Monday, August 7, 2017

Proud Basketball mom

I often speak and write about my son, but I also have a lovely daughter, Savyon, who is nine years old. She too plays basketball, as I reported in Basketball Mom, and is amazing. As a rising fifth grader, talented dancer and interested cook, her dad and I could not be more proud, or so we thought. Savyon works hard in school and on the court. Even though it is a junior league that she is a part of, winning is still important and that is what her and her St. Joan of Arc teammates did against the Renaissance Knights.

Championship Win

Savyon and her Coach
I am shouting a major congratulations to Savyon and her team for meeting this challenge with strength, courage and hard work, it really paid off. Playing sports is extremely beneficial for children. It has been shown to:
  • Improve physical health
  • Develop social skills
  • Build confidence
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Foster positive competition
  • Create superstar athletes 
I want all of these things for my children, even if it does not result in a million dollar contract. I am so happy for my daughter and her team and continue blushing as the proud basketball mom.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Strategic Initiatives at Columbia University - An Interview

I had the privilege of interviewing Mrs. B, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Most recently, she served as the Director of Sponsored Projects at Columbia School of Social Work where she implemented systems and processes to enhance grant submissions, compliance and post award management. Mrs. B has worked within Columbia University for eleven years, though she has only worked at her current position for four months.
My role has been to support proposal development and management of ongoing business operations for faculty research projects. My job is to synthesize information and provide faculty with what they need to know in order to make informed decisions about the administrative, operational and financial issues that impact existing awards and future projects. I serve as a strategic thought partner in order to help facilitate the research and move projects forward.
                                                                                           ~Mrs. B
1.    What type of manager/supervisor do you think you are?
Currently I do not oversee any direct reports, however in previous positions I have overseen staff.  I have an ‘open door’ work style. I prefer my staff to approach me with questions early on and to work together to figure out a solution. I am collaborative and open minded, and solution oriented. I have high expectations of myself and therefore of my staff, but I also am supportive in helping my staff achieve and maintain a high level of performance.

2.    What type of leadership style do you possess?
I am a nurturing leader by nature. I lead by example and like my staff to take initiative and go the extra mile in providing support, and so I try to do the same. I do challenge my staff to think critically and manage their work holistically in order to improve performance and gain efficiency.

3.      How do your subordinates perceive you?
This is a difficult question to answer, but I believe they see me positively, as someone who is easy to work with and supportive, but also a stickler for details.

4.      How many people do you manage?
Currently I do not have a staff, however in my most recent previous position I oversaw two direct reports. Perhaps most challenging, I was required to exercise leadership and achieve deliverables with 39 faculty and 76 research staff without the benefit of direct line supervision. This requires leadership, humility, flexibility, and the ability to prioritize competing needs.

5.      Do you delegate work and if so, how?
Work is delegated within assigned portfolios, where each person on my team handled the projects for a specific faculty member. 

6.      How do you ensure that tasks are carried out to completion?
I use a dashboard to track the status of all open items and their various status updates. I also hold weekly staff meetings and one on one meetings with my direct reports to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

7.      How do you recruit people to work for your company?
Columbia has its own online job portal. We also have used online sites such as or The best recruitment tool, however, has been word of mouth and utilizing one’s existing networks.

8. Are you more of a hands-on or hands-off manager?
I think I am more of a hands on manager, but not a micro manager. My experience is that if you are too hands off then things get away from you and you miss major mistakes or issues. As a supervisor, I found that I needed to track what my staff was working on at some level in order to provide support and guidance when needed.

9. Do you believe that rewards or punishments are more advantageous for employee motivation?
Feeling supported and heard is important for an employee. Having ongoing performance evaluations and metrics in place to measure performance so it is not a surprise to an employee if they receive constructive or critical feedback is important. Rewards are appreciated and important for employee’s feeling valued and part of a team.

10. What is your view on Unions?
I think Unions provide important protections for workers. I myself am not in a Union, but I appreciate their importance and history.

