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The Rise of Tick-Borne Illnesses in Vermont

Summer is officially here, and that means tick season is in full swing in Vermont.

For the past decade, Lyme disease has been on the rise in New England. When the Vermont Health Department started tracking the disease in 1990, they found only 14 cases in the state, according to Bradley Tompkins, an infectious disease specialist.

In 2015, nearly 500 people caught Lyme disease in Vermont, and the state had the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the United States that year.

The rate of tick-borne diseases tends to decrease the farther north you go, says Tompkins, who teaches a Public Health Informatics course at UVM.  Vermont can expect to see anywhere from 400 to 600 cases this year, he says.

Higher Rates in Southern Vermont and Lake Champlain Valley

Bennington County near the Massachusetts border has the highest incidence of tick-borne illnesses in Vermont, including Lyme and Anaplasmosis, which can be fatal if not treated properly.

“There is a northward southward trend we see,” he says. “The three southern Vermont counties, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor, have high rates, but as you gradually move north you start to see a decrease, with the exception of the Lake Champlain Valley.”

Meanwhile, the Northeast Kingdom has a low rate of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. But it’s only a matter of time before the region catches up with the rest of the state. Because of changing weather patterns and warmer winters, it wouldn’t surprise Tompkins if the incidence of Lyme disease increases in the Northeast Kingdom over the next decade, especially because the region’s habitat and large deer population are desirable for ticks.

“Ticks don’t like colder temperatures because it decreases their ability to survive,” Tompkins says. “If it’s very cold but there is a lot of snow cover, that can insulate and protect ticks. A bad winter for ticks means that it’s very cold but there’s not a lot of snow. Due to the emerging weather trends we’re seeing in northern New England, the disease is creeping north.”

 Tick-Borne Illnesses in Vermont ‘Here to Stay’

Tick season typically starts in mid-April and extends through November, with peak activity happening in late May and early June. Tompkins says there is a lull in late summer and early fall, but it picks up again in October and November.

“Until there is a vaccine or method of wide-scale control of tick-borne pathogens, personal prevention is the only tool in our toolbox,” Tompkins says. “Tick-borne diseases are here to stay in the state. Nothing is 100 percent effective in terms of prevention, so it’s important to be vigilant after spending time outdoors.”

 Tips from the Vermont Department of Health

  • Take extra precautions in May, June and July, and later in October and November when ticks come out for one last meal before winter. This is when most infections occur.
  • If you do enter a tick area, walk in the center of the trail to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and tuck shirts into pants to keep ticks on the outside of your clothing.
  • Light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily.
  • Remember that ticks prefer wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

Learn more about tick season and prevention

Learn about UVM’s Master of Public Health Program.

Lynn Sipsey Finds Herself Drawn to the Art and Science of Medicine

 Lynn Sipsey, right, during a summer global health trip to Vietnam in 2015.

Medical student Lynn Sipsey was studying to become a scientific illustrator when she decided to shift gears and pursue a career in medicine. Lynn, who completed the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program and is now a student at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM, talks about the rewards of medicine and the power of empathy.

You majored in fine arts and scientific illustration and minored in biology as an undergraduate. How did you make the leap from art to medicine?

When I started my undergraduate program, I was certain that I would ultimately go to a graduate medical illustration program. Medicine wasn’t even on the radar. However, by the time I had finished my degree, I had taken more biology courses than were required and accidentally minored in biology. I found that to become a better scientific illustrator, a thorough understanding of the subjects was required.

What drew you to medicine?

As I spent more and more time learning those foundational concepts, I realized how much I loved biology. After some time working as an illustrator, I knew that I loved the educational aspect of the work, but I never really got to see the direct impact of my work. Sitting in a studio drawing all day was wonderful, but it did not feel gratifying—I still wanted to use my knowledge base to educate, to make meaningful connections, and be able to see the impact of my work in people’s lives.

What kind of illustrations did you create?

My portfolio has a wide breadth of subject matter, style, and medium. I had made model eggs for the Birds of Vermont Museum, had a diagram published in a scientific journal, and had collaborated with a ceramic artist who bought the rights to some botanical illustrations.

