In Q&A, Dr. Bone Still Credits Rowland Hall for his Sense of Community and Strong Critical-Thinking Skills
Dr. Jonathan Bone '94 and Dr. Amy De La Garza from Equilibrium Clinic dropped by the Lincoln Street Campus Café December 7 for a Coffee and Conversation with Rowland Hall parents on the physiology of addiction. The chat revolved around how addiction operates in the brain and how to help our children avoid this all-too-common disease.
The event echoed a November 7 Freedom from Chemical Dependency Parent Forum, as well as ongoing school efforts to educate middle and upper schoolers on addiction.
Listen to event audio, and read some paraphrased nuggets of wisdom from both experts followed by a Q&A with Dr. Bone.
Kids don't respond well to 'should' or 'shouldn't.' I have kids and young adults ask themselves the question, 'How's this behavior going to help me, and how's it going to hurt me?'—Dr. Jonathan Bone ’94
Highlights from the doctors:
"Kids don't respond well to 'should' or 'shouldn't.' I have kids and young adults ask themselves the question, 'How's this behavior going to help me, and how's it going to hurt me?' Get them to pause for two seconds to ask that question and to think about it. If they can get that integrated into their thinking—how it will help versus how it will hurt—it lets them feel like they're making that choice for themselves."—Dr. Bone
"Addiction is a disease of the brain. Kids' brains are so plastic and dynamic: think about how fast they can learn language, skiing, or math. They could learn addiction just that fast."—Dr. De La Garza
"Kids that use substances before they're 21 have a 20% greater chance of developing a substance abuse disorder when they're older."—Dr. De La Garza
Both doctors agreed parents should start teaching kids at a young age about addiction—around fourth grade.
On assessing the situation after discovering substance use:
"We don't want to be alarmist about it. If you look at it diagnostically, you look at the different domains of life: health, relationships, education, occupation, legal, financial—how is use impacting each of those domains? That's how we differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe substance-abuse disorder. We can take that approach with our kids: how are they doing socially, how are they doing academically? Are they sticking with their sports team? Do they give stuff up? You take an inventory of what is going on with them globally. And if you find a joint, that's different than finding a bottle of oxycodone. You're also looking at the risk of the substance."—Dr. Bone
"Emergency rooms, detox centers—those are really scary places for kids and it stigmatizes them. You have to do a good risk assessment, and if you can't do that yourself, call someone: your pediatrician, your family practice doctor, one of us."—Dr. De La Garza
"We want to keep kids at the lowest level of care possible for as long as possible. I'm very conservative with raising that level, and it's really well-contemplated. If kids have a plan to hurt themselves, for example, that's when they go to the hospital."—Dr. Bone
Q&A with Dr. Jonathan Bone ’94
Dr. Bone, a 1994 Rowland Hall graduate, holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Denver, and he's worked with substance-use disorder patients since his medical internship. Following the Coffee and Conversation, we talked to him about what his job is like, and how his time at Rowland Hall left an impression on him. Q&A lightly edited for style and context.
I chose a career that fosters my continued development of relationships and I think this foundation emerged during my time at Rowland Hall. —Dr. Jonathan Bone ’94
How did Rowland Hall impact you and your career path?
Rowland Hall impacted my career by shining a light on the importance of community. I formed bonds with people at the school—teachers, coaches, peers, administration—that have lasted until today, and I hope they continue to thrive. I began to learn about and appreciate the interconnectedness of humanity while a student, although I certainly was not cognizant of that as a teenager. I chose a career that fosters my continued development of relationships and I think this foundation emerged during my time at Rowland Hall.
During my undergraduate, graduate, and internship, my training professors, supervisors, and colleagues often spontaneously commented on how well-developed my writing skills are. I think that one of the most impactful aspects of Rowland Hall is the importance placed on thinking critically and being able to synthesize data from multiple sources in a cogent essay, thesis, etc.
What is it like working and treating patients here in Utah, where the opioid epidemic has hit especially hard?
It is frustrating and rewarding, on a daily basis. Opioid dependence is a brutal condition that changes how people behave in such drastic ways it is difficult to describe. When I lose a patient to overdose or suicide, or they simply fall out of treatment, I am pained beyond words. However, when I have a patient with six months sobriety who is interpersonally, emotionally, and physically healthy again it is incredibly rewarding. Utah has a significant problem at present. It is time we no longer hide the disease so we can treat it aggressively.
Top image: From left, Dr. Jonathan Bone '94 and Dr. Amy De La Garza from Equilibrium Clinic on December 7 led a Lincoln Street Campus Coffee and Conversation on the physiology of addiction.
Rowland Hall alumna and Duke University senior Claire Wang '15 has added a prestigious new title to her already impressive list of achievements: Rhodes Scholar.
The Rhodes Trust on November 17 announced the names of the 32 Americans to win the 2019 scholarship, one of the most famous academic awards available to US college graduates.