11. Have you ever been audited?
I manage funding that is granted either by the US federal government or private foundations. These projects are audited annually and are subject to great scrutiny with respect to how the funding is spent and in what time frame. I operate from a baseline of keeping complete records and backup information for a likely audit. This makes for overall better business practices.

12. Who are your competitors?
I do not have any direct competitors, but I would say that Columbia as a whole strives to compete with the top research Universities in the world and I support that process by the work I do in compliance and research development.

13. Who are your stakeholders?
The client base (faculty) are the stakeholders, as well as my fellow colleagues and University staff. We support one another and when project administration and operations are moving smoothly, the research can progress on time and within budget. We all benefit.

14. Who is your client/customer base?
My client customer base is the faculty. I support their administrative, operational, and financial management needs so that they can concentrate on the research. I also support their administrative staff so that they can better support the overall research.

15. How do you cater to them?
I work with them closely as an operations manager for their research. I am accessible via email and in person meetings, and I communicate issues that impact their work clearly and concisely. I also try to identify solutions that make sense for the work within the compliance framework that governs our work.

16. What advice would you give to a person in a leadership position?
My advice would be to be open and supportive of your staff but clear in the level of quality that you expect because that can get away from you. Your staff’s performance reflects on you as a manger, and your behavior and style in the workplace is informative to your staff. It can be a fruitful relationship for both parties.

17. Would you consider yourself proactive or reactive?
I am definitely proactive. Submitting proposals, meeting reporting requirements, and responding to sponsor requests requires you to anticipate upcoming challenges and plan ahead in order to make deadlines. If you are purely reactive, you will miss something.

18. What are some challenges you face as a manager?
One key challenge I face is assuming people are prioritizing the work as required, and that things are moving forward. The solution to this is open communication and training staff so they know what is considered urgent and important, and what steps should be taken to proactively move business along. When dealing with sponsored projects you need to be timely and efficient and communicate with your investigator, otherwise you must absorb the loss, and sometimes it can be a significant financial penalty. 

Columbia University has a diabetes research center as well as a medical center that supports and benefits from the Mailman School of Public Health. One of the cutting-edge activities of the department is using big data and advanced analytical techniques to detect slight changes in population electronic health records. This, along with the annual $600 million in research sponsorships puts Columbia University at the forefront of global research and gives their faculty the opportunity to pursue innovative biomedical and public health investigation and research.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Basketball Mom

Although I have to admit that I was an avid quitter when it came to sports and athletics as a child, I do understand and appreciate the importance of exercise and physical activity for overall health and well-being. The American Heart Association says: 
Staying active is one of the most important things a person can do to help curb obesity, lower your chances of heart disease and live healthy. Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s  No. 1 and  No. 5 killers. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories. This includes things like climbing stairs or playing sports. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, and include walking, jogging, swimming or biking. Strength and stretching exercises are best for overall stamina and flexibility.
Of course now, as a mother of two children, I am very active in making sure they take part in the recommended amount of physical activity. For this reason, I have enrolled them in basketball. My son is a point guard and my daughter is a power forward. They have each been playing for five years. They enjoy the sport and have made close friends with their teammates. As a result, I have become a basketball mom.

My children are on two separate teams because one is a boy and one is a girl. That means twice the practices and twice the games. I am at a basketball event about four times a week and I love it. The reward of seeing both kids grow physically and get better athletically feels amazing. The camaraderie and friendships that I've built with other parents is also very satisfying. The excitement of games is fun and exhilarating. It also makes me happy and proud to know that my children are engaged in an activity that is good for their health and is taking the place of something that may be less productive, like watching television or playing video games. Do I have any concerns?

As most parents, I worry about the safety of my children. I don't want them to get hurt while playing basketball. For Jayden, this is a little more intense because he has the added possibility of his blood sugar level getting too low. That is a constant concern of mine because if that happens, he can pass out and go into hypoglycemia. Is this why I remain at all practices and attend all games? I like to think that my love of the sport and my children and my children playing the sport is what keeps me in the gym four times a week, sometimes getting home after 11 pm. Yes, it would be ideal to run errands after I drop them off while they practice for two hours, as some parents do, but not only don't I have that luxury, I actually do not even have that desire. I am present at all of the practices and games. So I am the basketball mom. 