Why did you choose UVM?

I grew up in Lincoln, Vermont. As a scientific illustration major, medical school didn’t seem like a possibility, but I had several wonderful mentors that encouraged me to consider it.  When looking up post-bac programs, UVM was at the top of my list. The in-state tuition can’t be ignored, but also I had read about the quality of the advisors in the program, and knew of several of the students that went on to the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. When entering the program, I wasn’t sure whether I was interested in a PA, RN, NP,MD, or DO track. I liked that UVM’s program had flexibility and that I was able to tailor my schedule to my goals as they became clearer.

What are some similarities between illustration and medicine?

Though many see art and science as a dichotomy, my experience has shown they are two interdependent entities. Scientific innovation is not possible without creative thinking, and artistic expression wanes without observation and the scientific method. Both scientific illustration and medicine seek to reach similar goals: to use scientific knowledge and artistic skill to repair nature’s deficits, and to create a more “ideal” specimen. A large part of medicine is observation. The patient’s story is the single best tool for diagnosis, followed by physical exam. Both of these are tools that can be carried further with astute observation and directed inquiry.

Tell us about your respite caregiver internship at Howard Center in Burlington.

I was working as a respite care giver for the developmentally disabled. Serving a diverse client population—ranging from those in need of total personal care, and medication administration, to sex offenders and individuals requiring behavioral modification—was a rich and challenging experience. I practiced being present, compassionate, and patient. My belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every individual and the human capacity for growth and development became a clear value. I found the art of medicine. Like my studio practice, there is no absolute protocol to reaching a solution, each situation and subject must be regarded with the utmost care. Acute awareness, empathy, and understanding must be brought to each client every day.

What do you enjoy most about being a medical student at UVM?

Active learning and integration are really emphasized in the curriculum here. Many of the faculty are genuinely invested in student wellness and quality of education provided to us.

What do you find most rewarding about medicine?
It is a privilege to be present in difficult times in people’s lives, it is an even greater privilege to be in a position to help people through these times. I also really love patient education—just taking the time to make sure the patient actually understands what will be happening to them and why. Education empowers patients to take better care of themselves and make decisions that make the most sense for them.

Learn about the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.

Alumna Learns the Rewards of Medicine in Post-Baccalaureate Premed Program

UVM alumna Joy Benner ’15 is starting medical school this August at the UVM Larner College of Medicine. We talked Joy, who completed the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program, about her time studying at UVM, conducting research, volunteering for the Art for the Heart program, and working in the UVM Medical Center Emergency Department.

Why did you decide to study medicine at UVM?

I had switched to pursue medicine late in my undergraduate career. I decided to major in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) because my mother and sister are Deaf, and I saw the impacts this field had on their lives while I was growing up. I was exposed to the healthcare field through my major, as we were given many opportunities to observe the clinical aspects of audiology and speech pathology, which are career paths many students with CSD degrees choose to pursue.

Why are you drawn to medicine?

I love the connection and the relationship that grew between patient and provider, but I was also interested in learning more about the science behind the diseases that can influence or cause patient conditions. Through various experiences, I became fascinated with the field of medicine, but I hadn’t completed all of the necessary prerequisites to apply to medical school. I began to take some of these my senior year of college, where I met several UVM post-bac students. We all studied together, and I felt like I was a part of a community of individuals on the same path. I also grew up in Vermont, and knew I would be happiest and most successful in the post-bac program at UVM.

Tell us about your time volunteering in the Art for the Heart program.

The most rewarding aspect of the Art for the Heart Program was, by far, seeing the impact that we had on patients and their families. As an undergrad, I worked as an individual assistant for a toddler with bilateral cochlear implants, and through that experience I was shown how much of an effect one individual can have on a child’s life. For most children, a stay in the hospital can be overwhelming and stressful, and art is one of the best ways to allow them to make decisions, engage, and express themselves however they feel they need to. For many parents, this can be an equally distressing time, and we provided an outlet for them as well. It was always an incredible feeling to see that great big smile when a patient or family member saw all of the different art supplies they could use.

