.

Dr. Alan Metz is the Chief Medical Officer of the Americas for IQVIA, a US-based, multinational company that specializes in clinical research and health information technology. Dr. Metz is a psychiatrist by training. He was born and raised in South Africa during apartheid; however, he left because of his desire to get away from the racism embedded in the country. Dr. Metz went on to study at Oxford in England and Tufts in Boston, Massachusetts. Most of his work for the past 30+ years has been in the pharmaceutical industry and he continues to set aside time to see and support patients.

Dr. Ritesh Patel is a clinical pharmacist and pharmacy director for several pharmacies and clinics around North Carolina. A clinical pharmacist is usually assigned to a hospital or physician’s office. Filling prescriptions and checking dosages might come to mind, but pharmacists do much more. Pharmacists are starting to make bigger decisions for their patients and seeing them five or six more times a year. An interesting thing Dr. Patel shared with us is that pharmacists are starting to use antipsychotic drugs, which can be injected into patients once a month rather than taking a pill every day.

Dr. Jae Jung is a staff pharmacist, who works closely with Dr. Patel. Currently, he is working mainly with COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Dr. Jung has helped out in a variety of places from long-term care facilities vaccinating the elderly to vaccine clinics where lines of people wrap around a building just to get a shot. Dr. Jung and Dr. Patel both work at Avance Care Pharmacy, which has administered more than 60,000 vaccines in Virginia and North Carolina to underserved populations of the states.

More About Vaccines

Vaccines are quite miraculous. Our interviewees gave us a more in-depth understanding on how they are developed and work with the body, which only went to show how miraculous they are. A vaccine primes the body to fight off potential pathogens or viruses. It is usually a deactivated version of the pathogen that is injected into the body to, in a way, “teach” the body to make antibodies. This is the part of the immune system that recognizes when a pathogen enters the body and sets the other parts of the immune system to work to prevent the pathogen from harming the individual.

However, there is more to a vaccine than the scientists who make it and the pharmacists who dispense it to patients. Between the two is a complex order of events, called clinical trials, which usually take around 10 years to complete. Clinical trials for a drug (or, in this case, a vaccine) in humans start after model testing and animal testing. Then, “first time in man” testing is done with a small group of healthy volunteers. 

Dr. Metz emphasized that in all phases of development companies place much focus on patient safety. Once the first phase gets clearance from a regulatory body, like the FDA, the next phase of development begins with testing the drug with a larger group of patients. Patients are given different doses to test for the right amount and this data is compared to that of a control group, who take a placebo or sugar pill. As long as there is little difference between the side effects of all the individuals and it gets clearance from a regulatory body, the next phase of development can begin. This phase of development involves actual patient populations and are also known as efficacy studies (set to prove that the medicine is not only safe but also effective). 

Official approval of a medicine varies country by country. In the United States, the FDA is the governing body that determines whether a medicine can be given to the people. The FDA uses data gathered from clinical trials as part of their evidence to support approval. They may also approve the drug for “emergency use authorization,” but more about that later.

The COVID-19 Vaccine

There are three FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines available in the US; they are developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical companies. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a vector vaccine. mRNA vaccines are made by modifying the protein in the virus. These vaccines are fairly new technology, about 30 years old, and this is the first time they have been so widely used. An mRNA vaccine instructs cells to make proteins, essentially providing the body with instructions wrapped in a layer of fat, for protection. This helps the mRNA to get into specific immune system cells so that it can be copied and moved to the outside of those cells, so that when other immune system cells come close, they can go through the process of making antibodies thus helping the body be better prepared if the disease enters it.

Other than being an mRNA vaccine, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines act similarly to a deactivated or vector vaccine in that they “teach” the body to create antibodies to fight off a pathogen.

The Booster Shot

Being in the middle of a global pandemic has put stress on scientists working to create COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. The focus has been to get vaccines developed in a safe and efficacious way as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in general, immunity from vaccines wanes over time, and viruses, if they continue to spread, mutate. So, a booster shot is needed to better protect ourselves. This idea should sound familiar as it is the case with the flu vaccine and the reason why we get a flu shot every year.

In the United States, people who have received full vaccination (two doses for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and one dose for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) in the past 10 months are beginning to receive a vaccine booster shot.

As its name suggests, a booster shot is given to “boost” or increase a vaccine’s effectiveness. Shortly before we published this edition (early November), the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster shots finished examination and got FDA approval, while the Pfizer vaccine booster had received approval in late August.

Side Effects of the Vaccine

As with any medicine or vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine has side effects.

Dr. Metz noted that most COVID-19 vaccine recipients experience or should expect to experience mild, flu-like symptoms, which is similar to other vaccines, as well as, soreness at the injection site. 

In order to provide some personal experiences about why people have chosen to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and their side effects, we conducted several anonymous interviews with a small sample size. Our interviewees were six individuals who received the COVID-19 vaccine (two kids, between 12 and 16 years, three adults, between 30 and 50 years and an older individual, over 60 years). Here’s what they shared:

Kid, 12+, Took the vaccine: I wanted to get the vaccine for the safety of my grandparents and people I could potentially be interacting with who could be of higher risk. It felt fine to get the vaccine; like getting the flu shot. I was a little drowsy but that went away as soon as I worked out for a bit.

