TUESDAY JANUARY 19, 2021 VOLUME 110 ISSUE 1
DEFENDING THE FIRST AMENDMENT SINCE 1911
Athletes, coaches reflect on importance of mental health
Opinion: Equip the Counseling Center with more resources
Texas State professors use computational medicine to improve healthcare
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SEE PAGE 5 By The Editorial Board This is one hell of a time for us to be here. The last time we had words printed in our newspaper was right before the beginning of the worst global health crisis in modern history, a catastrophe that has claimed the lives of too many in our world, country and community. Last summer, following the killing of George Floyd and ongoing racial injustice toward Black communities at the hands of police, protests took place throughout San Marcos and beyond with our sisters and brothers — including from Texas State — pleading for their lives to matter to the general population. Then we transitioned to arguably the most polarizing election in American history, a process that fostered divisiveness in our communities before but certainly worsened after, leading to a vicious insurrection in the U.S. Capitol by a mob unhappy with the outcome of our
Texas State prepares for COVID-19 vaccine distribution By Jaden Edison Editor-in-Chief After nearly a year of devastation brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent news of Texas becoming the first state to administer 1 million doses of vaccines, Texas State’s Student Health Center is gearing up for its own vaccination efforts with hopes the campus community will take advantage. Texas State, an approved vaccine provider, created a workgroup during the fall semester to begin planning for distribution and now expects to receive either the FDA-approved Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in the coming weeks. “We've seen those horrible pictures of people standing in line for hours and hours to get the vaccine; that is not how we're going to distribute vaccines on our campus,” says Dr. Emilio Carranco, the Student Health Center director. “The Department of State Health Services is going to tell us which priority groups we are to administer the vaccine.” Carranco suspects the state health department will want to send the Pfizer vaccine but says it is possible Texas State could receive both, "a more difficult logistical challenge" the university can manage if needed. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses (both doses must be the same brand), with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not recommending the latter dose be taken earlier than three weeks (Pfizer) or one month (Moderna). Once the university has access to the vaccine and knows the
SEE TXST VACCINE PAGE 2
democratic process. It was an event that led to the unnecessary deaths of five people and conveyed a stark contrast between how our country responds to marginalized communities seeking equality compared to those who are white, privileged and angry because something does not work in their favor — a reality members of our own organization have also benefited from. The opportunity to have your stories displayed in our newspaper again, often the first draft of history, was something we looked forward to. We knew Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the start of the spring semester and the presidential inauguration on the horizon — all amid the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic — would lead to more opportunities for us to be a trustworthy presence during a time when people needed it most. We would also be lying if we said the disheartening events that have taken place in recent weeks have not taken a mental and emotional toll on us. It is times like these when we lean on the teachings of historic figures like King, who once wrote, “We are not makers of history; we are made by history,” which we interpret as a condemnation of conformity to wrongdoing. He made it clear we can either choose to be “a molder of society,” or get “molded by society.” King’s words serve as an important
reminder not to succumb to the status quo and actively work against the policies and procedures that have kept everyday people from receiving equal opportunities. That was the motivation behind The Star taking on “The 11% Project,” an examination of Black students at Texas State through History, Election, Hometowns, Activism, Creatives, Mentorship and 10 years from now. We understand the importance of holding our university leaders, city officials and law enforcement accountable and responsible for answering the important questions they have disregarded for decades. From the very beginning of this school year, it was all about us having internal discussions, for better or worse, about what we could do as an organization to not be a part of the systemic problem — with intentions of transforming those discussions into policy we hoped would get passed on once our time as part of this organization came to an end. As we continue to find our footing and work to make sense of everything happening in this community, we will keep the words of King, and others who fought for people to have a chance, alive. "The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false.”
How Texas State scientists are saving lives in labs By Tania Zapien Life & Arts Contributor Before stepping foot into the clinical lab of Ascension Seton Hays Hospital in Kyle, Gilbert Swink sat fully clothed in personal protective equipment, including a mask and a face shield, ready to run another set of COVID-19 tests. Like many health care workers, Swink, a Texas State alumnus and medical lab scientist, has been working nonstop on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. His work along with many other clinical laboratory professionals across the country is the work of the unseen, keeping turnaround rates for testing as low as possible. As of early January, the U.S. laboratory medicine workforce has performed
nearly 270,000,000 COVID-19 tests, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behind the numbers and often lost in the shadows are the scientists working tirelessly to make sure a high level of testing continues for the indefinite future. Since last spring, Swink has mastered the art of COVID-19 testing; however, his success comes with plenty of roadblocks standing in the way. “When we first started, we had to pretty much come up with our own kits for specimen collection because, you know, supply was very short because of manufacturing,” Swink says. Once rapid testing analyzers became available, Swink became one of the first medical laboratory scientists at his hospital to learn how to use them. He then trained the rest of the laboratory
Alumni Jill Green and Ryan Reyes work through their lab, before the pandemic, under the supervision of Dave Falleur, who founded the CLS program in 1974 and served as chair of the department for three decades.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RODNEY E. ROHDE
SEE LABORATORY PAGE 4 ESSENTIAL WORKERS
Health care workers navigate changes in essential roles By Timia Cobb Assistant News Editor Health care workers have found themselves working to keep a pandemic under control while battling inclinations to get physically close to unwell patients — an action once a natural part of their identities but now a bigger threat to their personal safety. "You have to go in there with all your gear, and you can't really make them feel like you're there for them because you can't touch them and you can't get close to them," says Jennifer Dunnigan, a pre-med senior who works as a medical scribe. "You kind of have to stand on the opposite side of the room.” Equipped with protective gear such as face masks and gloves, local health care workers now encounter an unusual medical environment — one filled with new safety rules and regulations
brought on by COVID-19.