Claire emailed some of her former Rowland Hall teachers Sunday, overjoyed to share the news. "I'll be Oxford bound next fall," she wrote. "Thank you all so much for your support over the years."
Claire is the sole Utahn among the 2019 scholars, and one of 21 women—a record for an American Rhodes class. Here's her profile as published by the trust:
"Claire R. Wang, North Salt Lake, is a Duke senior majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. She is a Truman Scholar and a Udall Scholar, and has a perfect GPA. She is President of the Duke Climate Coalition, was appointed by Duke's president to advise on campus sustainability and climate policy, and has led numerous environmental policy campaigns. Claire also has worked at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and for Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. She aspires to a career as a climate-change policy advocate and to work at a global level to develop clean energy alternatives to replace fossil fuels. Claire will do master's degrees at Oxford in Environmental Change and Management, and Global Governance and Diplomacy."
At Rowland Hall, Claire felt supported and encouraged on her quest to make the world a better place.
Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and best-known award for international study, provide all expenses for up to four years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Scholars must display academic excellence, good character, leadership skills, and commitment to service.
Claire has previously said she's fortunate to have attended Rowland Hall, where she felt supported and encouraged on her quest to make the world a better place. The valedictorian for the class of 2015 also said she appreciated her alma mater's emphasis on writing, which helped her as a student and an organizer. She credited her middle and upper school debate experience for giving her many of the skills she uses in her advocacy work: "Just like debate, running campaigns involves strategy, negotiation, and analysis," she said. Read our November 2016 Fine Print story about Claire.
The University of Utah School of Medicine welcomed 127 students into its ranks at Friday's annual White Coat Ceremony, and six of of those newly cloaked scholars graduated from Rowland Hall.
Congratulations to our young alumni, pictured above. From left: Madeline Foley '13, Hank Shipman '13, Saeed Shihab '13, Kellyn Maves '12, andSophie Janes '12 don their new coats Friday, August 10. Not pictured: Emma Naatz '12. (Photo by Julie Shipman)
Both Hank and Emma also competed for Rowmark Ski Academy while at Rowland Hall. Hank has an especially inspiring story—a tragic Rowmark car accident and his subsequent recovery spurred him to pursue a medical degree.
According to the U's med school, the White Coat Ceremony makes student-physicians more aware of their professional responsibilities and conveys that doctors should ultimately "care as well as cure." Watch the ceremony video.
It's no small feat that these six Rowland Hall alums have matriculated to the med school just up the street from their alma mater.
It's no small feat that these six alums have matriculated to the med school just up the street from their alma mater. The U is well-known for its robust health-care community, and U.S. News and World Report lists the med school among the nation's best in research and primary care.
During the White Coat Ceremony, Interim Executive Dean Dr. A. Lorris Betz said the med school received 4,227 applications for the class of 2022. After officials review initial applications, they interview approximately 500 candidates each year. In the comprehensive admissions process, evaluators explore applicants' "motivation for seeking a medical degree, awareness and understanding of the medical profession, leadership, problem-solving skills, understanding of medical ethics, and interpersonal skills," according to the school.
Our alumni who have pursued careers in medicine often credit their well-rounded Rowland Hall education for helping them succeed in that field: read our 2014 story on the subject.
Alumna Johanna Varner is an expert on pikas: furry little mountainside-dwelling mammals that, at first glance, couldn't get any cuter. Then, you hear the sound they make, and all bets are off—they're like a squeaky plush toy come to life. Tech news site The Verge even facetiously deemed the pika superior to its cartoon counterpart, Pikachu, the lightning-shooting Pokemon character.
Of course, pikas offer more than a cuddly facade: studying this animal serves as a gateway to understanding complex ecological issues. The hamster-like creatures "are sensitive to rising temperatures and thus threatened by climate change," according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Johanna, now an assistant professor of biology at Colorado Mesa University, has built a career on researching pika survival and teaching students of all ages—including underserved populations—how to do the same. In February, AAAS honored Johanna with the 2018 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. The esteemed nonprofit lauded her for "infusing her public engagement with multi-directional dialogue, reaching diverse audiences and empowering participants to join in the entire process of science."
To put Johanna's achievement in context: the AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society and the publisher of the renowned academic journal Science. During the association's annual meeting in February—attended by about 10,000 people—they gave just seven awards to individuals (and one to a research team) in a variety of categories. Johanna was one of those individuals.
Watch the AAAS video on Johanna below, read the award announcement on their website, and read our Q&A with "Pika Jo" below, lightly edited for style and context.
How did it feel to win the AAAS award? What does it mean to you?
I was completely humbled—AAAS is a prestigious society in science, and it was very humbling to be recognized by them. Public engagement in science is really important, but there aren't many venues that recognize work in this area. This is one of the few awards for scientists that doesn't focus on publications, grants, or impact of science, but instead recognizes people who go out of their way to share science with nonscientists. It's pretty cool!