Kid 12+, Took the vaccine: I wanted to get vaccinated because I wanted to get back to normal. Also, the stats for the vaccine were really high and effective and I wanted to be part of the population getting it to protect the people who can’t/wouldn’t. It was honestly a no brainer to me. When I got the shots it felt like normal shots, the second one was a bit more painful, but not too bad. The nurses were really nice and I got a lollipop! My arm was a little sore afterwards but otherwise it was fine. I had no side effects, neither did my mom or brother, but my dad did a little. He was only sick for a day, though. He didn’t throw up or anything, just stayed at home.

Adult, Took the vaccine: I wanted to get the vaccine so that if I did get COVID, my chances of dying would decrease. I don’t even remember what getting the actual vaccine was like because it was so mild and painless. The side effects I got weren’t bad the first time. All I had was a sore arm, but the second time was when I had severe flu symptoms for a day and half. 

Adult, Took the vaccine, Got COVID-19: I wanted to get the vaccine so that I wouldn’t get COVID. I guess, getting the vaccine was just like getting any other vaccine. There’s nothing really special about it, except you have to get two in sequence. I didn’t really have any symptoms, though I do know people who had worse side effects and felt bad for a day or so. I did get COVID and I assume that the vaccine is what helped lessen the symptoms of COVID.

Adult, Took the vaccine: I wanted to get the vaccine because I had COVID and I didn’t want to get it again. It didn’t hurt much at all. For me, the prick wasn’t the problem, it was the side effects. I had really bad side effects like fever and heart palpitations which hurt a lot.

Older adult, Took the vaccine: I got the vaccine to prevent getting COVID-19. It just felt like one needle prick; it was a very tiny prick. I had no side effects. My wife felt uncomfortable for a day but I felt completely fine.

The Three Major Benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Is there really a valid reason not to get the vaccine?

Drs. Patel and Jung have come across a variety of reasons why people do not want to get vaccinated and almost all of them were debunkable. Some reasons they have come across include: people claiming that it is ineffective; conspiracy theories; because of the side effects; there isn’t enough information; and for religious reasons/beliefs. Whenever Drs. Patel or Jung come across these situations, they do their best as medical professionals to give the patient complete information and a scientifically-based picture.

There are a few cases when vaccine exemptions are valid. Dr. Metz noted that immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients or people with a weakened immune system, should be sure to ask their primary care provider about whether or not they should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Separately, some people could be advised to avoid getting the vaccine due to allergies in vaccine ingredients. Exemptions typically do not include pregnant women or hospitalized individuals, but a primary care provider will know and advise best.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Around the World

There are a number of vaccines available around the world, aside from the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which we hear about most in the US. Dr. Metz noted that each country has a variety of other vaccines available; however, in many countries, the average vaccination rate is lower than the US because of a lack of resources, and, unfortunately, sharing vaccine resources in some countries has become politically and economically controversial.

What is “Emergency Use?”

You might have heard the term “emergency use authorization” or “EUA” when discussing the COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster shot. But what and why is EUA used? Emergency use is authorization the FDA can provide for people to receive medicines during public health emergency situations, such as a global pandemic. The FDA will use this for unapproved medical products to treat life-threatening diseases when no alternatives are available. The FDA evaluates all scientific evidence available and if deemed safe, will allow the medicine for emergency use. It is important to note that even if a medicine receives EUA, it still goes through steps in the clinical trial process. 

A and L’s Takeaways

We hope that this article gives you something new to think about when discussing or debating whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster. To find out more information, check out the resources below provided by Drs. Metz and Patel.

One of our biggest takeaways from these interviews is how important healthcare workers are, from the ones directly interacting with patients to the ones acting behind the scenes. It has been mindblowing to see how much effort and time goes into protecting public safety, whether it be from managing and executing clinical trials to driving many hours to give vaccines. Thank you so, so much to everyone from scientists, to recruiters, to managers, to nurses, to patients, to people working with the FDA, to Drs. Metz, Patel and Jung and everyone else in between. The fact that you have dedicated your career to public health and safety means more than we can express with words.



Different People by Mirabel

Tell me about your artwork. We were trying to write about ourselves and what we like to do. I said “city, craft, nature, book, playing and being.” I drew myself as an example of myself. We had to come up with a version of us that we want to look like. So, this is the version of me that I liked and I don’t like. It was kind of hard for me to make this artwork.

What is the title of your artwork? I want to call it ‘Different People,’ ‘cause it’s about thinking of different people and how they dress. It’s mostly about how people go somewhere and they just want to be there if they like it. That’s enough now!

Mental Health by Neel

Tell me about your artwork. This artwork shows different things you can do for your mental health. There is a style of drawing where you use words to design a drawing. I wanted to show people what things you could do for your mental health. Overall, this drawing was meant to raise awareness for things you can do for your mental health. 

How did you think of all these different ideas? I think having good mental health can help you live longer. When brainstorming these ideas, I not only thought about mental health, but also how to live longer because of the relationship between these two things. The face shows a healthy person who is thinking about all of these things.

My Mind, My Health

A “speak-ticle” (article with large quotes) about mental health, mental health policies in schools and COVID-19’s impact on mental health with Pooja Mehta

“Everyone has mental health.” -Pooja Mehta (many others have said this, too!)