Dunnigan began working as a scribe during the pandemic and says the "YOU HAVE TO GO IN physical distance with patients is more due to safety protocols in THERE WITH ALL YOUR apparent place. GEAR, AND YOU CAN'T As a medical scribe, Dunnigan's tasks include assisting doctors and nurses REALLY MAKE THEM by electronically reporting patients' medical symptoms. While she says her FEEL LIKE YOU'RE job can be stressful, it minimizes the THERE FOR THEM paperwork nurses and doctors have to and opens up more time for BECAUSE YOU CAN'T complete them to focus on patients. “When I first started this job, I was TOUCH THEM AND absolutely overwhelmed [with] every YOU CAN'T GET CLOSE shift, but I think [as] you get more experience as a scribe or wherever you TO THEM." are in the medical field, you learn how to handle larger and larger loads," Dunnigan says. "There’s still those days -JENNIFER where you're like, 'that was just crazy, I even know what just happened'... DUNNIGAN, don’t You have other really good days that PRE-MED SENIOR bring you back up and remind you why
SEE ESSENTIAL WORKERS PAGE 2
The University Star
2 | Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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FROM FRONT ESSENTIAL WORKERS Trinity Building 203 Pleasant St. San Marcos, TX 78666 (512) 245 - 3487
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you're doing it." Synda Harper, an emergency room medical scribe, knew the job would place her at risk; however, that was not a concern as she had an interest in working with high-risk patients in high-risk areas. "Did I know there was an inherent risk going into a room? Absolutely. Did I know that the [accuracy] of [personal protective equipment] is not 100%? Absolutely. Do I still wish [the] general population was more adherent to public health policies? Yes," Harper says. At the beginning of the pandemic, Harper says the hospitals she would scribe for stepped up precautions to prevent the spread and contact with the virus. "They were probably way more stringent when it first started," Harper says. "We had to have our temperatures taken upon arrival and then we had to get a sticker that had our temperature [and] what time we got our temperature taken, what day we got our temperature taken, and [we had to wear the sticker.] Of course, we had masks on at all times." Some health care workers, such as Dr. Joseph Sokal, a psychiatric consultant for the Student Health Center, have been limited in their work but continue to fulfill their purpose regardless of social distancing barriers. Sokal says he has worked three days a week since the start of August and has only been inside the clinic once a week. As a psychiatric consultant, Sokal can meet with his patients virtually which gives them the opportunity to receive the help they need. "People can get mental health care without exposure," Sokal says. "People are having trouble focusing; they're having trouble getting their studies done; they're scared; they're getting depressed, and so it's critical that if you really notice that you're, you know, just not functioning well, that you're depressed, you're sad, you feel defeated or you're constantly nervous and anxious, that you know that the Student Health Center provides mental health care." In addition to new safety procedures and practices, potential contact with COVID-19 is a concern for health care workers. Dunnigan says it reminds her to be safe. “Sometimes I'll be in the emergency room, and there's like 70% COVID cases in there," Dunnigan says. "It's like you know every room you walk into, you have a chance of getting it, and we do have the masks and hand sanitizer but you're still, you know, within a couple of feet of someone you
Words painted on a window thank essential workers, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, at the Student Health Center. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH
know tested positive for COVID. It's kind of scary, and it's definitely scary when I go back to visit my family or things like that, but I do take precautions.” Working in health care typically allows nurses and doctors to connect ill patients with their loved ones, but Dunnigan says COVID-19 has created a different experience due to guest restrictions. “I've talked to people, I've talked to nurses that are in COVID units, and they tell me these stories... about, you know, patients coming in and the last time, you know, they saw their family [and] possibly won’t see their family again; they're put on a ventilator, and there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to die," Dunnigan says. Despite the stories Dunnigan has heard from fellow health care workers, she says she remains encouraged to pursue her career in medicine to ensure patients are met with someone who cares for them. "There [are] these really sad stories, but I think what keeps dragging me back to medicine and has like never let me let go of it, is just that I want to be that person that, you know, not changes medicine but is like a catalyst for better healthcare or some kind of living, breathing, caring physician that understands both sides," Dunnigan says.
FROM FRONT TXST VACCINE
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A view of the LBJ Student Center from outside the building's ballroom, which will serve as Texas State's mass vaccination site. STAR FILE PHOTO
priority groups, Carranco says it plans to reach out to members of the university community to receive their shots. When people sign up for the vaccine, they will schedule both their first and second shots, respectively. “We will notify them that we have a vaccine available; we will provide a link that they will be able to use to register for the vaccination; they will register in time slots,” Carranco says. “What I expect is we're going to get multiple allocations. And the first allocations might just be a few hundred doses of vaccine, and then I see that becoming a few thousand. And then I see that becoming several thousand.” To accommodate a potentially large number of high-risk people who will seek a vaccination, Texas State plans to utilize the ballrooms located in the LBJ Student Center as its mass vaccination site, citing the need for a week-to-week space large enough to sign people in and allow them to “stay for at least 15 minutes and in some cases, 30 minutes,” Carranco adds, while adhering to social distancing protocols. When Texas State begins its efforts, it will find itself in a position where it has an abundance of resources — a luxury Hays County does not currently benefit from. “Our role in the county has been to take care of Texas State,” Carranco says. “So when we draw up county emergency management plans, the expectation is that Texas State will take care of itself; we are half the population of San Marcos [which allows the county to concentrate on the other half ]. So if we can take care of ourselves, that's saying a lot." “Now, we still need help; we still need help from our county partners. But we have the resources to do this.”
But Texas State’s resources alone will not be enough to overcome the misinformation spread about vaccines — whether through social media or word-of-mouth — which has raised skepticism throughout the country about whether it is safe to get vaccinated. “What's really happened is that we were able to use tools that weren't available to us a decade ago, to be able to create and test vaccines much faster than we ever could,” Carranco says. “That should be a positive. But for some reason, people saw that as a negative and started to wonder whether corners were cut. No corners were cut; we just have better tools available to us to be able to create and test the vaccines.” Still, Carranco and other university and state officials’ efforts to communicate the safety of the vaccine, part of which will be their willingness to get vaccinated themselves, will likely come with additional challenges. Texas State’s student population is 40% Hispanic and 11% Black, and communities of color have a history of unequal healthcare treatment compared to their racial counterparts. COVID-19 has killed communities of color at a disproportionate rate. Black women are two-to-three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications compared to white women. The Tuskegee Study, a decadeslong syphilis fiasco that involved hundreds of Black men, still resides in the consciousness of communities negatively impacted by the healthcare system. Some feelings of skepticism toward healthcare treatment — including the development of effective COVID-19 vaccines — are rooted in the history of malfeasance toward marginalized groups.
In response to misinformation and fear surrounding the vaccines, Carranco says the university is trying to make the case that vaccinations are what will end the pandemic. “If we can get enough people vaccinated, then the ability of this virus to be able to move from person to person will start to diminish,” Carranco says. “Herd-immunity people debate whether that's 70% or 80%, or 85%. But the fact of the matter is, the more people who are vaccinated and now have developed antibodies to this virus, then the less likely people will be able to easily pass it from one person to the next to the next.” Jamie Thomas, a psychology sophomore who serves as the event coordinator for Black Women United, says when the organization had discussions about COVID-19 and the vaccine before it was made available on a national scale, some members expressed reluctance to take it. She says the disproportionate impact healthcare has on Black women takes a mental toll on her and others. “We want to be able to trust our medical officials and people that have authority over us — that are supposed to keep us safe. But in the past, they haven't been doing their job when it comes to us,” Thomas says. “It's hard to want to put your trust into people that have let you down before.” Despite those feelings, Thomas believes she and other members of the organization will eventually trust the vaccine, adding she respects health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and personally has family members in the medical field. “We can read any information we need to and see for ourselves in the news if this vaccine is going to work,” Thomas says. “So I think it really is something that most of us are going to be willing to get.” Others, such as Reece Jordan, an agricultural business and management senior, have not had to experience the same mental dilemma Thomas described but still would like to see how people react to the vaccines. He says he will have to spend more time educating himself before taking one. “I do know it could be beneficial but, also, not knowing much about it, you kind of want to see side effects and what research has gone into it,” Jordan says. “Time will tell.” “And so [if ] the vaccine can continue to show positive results...we can get rid of it. So if that's the case, then I think everybody should get it.”
