Advancing the Next Big Idea in Animal Health

Smallpox, polio and even influenza-these deadly diseases once ruled the earth, killing by the millions. Today, thanks to scientific research, their impact is far less. The same holds true for animal diseases such as canine parvovirus and feline leukemia. One day, a host of other diseases that affect humans or animals, and sometimes both, may meet the same fate.When major medical breakthroughs happen, such as the promising bone marrow treatment for humans with sickle cell anemia announced last December, we often don’t realize the time and effort behind a new prevention, treatment or cure. The reality, though, is that medical advancements usually take years, even decades, to come to fruition-and along the way hundreds of ideas are attempted before one of them opens the doors. Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) is committed to finding and funding the next big ideas in animal health research.We know that a novel idea goes nowhere without proper funding-and funding for the unknown is often tough to come by. The Foundation is one of the few organizations helping cutting-edge scientists gather data and test promising concepts that could one day lead to major health breakthroughs for animals.Innovative Ideas Take Flight:
Through its pilot-study program, MAF provides funding up to $10,800 for one-year studies that test a new idea and gather preliminary data to determine if the idea merits further investigation. This program provides timely funding for innovative ideas, speeds up scientific discovery and advances the Foundation’s mission to improve the health and welfare of animals.

“Pilot research study grants are designed to support innovative research ideas and early-stage projects where preliminary data may not be available,” says Dr. Wayne Jensen, MAF chief scientific officer.One benefit to the pilot-study program is that MAF accepts these study proposals multiple times per year rather than through the traditional grant cycle of once per year. As a result, the program helps researchers respond more rapidly to emerging diseases and contemporary questions in animal health research.Funding for pilot studies is desperately needed to advance veterinary medicine for companion animals and wildlife. Dr. James Moore, chair of the Foundation’s large animal scientific advisory board, explains that most funding agencies only support proposals that already contain a sufficient amount of preliminary data to suggest that the expected outcomes will be achieved. But scientists need funding to gather preliminary data. So it was no surprise that MAF received an overwhelming response-161-to its two 2009 calls for proposals. Yet the Foundation can fund only 12 to 18 projects each year.”The greater than expected response to the request for proposals for pilot studies suggests that there are a lot of good, untested ideas out there,” Dr. Moore says.A History of Funding Health Breakthroughs:
The Foundation has a long history of funding breakthrough projects. For example, in 1999, MAF was the first to fund research to look at why California sea otters were dying off. Over the next decade, we funded several grants looking at disease risks in sea otters. What scientists learned from these projects helped them win a $1.86 million grant from the National Science Foundation. In an interview for AnimalNews 6.4, lead researcher Dr. Patricia Conrad noted that, “the Morris Animal Foundation grants were critically important. Without that support in the project’s infancy, we wouldn’t have been able to compete for bigger grants.”Beyond uncovering information about the infectious diseases that were killing sea otters, these studies also led to increased state legislative protections for the playful creatures and trained numerous up-and-coming wildlife health researchers.A current study funded by our Canine Cancer Campaign is testing a new drug therapy for bone cancer in dogs. This major project encompasses multiple facets and institutions and could eventually save the lives of thousands of dogs-yet it began as a small pilot effort. Additional pilot projects may soon lead to a promising treatment for eye cancer in horses, improved nutrition for brook trout and better pain management for reptiles.

Current pilot studies address gastrointestinal problems, urinary infections and heartworm in dogs; osteoarthritis pain in cats; laminitis in horses and overpopulation and drug-resistant infections in pets.”Pilot studies like these are important for moving veterinary medicine forward, primarily because they can be accomplished relatively quickly and relatively inexpensively,” Dr. Moore says.Who knows where this year’s pilot projects may lead. Perhaps they will give veterinarians a tool to help them diagnose and manage osteoarthritis in cats or an inoculation that prevents certain strains of Escherichia coli from causing recurrent urinary tract infections in dogs. Or maybe equine veterinarians will get an inexpensive method for treating laminitis, a painful, life-threatening condition.The possibilities for advancing animal health are truly endless as long as we continue to support pioneering scientists with innovative ideas. These promising projects may one day change the face of veterinary medicine and help create a healthier tomorrow for animals.Learn more about the current pilot studies.