19 year-old Pooja Mehta was in her dorm room at Duke University with one of her best friends when she had a sudden panic attack. In response, that so-called “best” friend/roommate reported her as a danger to herself and others to the Dean of Students and tried to get her kicked off the campus.

Pooja Mehta: I’m sitting there thinking, Y’all have all these letters behind your name, PhDs and such, and you don’t know the first thing about mental health and what it’s actually like living with a mental illness. So, I started sharing my story. I founded NAMI on campus at Duke and really started trying to break those assumptions and stigmas of people with mental illness by using myself as an example and encouraging other people to do the same.

Mehta had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression several years earlier, but this incident would encourage her to speak up about mental health and get her masters in public health.

As she continued to reach out and work with others to help them find a therapist or become comfortable enough to reach out on their own, she began to encounter situations where people couldn’t find a therapist for after hours or their insurance didn’t cover it. That’s when she started turning towards policy and looking at the bigger picture. This led her to the mental health policy side of things. We interviewed her to understand more about mental health and mental health policies in schools.

What is mental health?

To understand anything else, it is important to understand mental health. During our conversation, Mehta compared mental health to physical health and explained that it is equally important to our overall health.

Mehta: For me, the definition of physical health is having a body that is able to do the things I need it to do. It’s able to walk. It’s able to lift things. I’m able to sleep. I’m able to do whatever I do a lot of on a regular basis. Mental health is kind of the same thing. My brain is able to do the things that I need it to do and do them well. Am I able to think properly when I need to write? Am I able to imagine what I’m trying to draw? Am I able to feel emotions the way that I want to – the way that’s normal for me? Am I able to stay awake? This is what qualifies as mental health for me.

She explained to us how mental health days should be treated the same as sick days. Many times, when people think of a “mental health day,” they think of feeling sad or anxious. But sometimes, it might just mean not being able to focus or not feeling the way you would like to because you are struggling with your general mental health. It’s not when you don’t want to go to school or work, it’s when you can’t go to school or work. “Feelings are just a part of the [health] equation,” as Mehta put it.

Recognizing When Help is Needed and Diagnosis

The most common sign that someone is struggling with their mental health is a personality change or extremes in behavior in comparison to their normal behavior. If their behavior suddenly changes, you might want to have a conversation with them. However, this doesn’t mean you need to start making drastic decisions for them. Just tell them what you’ve noticed and leave it at that, unless you think their condition will cause them to hurt themselves in some way. If your friend/family member does decide to see a counselor, offer to go with them because your presence is one of the best things you can give them.

Mehta: Just just showing up is one of the biggest things you can do. When I was at Duke, we had a counseling and psychiatric service on campus. One thing I would do was take people to their first appointment. I would help them fill out the intake paperwork and everything because it can be a very overwhelming experience. I would read in the waiting room while they had their appointment and we would link up after. Sometimes we would talk about it. Sometimes we would go get ice cream. Sometimes we would just walk out the door, say “bye” and go our separate ways, depending on how the person was feeling. Just showing up and supporting that person is important, which I understand might be a little difficult. You can say, “You’re not alone,” or, “I’m here for you,” but it doesn’t mean anything unless you are there for them.

Remember that a diagnosis is not something you should do on your own. It is important to see a medical professional because many symptoms of mental health conditions are similar to one another. If you think you are suffering from a mental health condition, it is a good idea to start that conversation with your primary care provider to see what they think. They can often make a diagnosis or refer you to someone else who can.

Mental Health and Medicine

From our interview with Drs. Ritesh Patel and Jae Jung, we learned a little about mental health medications and their experience serving mental health patients. 

As part of their work, they’ve gotten the opportunity to serve the mental health population, including patients with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Sometimes, their work is getting the right drug, but more and more now, it has transitioned towards using antipsychotic drugs, which can be injected into patients once a month so they don’t have to take a pill every day. These are the kind of game-changing new developments that are happening in the pharmacy field because of new laws and policies, which help propel our progress along.

Also, more and more now, pharmacists are actually getting to see their patient on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to check if the medicine is working, what their side effects are and if they need to get the doctor back on the phone to change something. Pharmacists have become a conduit between the physician and the patient, as well as a great resource to help them within the “care circle” being created between the three.

How the Pandemic Has Affected Mental Health

In addition to the new laws and policies that are being made, the pandemic has added a new question to the mental health conversation. More people seem to be struggling with their mental health now, likely because of the isolation and a lack of socialization. It is true more people are suffering from mental health conditions, which come from reactions to unreal stressors; however, a lot of us are also suffering from reactions to real stressors, which doesn’t necessarily mean we have a mental health condition.

The massive amounts of news that is being published everyday, everywhere with the growth of social media and the internet creates a lot of unknowns because who knows which news is right or wrong, over-exaggerated or under-exaggerated. Also, with a rise in deaths because of COVID, a rise in wildfires and sea levels because of global warming and a variety of other major issues, there is a lot to cope with in today’s world. 