What did you do while working in the UVM Medical Center Emergency Department?

The Emergency Department provided a different experience, and was most rewarding in how much I learned. As a scribe in the Emergency Department, I worked directly with physicians and helped complete charts for the patients that they saw. This experience gave me immersive exposure to the field of medicine, as I was present for nearly every aspect of a patient’s visit to the ED, whether that was when the physician took the patient history, conducted a physical exam, interpreted laboratory and imaging results, or performed a procedure. I started to learn key things that physicians look for in common diagnoses and what they rule out. It was fascinating to see from start to finish the process that leads a physician to a diagnosis.

Which research programs particularly resonated with you in the program?

It’s hard to pick just one, but one project I worked on used animal models and looked at the effects of cyclophosphamide—a chemotherapy treatment—on taste. One of the many unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy is loss of appetite or loss of taste, which can lead to malnutrition and weight loss and has the potential to negatively impact the recovery of patients treated with chemotherapy. The study I worked on was evaluating the impact cyclophosphamide has on taste cells and the ability to discriminate salty tastes. This project was so great because I learned about how research can affect the way clinicians treat patients and how important it is for their ultimate treatment plan. It resonated with me so much because it has direct implications to improving the quality of life of patients being treated with chemotherapy.

Why did you choose to study at UVM?

I grew up in both Massachusetts and Vermont. I attended UVM as an undergraduate. I loved the prospect of being close to home, and fell in love with UVM when I visited. It is an incredible school with so much to offer and so many resources.

Learn more about the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.

UVM Student Changes Course for a Career in Nursing

“Though we can’t always see it at the time, if we look upon events with some perspective, we see things always happen for our best interests. We are always being guided in a way better than we know ourselves.”

- Swami Satchidananda

By Kim O’Leary

In September, I wrote about how I had left behind full-time work in corporate communications, started a position as a cardiology technician at UVM Medical Center, and was about to embark on my first semester as a pre-med student at UVM.

And what a semester it was! I dusted off my creaky old brain and reintroduced it to physics, biology, and chemistry. I worked part-time in cardiology and in marketing and communications at UVM Medical Center, and volunteered at the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program and Lund Family Center. I also squeezed in the parenting and wife-ing thing, too. It was an exhilarating, bewildering, exhausting, and ultimately rewarding experience.

Why I Want a Career in Nursing

In the midst of this schedule, I’ve found time to reflect on what being a physician would require of me. The uncertainty of whether I would get into medical school, whether that medical school would be in Vermont (where my family is happily settled), and how my family would weather a brutal eight or more years of schooling and residency…ultimately became too much uncertainty for me. However, I desperately wanted to practice medicine in my community, to be intellectually challenged, to teach new generations of students, to contribute to health care policy development. Turns out, there is another way!


After discussing with my advisor in the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program, I have shifted to the post-baccalaureate nurse practitioner track. As a nurse practitioner, I will have the opportunity to provide holistic, evidence-based care to my patients, with an emphasis on wellness and prevention of disease. I can be a true partner in patient care, and contribute to the health of my community in a profound way. Working alongside many talented nurses over the past several months, I am constantly in awe of their depth and breadth of clinical knowledge, combined with their ability to connect with patients and set them at ease. Nurses are truly at the very center of patient care—and that’s where I want to be, too.

In roughly a year, I will have taken all the courses needed to fulfill my admission requirements, which will allow me to apply to UVM’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences and other nursing schools. If I am accepted into UVM’s rigorous Direct Entry Program in Nursing, I would engage in an intensive year of pre-RN licensure, followed by three years of Doctor of Nursing Practice studies, ideally in family medicine.

While I admittedly have had some mixed feelings about changing course, I realize what an incredible opportunity I have right in front of me, and just how versatile and vital the role nurse practitioners will continue to play in health care reform. So…on to the next bend in the road!

 Learn more about the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.

-Kim O’Leary lives in Essex and is a student in the UVM Post-Baccalaureate Nurse Practitioner Program.