The University Star
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | 3
Brianna Benitez News Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Uncertainty clouds public vaccine distribution in Hays County By Ricardo Delgado News Reporter While the fight against COVID-19 in Hays County has taken a step forward in the arrival and distribution of vaccines to prioritized groups, some argue the current state of inoculation in the county leaves much to be desired. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra announced on Jan. 18 via a media press conference that the state of Texas has categorized the county as a COVID-19 vaccine hub as of Jan. 16. The county now anticipates the arrival of about 1,900 vaccines from the state this week. However, Becerra says the county does not know if and when the county will receive additional doses. Once the vaccines arrive, Becerra says the county will open up a website portal where those eligible for vaccinations may sign up. "I can't bring our community's hopes up until [the vaccines] are in my possession," Becerra says in the press conference. "Unless and until they are in possession, we will not turn on the registration portal." During a Jan. 15 Facebook Live, Becerra informed the community the county received 300 doses of the vaccine. Beccera says in the press conference those vaccines have since been distributed to individuals in Tier 1A which includes health care workers, long-term care staff working with vulnerable residents, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities. Those vaccines have also been distributed to Tier 1B which includes staff in outpatient care settings who interact with symptomatic patients, direct care staff in freestanding emergency medical care facilities, community pharmacy staff, public health and emergency response staff working in the administration of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, last responders and school nurses. Prior to the initial shipment, vaccines were only being sent to private organizations that requested them. Becerra communicated his concerns over the lack of vaccines available to local public health departments in a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 4. Becerra says there is no reason for the vaccine to arrive in private hands before public ones. The uncertainty surrounding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is not limited to elected officials. It has also spread to everyday residents of San Marcos like 22-year-old Anna Sweeney, who graduated in December
Texas State exercise and sports science senior David Garner signs up for the COVID-19 vaccine, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at H-E-B in San Marcos. Garner says he hopes to receive his vaccine as soon as it becomes available. PHOTO BY DEVON BATES
"HERE I AM SITTING AS A DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, AND I DON'T KNOW IF A PRIVATE PRACTICE IS GOING TO CHARGE AN ADMINISTRATION FEE FOR THE VACCINATION THAT IS FREE OR DEMAND A DOCTOR'S VISIT, AND YOU KNOW THOSE AREN'T CHEAP."
HAYS COUNTY JUDGE
with a degree in political science and is immunocompromised. Sweeney wants more publicly available information and efforts to increase awareness from Texas State and the local government about the benefits of mass inoculation and how it will pan out in the county. “I think it would help if Texas State [encouraged] vaccination and provided students with resources on how to get vaccinated once we get those resources,” Sweeney says. Becerra also voices concern over the potential added costs to the average person due to the momentary private monopoly of vaccines in the county. “Here I am sitting as a director of emergency management, and I don't know if a private practice is going to charge an administration fee for the vaccination that is free or demand a doctor's visit, and you know those aren't cheap,” Becerra says. Several H-E-B's throughout the county have received shipments of the Moderna vaccine. Tamra Jones,
H-E-B's public affairs manager, says the supermarket’s pharmacies will not require a doctor's visit or payment before receiving a vaccine. “The federal government is making the vaccine free for everyone [who] would like one,” Jones says. Jones says H-E-Bs in Hays County have already exhausted their supply of Moderna vaccines for Phase 1A, which included healthcare personnel and longterm care facility residents, but they do have the necessary doses for the second round of vaccinations required for the already vaccinated group. According to Jones, the majority of H-E-B pharmacies received 100 doses. “The vaccines are trickling into everyone's hands, eligible hands, throughout the state, in different ways,” Jones says. “H-E-B did get a dose, a big order that second week, which was the week [of, I believe] December 23 [for Phase 1A].” Jones says H-E-B is currently focused on distributing the Moderna vaccine above others, as it was provided by
the state of Texas. Jones says H-E-B's supply chain is prepared to deliver more vaccines when they become available but did not specify a limit on the capacity of distribution. Jones says H-E-B employees will not receive priority over other individuals of the same phase of inoculations and will have to go through the same process as non-employees. “No, we’re customers,” Jones says, “Employees are customers too.” When a new batch of doses arrives and a person is eligible, Jones says customers must schedule an appointment online through a “scheduler” on a “first come, first serve” basis with no waitlist or overscheduling. Becerra’s concern for private enterprises gatekeeping vaccines and the damage it could cause to already underserved communities in Hays County, such as people without housing and those unable to work due to their health, helped determine the placement of future vaccination stations in the county. “Our goal is to set ourselves up in spaces where the population is most vulnerable and has the lowest access,” Becerra says. According to Becerra, the county will take whatever vaccines are given to them and distribute them efficiently regardless of the number of doses, as they would likely be given much fewer vaccines than they have the capacity to process. Sweeney hopes mass inoculation is pushed by San Marcos and the county when it is viable but is against required vaccinations for the general public. “I don't think it should be mandated, but like I said, I do think it should be strongly encouraged, and I do think the city and campus [should] send out emails, either providing information or encouraging people to get it,” Sweeney says. Becerra emphasizes he will not mandate vaccinations in Hays County but says he highly recommends those who can get vaccinated to do so when they receive the chance. “My hope and goal is to vaccinate everyone that wants one, but most importantly, make sure you understand that I will not mandate vaccinations,” Becerra says. “That's just ridiculous. Some people [are floating] that idea, and that's absolutely never going to happen.” Beccera and other county officials will provide COVID-19 updates every Friday at 1 p.m. via Facebook Live.
MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY
County officials consider development of mental health care facility By Carson Ganong News Contributor Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra’s office is in the early stages of a project which, if it comes to fruition, will construct a mental health care facility serving all of Hays County. The facility would provide general mental health services to the community and is intended to serve as an alternative to jailing for people with mental illness. Becerra’s office is currently working with stakeholders to conduct a needs assessment, a comprehensive analysis of the problems the facility will need to address, as well as identifying a mission statement for the project. Becerra’s chief of staff, Alex Villalobos, says the needs assessment is a vital first step in what will likely be a lengthy process. “We’re really putting a lot of thought process behind this with a lot of organization,” Villalobos says. “We’ve started to implement some goals and a mission statement for the stakeholders, and we will move from there, but this is very, very preliminary.” Once the needs assessment concludes, county officials and stakeholders will use the information they collected to assess the feasibility of the project and decide whether they will move forward with it. If officials elect to move forward with the project, they will begin discussing logistics. Villalobos says it is too early to estimate how long the process will take. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people are more likely to encounter police than seek mental
help. Approximately 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year, most of whom are not violent criminals. Dr. Adam Vaughan, an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice and Criminology who specializes in mental illness within the criminal justice system, thinks a facility would benefit Hays County, both by helping people with mental illness get treatment and by reducing the burden on local jails. “If you’re streamlining someone into a hospital, they’re not a criminal — they’re a patient,” Vaughan says. “Streamlining patients into medical facilities alleviates the pressure of putting a patient in a jail or another criminal justice facility and, arguably, that’s where they should be.” Jordan Buckley, communications director for Mano Amiga, a local justice reform advocacy group, is also optimistic about the project. Buckley is concerned about the incarceration rate in Hays County and hopes by providing an alternative to incarceration, police in Hays County will make fewer unnecessary arrests. “Hays County is addicted to incarcerating people needlessly, and pursuit of mental health services would be one important avenue to avoid this dangerous predilection by county officials to cage residents when they simply do not need to,” Buckley says. However, Vaughan foresees several practical challenges with the project, such as the cost of employees and infrastructure, the facility's capacity and the criteria for determining who is diverted to the facility,
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra listens to a speech at a protest held for and in honor of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Friday, May 29, 2020, at the Hays County Historic Courthouse. PHOTO BY JADEN EDISON
to name a few. Villalobos says funding for the project will likely come from a combination of government agencies and private providers. “I think it’s incumbent on us as a government to make sure that we identify where we can get resources and see how we can work together for the overall benefit of the community," Villalobos says. Additionally, matters like capacity and specific procedures will be discussed, but not until much later in the process. Whatever the outcome of the needs assessment is and regardless of what the next step is, Vaughan says the fact that this kind of project is being considered at all is an encouraging sign. “Not all places even think that this is an issue, whereas you’ve got places like Hays County that are saying, ‘well, at least let’s see how big of an issue it is,’” Vaughan says. “That… is a really important first step.”
"IF YOU’RE STREAMLINING SOMEONE INTO A HOSPITAL, THEY’RE NOT A CRIMINAL — THEY’RE A PATIENT. STREAMLINING PATIENTS INTO MEDICAL FACILITIES ALLEVIATES THE PRESSURE OF PUTTING A PATIENT IN A JAIL OR ANOTHER CRIMINAL JUSTICE FACILITY AND, ARGUABLY, THAT’S WHERE THEY SHOULD BE."
-DR. ADAM VAUGHAN,
CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSOR
The University Star
4 | Tuesday, January 19, 2021
LIFE & ARTS
Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor email@example.com
FROM FRONT LABORATORY staff to use the analyzers properly to maximize efficiency in the lab. Because of minimal equipment, fastgrowing demand for testing and the brief gap of time available to conduct tests, Swink says medical laboratory staff is becoming overwhelmed. “Once you're in the room, you can't leave until all the specimens are completed. And if you're just constantly getting specimens, that's one person in that room doing all the testing,” Swink says. Testing for COVID-19 is only at the surface of what medical laboratory professionals do. Every year, medical laboratory professionals like Swink are responsible for over 13 billion medical tests, according to the Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA). The results of these tests are critical to patients’ overall health, as their results drive nearly two-thirds of all medical decisions doctors or other healthcare professionals make each day, according to COLA. “Without us, your doctors are just guessing," Swink says. "They might have an inclination as to what's wrong with you, but without a definitive laboratory test, to either rule out or confirm that, they don't know." Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, professor and chair of Texas State’s Clinical Laboratory Science Program (CLS), graduated from Texas State with degrees in microbiology and virology; however, he did not find out about the clinical laboratory profession until after he left the university. “It's a profession that most people don't really notice because we are behind the scenes, but it’s really the cornerstone of healthcare with respect to getting things right," Rohde says. The tests these professionals are in charge of ultimately decide the treatment for patients with heart problems, infections, cancer and a number of other diseases. Although the pandemic has brought to light just how vital clinical lab scientists
Senior clinical lab students work in the hematology laboratory during the fall semester. While most classes at the university went online, the CLS program kept working in labs under social distancing guidelines. PHOTO COURTESY OF RODNEY E. ROHDE
are to healthcare systems, staff shortages and limited program availability are also critical issues. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are an estimated 337,800 medical laboratory professionals currently working in the U.S.— a country that has a population exceeding 300 million. Currently, the number of medical laboratory scientist and technician training programs in the U.S. is decreasing, according to the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Rohde says a lack of awareness in schools and in the medical field about what medical laboratory scientists do, combined with a limited number of programs to prepare these professionals, have contributed to the current state of the profession. "It's always an uphill battle to try to get some of these programs put into place," Rohde says. Each year, Rohde and his colleagues lobby in Washington D.C. and at the state level to promote an increase in funding to the existing CLS programs in hopes of seeing them grow in numbers. Students who are part of the CLS program at Texas State are required to complete clinical placements, or rotations, in local hospitals their senior
year. However, because of limited funding and staff available at those hospitals, most will only take one student per semester. This has limited the number of students the CLS program can admit to only 20 a year. One of those students is Anahie Segura, a CLS senior. Segura is getting ready to start her clinical rotations in the spring; however, due to the lack of hospital staff available to train these future professionals, there has been some uncertainty over whether students like Segura will be able to physically attend their placements. “You never think a pandemic will happen in your lifetime and now it's scary because you have all these thoughts about whether you’ll be able to finish your program and graduate in time,” Segura says. Segura says she knew early on her true calling was to help save lives. She has been intrigued by health sciences and how the body works, so upon discovering the important role clinical laboratory scientists play in healthcare, she knew she had found her future career. “It’s just fascinating to me how with a single drop of blood or urine you can figure out the whole puzzle and help
with the treatment of a patient,” Segura says. Now, Segura and 19 other CLS students at Texas State are getting ready to complete their last semester and enter a rigorous and demanding career field amid a pandemic. For many laboratory scientists, being on the frontlines of the pandemic since the beginning is driving some essential workers to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. “We're working short-staffed and working longer hours...There are some people who work like 13 days straight,” Swink says. With longer shifts, shorter breaks and the weight of the pandemic on their shoulders, professionals have resorted to early retirement, changing professions, quitting or transferring to higher-paying locations. Rohde says if these trends continue, the hit to the healthcare system could be detrimental due to how heavily doctors and nurses rely on these scientists to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment plans for patients. “I don’t want to get too dark here either, but without medical laboratory professionals to conduct these tests, far more people would die,” Rohde says. Despite this, professionals like Swink are finding solace in knowing their work will continue to save lives beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. “I myself, I love what I do, even though it's super stressful, and at times like, physically demanding," Swink says. "But I know that what we do is very important and necessary for patient care." As Segura and her classmates prepare to go into a demanding field under unprecedented circumstances, she says knowing they are all in this together is what keeps her motivated. “Knowing that you are not alone pushes you and keeps you going," Segura says. "And when someone else does not have the strength to do so, you help them move forward too."