What do I think makes a basketball mom? A basketball mom is a parent who:
  • provides transportation for other children to and from the gym 
  • makes sure that their child(ren) and others do not get hurt 
  • passes out snacks and 
  • ties shoelaces 
  • cheers on and encourages their children 
  • cheers on all of the children on both teams
Are you a sports mom or dad? Please share with me about your sports experiences, past and present, your own or your children's! I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Another Fabulous Organization

In my last post, I spoke highly about JDRF and the monumental strides that the organization is making towards finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. I would be remiss if I did not take the time to mention the American Diabetes Association.

This non-profit organization was founded in 1940 with a mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. It has ninety local offices across the United States and is considered the number one charitable organization providing diabetes research and advocacy. The ADA has numerous ways to get involved, including volunteering, donating and participating in the famous Tour de Cure team cycling fundraiser. The organization also has a Walk to Stop Diabetes.

The ADA has a commitment to informing the public about diabetes and the best ways to cope with the illness. It provides comprehensive support to families, including a summer camp for children with the disease. It also hosts numerous events and activities during the month of November, which has been designated diabetes awareness month. One of the most phenomenal characteristics of the organization is that it was founded and continues to be governed by physicians and health professionals.

As part of ongoing fundraising efforts, the ADA has a store where you can purchase books, gifts, accessories and informational items that will benefit you while helping to finance their operations. They publish tons of research and even give you free access to their magazine, which is full of important information, advice, news and suggestions for those living with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association is an amazing organization, which can be seen by the fact that 300,000 people contact them for information annually. You can call them too: 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383) and of course visit their website at <>.  

Friday, July 21, 2017

JDRF to the Rescue

Have you ever wondered how you can help individuals with diabetes, although you yourself may not have the disease? Well, wonder no more!

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. It was established in 1970 and houses its headquarters right here in New York. The foundation has chapters all over the country along with seven international affiliations, and sponsors research in seventeen different countries, as well. As part of their yearly fundraising efforts, JDRF hosts two yearly public events in the United States. Ride for the Cure and Walk for the Cure. In both of these fundraisers, participants sign up and raise money, then actually ride a bike or walk an established route on the day of the event. Last year, my family and I raised over $3500.00 for the foundation and had an incredible time participating in the walk.  

As a person who does not suffer from T1D, you can always lend a listening ear or compassionate attitude to those who do. That kindness goes a long way. To help in a more tangible way, donations to the foundation will aid in their ongoing and new research projects in an attempt to find a cure. JDRF has created technology that has been life altering for people with T1D, including the artificial pancreas, which is an external device that continuously monitors glucose levels and pumps insulin into the body when necessary. 

Walk for the Cure 2016

It is not hard to get involved with the diabetic community. You can fundraise, donate, volunteer and advocate locally or on a national level. There are chapters in each state and events you can attend to educate others or become more knowledgeable yourself. So don't wait! Get involved with JDRF today!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Moving in with Mom

My quaint family of four had been residing in a cooperative building for the past three years. In these apartment shares, you own your residence, though there are homeowner’s fees, rules and standards that you have to live by. Over the past year and a half, my next door neighbor had been making complaints, both to us and the homeowner’s association about anything he could think to complain about. According to him, the smell of our breakfast, the volume of our television, the sound of children’s footsteps, the way we closed the front door and the amount of guests we entertained weekly made us the worst neighbors in the world. My husband and I spoke extensively to each other about the situation and decided that we would not retaliate, but instead, apologize, be cautious about our actions, and do our best to be better neighbors. This was the plan. 

Upon the implementation of “Operation Better Neighbors”, we listened to the television at a minimal volume setting, quietly closed the front door during early or late hours, insisted to our children that they refrain from any running, jumping or normal play activities in the house, and ran the kitchen ventilation system every time we cooked anything. Unfortunately, our plan was an absolute failure. Though we were fortuitous in our attempt to appease him, our neighbor’s complaints did not cease and it was unanimously decided that we should leave the co-op.