Public Health Student Weighs in on the Challenges of Wiping Out Malaria

As malaria claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, there are fears that efforts to eradicate the disease are being undermined by funding shortfalls and fragile health care systems.

While there has been progress to prevent the spread of malaria, the World Health Organization says more needs to happen to eliminate the disease. According to the 2016 World Malaria Report, children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa have greater access to tools that stop the transmission of malaria. Diagnostic testing for children and preventive treatment for pregnant women has risen dramatically across the region over the last five years, and the use of bed nets treated with insecticide has expanded rapidly.

Still, significant gaps in the number of people with access to preventative measures and the fragile health systems that exist in many countries are stymying progress, according to the World Health Organization.

Malaria causes flu-like symptoms that can lead to severe complications and death. In 2015, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths worldwide, mostly children in the African region.

We talked with Matt McLaughlin, a UVM Master of Public Health student and program manager of Stomping Out Malaria in Africa, a Peace Corps program that aims to support the international malaria eradication program, about the challenges to eliminate malaria.

Matt has worked for a decade on bed net distribution. Consistent use of bed nets can reduce malaria transmissions by as much as 90 percent, according to the Nothing But Nets organization. However, according to WHO, a fifth of households in sub-Saharan Africa did not have access to bed nets in 2015, and fewer than half the households had sufficient insecticide-treated nets.

Why are bed nets not consistently used?

Of the people not using a net, the vast majority of them, the reason is that they just don’t have one. This is not to dismiss the issue of under utilization by those who do have a net. Some of that happens, too. But despite lots and lots of work on net distribution and lots and lots of progress we remain far short of a scenario where everyone who needs one has one.

What are the obstacles to getting nets to people?

One strategy for net distribution is the mass campaign where you distribute them all at once across a country. It is a devil is in the details kind of challenge. Senegal—which where I work the most, so I’ll use that as an example—when I last did a mass distribution there they had 13 million people, and there is an average of two people per sleeping space. So, you’re talking about distributing 6.5 million nets, which is just a huge logistical challenge with lots of devilish details. Nets have to be warehoused at the national level, shipped to regions and warehoused there, loaded on smaller trucks to get to clinics. Sometimes it’s putting nets in canoes or on the backs of bikes or—and I’ve done this—climbing up a mountain with a bale of nets on your head because there is no actual road to a village. And before all this can happen you need an accurate count of how many people actually need nets in these communities and that means a comprehensive census. You do all this work and after about a year, some nets get ripped or burned by candles and then they’re no longer effective. Another year goes by and more nets taken out of commission.

What is the life span of a bed net?

Two years and change is the consensus of how long bed nets last. The insecticide on the nets will last through 20 washings.

How else are the nets distributed?

If you’re pregnant, you can get a free net at a clinic. Children at a certain grade level will get a free net at school. There are some community organizations that distribute small numbers of nets on an ongoing basis. Those ancillary channels are good, but I don’t think they’re sufficient.

What are some ways to educate people about using bed nets?

There is more that we can do with utilization. For example, there is a belief that if it is the dry season, there are no mosquitos and therefore no risk of malaria and people are less likely to use the net. Yet, we know that people are getting malaria even in the dry season. And net care and repair is important, too. You need to wash them with regular soap not detergent and make sure they hang in the shade to dry. You can also sew bed nets if they get holes for longevity. Educate people around these issues and we might see better net longevity.

Can you tell us about some other projects you are working on?

I also help identify and evangelize flagship projects. The current most important project is called PECADOM+. It’s a French acronym for home-based care, and the “plus” is a unique addition that Peace Corps and our partners have identified—weekly door to door sweeps by community health workers looking for malaria cases.

We’re now doing a variant of the PECADOM+ projects in schools because schools are such a natural place for low effort and high impact. One of the pilot programs in Senegal provided the same basic training to school administrators that a community health worker would receive for the door-to-door program. As a result, administrators were finding many malaria cases, even in places where there were existing community efforts to eradicate malaria. The school officials also identified many malaria cases in the dry season, disproving the belief that there is no malaria at that time.

In your work, do you find that the world is becoming complacent because of the many gains in fighting malaria?

