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Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana’

Photo: Russell Ledet
Russell Ledet in his job as a security guard at Baton Rouge General Medical Center in 2010 and as a medical student there in 2020.

As readers know from my post on Shagufa Habibi, I am one of a group of people who believe in this young Afghan immigrant and her dream to end child marriages, first by gaining relevant skills. It doesn’t matter that the dream seems impossibly big. After all, when people believe in you, big things do happen. Young Greta Thunberg may not have ended global warming, but you know she won’t stop until there are serious changes.

Today’s story is about a young man from a poor family in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who had people who believed in him.

As Kellie B. Gormly wrote at the Washington Post, “Russell J. Ledet spent four years patrolling the doctors’ parking lot at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, where, as a security guard, he watched people in white coats come and go from the building. He fantasized about what his life could be.

“In a moment of bravery one day, Ledet was walking with a doctor and asked: ‘Hey, do you think I could shadow you?’ To Ledet’s surprise, the doctor, a surgical resident, replied: ‘Yeah, why not?’ Ledet recalled.

“Whenever Ledet had free time over the next several months, he was in the operating room and visiting patients with Patrick Greiffenstein.

“ ‘It just so happened, God put me in the right place at the right time, and it worked,’ said Ledet, 34, of Gretna, La.

“Now, seven years after he was a security guard at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Ledet is assigned to the hospital as a medical student. He is doing his pediatrics rotation at the Louisiana hospital and is in his third year at Tulane University School of Medicine. …

“He sometimes runs into people he used to work with when he was a guard. Once when he was recently in the emergency room, one of them yelled out: ‘You did it! You actually did it!’

“Ledet grew up in Lake Charles, La., with a single mother who worked as a certified nursing assistant. They relied on food stamps to eat. After high school, Ledet joined the Navy and was stationed in Washington, D.C., from 2004 to 2007. He entered the Reserves, and his wife — Mallory Alice Brown-Ledet, whom he met in high school — persuaded him to go to college while she worked at a bank. They moved back to Louisiana in 2009, and Ledet enrolled in Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge.

“Ledet initially thought he would become a social worker, like the ones who had helped his family when he was a child. But one day, his chemistry professor told him that based on his performance in class, he should major in biology or chemistry. Ledet took on both sciences as a double major. That same year, he started the security-guard job to help support his family — which included a new baby, Maleah. …

“The doctor whom Ledet shadowed 10 years ago — now is a trauma surgeon at University Medical Center in New Orleans. … ‘It’s hard not to like him right away,’ said Greiffenstein, explaining why, in part, he said yes when Ledet asked to shadow him. He said Ledet’s path to becoming a doctor has been ‘remarkable.’

“Ledet graduated from college in 2013 and … moved east with his family to attend New York University, where he earned a PhD in molecular oncology in 2018. … His research on prostate cancer earned recognition, but Ledet fondly recalled his shadowing days in Baton Rouge and felt called to the clinical, hands-on work of a physician. …

“About an hour after his second daughter, Mahlina, was born, Ledet got an email from Tulane University in New Orleans: a full scholarship to medical school. …

“Over the summer, Ledet started his third-year rotations, after indicating his location preference for Baton Rouge General Medical Center. He was thrilled when he got it. …

“He plans to open a clinic in New Orleans offering mental health services for marginalized communities. And to be a better business owner, Ledet managed to squeeze in one more project: He is working on an MBA while in medical school. …

“ ‘I’m just grateful, man,’ he said. ‘I’m grateful I made it here. I’m grateful that I didn’t give up. I’m grateful that people believed in me.’ ”

Read more here.

There are just some people who if they say they are going to do a thing, then you know it’s going to happen.

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The Swinomish community in Washington State has seen the future in rising waters. Much of the tribe’s 15-square-mile reservation is at or near sea level.

Today I have a story about how recognizing climate change can put a community one step ahead of the game. Indigenous people around the country are taking steps to deal with the inevitable before it’s too late.