Mehta: [With the pandemic], a lot of people are saying they’re dealing with anxiety and depression, but they have real stressors: we’re in a pandemic. People are struggling at their jobs. People are struggling at school. Socialization is hard. The world is on fire every other day. There are a lot of external things that are triggering those responses, so I don’t know if I would call it a disorder as much as people are responding the way they should be to a world that is falling apart. Depression, anxiety, sadness, fear and anger are normal emotions. I think people forget that. If you are constantly anxious, it’s bad. It’s bad for your body. It’s bad for your mindset. It’s not a great place to be. If you are constantly scared or constantly stressed, it is normal to be constantly anxious. That is how your body responds to external stressors and it’s when the body’s response is disproportionate to the stressors that you start to have a problem. But if you really are in a situation that warrants the anxiety that you’re having, which a lot of people unfortunately are, it’s not a mental health disorder. We need to fix the bigger picture here.

School Policies That Have Been Implemented

There are different levels of mental health policies at different government levels and considering whether school policies are from students’ mental health or not depends on what you consider to be a mental health policy. For example, a free lunch program  could be considered a mental and physical health program. By giving children’s food, you are reducing stress for children and parents. There is also the option of mental health counselors who give a student a person that they trust to talk to.

Another example of student mental health policies are the mental health days that have been added to the school calendar. In fact, WCPSS made November 12th ()the Friday before we published this edition ,a non-institutional day of reflection for staff and students or a mental health day!

School Policies That Need to Be Implemented

Mehta believes that no homework is a school policy that should be implemented to help with kids’ mental health. Instead of using time outside of school to do more school, they can work on other parts of development. For example, working on a skill set like learning how to change a tire, socializing, or other things that a kid might enjoy like playing outside.

Mehta also believes that schools should get rid of rankings, have more school counselors available, and be able to get referrals that might not need parents’ consent. 

Mehta: I think school kids are constantly in this environment where they have to do their best, but you don’t constantly need to be in an environment where you are fighting to be at the top. On the one hand, school is supposed to prepare you for the real world. In the real world there is competition and stress, but I think the best thing schools can do is help students figure out what success means to them. For me, one of the biggest drivers of my anxiety was that I was trying to reach goals that were not right for me, but I  don’t need to be great at everything. Nobody is great at everything and anyone who says they are great at everything is lying.

There does need to be some component of academic achievement, like you can’t just flunk out of school, but maybe success for you is not straight A’s. Maybe success for you is really understanding the concepts and being able to tell them to someone else. Everyone is not the same, not everyone learns the same and not everyone needs to be the same.

How Back to School and the Pandemic is Affecting Kids 

Now onto the question that connects this article to our overarching theme from the magazine: How is going back to in-person school affecting kids’ mental health?

While it’s too soon for any studies to be published, Mehta believes back-to-school is better for student’s mental health. A major reason for this is being able to socialize more because uman connection is one of the most important parts of our development.

But there is the question of mental health over physical safety. Is it better for students’ to be safe from a worldspread virus and not be able to develop their social skills? Or is it better for students’ to strengthen their mental health and be put at risk of a deadly virus?

Mehta: [There is a question of] balance. How do you balance safety [from a worldwide pandemic] and normalcy because getting back into the routine – getting back to like going to different places to do different things that’s how society is meant to work. That’s why we have evolved society to be the way it is. If we all wanted to stay in the same place the entire time, we would have made it to do that.

How can teachers and parents help?

Teachers and parents can be the most important adults in a kid’s life. They help them learn, grow and teach them the ways of society. It is important that adults show them the issues in the world and how we might be affected or have to deal with them.

Mehta: Just show that they acknowledge that these issues exist, that they are important, that the adults are trustworthy, and will not screw you over. One of the biggest fears about telling an adult was that they would respond absolutely terribly and I would get kicked out of school, which sounds ridiculous but it’s actually not as uncommon as you would think. This was like 10 years ago so things are different. I would say as a teacher or parent, be vulnerable by example. This means kind of “normalizing” having problems. Sharing stories of how they might be struggling will encourage the people around them to do the same.

As Mehta explained, when the parents or parental figures in our life accept what is going on or can relate to what is going on, it makes the situation a lot more bearable.

How Attitude Towards Mental Health has Changed Over Generations and Between Cultures

Attitudes towards mental health are different between generations and cultures because of different ideals, whether ethinic, religious or other. Over the years, the attitude has gotten better, but Mehta thinks the Asian community and other minority communities have been slower to change. Some of this might have to do with belief in masking your feelings to appear stronger or to, in a way protect, yourself.

How to Start The Discussion 

Starting the discussion about mental health can seem like a daunting task, but there are some important things you can do that make it easier and less stressful. The main thing to begin doing is talk about when you’re not doing so great, mental health-wise. When you’re in an environment where no one does that, you have to take the first step. If you’re more likely to be vulnerable with people, they will be vulnerable with you.

Mehta: Have you ever seen those videos of penguins who want to hop in the water but they know there’s sharks around? Nobody wants to be the first one because they don’t know what it’s going to be like; however, once the first one goes, all the penguins follow. For me I was that first penguin, I shared my story when nobody else did. I had no idea how people were gonna react. Overwhelmingly, people reacted positively and it inspired a lot of other people to share their story but you taking that leap was so scary.

Invite people to be vulnerable with you. I have found that if you are vulnerable with other people, they’re more likely to be vulnerable with you. This creates a tight bond of trust – emotional intimacy that you generally don’t get otherwise.