You wrote in an AAAS blog that you "have always been mildly obsessed with pikas (ask my college roommates)..." How did the obsession start?
Honestly, totally by watching David Attenborough documentaries. I think Planet Earth (the first one) was the first time I had seen pikas. I then made my college boyfriend and his family traipse all over Rocky Mountain National Park looking for them.
How did the nickname "Pika Jo" come about?
It was bestowed upon me by middle schoolers I worked with in SLC! I loved it.
A lot of Rowland Hall students are interested in pursuing STEM careers like yours. What advice do you have for them?
Stay curious! A lot of people think that scientists have to put their heads down, work hard, stay inside, and study books, but the real business of science is asking questions about the natural world. Obviously, hard work and studying are important, but don't forget to pay attention to the world around you, make observations, and ask questions.
Why teach the public about what you do?
By sharing our extensive knowledge of Earth's natural systems, scientists help the public make sound choices about complicated issues. However, I believe public input can also enrich our science by offering new perspectives, refining the relevance of our research, and stimulating new inquiries. Citizen science is an excellent example of these dual benefits. Volunteers who have participated in my research have reported feeling a sense of community and a closer connection to scientists in general. I've also become a better scientist as a result of participating in and directing these programs. Citizen observations have led to new investigations in my research (e.g., unusual behaviors or animals in unusual habitats). Perhaps most importantly, participating in these projects has dramatically improved my communication skills. Working with public groups forces me to conceptualize my research as compelling stories and to distill the most important and interesting points. Finally, public engagement is incredibly gratifying on a personal level. Discussing my research with public audiences reminds me why it's important and why I love ecology.
Why teach underserved populations?
So much of science outreach relies on voluntary participation, but if you think about who is likely to come to a science talk or presentation, it's most likely going to be the people who already know about science, already think it's important and relevant to their lives, and may already know a little bit about your topic. In contrast, we often overlook SO many populations who could be really interested in science, but don't have the opportunity to engage with it. I think it's important to meet people where they are, make science relevant to their lives/interests/values, and make it accessible so that they can not only understand, but also participate in constructing new knowledge.
What was it like to lecture about pika ecology and ecology to inmates in Utah's Salt Lake County Jail System?
The inmates were really interested, very engaged in the presentation, and asked insightful follow-up questions. It challenged a lot of our preconceived, culturally held notions about what inmates are like.
How did Rowland Hall shape you? What specific teachers, classes, experiences, etc. helped to steer you toward your current professional endeavors, from pikas to public outreach? Peter Hayes was probably the biggest influence on my career path—he taught us to identify plants and animals and to ask questions about the natural world. I didn't take a straight path to ecology, but I think his class gave me a really important foundation. I'm always learning new things, especially now as a teacher, and I occasionally stumble on something I learned in ninth grade and remember a corresponding mnemonic device Mr. Hayes taught us—it's a nice moment when that happens!
What's next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
I'm really enjoying my teaching job at Colorado Mesa University, but I'm still very active in both pika research and citizen science. This summer, we're working hard to be able to engage folks from the Portland area in conducting pika surveys to see how pikas in the Columbia River Gorge are faring after the Eagle Creek Fire last fall. It's an adventure, but I am really excited about both the science and the public engagement aspects of the project.
Jason Thummel '05 wasn't allowed to have a video-game console growing up—instead, he mastered a selection of parent-approved games on his dad's computer. He remembers, for instance, playing the wholesome, educational Reader Rabbit series.
"I can also distinctly remember playing lots and lots of the original SimCity, and how exciting it was to finally build a city up to being a metropolis," Jason said.
Little did he know, he'd later launch his career working on a spinoff of the game he played for hours as a kid. After a bit of trial and error, Jason found his calling in his longtime hobby and now works as an engineer at Electronic Arts (EA), a top company in the gaming world.
Jason's parents weren't thrilled about his love of gaming, but they took a constructive approach: his dad encouraged him to learn about how games are created. Jason—as kids are wont to do—ignored his dad. But in Jason's second year as a neuroscience major at Colorado College, he circled back to that sage advice. He realized neuroscience wasn't the right fit for him, and took a computer science (CS) class: "After that, my dad's idea suddenly seemed a lot more interesting."
So Jason transferred to the University of Utah's world-renowned Entertainment Arts and Engineering program for game design—"hands down, the best decision of my life," the alumnus said. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in CS, both from the U. As part of the master's program, he landed an EA internship working on Sims 3: Into the Future.
"I spent three months over the summer there, and had such an incredible time that I knew once I graduated it was where I wanted to start working," he said. So he applied for an entry-level client programming position, got hired, and started working there just two weeks after completing his master's.