Souvenirs of sleep: Psychology professor awarded funds for new sleep study analyzing superior memory
Psychology professor Carmen Westerberg prepares a student for a sleep recording in her Texas State clinical sleep laboratory. PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. CARMEN WESTERBERG
By Payton Russell Life & Arts Contributor After dedicating years of education to brain research and psychology, Dr. Carmen Westerberg, an associate psychology professor at Texas State, was awarded $300,000 to fund her upcoming study exploring the effects of sleep on memory retention and formation. The funds for the study were granted by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, which grants up to four awards annually for studies in Memory and Cognitive Disorders, hoping to push psychologists toward scientific improvements in human health and memory. "These scientists are addressing questions related to how general anesthesia and sleep impact memory, and how memory works at the basic level," Ming Guo, chair of the McKnight Foundation says in a press release. "Together, we aim to understand the underlying neurobiology of memory and brain disorders that one day will translate into cures of some of the most devastating brain disorders that afflict millions of people in the world.” Westerberg's study titled, "Does Superior Sleep Physiology Contribute to Superior Memory Function? Implications for Counteracting Forgetting", explores the minds of people
with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), who can recall microscopic details of their past with extreme clarity, such as remembering with ease the exact outfit they wore to school in the first grade. Alongside her partner, Dr. Ken Paller, a Northwestern University psychology professor, Westerberg will investigate HSAM subjects to make discoveries about how sleep may play a role in memory solidification, a connection that has been experienced for years by people of all ages. Westerberg's research, which will be completed over the next three years, will serve to help people halt the effects of memory loss before they become too extreme. The information will be among some of the first of its kind, with sleep studies being a relatively newer line of scientific research. "People had speculated for 100 years that maybe memories were changing during sleep," Westerberg says. "But the actual research wasn't done until the late '90s or early 2000s." Some of this research, conducted by the Center for Neurobiology and Memory at the University of California Irvine, provides Westerberg and Paller with a catalog of the 80-100 Americans with HSAM from which to pull their subjects. Westerberg and Paller's study is
Psychology professor Carmen Westerberg smiles and shows EEG data at Northwestern University in 2009. PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. CARMEN WESTERBERG
separated into two experiments to make the best use of their multi-thousand dollar budget. The first experiment, administered remotely, utilizes electrodepowered headbands to track their 25 subjects' brain activity while asleep. "Once the headband is on, the subjects don't have to really do anything," Westerberg says. "The electrodes in the headbands record their brain waves, and all the data is uploaded wirelessly to a website." By conducting half of their study remotely, the team saves money for its second experiment in which 12 subjects will travel to Texas State's Round Rock campus to get tested live in Westerberg's clinical sleep lab. “The lab was part of the deal when I got the job,” Westerberg says. “They provided me with EEG equipment [which records the electrical activity of the brain], and I have a bed in my lab." Her interest in sleep studies began while doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University studying Alzheimer's patients. It was there that Westerberg and Paller ran a small-scale version of their sleep study with only three subjects, which then sparked their interest in future research. “The data we had with those three subjects already helped us, but we wanted to go bigger with it,” Paller says. Westerberg and Paller hope their
research will help Alzheimer's patients. By evaluating the brain activity of those with superior memory, the team seeks to make connections that could lead to an Alzheimer's drug that changes the course of the disease. “All of the [Alzheimer's] drugs right now just slow the progression of the disease, but they don’t really change what’s happening,” Westerberg says. “Hopefully we can make some progress." Westerberg's passion for studying memory function led her to author 21 publications over the course of her career, from her first publication in 1999 in the "Behavioral and Brain Sciences Journal" to her recent article on the study of memory in the "Journal of Cognitive Psychology." 11 of these articles were co-authored by Paller, who continued to study with Westerberg despite her move to Texas State in 2011. "[Westerberg] is great, I have really high regard for her," Paller says. "Doing science collaboratively is always fun, and it’s a pleasure to work with her." Paller deeply enjoys the collaborative nature of their partnership, where they can bounce ideas off each other and try to create new ideas as a team. With their study beginning in a matter of months, the team prepares for what will be a challenging three years full of new discoveries.
The University Star
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | 5
LIFE & ARTS
Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas State professors use computational medicine to improve healthcare
Andrew Stanton, a business graduate student, and his brother, Matthew Stanton hike at a Colorado mountain in December 2020. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW STANTON
Dr. Alessandro De Nadai works on a computer analysis problem in October 2019, inside his Texas State office. PHOTO COURTESY OF ALESSANDRO DE NADAI
By Leanne Castro Life & Arts Reporter The average American visits the doctor four times a year, making the experience a relatively routine part of life. A team of Texas State professors hope to make that process more efficient and accurate through the emerging field of computational medicine. Dr. Alessandro De Nadai, an assistant professor of psychology, explains the field of computational medicine as the process of teaching machines to analyze data too large for a computer to handle at one time. This process benefits the healthcare field, aiding in the earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease and identifying more accurate predictors of a person’s risk to misuse prescription drugs. “We use big data and broader computer science techniques to find ways to help people, whether it’s by making diagnoses better, making treatment more efficient or finding ways to make our large healthcare system run more efficiently,” De Nadai says. He provides the example of a clinical trial of people with anxiety disorders and OCD. The traditional maximum enrollment for the clinical trials might be around 400 people. However, with computational medicine, datasets of up to 20 million participants can be analyzed, meaning far more people can receive treatment and intervention. A lot of De Nadai’s work in computational medicine centers around prediction. Finding data-supported answers to questions like whether a multiple sclerosis diagnosis means a person has one year or 15 years before a disease becomes degenerative can make a huge difference in the way a person plans their life. Training machines to analyze far more data than a human ever could allows for more accurate predictions. Of course, underlying all of the number-crunching is a human element. De Nadai is conscious of the responsibility he and other researchers have to focus on — serving the patient. “It’s hard enough to predict the weather, much less what people are going to do,” De Nadai says. “At the end of the day, all of these diseases involve people. If you do a surgery, you’re not just acting on muscle cells. Our goal is to make this person’s life better. There’s a lot of consequences that come with that.” For Dr. Larry Fulton, health administration undergraduate programs director, using computational medicine to better serve patients often comes in the form of teaching machines to more accurately detect diseases with the hopes of greatly reducing human error.