  • Check out, the organization Mehta opened at Duke
  • is another organization that helps with mental health, particularly in schools
  • Be sure to ask the family doctor for advice about mental health and on professionals to visit
  • To read more about mental health, check out

Mental Health Reviews

As always, this issue’s reviews dive deeper into a topic from the edition: mental health. These reviews dive deeper into the topic. Also, check out the article on mistakes for a bonus book review!


Melinda is entering high school without friends because at the end-of-summer party she called the cops. There is more to the story than this, but what happened is unfaceable. And, as the year progresses, Melinda grows more and more secluded because of it. The only thing that might be helping is her art class. Laurie Halse Anderson does a brilliant job conveying Melinda’s voice in a believable and relatable way.

Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen is a tear-jerker that beautifully covers the topic of mental health. Evan Hansen is a high schooler who suffers from social anxiety. After a classmate of his commits suicide, the parents of that classmate end up thinking Evan Hansen was that classmate’s best friend. Alas, Evan Hansen has gotten the thing he has always wanted: friends and a complete family. Dear Evan Hansen is a movie that everyone should see as it will widen your view on how we judge and look at other humans.

110 Stories (by Leeya)

I recently had the opportunity to watch an impactful play at my high school called 110 stories. The play captures the grief and essense of 9/11 through direct interviews from firefighters, police, iron workers, and many others who were impacted by 9/11. This play especially resonated with me as the concept of mental health was very prevalent from suicide to the addictive factor of helping victims during 9/11. This play brings new perspectives from many different characters to the table all while remembering the magnitude of 9/11.

Living Locally: The City of Raleigh (COR) Museum

By Leeya

The City of Raleigh Museum is one of this city’s gems. To learn more about the museum’s history and current exhibits, I interviewed Ernest Dollar, the museum director. You can visit the City of Raleigh Museum at 220 Fayetteville Street, Tuesday through Saturday from 9 to 4PM and Sunday from 1 to 4PM. Entry is free. Visit for more information. 

When was the City of Raleigh Museum founded? In 1963

How long have you been a director? 10 years

Why did you want to become a director? My job as director was able to synthesize my historical interest and art ability. It allowed me freedom to decide what the exhibit would look like, the theme of them, and what topics could be talked about. It was a great way to synthesize both of my passions.

How has the Museum changed during your time as a director? Over time, we have gained a lot of connections with the community. We’ve been able to work with so many different groups and give them a place to see their history reflected in the exhibits

What do you believe separates the City of Raleigh Museum from other museums? While we are a small museum with a narrow scope, we still try to do big things. One of the benefits of being a small museum is that we have a great ability to be able to pivot and change the course of our museum quicker than a lot of large institutions. Oftentimes, larger museums have a harder time reacting to contemporary events, however we can incorporate what’s going on in the community into our exhibits. We also have a very driven staff that is passionate about history. That energy allows us to make what we do more meaningful.

What is your favorite exhibit? I loved the Beyond Bollywood Exhibit. It was just a beautiful exhibit with great input from the community. I also liked our exhibit called Our war: Voices of Raleigh World War II veterans which we had in 2014. This exhibit had a lot of oral history interviews with so many different types of veterans. It really showed me how diverse the WWII experience was. 

What exhibits do you have currently? We have the City of Raleigh exhibit titled Hello We Are Raleigh which covers the basic history of Raleigh. We have People Politics which discusses local democracy in Raleigh. There is the Women of Change exhibit which is all about the history of the 19th amendment and legacy of it in Raleigh. We have our Dorothea Dix exhibit. Lastly, we have an exhibit named You Really Stuck It To Me Today. This exhibit is getting ready to close but it is all about political cartoonist Dwayne Pall.

What happens when exhibits are ready to be taken down? The exhibit gets boxed up and put into storage. We have started doing this thing where we save former exhibits and convert it into a traveling exhibit. This is a great thing because it allows the community to borrow it and set it up where they have space for it.

How long is the Dorothea Dix Exhibit up for? This exhibit’s open until December and then it will move to Dorothea Dix Park for January and February.

Why did you decide to do this exhibit? In 2015, the City of Raleigh bought the Dorothea Dix hospital site to transform it into Raleigh’s newest park. We wanted to do our part to convert it from a hospital to a place of play. We believed the exhibit would help to understand the history.

What are some of the artifacts that can be found in that exhibit? This exhibit aimed to cover four perspectives:

  1. Land before hospital was built
  2. Patient experience
  3. Employees and staff who worked there
  4. Future of park

We wanted it to fit in with the museum’s theme which is then, now, and next. Ultimately, everything has a historical aspect, contemporary aspect, and future aspect. This uses the past to think of today and makes it relevant in the conversation.

Picture of a patient-made collage
Picture of a diagnosis list from right to left (number, name, school teacher, supposed cause, duration before diagnosis/how they’ve been suffering from mental illness, diagnosis)
Art therapy
Strait Jacket (used to confine a mental patient)
Artifacts from Dorothea Dix Hospital

How do you think the Dorothea Dix Exhibit influences the way that people see mental institutions? In this exhibit, we are trying to help the audience understand the past experience of these patients. There was a shift in mental health in the 1970s-1980s where many people closed mental health patients in loo of outpatient care. We thought about that question of if that has helped or hurt our ability to take care of the mentally ill. This exhibit let us into discussions about the mental health of enslaved Africans in the US and the treatment of Native Americans in the mental hospital. This exhibit really made us think about how the idea of race affects mental health treatment? In fact, at the very end of the civil war, Dorothea Dix was the first part of the state government to be implemented.