Developing Original Humor for Your Talk

Most humor in the business setting is unplanned. It just happens. Spontaneous events with clients and co-workers create the surprises and uncomfortable situations which call for humor as a coping tool.We all have differing abilities to recognize, appreciate and create humor. How’s your HQ (humor quotient)? Do you work with people who are full of wit?Regardless of where you are now, you can increase your humor skills. When you study humor, it’s obvious there’s more to it than just spontaneous laughs. There are times when you may want to deliberately use humor, maybe even plan it in advance.Perhaps you want to spice up a training session or a planning meeting. Maybe you want to lighten up a sales presentation. You can learn ways to administer a dose of laughter to help you connect and communicate.There are three elements which can help you understand and structure your humor: surprise, tension and relationships.
First, humor is based on the element of surprise. Humor often comes from something as simple as someone saying the unexpected. The surprise twist creates the humor.Because of the element of surprise, when we are deliberately structuring a piece of humor (perhaps for a speech) we don’t want to telegraph the joke. A line like, “a funny thing happened to me on the way over here,” signals your listeners that a joke is coming. This will lessen the element of surprise.To enhance the surprise, it’s best to place the punch line at the end of the joke. And within the punch line, the punch word is usually given last. The punch word is the word that makes the humor work. It’s the trigger that releases the surprise.If your humor falls flat, do what professional humorists do. Pretend you are serious. Since the listeners didn’t realize you were making a joke, you never need to apologize or explain it. Turn your surprise into a secret.

It’s no surprise to people who work in pressure-packed work environments that humor is also based on this second principle: release of tension. Laughter is a pressure valve which releases muscle tension. Uncomfortable situations, fear and pain are all tension builders that cry out for humor. We find ourselves laughing at risqué humor and embarrassing situations because they make us uncomfortable. We release the tension they create with humor.People who intentionally and frequently use humor know tension can be used deliberately to heighten the impact of the humor. A pause placed just before the punch line or the punch word builds a sense of anticipation, a form of tension, which makes the joke stronger.In most jobs, daily challenges give you the opportunity to purposely use tension in setting up your humor. Simply by sharing a real life humorous situation, you can recreate the spontaneous circumstances which generated the laughter in the first place. Although there’s nothing like “being there,” you can improve on the actual event by embellishing to create a little more tension in the set up. You can structure the punch line for maximum effect by putting the punch word last. And you can pause to add impact.As we plan our humor, we also notice that the third principle of humor is relationships. Most humor is based on how things are related and not related. We can create humorous twists when we play with relationships.Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons are well known for twisting relationships. One of his frequent tools is giving animals human characteristics. For example, the cartoon shows a car driving down the road. Driving the car is a bull. Sitting next to the bull is a cow. And in the back seat is a calf. They’re driving past a field with humans standing in the pasture. The picture, by itself, creates a funny picture by twisting the normally expected relationships. The calf sticks his head out of the car window and says “Yakity, Yakity, Yak!”Understanding the principle of relationships, you are able to create your own, original humor. You can create “shopping lists” from which you search for humorous connections.Let’s say you had an idea for building some humor. We’ll call this idea a seed from which the humor can grow. Perhaps, on a difficult shift at a hospital, someone made a comment that working in a hospital was like working in a war zone. This is the starting point for developing some humor.You’ll begin by creating two “shopping lists.” On one list you’ll put “hospital things.” And on the other, you’ll list “military things.” It will work better if you choose “military” rather than “war zone” because it’s a broader category which will give you more options when looking for relationships.Your first step is to brainstorm by making the lists as long a possible. The more items you have on each list, the more likely you’ll be able to make some humorous connections.As you make your lists, you’ll look for opportunities to branch out and create sublists to multiply your chances of finding humor. For example, if the idea “basic training” comes to mind, your sublist should contain everything you can think of relating to basic training: drill sergeants, marching, inspections.The next step is to search for connections between your two lists which might lead you to humor. Play with it. Then set it aside and come back to it later. Once you find something with humorous possibilities, you’ll massage it to maximize the humor impact.