Terri Hansen writes at Yes! magazine, “Chief Albert Naquin was astounded when emergency officials warned him in September 2005 that a second hurricane would soon hammer the southern Louisiana bayous where Hurricane Katrina had struck less than a month earlier. The leader of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, Naquin took to the Isle de Jean Charles’ lone road to urge residents who had returned home after Katrina to leave their listing, moldy homes once again. …

“Hurricane Rita flooded the island for weeks, adding insult to injury that had already reduced the tribe’s homeland to a sliver of what it once was. Rising sea levels, hurricanes, erosion from oil production, and subsidence have since shriveled the Isle de Jean Charles peninsula from 15,000 acres to a tiny strip a quarter-mile wide by a half-mile long. There were once 63 houses flanking the town’s single street. Now only 25 homes and a couple fishing camps remain. …

“In January, Louisiana received a $48 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to move the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Houma Nation tribal members to more solid ground and reestablish their communities, making tribal members the first climate change refugees in the United States. …

“Across the country, 24 tribes have responded to climate change with plans for adaptation and mitigation, and more are in development. …

“As rising temperatures cause heatwaves, droughts, floods, wildfires, and increase the severity of weather events, tribes are on the forefront in respect to both degree of impact and in initial efforts to respond to adaptation, said Ed Knight, director of planning and community development for the Swinomish tribe in Washington state. …

“Using a unique model based on an indigenous worldview, the tribe updated its adaptation strategy in 2014 with environmental, cultural, and human health impact data. It now views health on a familial and community scale, and includes the natural environment and the spiritual realm, said Jamie Donatuto, Swinomish community and environmental health analyst.”

Will government support for tribes’ efforts continue? Read more here.

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There can be unexpected ramifications to keeping cats, as art forgers described in Science magazine discovered to their regret.

In an article on how experts check the authenticity of a putative Velázquez or a painting found along with mummies, Lizzie Wade writes, Investigations into the artist responsible for more modern works often have a specific goal: To figure out if the work in question is a forgery.

“Bonnie Magness-Gardine manages the Art Theft Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. For many years, she and other investigators had seen innumerable forgeries of the work of Clementine Hunter, a self-taught and incredibly prolific African-American painter from Louisiana.

“Many people tried to copy her distinctive folk-art style, but only two regularly succeeded: William Toye and his wife Beryl Ann Toye, a couple from New Orleans. They were so good at imitating Hunter’s style that ‘they got away with this for years,’ Magness-Gardine says.

“In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally gathered enough evidence to confiscate the Toyes’ supposed Hunter collection, and during the raid they noticed that ‘they lived in a very modest house with approximately 30 cats,’ Magness-Gardine says.

“When forensic investigators analyzed the seized works, they found cat hair embedded in the paint — a characteristic not shared by Hunter’s authentic work. ‘That’s essentially what brought them down,’ Magness-Gardine says. William Toye pled guilty to art fraud in 2011.”

More here.

Art: Clementine Hunter/ Bridgeman Images
Picking Cotton, 1950s (oil on board), Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund. Hunter is a favorite of would-be forgers.

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Saw an amazing photography show this morning. Lori Waselchuk chronicles a program at a maximum security prison. The exhibit flyer says, “A life sentence in Louisiana means life. More than 85% of the 5,100 inmates imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola are expected to die there. Until the hospice program was created in 1998, most prisoners died alone.”

The inmates who work in the hospice program are pictured caring for others and keeping a 24-hour watch when someone is near death. They “go to great lengths to ensure that their fellow inmate does not die alone.”

I don’t want to be a pollyanna about this (I can see that some patients are still so susceptible to violent outbursts that volunteers may visit them only by speaking through a small window), but I am interested that many of the hospice workers discover a new side of themselves. George Brown, 49, says, “The most important thing I have learned as a hospice volunteer is that I have a heart and it has feelings.” Sometimes the guards find a new attitude in themselves, too. The flyer adds that the show, Grace Before Dying, “reflects how grace offers hope that our lives need not be defined by our worst acts.” Read about it here.

I have heard about one or two similar prison programs. Here is a piece about the Yoga Prison Project , started at San Quentin in California. And here is a movie about a prison meditation project called Dhamma Brothers.

My second cousin Alex was so energized by teaching meditation in a Boston prison that she is now entering a graduate program to gain more skills.

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