How did the idea of this exhibit come about? When the city bought the property and announced plans to turn it into a park, not everyone was happy. Many mental health advocates hoped it would remain as a hospital. We felt that sharing the experience of the patients, the staff, and the doctors who worked here would somehow help people think about the idea of mental health and apply it to conditions today. 

For an impactful outing and a way to enjoy Raleigh, visit the COR Museum’s Dorothea Dix exhibit and then visit the Dorothea Dix Park to reflect on its topics. The park has interpretive history markers and seasonal events. Mr. Dollar says, “You would never think going to a former asylum would be fun, but it gives you a lot to think about.” Visit to learn more.

Epigenetics: History As It Appears In Your Genetic Information

“To look at your[self], you must look back at your own history.” -Ernest Dollar

When interviewing Ernest Dollar, we learned about something called “epigenetics.” Epigenetics is when trauma is passed down through generations. Mr. Dollar, who is writing a book about this, wondered: Is there a way that Holocaust survivors passed down their trauma to generations because of how genes are affected? Is there away that the mental health effects of slavery were passed down? If that was still true, it is hard to imagine how many people that affects in this country and around the world. This theory is not implausible. In fact, researchers have wondered if health in the womb can influence health throughout the life. Dr. LH Lumey speculated that epigenetic profiles might someday allow doctors to detect changes that would lead to problems much later in life.

Information from:

Learning by Mistake

By Adalia

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

Mistakes are something that have happened to humans since the first homo habilis used the first stone tool to kill their food. Mistakes have happened to everyone from the leaders of ancient American civilizations trusting conquistadors to people thinking the Earth was flat and the center of the universe to countries withdrawing into isolation, like China after their rise as a global power in the 15th century to the sinking of the Titanic.

But mistakes have also been made that weren’t wrong or bad, such as the discovery of penicillin, artists making mistakes, turning miracles in their music and political figures making mistakes that set them up to win wars.

How can mistakes help us learn? Are they important to our development?

Before we dive into things further, when did “mistake” become a word? What does it mean? And, what are some examples of mistakes in history, music and science.

Etymology of “Mistake”

The word mistake comes from the Old Norse word “mistaka,” which means “to take in error.” This is a cognate with both Icelandic “mistaka” and Swedish “missta,” both which mean “to mistake.” “Mistake” also comes from the Old French word “meprendre,” which is very similar to “méprise” or “mistake” in French today. The Late Middle English version of “mistake” came about in the 15th or 16th century. The Mariam-Webster Dictionary records the first known use of “mistake” in the 14th century, however.

According to Google Ngram Viewer, which is a tool that tracks the usage of a word in books from 1500 onward, “mistake” was used in English-language books most between 1529 and 1532, with a minimum usage not long afterwards in 1550.

Today, the definition of mistake has become slightly longer but still has the same gist. The word can be used as a noun, as in “it was a mistake” or a verb to describe an action.

Mistakes in History

As mentioned above, mistakes have happened to humans since the first homo habilis roamed sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout history, leaders have made mistakes that were either fatal to their civilizations or ones that broadened their borders and opened up new possibilities. There have been mistakes in politics today that have lost wars and won elections. There have been mistakes that have made history by killing lives or saving them. Mistakes in history being negative or positive depends a lot on your perspective.

A big political mistake that played a huge role leading up to the colonization of a whole hemisphere, was when Montezuma, the Aztec leader, welcomed Hernan Cortes as a god into his civilization. Some might consider it a good thing because this string of events gave birth to the countries that are in the Americas now, while others would consider the colonization of the Americas a brutal event. Another historical political mistake was the Intolerable Acts instituted by England on the Colonies (now the US), which played a big role in causing the US Revolution. This revolution helped inspire the French Revolution and led to the creation of one of today’s global superpowers.

One of the biggest historical events, which we all know of, is the crashing of the RMS Titanic into an iceberg. In fact, this event is so infamous there are more than fifteen films and documentaries about it. The miscommunication and unpreparedness that caused the death of over 1,500 people and a loss of millions of dollars that night would teach an extremely important lesson for future transportation.

Mistakes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

The place mistakes happen most frequently is probably in STEM because experiments are essentially testing out ideas that may or may not prove correct and then retrying if the hypothesis was wrong.

One of the oldest known STEM mistakes happened 2,000 years ago. According to a legend, the firework was a mistake made by a Chinese cook who accidentally mixed charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter in a bamboo tube, which promptly exploded. Clearly, some mistakes in one area go on to impact a whole different area. This was also the case in 1856 when William Perkin was working to develop a synthetic version of the drug used to treat malaria. He failed to create a drug that actually treated malaria and instead discovered a way to make a mauve-dye for clothing, in a much, much cheaper way.