Total donations have flat-lined over the past five years. That is worrying. When you’re making progress, everyone is excited and they want to push hard and take part. But when your progress slows—because the end is always harder than the beginning—it’s harder to muster that same excitement from political leaders. The funding growth is slowing down, and with that, so are the gains—that’s the first warning sign of complacency. That said, the funding level donations have plateaued at is quite high. The U.S. and others are still donating billions to this cause and that is heartening. Also I am convinced that we can make bigger gains with the money we have if we’re smart about it. There is room to make improvements.

Learn more about the UVM Master of Public Health Program.


UVM Alumna Finds New Beginning in Public Health Program

Kelly Clements ’14 worked in the quality assurance realm of the food industry before deciding to pivot in a new career direction. The Vermont native, who majored in Nutrition and Food Science at UVM, recently returned to her alma mater to pursue a UVM Master of Public Health degree.

We talked to the first-generation college student about the connection between public health and food, shifting her career focus, and her plans after she completes the UVM online public health program.

After graduating from UVM, you worked in quality assurance in the food industry. What made you decide to shift gears and pursue a graduate degree in public health?

I was not feeling that I was making an impact in people’s lives. Lab work, passing audits, and making sure product labels meet regulations are all great, but I was feeling extremely unfulfilled in my career.

What interests you most about the connection between public health and nutrition?

We’ve all heard the saying that nutrition can be the safest medicine or the slowest poison, and I agree 100 percent. I think a lot of the barriers to good nutrition, especially in Vermont, come down to lack of nutrition education and resources. For example, my family once lived 13 miles from the nearest grocery store in an area classified as a food desert. This is reality for many people in rural Vermont that I am passionate about improving. Everyone deserves easy access to affordable, healthy food.

You’ll complete the Master of Public Health Program in 2018. What are your plans after you earn your degree?

My goal is to get a job in environmental health, epidemiology, or nutrition/wellness.

Why did you return to UVM for your master’s degree?

Mostly familiarity. In-state tuition was a big draw, and the program’s online aspect was also appealing since I am working now and the flexibility fits my schedule. UVM feels like home and I know where to go for resources that I need. So far, the program has been amazing and my professors are extremely helpful, whether it’s through email or in person.

What inspires you?

My family. I was the first generation in my family to graduate from college and will be the first to earn a master’s degree. My incredible parents have been behind me every step of the way and every decision I’ve made—good or bad—so I want to do well and make them proud.

What career advice do you wish you had received as an undergraduate?

To start planning early and to figure out exactly how to search and apply for jobs. I graduated with no plan at all and feel like I floundered for a few years before researching public health and beginning this program. Now I am so much more focused on my goals and building my future personal and professional life. As a result, I’m getting great grades and seeing things fall into place.

Learn more about the UVM Master of Public Health Online Program.

A Retired Science Teacher Explores a New Path with Cannabis

Central Vermont resident Ann Ndione is a retired science teacher who enrolled in the UVM Cannabis Science and Medicine Program this fall. Ann, who studied Horticulture and Horticultural Therapy at the New York Botanical Gardens, talked to us about her experience in the new UVM online program.


Ann Ndione

Why did you enroll in the UVM cannabis certificate program?

I just retired and saw the program advertised. This is a time of transition for me and I am open to a new focus in life. The program looked very interesting and challenging, a perfect mix for me. It combines my love of plants and passion for science.

What aspect of the program have you enjoyed the most?

Actually, I have enjoyed all of it–though there is a ton of work. Since I have little to no current experience with cannabis, everything is new. I feel that the format of the online class has worked well. The cohort is amazing and there is so much learn from each member.  I wish we could have a face-to-face gathering at some point.

How and when did you first become interested in cannabis in terms of healthcare and policy?

I have been peripherally following cannabis in the news and have a few personal connections where I wish I had known more about it.

After you complete the program, how will you use what you have learned?

This is definitely the million-dollar question. The course has ignited a passion in me to be an advocate for medical cannabis. I would love to work with growing and research, though that is probably not too likely. Perhaps with this program I could work at a Vermont dispensary. I am going to explore the options. I am also talking to many others about the program and sharing my knowledge. Busting the stigmas and educating the public is one tiny step toward getting cannabis rescheduled.