“Computational medicine can do a much better job at diagnosis using large data than providers can," Fulton says. "Point in fact, breast cancer identification and classification [is] much better done through machines than a radiologist; the algorithms can be trained to better classify indicators that physicians or providers won’t even be able to see. They can get through thousands and thousands of x-rays in the time it would take a radiologist to get through one.” Although some people may be wary of the increased automation of the future, Fulton points out that the public already routinely relies on machines, such as pilots using the autopilot function to land planes in conditions of zero visibility. When framed that way, Fulton believes a future in which surgeries are performed entirely by machines, with oversight by a human (a feat of technology that already exists), does not seem too far off. “We make mistakes and mistakes can have consequences," Fulton says. "Machines are less likely to make mistakes.” Dr. Ty Schepis, a professor of psychology, also relies on computational medicine in his work, though for him the field is more focused on identifying risks and patterns. Specifically, he looks at prescription drug misuse and the factors that might put an individual at higher risk for using. He says computational medicine can highlight relationships people may not otherwise be aware existed, such as behavioral patterns that tend to make a person more likely to abuse substances. Identifying the patterns, behaviors and places that tend to trigger a person’s drug misuse can help in preventing that misuse. Computational medicine also allows people who have historically been overlooked in studies — racial and gender minority groups — to be considered and treated. Schepis is optimistic about the future of computational medicine and how its capacity for hyper-specific analysis will allow the practice of medicine to become much more personalized and widely known. “[Computational medicine] gives us the ability to answer questions that we previously haven’t been able to," Schepis says. "With large data sets, we can get at much more specific groups of people, not just your very large white male [type] of groups; we’re able to talk about smaller minority groups who haven’t traditionally been studied. We can answer questions about those folks that we haven’t been able to answer in the past.”
Computational medicine can help with early detection of Alzheimer's Disease through MRIs of the brain. PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY FULTON
Willa Fossum, a senior musical theatre major, poses while on a hike at Zion National Park in 2019 in Springdale, Utah. PHOTO COURTESY OF WILLA FOSSUM
HEALTHY AT HOME
Students make staying active a priority in 2021 By Payton Russell Life & Arts Contributor From saying farewell to finals in the fall to the excitement of a New Year's toast, Texas State students from across the country have committed to maintaining an active lifestyle as they head into 2021. Since the start of COVID-19, being holed up at home has become a commonality to remain safe from the virus, with some people choosing to neglect public exercise facilities like gyms or parks. However, Texas State students like Abigail Remaley, an acting senior, are still finding ways to stay active. Surrounded by a family of bikers, joggers and hikers, Remaley learned from a young age the mental and physical benefits of an active lifestyle. Each morning, she motivates herself to go outdoors by walking, jogging and running laps around the trails of her Georgia neighborhood. “I just feel way better staying active,” Remaley says. “I think it affects my mental state, and I feel happier.” Studies conducted by Harvard Medical School, Yale Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prove regular physical activity can be used as a therapeutic for reducing individual risk of depression and anxiety. Active therapeutics have been especially helpful for Lance Spivey, a biochemistry sophomore, who runs three to four miles quasi-daily around his Houston neighborhood. Spivey sees his morning run as the one time in the day when he can fully commit to soaking up some vitamin D and traveling to his “zen place”. “That time is when all my inhibitions are gone,” Spivey says. “All that’s left is just me caring about myself and wanting to be happy.” Both Spivey and Remaley use this mental drive to strap on their shoes every morning, while others find motivation from outside sources like family and friends. Sam Beckman, a musical theatre sophomore, finds encouragement from her on-the-go family. On Christmas Eve, the family made a trip to Enchanted Rock to celebrate her mother's recovery from knee surgery. Alongside her mother, her junior olympiad brother and her avid marathon runner dad, Beckman braved the hike up the 1,825-foot slopes. “My entire family is way more active than I am, so they inspire me a lot,” Beckman says. “During quarantine, we have no reason to do anything or be anywhere, so it’s good to give yourself something to be accountable for, like going for a walk.” As a line officer for the Texas State Strutters, Ashley Mann, a communication studies sophomore, knows firsthand about the importance of accountability. Each week, she reaches out to her fellow Strutters to ensure they are completing their weekly workouts while also holding herself accountable. “We all want to make sure we’re getting the active time in,” Mann says. “We’ll reach out every few days to ask, 'Hey, did you work out the last few days?' And if no, then we’re like, 'Okay, we’re gonna get together.'" Accountability and social support are key motivating factors, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help people stay active and engage in exercise. Because of this, a group like the Strutters with built-in accountability measures has been key to assisting Mann's fitness journey while at home in Cibolo, Texas. To save money that would go toward a gym membership, Mann focuses her activity primarily on neighborhood runs and at-home ab workouts. Andrew Stanton, a business graduate student, also tries to avoid gym costs by taking his dogs, Remi and Molly, outside for multiple walks each day. “I like staying active because I feel like it opens your mind to new ideas,” Stanton says. “If you walk down the street, you might see a hundred different items, and it might spark new ideas in your mind.” He varies his paths by switching between short walks down the street and multi-mile hikes along San Marcos trails. As an aspiring businessman on the lookout for his next big idea, he sees the numerous benefits of getting out of his bedroom to experience a change of scenery. While some may argue that exercising is a brain stimulant, others view physical activity as an escape. Willa Fossum, an acting senior, relies on daily walks, runs and exercises to provide a mental reset for the moments when her mind feels out of control. Each morning, she begins her routine by going on a three-mile run and following it with a circuit of calisthenics, such as pushups or situps. Like Spivey's neighborhood runs or Stanton's hikes, Fossum says exercising gives her a sense of security and fulfillment that carries her through each day. "I find that mental and physical health are really connected,” Fossum says. "The endorphins really make me feel like I’ve accomplished something first thing in the morning." Just like Fossum, Spivey strives toward this rush of accomplishment every time he laces up sneakers and heads out the door. From a young age, he learned daily exercise is key to well being, thanks to the teachings of his favorite 2000's comedy, "Legally Blonde," where fictional Harvard graduate Elle Woods, clad in a pink legal suit, educates jurors on the mental benefits of moving around. “Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy,” Spivey says. Spivey, along with Beckman, Remaley, Mann, Stanton and Fossum, plans to continue his journey toward happiness into 2021 by consciously making time for activity while back in San Marcos for the spring.
