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Dr. Cate is currently in route to the African country of Swaziland as part of a research project for the University of California, Irvine. The project is titled “Empathy and Altruism in the Face of Chronic Stress, Adversity and Challenge.” Professor Jodi Quas (Dr. Cate’s sister) of the UCI Department of Psychology and Social Behavior is the Principal Investigator for the team. Dr. Cate will be traveling in both rural and urban areas of Swaziland, helping to interview children for the research endeavor. Below is a summary of the project provided by Professor Quas.
Project Summary: In this project, we will be studying how some of the most fundamental processes that make us human—namely those that foster and maintain relationship– operate in youth growing up in chronically deprived, unstable conditions.
We will specifically focus on documenting how culture and high-risk contexts interact to affect children’s ability and willingness to form close relationships with one another, children’s prosocial tendencies, and their empathetic responsiveness to emotions in others. If we can determine how these basic relationship-oriented processes in high-risk children around the globe who are faced with enormous challenges, we can begin to work together to find ways to intervene and promote more positive relationship development, and improve the children’s long-term ability to work together toward a more sustainable future.
The project will be carried out in Swaziland, an ideal pilot field investigation location. The country has an incredibly high rate of AIDs-related deaths. Swaths of the adult population in the country die each month, leaving countless youth growing up with minimal adult supervision, support, and input. The children lack role models who can demonstrate and foster positive emotional relationships, empathy, or compassion. The children are left without resources, education, and opportunities to improve their condition. At the same time, the country is small, and open to assistance from novel, interdisciplinary teams, such as ours, that are focusing on the broader social issues that plague the country.
Dr. Jodi Quas, a developmental psychologist, will be conducting the investigation with approximately 200 youth ages 8-14 in different contexts in the county (orphanages in rural areas, rural areas without orphanages, urban). She will be measuring the children’s relationship behaviors, empathy, compassion, and prosocial tendencies. She will also be examining whether specific processes are linked to different contexts, and are especially amenable to interventions.
The pilot project holds tremendous promise. Not only will we gain clearer understanding of what empathy, emotional understanding, and altruism mean to individuals residing in highly volatile uncertain environments, but we will also identify potential strengths and capacities on which we can build to improve the lives of the vulnerable populations. We will also be able to use the information collected via the pilot as the basis for continued work, in this and other high-risk settings, to identify the best ways of improving relationships and collaborations, thereby improving the lives of the next generation of individuals across the globe.
The research team will have limited access to Internet services, but we will do our post to post updates from Dr. Cate if it is possible to hear from her during her travels in Swaziland.
We are happy to report that Dr. John is recovering well following his mountain biking accident and surgery several weeks ago.
He is now at home recuperating and doing his best to follow his doctor’s orders to remain quiet and keep his heart rate low. The words “Dr. John” and “quiet” don’t really seem to go well together, so we’ve enlisted the help of our friends and patients to come up with some ideas to help Dr. John fill in his days over the next several months of necessary partial immobilization.
We have a notebook out in the office and it is filling up with some very nice notes of encouragement and even some great little drawings. Some of the entries are so funny and cute, we just had to share a few snapshots from the notebook.
Other suggestions that have come in for Dr. John include building the complete DeathStar out of legos (Charlie estimates that would take about three months), perfecting new card tricks, playing dominoes, finding pen pals from every continent, watching cat videos on YouTube (that could burn up more than a few hours!) and learning origami.
A friend even graciously offered Dr. John the opportunity to clean all the glue off his old wheels and re-glue new rubber (hmmm, seems a little self-serving, don’t you think?). Cross-stitch, Sudoku, meditation…the ideas go on and on.
How about you, do you have any suggestions for Dr. John on quiet activities he can do to keep him occupied? Let us know!
The Bluefish team would like to ask for your positive thoughts and prayers for Dr. John Frachella as he recovers from a very serious bicycle accident that occurred yesterday. While riding on a difficult mountain bike trail near the North Umpqua River, Dr. John fell down a cliff, breaking his neck in several places.
He underwent successful surgery today to fuse vertebrae, and is now entering a very important recovery phase. His physician states that Dr. John is expected to recover fully in approximately three months, providing that he remains immobilized and quiet. Those of you who know Dr. John understand that this will be an incredibly hard challenge for him, given his very active nature.
We understand that many of his friends and patients will want to visit him, but we ask that you please refrain from doing so at this critical phase in the recovery process. In the meantime, please feel free to share your thoughts and get-well-soon wishes with us (our email is: email@example.com; mailing address: 2565 NE Butler Market Road, Bend, OR 97701) and we will be sure to pass any messages along to Dr. John and his wife, Carol.
Thank you in advance to our patients who may be asked to reschedule their appointments, we so appreciate your patience and understanding.
We believe that Dr. John is a remarkably strong and resilient person who will rise to meet this challenge, and we are so grateful that his prognosis is positive.