Why would you recommend the program to others?

I would recommend the program because it is rigorous, balanced, and uses science-based evidence to inform.

Learn more about the UVM Professional Certificate in Cannabis Science and Medicine.


A Pursuit to Help Vulnerable Communities

UVM senior Ian McHale’s first exposure to lack of public health access was while setting up mobile clinics in remote villages in Peru, where there was no medicine or clean water. The biology and international development major credits that first trip to Peru as a life-changing experience.

We talked to Ian, president of UVM MEDVIDA and a student in the UVM Accelerated Master of Public Health Program, about his pursuit to become a doctor and his passion for helping vulnerable communities.

When you first traveled to Peru during your first year at UVM, what were you surprised to find from a public health perspective?

During my time in Peru, there was an indefinite strike of health care workers due lack of proper wages. I visited a remote clinic where there were no doctors, nurses, or anyone to run it, and women were giving birth in unsanitary conditions with no medical help. That experience affected me deeply. Far from any large city or hospital, these women and their children would die if there were any complications during or after childbirth. It was shocking and upsetting to me to see what a lack of public health infrastructure could lead to. Witnessing the lack of medical care in the clinic caused me to want to not only continue with my goal of becoming a doctor, but sparked my interest in public health.

How did your trip to Peru shape your career plans?

I was able to connect my passions in what I was learning in school. I was also able to put what I was learning to the test while implementing community development projects, setting up community meetings, attending patient follow ups, and leading mobile clinics. I made a lasting and meaningful connection with the community members we worked with, and I was able to understand the issues that affected these communities in Peru. These experiences will always be with me and will always have an impact on the decisions I make in my life.

MEDVIDA is the UVM’s official chapter of the national MEDLIFE organization and serves as a student hub for community service and social activism both internationally and in the local community. What do you enjoy most about your involvement with MEDVIDA?

I enjoy the amount of community volunteering and global health education we have in our chapter. At every meeting we are discussing and critically thinking about global health issues. Our chapter volunteers abroad and in our local community, where we make meals for a homeless shelter downtown and serve as mentors in our local community.

You want to work in pediatrics, and have spent time volunteering to help children. Can you talk about your volunteer work both locally and abroad?

I have volunteered on the pediatrics floor at UVM Medical Center for the past two years. I am also a DREAM mentor for two children. DREAM is a mentorship program where college students are paired with children from low-income community housing, fostering strong relationships not only with the children but the community we work in. Both of these experiences have helped shape what I want to do in my future career, hopefully one day becoming a pediatric doctor.

Over the summer, I was a volunteer affairs intern with MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru. I have also volunteered with MEDLIFE during my freshman and sophomore summer for one week in mobile clinics in Cuzco, Peru and Esmeralda, Ecuador. At these mobile clinics, we bring local doctors, nurses, dentist gynecologists, and pharmacists to communities that lack access to healthcare. We also work with the local leaders and community members on development projects such building stairs, bathrooms, and schools.

Why did you decide to enroll in the accelerated MPH program?

I want to learn more about disease prevention and management, how to identify and assess population needs, and implement population interventions. I want to use this knowledge from the program to better understand the healthcare system that I will one day work in. It will allow me to help others because I’ll have an in-depth understanding of public health policy and the local and global healthcare systems. I have learned first-hand what the lack of a public health infrastructure leads to and how to implement public health initiatives.

What is the best part about being a student at UVM?

The best part about being a student at UVM are the range of opportunities that are available. With the UVM Medical Center and Robert Larner, MD College of Medicine on the heart of our campus, we are given opportunities for research, jobs, volunteering, internships, and amazing experiences. My freshman year I was hired at the Vaccine Testing Center and I have been able to work with them ever since. I was able to join MEDLIFE, which has changed my life in such a great way. I have also been able to have internship experiences, such as my current internship with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

You recently saw Paul Farmer recently speak at UVM. What was the most inspiring thing you learned from Dr. Farmer?