In the early mid-1800s, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre figured out how to expose an image on a plate covered in silver iodine, which is sensitive to light. However, his images weren’t showing up clearly enough, so he threw the plate in a cabinet, to clean up his failed experiment later. When he picked it up several days later to clean, the image came out perfectly visible. It turned out that mercury vapor from a broken mercury thermometer in the cabinet had been the thing to set off the reaction to produce a better picture. And so the Daguerreotype photograph was born! Obviously cleaning up is important, but clearly not doing so can also lead to mistakes that change views or even save lives in the case of the discovery of penicillin. The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming, a Scottish scientist who was not so diligent in cleaning up the lab, is one of the most well-known mistake turned miracle in science. One day, when he finally got around to cleaning his lab, he discovered a fungus, penicillium, which had killed the nearby bacteria, but didn’t harm human cells. This bacteria-eating fungi would go on to become one of the most common antibiotics.

Another extremely impactful mistake that has saved millions of lives is the pacemaker, which was unintentionally designed by John Hopps, who was trying to use the heat of radio frequency to restore body temperature when someone got hypothermia.

Mistakes in Music

In music, mistakes can have negative effects, but there are times when musical mistakes have created new genres or won artists Grammys, such as Ella Fitzegerald winning a Grammy for her album Mack the Knife. She messed up her chorus in her 1960 Berlin performance, yet managed to create a mix tape-like cover up on the spot, which impressed viewers around the world.

Many mistakes in music gave artists their musical personality, like the coughing in the background of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Furthermore, after this album was published, David Gilmour, the guitarist decided to give up smoking, which was allegedly the reason for the noise.

Which makes me wonder, are the mistakes we make in science, life and music always bad for us? If England hadn’t instituted the Intolerable Acts what would the Colonies and the world be like now? If John Hopps hadn’t accidentally built the pacemaker, how many people would have died because of heart issues? Do mistakes in music more often benefit or harm a musical career?

Mistakes, Our Brains and Development

Obviously, mistakes can be beneficial. In fact, there have been multiple studies done to show the positive effect mistakes have. Many of us have heard the common “mistakes help us learn” phrase and there is more truth to it than one might think.

A study published in Nature Communications conducted three trials to understand more about avoidance-based learning, reward-based learning and learning from mistakes. It found that the “reward circuit” of the brains of the people who did reward-based learning and learned from their mistakes was activated. Stefano Palminteri, PhD, one of the authors of the study explained that mistakes and punishment are linked. If you make a mistake and have the opportunity to learn from it, your brain sends reward signals because you had likely expected a negative reaction from the mistake.

This idea of mistakes and punishment also connects to development. If teachers and parents explain mistakes as accidents, not things to be punished for, it could change an individual’s entire perspective and encourage them to exercise their brain by giving them more freedom to make mistakes. This could encourage individuals to focus on their mistakes to learn from them and become more confident in their mistake-making, which may actually help the students learn more things, according to Dr. Amy L Eva, PhD, an education director from the Great Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Today, in school, mistakes tie into the mental health topic. In school, students are being watched by other students, staff and teachers, who are comparing and judging their actions. This can give students a negative view on mistakes, which means, when they do make one, the feeling of failure is much bigger.

Other Benefits to Making Mistakes

This wasn’t the first study to be done on the topic and it won’t be the last. Each study that is done uncovers new and improved information about mistakes.

A Yahoo Life article summarized several things discovered by various studies on making mistakes. First, and perhaps most obvious, mistakes make you smarter because they encourage you to learn and identify what went wrong and what there is to learn from that. Along those lines, mistakes also help you learn faster because they “train” the brain to respond faster to mistakes, which in turn helps you understand and comprehend things better. Mistakes can motivate you to try harder next time. Finally, they “rewire” our brain to avoid repeating past mistakes.


Many of us know that mistakes can help us learn. However, knowing that mistakes and the “reward circuit” of the brain are connected helps in understanding why and how mistakes help us learn. Furthermore, it shows that mistakes can help our memory, learning and motivation. Because of all these benefits, it makes sense that mistakes are crucial to our development, particularly when we are little.

Hopefully, this article gave you a new perspective on mistakes and what you can do when you make one to learn from it! Thank you to Lumina, the first place winner of our 2021 Writing Contest, for the article suggestion!

Citations and Resources

  • Business Insider: “15 Life-Changing Inventions That Were Created By Mistake”
  • Google Ngram Viewer
  • Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley: “Why We Should Embrace Mistakes in School”
  • Mariam-Webster Dictionary
  • Mental Floss: “7 Biggest Political Blunders All Time”
  • Yahoo Life: “7 Reasons Why Mistakes Are Actually Good For Us”

Mistakes That Worked

By Leeya

Did you know silly putty, potato chips, and frisbees were all invented from mistakes? Me neither, until I read this book! This 96-page picture book describes 40 inventions that were invented by mistake. This book is not only informative, but interesting and a great book to teach kids to not be afraid of mistakes. I often read it as a kid, fascinated by the colorful pictures and the interesting concept of mistakes being good.

A Quick Happy Halloween

There is something so freeing about getting to walk around the neighborhood at night in the cool weather, which is why Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. After waiting a whole year for trick-or-treating, we were so hyped to get back to it. For those whose doors we were able to knock on, it was awesome to get to see you! For those who weren’t home or don’t live near us, we missed you, but hope you had a wonderful holiday!!