So began the adventure of selling our apartment, purchasing a house, packing and inevitably moving. If you have ever moved from one residence to another, you know this is no small feat. Add two children to the equation and the complexity of it all becomes daunting. Three months after the initial decision, our apartment was under contract. One month after that, boxes and boxes were stacked up and ready to go; but where? Luckily, we found a house, but since we needed to be out of the co-op before we were ready to close on the new house, we moved in with my mother.

One and a half months later, boxes in storage and the four of us crowded into my mother’s abode, we are approaching the time when we can move out of mom’s, move in to our new house, and begin the arduous yet very rewarding task of unpacking. 

Spending time with mom is wonderful, but the relocation is made all the more challenging with the added pressure of coping with diabetes. Simple things like finding a new pharmacy, to more complex issues like what box did I pack my son's pump in? adds another dimension to moving in with mom with the notion that we will relocate one more time before finally completing this move and settling in to our new home.    

Monday, July 17, 2017

Interview With T1D Mom, Tricia D.

My son spent one week at the Naomi Berrie diabetes summer camp, where he was able to participate in a wide range of fun activities under the guidance of Columbia University Medical Center staff. This camp is both safe and fun for children with diabetes and takes the pressure and stress off of their parents. The camp is filled with many amazing children and their equally amazing parents. I was able to interview one of the parents, Mrs. Tricia D., about her experience with diabetes and how it has affected the different components of her life. Tricia is a special education lead teacher of the Eastchester School District of New York and has over ten years of experience in the field of education
1.      What type of supervisor do you think you are?
I would like to think I am supportive, flexible  and encouraging.
2.      What type of leadership style do you possess and how do your subordinates perceive you?
I think I likely possess a democratic like, sort of informal leadership style. Likely my subordinates perceive me as honest, fair, loyal, hard working, open-minded and flexible.
3.      What relationship do you have with diabetes and how has diabetes affected your ability to perform your work duties?
My son has Type 1 Diabetes. He is twelve-years-old and takes an insulin called Novolog. Though diabetes has not dramatically impacted my performance, it has impacted my priorities. I often take calls when my son tries to reach me even if it interrupts an activity.
4.      How has diabetes affected your relationships with others like friends and family members?
Diabetes has impacted familial and friend relationships in several ways.  Many do not understand the impact of this disease on our family. They don't understand that the disease is LIFE THREATENING!! They do not understand how much effort and patience is involved in maintaining the physical and emotional wellness of my son. They don't know how much he goes through, nor do they ask. As previously mentioned, priorities have shifted. It is difficult for me to listen to complaints about things I no longer "sweat" because of my "bigger picture". So it can be frustrating and isolating at times. I feel sometimes that people don't "care" when they don't ask or seem to be interested in things that go on with my son. More support would help me feel less "abandoned", I guess.
5.  Do you or your family subscribe to a specific diet because of diabetes?
While we, as a family, do not adhere to a specific "diet" we do try to have well balanced meals, we try to limit processed foods and try to eat as low carb as we can.
6.  What advice would you give to a person in a leadership position?
My advice would be to be understanding and supportive of the individual needs of your subordinates.
7.  What advice would you give to a diabetic?
Continue to make good choices regarding your health, be patient and don't give up. Don't let the disease slow you down :)
I thank Tricia for giving an open and honest account of her experience. I love her attitude about priorities. It is difficult for parents of children with disabilities to find the support and comfort they need as they experience the daily ups and downs of the disease. The Berrie Camp is an awesome place that gives respite to parents of children with disabilities. I am glad that the hospital offered him and Tricia's son this week of attendance. I am also grateful to be able to meet others who understand the daily struggles of this circumstance.
My Son, Jayden.
Our Family!

Proud Basketball mom

I often speak and write about my son, but I also have a lovely daughter, Savyon, who is nine years old. She too plays basketball, as I repo...