Jason now works as a client engineer on the popular mobile game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, and said there's no such thing as a typical day. "Some weeks, we might be adding new features to the game, the next, we might be changing existing mechanics to address player concerns, and the next, we could be focused on resolving bugs," he explained. "Because things are always changing, it's impossible to fall into a steady rhythm and get bored." And he values the collaborative aspects of his job: "I'm never just sitting at my desk coding alone. I'm often working together with other client engineers, server engineers, artists, designers, and producers."
The alumnus cited the 2015 release of Minion's Paradise as the proudest moment of his career so far—an unlikely choice given the game's fate. It floundered, Jason said, and was discontinued last year. Still, it was the first professional game he worked on from the ground up until release. "It was a year of hard work and a lot of frustration, but it was so incredibly rewarding once we shipped it."
Jason still remembers taking an HTML class in Middle School, and another computer class in the Upper School. His advanced math classes, he said, were "exceptionally valuable" and made his transition from neuroscience to CS a smooth one. His freshman year, for example, was easier than he expected: "Both Calculus I and II were mostly repeats of AP Calculus from high school. Rowland Hall excelled at preparing me for the future."
Rowland Hall has expanded its CS program substantially since Jason attended the school. Director of Technology Integration Christian Waters has been one advocate for this expansion—he's keenly aware that industries like Jason's need employees who can code or otherwise use digital tools to create media. "All careers in the future will require some working knowledge of computers, and better yet, an understanding of algorithms that can analyze and synthesize vast amounts of data," Mr. Waters said. Accordingly, Ben Smith '89—Utah Coalition for Education Technology's Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2017—has been teaching only CS-related classes this year, including a new AP Computer Science A class focused on the Java language, the Joy of Computing, and AP Computer Science Principles.
Jason said he was glad to hear about the increased prevalence of CS classes at his alma mater. "As technology continues to advance, more and more jobs are going to benefit from, or require, some form of programming skill," he said, echoing Mr. Waters. "Not to mention the fact that just being able to write simple programs to handle trivial tasks for you can make life so much easier in small ways."
Jason encourages current Winged Lions to discover who they are and take advantage of the opportunities they have in middle and high school. "Don't be afraid to experiment and find what really interests you, even if you get it wrong a few times. I was convinced that I wanted to be a neuroscientist, and when that fell apart I was a little lost," he said. "But it wasn't the end of the world because, ultimately, it led me to find my true interest. Most importantly, make sure that you're passionate about what you want to do."
Now, Jason's advice for young gamers echoes his father's: "Play games not just to have fun, but to try and understand why they're fun, and why they're built the way they are."
In other words, practice curiosity—you never know where it might lead you.
The Rowmarker and two-time Olympian on how Rowland Hall shaped her, and how she's turned a traumatizing and widely covered incident into a rallying cry for her community
In February of her Rowmark Ski Academy postgraduate year—which skiers often use as a stepping stone to national or college teams—Alex Shaffer '94 competed in exactly zero races. She took a month off in the middle of racing season.
"People thought I was crazy," Alex said. Some peers and national coaches saw her hiatus as a big mistake. But a race-free month was hardly the death knell of the 19-year-old's career.
The respite (from competing, not practicing) was part of a post-knee-injury plan hatched by Alex and Rowmark Co-Founder Olle Larsson. "It gave my body and my mind a chance to find that fire again," Alex said. Come spring, a string of successful races qualified her to the U.S. Ski Team. By her 2004 retirement from the sport, she'd earned two national championships and competed in two Olympics, cementing her legacy as one of our notable Rowmark alumni.
The September 1995 Rowmark Edge announcing Alex's spot on the U.S. Ski Team.
Rowmarkers like Alex thrived because they were independent thinkers, Olle said, and weren't deterred by occasionally unconventional training plans. "It's difficult with a young teenager to sit down in the fall, and lay out a whole program for the winter, and stick to it," he said. "Alex had that ability because she could see there could be higher gratification in the end."
Alex Shaffer—now Alex Wubbels—honed that kind of mental fortitude at Rowmark. In true Rowland Hall tradition, her sixth-grade biographers documented that evolution in 1994: "Alex is a person who has grown more self-reliant, independent, and has increased her self-esteem over the past four years," wrote then-sixth-graders Kaebah Orme '99 and Myndi McCloskey. "The person who has most influenced her life would probably be her coach, Olle Larsson, who taught her about life, rules, and learning. He taught her to understand herself and depend more on herself."
Olle's lessons stuck. Now a critical care nurse, Alex proved her enduring conviction on the University of Utah Hospital floor.
On July 26 last year, during a mind-boggling incident recorded on a body camera, Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Jeff Payne wrongfully arrested Alex when she refused to allow him to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient who'd been in an automobile accident. Per hospital policy—which Alex calmly relayed multiple times—Payne needed a warrant or patient consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest. Payne lacked any prerequisites. Alex adhered to the policy and refused to yield.