Overall, we had a great time gathering candy and then returning to Adalia’s house to sort it out. We got a LOT of candy from Pumpkin Pie-flavored Kit Kats to sugar skull candies to teeth cleaning lollipops to numerous king-sized candy bars!

For this Halloween, we each prepared a costume. Adalia sewed her entire outfit, which juxtaposed life and death. She found inspiration from a piece of art she had done with papier-mâché about 3 years ago. Leeya planned for a Squid Game costume, but even though she ordered it more than a month ahead of time, it didn’t arrive as planned. Instead, Leeya dressed up as a skeleton with her mouth sewn shut, using everyday makeup for her skeleton face.

We had debated doing a livestream like we did for last Halloween, but ultimately didn’t have enough time. We still hope you enjoyed hearing a little about our 2021 Halloween!

Puns n’ Recipes: Pasta con Olio di Peperoncino e Mais

Recipe by Leeya

What do Italians eat on Halloween? Fettuccine-a-fraid-o

Ready in 1 hour 

Serves 4 people


  • 1 small yellow onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pound of pasta
  • ½ of a green bell pepper
  • 2 cobs of corn
  • Italian seasoning blend:
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
    • ½ teaspoon dried sage
    • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
    • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • ½ tablespoon of calabrian chile oil
  • 3 tablespoons of the starch from pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 jar of good-quality pasta sauce 


  1. Boil water and salt it with 1 tablespoon of salt. Do this first because it will save you time and you can chop up your veggies while the water is boiling.
  2. Dice 1 small onion, ½ of a green bell pepper, cut the kernels off the cob of 3 corns and mince 3 cloves of garlic.
  3. Prepare the spice blend and mix until combined. 
  4. By this time, your water should be boiling. Add the pasta and cook according to the package’s directions. You want the pasta to be cooked slightly firm.
  5. Strain the pasta and make sure to keep a few tablespoons of the pasta water.
  6. Take the strained pasta and put in a pot with two tablespoons of olive oil. Not only will this prevent the pasta from sticking, but it will also allow the pasta to marinade to add to the flavor.
  7. Take a large saucepan and melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium. Once the butter is melted, put in one piece of onion. If it sizzles, you can put the rest of the onion in.
  8. Saute the onion for one minute, then add garlic and cook until slightly brown.
  9. Add the green bell pepper and spice blend and cook for about four minutes. 
  10.  After the veggies are fragrant and somewhat cooked, push the veggies to one side of the pan. On the other side, melt the rest of the butter and add the pasta.
  11.  Slowly incorporate the veggies into the pasta.
  12.  Once combined, add calabrian chile oil and some salt and pepper. 
  13.  Stir for another two minutes.
  14.  Now add your good-quality pasta sauce and corn and stir for three minutes. Adding the corn last will ensure that it isn’t overcooked and is crunchy.
  15.  Once the pasta sauce is incorporated with the pasta and veggies, add the three tablespoons of pasta water which will add a starchy flavor to the dish.
  16.  Serve hot and enjoy! 


  • Calabrian chile is an item you might not have, but I definitely suggest making a trip to the store to buy it because it will add a spicy, flavorful tone to the dish. Plus, you can use it to elevate any pasta dish!
  • Good quality sauce is key to this because it is one of the dominating flavors. 
  • I suggest using penne pasta, but you can also use spaghetti.

Living Locally: What is Radio Orienteering?

By Adalia

You may remember our Jobs and Occupations edition, where one of our interviewees, Dave Waller, talked about orienteering map drafting. But, what is orienteering? And, in regards to the title, what is radio orienteering or ARDF?

To understand radio orienteering, you first must understand orienteering. Orienteering is a sport that involves a specially-made map and compass. The map (similar to the one on the left) shows an area of land, which the orienteer uses (with the help of a compass) to navigate. The event director has marked the map with specific points, which the orienteer uses their skills to navigate to. Once they get to the place that matches the point on the map, they find an orange control flag, which the event director has set out to mark the spot. The orienteer punches the control with their electronic finger punch and their time is marked. By the time they arrive at the finish, the orienteer will have collected a specific number of punches and the time intervals between controls. For Adalia’s club (Backwoods Orienteering), the results are always posted on the website:

*To learn more about regular orienteering check out

Radio orienteering (also called Amateur Radio Direction Finding, or ARDF, for short), on the other hand, involves a radio receiver (which picks up the signals) and a radio transmitter (which sends out the signals), in addition to the map and compass. For classic radio orienteering, the event coordinator sets out the controls, however does NOT mark where they are on the map. This means that the orienteer has to use their receiver to detect which direction and how far away the signals are. The two types of classic radio orienteering are 80-meter and 2-meter. 80-meter events are (in Adalia’s opinion) easier because they require a smaller receiver, which is much easier to handle, whereas the 2-meter events are more difficult because they require a MUCH larger receiver and the signals bounce off hills, large rock formations and a variety of other obstructions.

So, what is this Living Locally about? Well…

October 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th were the 2021 USA ARDF Championships. There were four events: a radio orienteering sprint, which is very similar to the 80-meter, an 80-meter event, a fox-oring event, which involves more orienteering skills and uses a weaker radio signal, and a 2-meter event.

Adalia participated in the 80-meter, the fox-oring and the 2-meter events. Congratulations to her for getting first place in all of her events!! Go to for more about each event and for the results.