The most inspiring thing I learned from Paul Farmer was that rather than focus on cultural competency, we should be focusing on cultural humility to allow us to better understand the people we’re working with and trying to help.

Learn more about the Accelerated Master of Public Health Program at UVM.

A California Chef Joins UVM Online Program to Learn the Science of Cannabis

California chef Fred Nesbitt joined the UVM Cannabis Science and Medicine Program to take his passion for cooking with cannabis to the next level. Two decades ago, he began his education and career in the cannabis industry while working at activist Dennis Peron’s CHAMP, the world’s first cannabis collective in San Francisco. In 2002, Fred graduated from the California Culinary Academy with honors, and in 2009 he started Cannabis Catering.

We talked to Fred about his career and what he’s learning in the new online program at UVM.

Tell us how you got into cooking with cannabis.

My original goal was to provide patients nutritious meals infused with THC—tetrahydrocannabinol, the main mind altering ingredient in the Cannabis plant. Over the years, the technologies advanced as well as extraction methods, and I began to learn more and more every day. I quit my job as the personal chef and began extracting for specific purposes. AIDS and cancer patients where the first to find me and ask for help. I am now president of Fancy Sugar, LLC, and owner of Chef Fred Product lines, and I am also the marketing director at Pura Extracts in Roseville, California.

Why did you enroll in the UVM Cannabis Science and Medicine Program?

This course is beyond anything I have seen in the country. I enrolled in the cannabis certificate program because I felt it was important to begin learning from an expert with a PhD rather than just from cannabis enthusiasts with no science-based answers. I felt I should invest in my future with this certificate.

What aspect of the program have you enjoyed the most so far?

My favorite part of the program has been the interaction with the other students learning what everyone else knows and applying it to my knowledge base. The professor’s slides and discussions have been super interactive and not boring. I am not a medical professional, and listening to some of the explanations that are in-depth can be difficult to understand. The interaction with the students and the in-depth slides and discussions help bring everything together.

After you complete the program, how will you apply what you have learned?

After I complete the certificate program, I will apply the knowledge to my practice. This has given me science-based mindset for the applications of cannabinoids to help patients.

Why would you recommend the program to others?

I would not recommend this program to just anyone as the curriculum is very advanced. I would recommend this program to all doctors, nurses, medical scientists, pharmacists or any other professionals who are looking to be educated with science-based data.

What do you enjoy most about cooking with cannabis?

Cooking food is a science, and cooking with cannabis is new science. I love it and love helping people. The market for medicinal and recreational edibles is about to be blown wide open. My main focus is medicinal patients in California, and compliance (with the law) is always my goal.

Learn more about the UVM Professional Certificate in Cannabis Science and Medicine.


A Shift in Public Opinion on the Legalization of Marijuana

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

More Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana today compared to a decade ago, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Today, 57 percent of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37 percent say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse, with just 32 percent favored legalization, while 60 percent were opposed.

The survey by Pew Research Center was conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 U.S. adults.

The findings:

  • Millennials today between the ages of 18 to 35 are more than twice as likely to support legalization of marijuana as they were in 2006 (71 percent today, up from 34 percent in 2006).
  • Millennials are significantly more likely to support legalization than other generations.
  • Support for marijuana legalization has also increased among members of Generation X and Baby Boomers (ages 36-51 and 52-70 in 2016, respectively).
  • More than half of Gen Xers (57 percent) support legalization, a considerable jump from just 21 percent in 1990. A majority of Boomers (56 percent) also support legalization, up from just 17 percent in 1990.
  • By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66 percent vs. 30 percent). Most Republicans (55 percent) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41 percent favor it.

Abigail Geiger of the Pew Research Center writes, “The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use.”

While Vermont has not legalized marijuana, the state has taken steps to make medical marijuana more accessible. This year, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a new law to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing patients with additional qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, access to medical cannabis. Patients who suffer from chronic pain often find cannabis to be a safer, non-addictive treatment for pain management than opioid-based prescription drugs.

Learn more about the UVM Professional Certificate in Cannabis Science and Medicine.


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