The University Star
6 | Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Valeria Torrealba Opinion Editor email@example.com
Opinions in The University Star are not necessarily those of our entire publication, Texas State University’s administration, Board of Regents, School of Journalism and Mass Communication or Student Publications Board.
Equip the Counseling Center with more resources By Taylor Bradley Opinion Columnist COVID-19 currently acts as an incubator for mental health struggles due to its stressful and unpredictable nature. Students especially find this stress can be heightened with college posing challenging components that make their days more difficult. Due to these circumstances, Texas State should better prepare the Counseling Center for students struggling with mental health. The Counseling Center currently works with students through Zoom or limited in-person services. Counseling Center Director Bonita Reeder says students are utilizing the online services at high rates. "Since spring when outreach programs have been offered virtually, more students have participated," Reeder says. "The center staff will continue to use this modality for programming after the pandemic crisis abates." Alena Williams, a special education junior, has utilized the Counseling Center throughout her time at the university and expresses concerns about its ability to accommodate students. "Now more than ever, students need help transitioning through this new normal even if the counselors don’t know what tomorrow can bring," Williams says. "The transition to college is nothing compared to the transition during the pandemic. As college students, we are still learning to cope." Counseling Centers at universities are limited in terms of what can reasonably be provided to their students. This includes session limits, time restrictions and limited staffing. However, the pandemic calls for adjustments, and students need people to talk to now more than ever. Through all the changes the university has made during this time, helping the Counseling
Center should have been at the very top "I do think 15 sessions in four years is free sessions a semester," Williams says. of its priority list. not enough," Williams says. "I have not "With this, the student can go once a week between their school schedule. "NOW MORE THAN I feel that is more realistic, but I bet it would just give them a reason for Texas EVER, STUDENTS NEED State to raise tuition [prices]." Efforts to stop the spread of HELP TRANSITIONING COVID-19 have resulted in the THROUGH THIS NEW implementation of safety precautions that limit human interaction. Students NORMAL EVEN IF thrive on interaction and connecting THE COUNSELORS with their peers, but those trying to protect themselves from contracting the DON’T KNOW virus won't always place themselves at risk to do so — which is the responsible WHAT TOMORROW and correct decision. CAN BRING. THE According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health TRANSITION TO actions, such as social distancing, can COLLEGE IS NOTHING create feelings of loneliness and increase stress and anxiety. COMPARED TO THE Thus, Texas State should take this into consideration. Although vaccines TRANSITION DURING are becoming available, the pandemic THE PANDEMIC. AS is getting worse. Students having to sit at home will likely not change anytime COLLEGE STUDENTS, soon. WE ARE STILL Research conducted in Texas by Farzan Sasangohar, an industrial and systems LEARNING TO COPE." engineering professor at Texas A&M University, shows that of "195 students, 138 (71%) indicated increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak. -ALENA WILLIAMS, stressors were identified that SPECIAL EDUCATION MAJOR ILLUSTRATION BY AFAAF ALNAHAS Multiple contributed to the increased levels of [used all] my sessions because I'm like, stress, anxiety, and depressive thoughts Prior to COVID-19, Texas State’s 'Why would I start [when] in 15 weeks among students.” Counseling Center already had limited I have to stop talking to someone I built Texas State is nearing a year of staffing. In addition to that, students are trust with?'" navigating through the pandemic; not only allowed 15 sessions during their Williams also says there is a fear of a adjusting to what students need the most time at the university. Once the limit is higher tuition rate should the Counseling is only a disservice. reached, the student has to find outside Center offer more than 15 free sessions A conversation can save a life, and help, which tends to get expensive, throughout their entire college career, expanding the Counseling Center's typically ranging from $65 per hour to noting that one of her peers attends resources can make those interactions $250 or more. a school that offers a sustainable and more accessible. For some students, their Those circumstances were already "realistic" method of counseling for its mental health depends on it. unfair prior to the global health crisis. students. Now living through it, students need the "My friend goes to Texas Women's - Taylor Bradley is an English senior resources more than ever. University, and the students get 15
The university community should not fear the COVID-19 vaccine By Natalia Hernandez Guzman Opinion Contributor There has been speculation about the efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine due to the speed of production within the last year. With hopes of a vaccine becoming available to the student body in the coming weeks, questions have surfaced regarding its reliability and safety.
ILLUSTRATION BY MOLLY GONZALES
Public health officials have demonstrated that the COVID-19 vaccine is reliable and will play a major factor in ending the pandemic, and their trust in it and willingness to get vaccinated themselves should serve as a positive indicator for the Texas State community. Student Health Center Director Emilio Carranco believes the vaccine is beneficial and safe to take, and students should not be concerned with its rapid development.
“I would try to reassure people that even though the vaccines were developed in a very short period of time that everyone, from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to the [Food and Drug Administration] to the vaccine manufacturers, [they are] indicating that they will not release a vaccine unless it's safe,” Carranco says. “Technology has advanced quite a bit around making vaccines. The vaccines were still conducted using the best possible standards. Patients were used to evaluate the safety and the side effects and so in my view, no corners were cut.” While the speed of production raised some concern over the reliability of the vaccine, it is not unprecedented. In fact, by the time a 1950s flu virus present in Hong Kong spread across the world to America, a vaccine was already prepared. While the U.S. did not have a vaccine ready for COVID-19 last year, past SARS and MERS research provided the information needed for scientists to focus on what made COVID-19 different: Spike protein. The spike protein studs the surface of the virus and is able to latch onto the receptors of the cells in our bodies. This made the spike protein the target antigen for the production of the vaccine, meaning the vaccine contains the genetic sequence for the spike protein so cells can build the spikes and hopefully trigger a protective response from the immune system. Pfizer and Moderna conducted vaccine trials and reported results and side effects to the FDA until a vaccine was approved. Texas State President Denise Trauth stated in a previous interview that the school had already spent $7 million to combat COVID-19, including hiring contact tracers and using disinfectants in the classroom. Although it is important to note the university is only aware of cases students report to Bobcat Trace, cases identified in the Student Health Center and positive cases at its Curative testing sites, no outbreaks were discovered during the spring and fall 2020 semesters, respectively. The vaccine is the last part of the equation. Carranco says the university is doing everything in its power to make the vaccine available to students and healthcare workers at no cost — thanks to the federal
government — which makes those without insurance eligible for the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine will not grant complete immunity from the virus. However, Carranco firmly believes the vaccine can, and will, prevent “severe complications” from occurring due to the virus. Efforts to adhere to CDC guidelines will also continue during the mass vaccination process. It will require time for distribution to health care workers, then to those who qualify as high-risk and, finally, the general public. Distribution in the U.S. has been described as a "dismal failure" by the current Presidentelect Joe Biden, which only emphasizes the need to continue following health and safety guidelines. “In the meantime, just because you’ve been vaccinated doesn’t mean you can stop practicing all the health and safety measures including wearing a mask," Carranco says. "It will take time for your body to develop the antibody response; it requires two shots, so you’re not gonna be fully protected until a couple of weeks after you get the second shot." Leslie Salazar, a biology senior, plans to get vaccinated as soon as she can, which is the right call. “I would get it for the sake of those who are immunocompromised and can’t do it,” Salazar says. Noemi Rodriguez, a social work senior, expressed concern over possible side effects of the vaccine but affirms she would still get vaccinated. “I have a summer internship this summer where I will be working with people that have an increased risk for severe illness, and I would like to take it to stop the pandemic,” Rodriguez says. Even Carranco, the university's top health official, plans to get vaccinated as soon as it is made available, stating he is “confident in the safety” of the vaccine. Students should follow this line of thinking. Students should not fear getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Numerous trials have shown that vaccines are safe, effective and can put a halt to the pandemic that has made life miserable. - Natalia Hernandez Guzman is an international studies senior
The University Star
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | 7
Aidan Bea Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
'BIGGER THAN BASKETBALL' Athletes, coaches reflect on importance of mental health By Sumit Nagar Assistant Sports Editor Struggles with mental health in college, where students are tasked with finding their personal identity while transitioning into full adulthood, is no stranger to student-athletes who have Herculean responsibilities placed upon them after signing along dotted lines. NBA players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez have openly talked about depression and the importance of having tough conversations. Student-athletes at Texas State, responsible for coursework, workouts and sustaining a personal life, also face mental battles when the spotlights are turned off. Mental health is not lost upon women’s basketball Head Coach Zenarae Antoine. She is aware studentathletes carry the stress of both a college student and a college athlete.