After a half-hour of bullying by the detective, she could have given in. Maybe it wasn't worth it.
But for Alex—who sees it as a privilege to help patients and keep them safe when they're unable to do so themselves—the issue transcended worth.
"You can't just come in and take something that isn't yours," she said. "If there's anything more proprietary and more personal than your blood, I don't know what it is."
So she did her job and protected her patient, even though it entailed being grabbed, dragged from the ER floor while yelling for help, handcuffed, and put in the back of a police car.
"My heart was pounding," Alex said. "I was scared to death." She's still coping with post-traumatic stress from the arrest, but even in the chaos of it all, she knew she was doing the right thing.
"In moments of duress, our guts tell us a lot about right and wrong," she said. "I learned to trust my gut that day, I think, more than I probably have in a while."
Alex's story went viral in September, after she and her lawyer released bodycam footage from the arrest. The video sparked international outrage over the aggressive arrest and mistreatment of a nurse doing her job.
"Alex Wubbels did everything correct," Utah Nurses Association (UNA) President Aimee McLean told the American Nurses Association (ANA). "She stepped away from her patient's unit, she deescalated, she followed hospital policy and procedure. This never should have happened." ANA called Alex "a hero to her patient, to her hospital and to nurses across the country."
During the wave of media attention, Alex told reporters she hoped her actions were enough to invoke change. They certainly were.
Alex reached a $500,000 settlement from the city and university—she donated some money to the UNA, and set up a fund to help others obtain police bodycam footage. Relevant hospital and police policies were updated. Payne was fired and his watch commander was demoted, though news media have reported they're both appealing. The Utah House and Senate have passed a bill that aims to prevent this from happening again, and now it awaits the governor's signature.
The Rowmark Effect
Alex's Rowmark years with Olle primed her to go against the grain when needed. "Talk about the principles of standing up against bullies—that's pretty much what he taught us from the very beginning," Alex said of Olle. The duo has maintained their friendship. "He is one of those people that I am just so grateful to have in my life."
When he heard about the arrest, Larsson wasn't surprised that Alex stood her ground that day. He cited her independence, thick skin, and broad life experience as an elite athlete competing internationally. "She could be calm-minded skiing at 70 miles per hour," he said.
Like so many skiing prodigies, Alex started young. She and her brother, Pete Shaffer '96, also a Rowmarker, grew up on a ranch in Aspen, Colorado. "We didn't have babysitters," she said. "You either skied till the mountain closed and got the bus home, or you skied till your parents got off work and you caught a ride with them. So you just skied—that's just what you did."
Alex joined her local ski club one year younger than normally allowed, climbed in the rankings as a middle schooler, and attracted the attention of recruiters, including Larsson. She committed to Rowmark due to the selling point of a Rowland Hall education—her parents knew skiing wouldn't sustain her forever, and they wanted her to attend a challenging school.
So Alex and Pete moved to Salt Lake City and lived with host families while their parents stayed in Aspen. During Alex's senior year, the Shaffer siblings happily landed with Middle School math teacher Nancy Robinson, now a popular tutor. After Alex's second of two knee injuries, Nancy remembers the skier's dogged determination to heal. The teacher, who's now like a sister to Alex, even begrudgingly joined the senior for some early morning physical therapy—a 6 am aqua-jogging class at the Steiner Aquatic Center. "We spent a lot of time running back and forth in the pool," Nancy laughed.
"Alex's big goal was to go to the Olympics, and despite her various setbacks and challenges, she made it," Nancy said, adding Alex acknowledged her challenges and found a way through them. "Whatever she's going to do, she's going to do it as well as she can."
Learning How to Learn
Rowland Hall delivered on the challenging education Alex's parents sought for her—it was, in fact, probably more challenging than Alex would've liked at the time. "I remember being so focused on skiing, literally nothing else mattered," she joked.
But in retrospect, she's grateful that Rowland Hall helped her hone her learning skills. Her junior year, for example, she'd just had knee surgery and needed to write an essay for Carol Kranes' English class. She perfunctorily completed it in her hospital bed, and in a suggestion that seemed novel to Alex, Ms. Kranes later encouraged the Rowmarker to resculpt the essay into something better, and turn it in for a new grade. "I was like, 'huh,'" Alex said quizzically, imitating her teenage self. Through interactions like that one, Alex said, Rowland Hall dispelled her misconceptions about school. It was about learning how to learn, staying curious, and gaining a deeper understanding of subjects, not rote memorization or completing an assignment for the sake of completion.
"I was a blob when I showed up. I was actually a figure of someone when I left," the alumna said. Her teachers and coaches, she explained, helped to shape her into an effective citizen, and a good person who strives to be the best version of herself.