To see what this exercise might produce:”Why a Hospital is Like the Military.”1. In the military, soldiers take orders from people with silver and gold on their shoulders. In a hospital, nurses take orders from people with silver and gold in their wallets.2. When discharged from the hospital after a Lower GI Series, you get the GI bill.3.,Nurses, like soldiers, see a lot of privates.4.mWhen filling out a hospital shift report, you sometimes resort to the policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”5. Nurse training is like boot camp. Never before had you seen so many bald body parts.6. In the military, a fatigue is what you wear. In nursing, it’s what wears on you.7. Soldiers get combat pay. Nurses don’t…but should.Whether you’re creating a list or a slogan to go on a poster, looking for a monologue to open a speech or training session, or just searching for one joke to make a point, you can use these lists to create your humor. It works.These three principles of humor are illustrated by the classic slip on the banana peel. The slapstick spill illustrates surprise because we weren’t expecting someone to fall. We also experience tension. When we see someone get hurt we get startled, and react with tension. It also twists relationships. Seeing a distinguished person sitting on the sidewalk is something our of the ordinary. Surprise, tension, relationships…we laugh!Natural, spontaneous humor is one of your greatest tools for coping with stress as you work. By understanding what makes the humor tick, you can become better at planning and deliberately using this powerful adjunct to your success arsenal.

Worksite Wellness Coordinators – 3 Measures of Your Program’s Effectiveness and Success (Critical!)

The fact that less than 50% of the worksite wellness programs today conduct any type of program analysis or evaluation is a huge problematic issue. You can better manage and improve what you measure. And you do want to better manage and improve your program as needed, right?Essentially, there are three broad areas within your wellness program that you can evaluate. They are: program structure, how the program is being delivered and the program’s expected outcomes.Program StructureResearch has found that effective, successful worksite wellness programs are well-designed and comprehensive in their approach. Therefore, an assessment of a program’s structure focuses on whether key structural components are in place. To assess your program, you need to ask yourself the following questions:1. How committed is your organization’s leadership to the program?2. Are your programming and interventions based on the needs identified by your comprehensive, organization-wide needs assessment?3. Are your programming and interventions aligned to the demographic and health status characteristics of your target audience?4. Are the topics covered relevant to your target audience?

5. Are your programming and interventions evidence-based?6. Do coherence, consistency, and integration exist between the various components of your program?7. If you use incentives, does the value equal or exceed the requirements needed to obtain the incentives?8. Are your incentives appropriately designed for their intended purpose?9. Does your program have sufficient resources allocated and is the staffing adequate?10. Are the necessary organizational factors important to success integrated into the program design?11. Is the program seen as being a permanent, integrated feature of employee benefits?12. Is the program aligned with the culture of your organization?13. Is there an evaluation infrastructure in place for tracking program impact and outcomes?Program DeliveryEvaluating your program’s delivery is typically called a process type of evaluation. A process evaluation typically examines how well your program is being implemented, if implementation is going according to plan and how the operation and delivery systems are working out. Program delivery evaluations also examine if feedback is routinely being provided that will allow for any necessary or needed changes to occur.Questions to ask relevant to process evaluation include:1. Are the programs reaching and engaging your desired target audience?2. How many participate?3. Are participants completing the interventions?4. Are participants advancing in their readiness to change behaviors?5. Are participants becoming more engaged in improving their health?6. How satisfied are participants with the program?7. Are the programming and interventions relevant to their needs?8. Is the program being delivered in a similar way across all locations or workplaces?9. Are communications and branding strategies getting the attention of the target audience?10. Do the programming and interventions yield sustained participation over time?OutcomesEssentially, measuring outcomes is determining if your program is achieving its desired purpose, goals and objectives within a given timeframe. Typically, evaluation of outcomes is the primary concern of the employer and program staff or vendors. Are their expectations being met?

The expected outcomes may differ from organization to organization, but typically fall into one or more of three categories: improvements in the health, safety and well-being of program participants, cost savings (generally viewed as being health related cost savings), enhanced individual and business performance metrics and an overall healthier organization.Speaking of outcomes evaluations, it is important to note that conducting a rigorous and credible ROI analysis is time-consuming, expensive, and requires a high level of expertise in statistical analysis, health services research, econometrics, and benefit plan design. An ideal measure of ROI would be to measure costs and savings associated with each program component separately.Measuring the value a worksite wellness program delivers is a much better and more easily doable strategy for most employers. Monetary value is just one type of value measure. This broader value view allows the worksite wellness program to be seen in light of the full value it can bring to the employer and the improvement of the target audience’s health and wellbeing.