"IF YOU HAVE POOR MENTAL HEALTH IT CAN STIFLE YOU. WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE FOR THE COLLEGE STUDENT CAN BE REALLY DIFFICULT...SO NOW YOU ADD INTO THAT BEING A STUDENT-ATHLETE AND THE EXPECTATIONS WITH THE TRAINING, EXPECTATIONS FROM THEIR PEERS AND THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR COACHES. THAT ADDS AN ADDITIONAL STRESSOR. NOW YOU HAVE TO COMPOUND THAT WITH COVID AND A LOT OF THE SOCIAL ISSUES GOING ON RIGHT NOW IN THE UNITED STATES."
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH “If you have poor mental health it can stifle you,” Antoine says. “What that looks like for the college student can be really difficult...so now you add into that being a student-athlete and the expectations with the training, expectations from their peers and their families and their coaches. That adds an additional stressor. Now you have to compound that with COVID
and a lot of the social issues going on right now in the United States." Men’s basketball Interim Head Coach Terrence Johnson, on the other hand, assumed his position when former Head Coach Danny Kaspar resigned amid accusations of racism. As a coach who prioritizes mental health, emotional health and physical health, Johnson chose to cancel the team’s first two practices after Kaspar’s resignation because it was not in the right state of mind for basketball. “At the time, I did what I felt was necessary for the longevity of the team,” Johnson says. “I always think that there’s things that are much bigger than basketball. I’m certainly glad I did it and if I had to do it all over again, I would.” Senior forward Isiah Small says he was told the importance of mental health by other coaches in the past, but this school year was the first time he had ever taken action to address his own.
Texas State senior forward Isiah Small (1) faces off against Our Lady of the Lake senior forward Jordan Embry (1) for the tip-off to start the game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, at Strahan Arena. The Bobcats lost 61-58. PHOTO BY KATE CONNORS
“As you've grown up you think you Macho Man,” Small says. “All this counseling is not gonna help. You think, ‘I don’t need to talk to anyone about mental health. I’m good.’ But in reality, counseling helps so much. Not just with your mental, but it helps you look at other things from a different point of view.” Small prides himself on being unfazed by day-to-day issues. He considers himself a generally positive and happy person who smiles no matter the circumstance. However, he is bothered by the idea of not living up to his own expectations. “If I don’t give it my all each and every day, if I don’t make A’s and B’s, if I get a C, I would be upset,” Small says. “That would mess my mental up because I know I’m better than what I am. I would never lower my standards...It gets stressful a lot, but that’s why I keep my mind flowing. I keep it going. I read. I pray about it. I try to do my best just to keep myself going and try not to worry too much.”
In a largely patriarchal society, it is sometimes frowned upon for men to speak about their emotions or feelings, a mindset Small says he is all too familiar with. He was taught to remain strong and not show any signs of weakness. “To me, that’s all like a myth,” Small says. “For me growing up they always said, ‘Men are not supposed to cry. Men are supposed to do everything right. You’re supposed to be this tough guy.’ In reality, as I started growing up I looked at it from a different standpoint. It’s okay for men to cry. It’s okay for you to mess up. It’s okay for you to go get counseling… It’s okay to have a soft spot.” Antoine’s experiences as a coach have led her to believe an athlete’s socio-economic background also plays a part in how willing they are to open up about their struggles. “Student-athletes that come from middle-class, upper-middle-class, that are able to have financial resources and health benefits, that have grown up having those opportunities, are generally more apt and open to the conversation,” Antoine says. “Others [may] not have had that opportunity — [others] may not know what’s available to them and feel comfortable discussing that.” With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, protocols have postponed games and forced athletes to sit out of competitions. For some teams, entire games have been canceled. “You’re testing three-to-four times a week, and I can tell you as a coach: I’m on pins and needles," Antoine says. "I know student-athletes, they are as well. You’re just waiting for that email or a phone call that ‘You got the green.’ Green means you’re negative, red means you’re positive. So just that anxiety of what that looks like is very stressful.” Johnson and Antoine believe their players have benefited from a resource like Texas State's Counseling Center, which at times is tasked with more than it can handle at once. “The university Counseling Center has been really, really good,” Johnson says. “They’re just backed up. We have guys that have been seen by a university counselor last month and then won’t be seen by one until I think toward the end of January. If that particular kid had any more serious issues, we would probably have to find outside assistance or a private counselor.” Johnson's hope for the Athletic Department is that it will soon provide a clinical sports psychologist for teams. He says his players have broken ground since he took over head coaching duties, but resources are not always as readily available as needed. “I think it’ll help because our guys would know there’s always somewhere to go to and someone to go to [who] they feel comfortable talking to — [someone] there for that reason," Johnson says. "These guys are not reluctant to talk with somebody. The only thing is, a lot of times, these guys don’t know where to look, and they don’t know who to ask because they don’t want to expose themselves.”
8 | Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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