This set her up for success in her nursing career—a job that shes says keeps her on her toes, and in a state of perpetual learning. She even spends 20 hours every two weeks as an educator in the burn unit. "More than anything, the curiosity that I have for medicine and for nursing came directly out of Rowland Hall," she said. "If you're curious about something, learning is easy. I got that from Rowland Hall in a way that I could have never imagined."
'Nurses are closing their ranks around Alex Wubbels'
Alex's desire to understand and educate steered her actions after the arrest: "This happened, it should never have happened, and it will never happen again," she said. "In that light, what can I do to inform people."
Friend Nancy Robinson confirmed that after the incident, Alex felt a responsibility to raise awareness and help nurses and others who perhaps had similar experiences but didn't receive media coverage. "She's very conscious that this is not just her experience, she just happens to be in the limelight because there is video footage," Nancy said.
Indeed, the incident was isolated, Alex said, only in the sense that it was filmed. "Without the bodycam my story would've gone nowhere," she said. "It made it really easy for anyone to watch that footage and feel like it was them, or someone that they loved."
According to the ANA, one in four nurses has been assaulted at work. In addition to new legislation here in Utah, Alex's arrest sparked an ANA-led movement to #EndNurseAbuse, including a pledge with 13,000 signatures and counting. On a personal level, the response to the incident reinforced her commitment to nursing. In the same blog post where the UNA president defended Alex's actions, the national organization doubled down in a heartening way. "Nurses are closing their ranks around Alex Wubbels," the post reads. "ANA has your back." She received an outpouring of supportive letters and emails from nurses across the world. "We're not just here for people that need help—we're here for each other," Alex said. "I couldn't have done what I did if I wasn't a nurse."
One of the most important things Alex learned as a ski racer was how to recover. You can set the goal of a perfect run, she explained, but it's not realistic. "If you're always aiming for perfection, the little bumps are going to throw you off so much so that you won't ever recover," she said. "I realized that it wasn't about the perfect run. It was about who can recover the fastest from the mistakes." As in ski racing, so in life: "There are bumps and bruises, and that's to be expected," she said. "It's how you recover and how you pick yourself back up and move forward that determines what happens." Through no fault of her own, Alex hit a major bump. But she's moved forward admirably by fighting for what's right and defending herself, and her community.
Alumnus Attributes Recovery to Rowland Hall Community, Rowmark Work Ethic
Train daily for a month. Focus on even the smallest details to shave milliseconds off your time. Travel across the country to a race. Crash right out of the gate. Your weekend's over.
It's a seemingly discouraging chain of events for ski racers. But it primed Hank Shipman '13 for perseverance after a near-fatal Rowmark Ski Academy car accident April 9, 2011.
"In Rowmark, there's so much emphasis on conditioning, and nutrition, and time management, and setting goals and accomplishing them," Hank, now a college graduate, rattled off Rowmark tenets. Ski racing taught him to recognize his limitations, objectively evaluate his progress, and not dwell on short-term outcomes. He got used to the sport's ups and downs, and to spending every day training and striving for improvement. And those qualities have continued to serve him ever since he stopped racing, the 22-year-old keynote speaker told the audience at Rowmark's fall barbecue last month (pictured).
Toward the end of the ski season in 2011, coach Scotty Veenis was driving Hank and five other Rowmarkers—Jake Graves, Zach Merrill, Andrew Rutledge, Hunter Stuercke, and Zach Young—north on Oregon's Highway 35, back to their hotel after a race at Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort. A southbound driver in a Jeep Wrangler illegally crossed a double-yellow line to pass a semi-truck. The Jeep struck Rowmark's Chevy Suburban head on—in a potentially life-saving reaction, Scotty swerved, and the front-left corner of the Suburban took the brunt of the impact.
Hank had been sitting behind the driver's seat. The then-sophomore slept through the accident, but awoke right after. Hank and Scotty endured the most severe injuries of the group. They both suffered significant head trauma. Scotty also had a ruptured lung; a shattered ankle; a broken femur, hip, and ribs; and more. Hank's primary injuries included a compound femur fracture, a broken scapula, and a broken neck resulting in a spinal cord injury. The five other passengers sustained concussions. Everyone experienced some level of traumatic stress.
In the foggy aftermath, while stuck in the Suburban, Hank said he remembered moving his lips to try to tell his teammates he was alive, but he couldn't pull air into his lungs. Those with minor injuries sprung into action—Zach Young grabbed a fire extinguisher from the semi-truck to quell flames on the Suburban. First responders started showing up; they used Jaws of Life to remove car doors, and they life-flighted Hank and Scotty to Portland hospitals.
In the helicopter, Hank started to realize the extent of his injuries. He recalled asking a nurse if he'd be able to race again that season. He heard her request a tourniquet for his compound open femur, and he knew he wouldn't.
Hank, a Rowland Hall lifer, had joined the fledgling Rowmark Junior Program as a second grader in 2002, the same year Rowmark Director Todd Brickson started. Todd watched Hank grow up: he was always a fun, hardworking, good kid, and an incredible multisport athlete, Todd said.
Then, the accident. "We were reeling," Todd said with a nod and a sigh. "That was kind of burned in our memory forever."
The Rowmark and Rowland Hall community rallied. Hank stayed in the Portland hospital for 10 days, then came to Primary Children's Hospital (PCH) here in Salt Lake City. Along with Hank's family, a constant stream of classmates, coaches, teachers, and even skiing stars such as Ted Ligety and former Rowmarker Andy Phillips visited him in the hospital. "The support was everything," Hank said at the Rowmark barbecue. "When you have an entire community pulling for you and lifting you up, it makes it a lot easier to overcome challenges."
After the accident, doctors put a metal rod in Hank's femur and 50 staples in his head. He underwent two spinal-fusion surgeries; the second one, though successful, had complications that left Hank temporarily using a feeding tube. He received cognitive and speech therapy, including revisiting second-grade math.
According to Todd, no one argued with Hank when he said he'd leave the hospital on his feet. "But not a lot of people believed him, either," Todd said. Hank's mom, Julie Shipman, recognized her son's unwavering determination to heal. "He seemed to just know that he would," she recounted in a video. "The walker replaced the wheelchair, and crutches replaced the walker." And when doctors released Hank after about three months in the hospital, he walked out on his own two legs, with help from just one crutch.
At the fall barbecue, Hank told the Rowmark community that his racing mentality kept him dissatisfied—but not angry—during his recovery. "In ski racing, you work for a long time paying attention to tons of details, and you're often deprived of any immediate gratification," he said. So in rehab, he focused on those minor details, and the athlete's trifecta of exercise, nutrition, and sleep. "The progress of my recovery was slow and agonizing, but it was easy to track," Hank said. "From one day to the next, I didn't necessarily feel like anything was happening, but if I reflected on where I was two weeks or a month prior, it was easy to tell that I was regaining significant strength and movement."
Hank's rehab—including three years at Sandy's Neuroworx, a renowned physical therapy clinic that focuses on neurological rehabilitation—sparked a new passion. Before the accident, he said, he was narrowly focused on ski racing, and had no other plans for the future. Afterward, he shifted his goals from sports to medicine. As a junior, he volunteered in PCH's Neuroscience Trauma Unit rehab room, where he worked with patients and talked to them and their parents about his own recovery. Since high school, Hank has also intermittently volunteered at Neuroworx, where he makes special connections with patients—he knows exactly what they're going through. In April, he earned a bachelor's in movement science from the University of Michigan, then applied to 25 medical schools across the country. He's keeping his options open, but is interested in pursuing rehab-based medicine and wants a job with significant patient interaction.
Todd called the accident a watershed experience for Hank. The skier learned about his own injuries and how to move again, and he befriended kids and adults facing similar—and sometimes more serious—conditions. "He all of a sudden latched onto this," Todd said. "That's kind of where the blessing in disguise is. Being able to learn about what he had to do to come back, and what others were going through, it just became a passion of his, and kind of a calling."
Scotty also made a full recovery and now coaches the US Men's World Cup Ski Team. "You'd hope when anybody goes through that sort of life-changing, traumatic experience, that they'd handle it the way that Hank did and the way that Scotty did," Todd said. "I don't think they could have done a better job of turning a negative into a positive." Hank played varsity baseball and golf before graduating, and even returned to recreational skiing. In spring 2013, Rowmark started giving out the Hank Shipman and Scotty Veenis Perseverance Award in the duo's honor. Hank also won the 2013 Spirit of Sport award from the Utah High School Activities Association.
Now, Hank's daily life is barely inhibited. He has incomplete quadriplegia and Brown-Séquard syndrome—he lost strength on the left side of his body, and lost feeling in the right side. But in true Hank style, he pursues new ways to continue his physical therapy. Since July, classmate and fellow med-school applicant Saeed Shihab '13 has been helping Hank learn to rock climb—an activity the former Rowmarker said bolsters his grip strength and range of motion in his shoulder.
On the precipice of hearing back from med schools, Hank still extols his college-prep education. "I'm one of the students that constantly brags about Rowland Hall," he said. The writing, study, and communication skills he acquired here gave him a leg up at Michigan, he added. And he praised the expertise and helpfulness of Rowland Hall teachers—and not just from an academic standpoint. He still remembers his first day back at school in fall 2011, after the accident. He shuffled in on crutches, and the late Peter Hayes grabbed his backpack, helped him up the stairs, and cheered him on. Today, the Rowland Hall community can't help but continue to cheer for Hank, who'll be anxiously checking his email until at least one of his 25 med school applications proves successful.
Update August 15, 2018: Hank is starting at the University of Utah's School of Medicine this fall—read the news story. Congratulations, Hank!
Katharine Coles, Utah's Poet Laureate from 2006 to 2012, Guggenheim Fellow, and a University of Utah 2017 Distinguished Professor, returned to Rowland Hall for the first time since graduating in 1977 to share her fifth published collection of poems, The Earth Is Not Flat, written under the auspices of the U.S. National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.
Ms. Coles visited Joel Long's Upper School Creative Writing class in March as part of his guest writers series. She read her work aloud and thoughtfully answered students' questions about her writing process and how to approach overwhelming topics such as a month in the Antarctic.
"Katharine's poems bridge the gaps of poetry, philosophy, and science," Mr. Long said. "Her mind brings together such disparate disciplines with alertness and liveliness."
The poet, who comes from a family of scientists, said Rowland Hall helped instill "passionate and disciplined thinking" across all subjects and told the aspiring writers in Mr. Long's class that "in a very fundamental way, I see the projects of literature and the projects of science as being part of the same project—which is to understand reality and understand the world that we live in."
She said she remembers the strong encouragement she received from her Rowland Hall writing and English teacher, Helen Mulder. Ms. Coles laughed as she recalled it would be many years before her own mother would concede her success as a poet and resist the urge to end all conversations with, "You know you could always be an engineer." Ms. Coles said she still cherishes certain books given to her by Ms. Mulder—first-edition copies of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley, and The Lost Pilot by James Tate. "Before she gave them to me, I didn't know English teachers could be cool," the alumna said.
Mr. Long's creative writing students were well-prepared for Ms. Coles. They had studied the guest author's work in class and were keenly interested in Ms. Coles' intersection of science and literature.
"Students are always inspired by visiting writers," Mr. Long said. "Often, a visiting writer nudges students in new directions in voice, form, and content. I've seen so many students flourish in new ways after we have our guests."
Neither Ms. Coles nor Mr. Long can say exactly why it's taken 40 years for Utah's poet laureate to return to her high school alma mater. Their friendship began 25 years ago with overlapping pursuits of advanced degrees in poetry at the University of Utah's acclaimed writing department. In February both were headliners at the Salt Lake City Art reading series (of which Mr. Long is president) presenting new work to an admiring audience dominated by Rowland Hall alumni, faculty, and friends.
One explanation is that Ms. Coles never stays put for very long—a proclivity set by her family history for adventure, scientific curiosity, and engagement. So while Mr. Long suggested, "It's probably my fault that Katharine hasn't been back," it's probably not.
In addition to her month in Antarctica, Ms. Coles was a featured guest of Poetry on the Move at the University of Canberra (Australia), and at the International Poetry Festival of Medellín (Colombia). She collaborates across art forms and disciplines, including visual arts and computer science, and is the co-principal investigator on the University of Utah's Poemage project, which develops software for analyzing and visualizing sonic relationships in poetry.
Ms. Coles credits some of her early love of language to her upbringing in the Episcopal Church. And although she is not religious, she said she is "committed to the knowledge that the world and the universe are larger than I am." In a 2016 interview with Doug Fabrizio on KUER's Radio West, Ms. Coles explained the relationship:
"I loved the magic in that one word becomes another word that sounds like it, the way which one thing through metaphor becomes another thing. I think poetry is related to magical incantation as well as religious incantation, and in my liturgy, you spoke the words and wine became blood, and bread became flesh."
Falling in love with the magical sound of language is one reason Mr. Long invites authors to read their work in class: "Hearing the voice of a writer is crucial; it helps develop the sense of the music of the literary voice, tuning the student's own voice."
Image, a leading literary journal whose mission is to engage with the religious traditions of Western culture, describes the allure of Ms. Coles' work: "In her elegant, approachable poems, Katharine Coles addresses subjects as diverse as the geology of Antarctica, eating dinner, mathematics, the decomposition of corpses, and biblical stories of creation and annunciation."
As students eagerly gathered around at the end of class, Ms. Coles promised a return visit to read from her sixth collection of poetry, Flight, published last year. Mr. Long said that meeting and connecting with published authors "gives students the insight that writers are just people who do the work of writing."
At this point in the academic year, many of Mr. Long's creative writing students are busy with the production of Tesserae, the Upper School's literary magazine. For the eighth consecutive year, the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) honored Tesserae with a prestigious All-American Award.
Other accolades for Tesserae include top ratings from the National Council of Teachers of English and the esteemed Pacemaker Award from the NSPA twice, with an additional finalist nomination.
Tesserae is supervised by Mr. Long and produced by students as part of his Creative Writing/Literary Magazine English elective. In addition to Ms. Coles, acclaimed guest authors have included Frank Bidart (National Book Critics Circle award winner), Diane Lefer, Rebecca Lindenberg, and Chilean poet Felipe Cussen.