TV Guide magazine declared it "The Worst TV Show Ever." Simultaneously, it was the top-rated daytime talk show in the United States. "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" flowed out of the television set and into over 3 million homes every day. Briefly, this included mine.
When my daughter was in second grade, she went through a bit of a phase. Every day, she'd come home after school, chuck her book bag aside, plop down on the sofa, and eagerly turn on the TV to watch Jerry Springer. And there she'd remain, mesmerized, for hours.
As a parent, I was mortified. These were not the values I wanted my eight-year-old to be learning. I was horrified by the idea that she would think that this show was depicting normal, healthy relationships. "Jessi, real people aren't like this! These aren't good role models," I argued with her. "Surely there's something better to watch." Then I tried diversion tactics. "Jessi, let's go to the park! Or the library! Do you want to do some arts and crafts?"
Without fail, my offers were dismissed. "No, Mom. I'm watching Jerry Springer," came her response. We went on like this for a few months. My lectures and appeals to higher reason fell on deaf ears. In her mind, I simply didn't get it. No matter what I said, tried, bribed, I couldn't pull her out.
So finally, in a desperate move to rescue her from the evils of this show, I decided to go in. One day when she came home from school, instead of trying to talk her out of watching Jerry, I sat down next to her on the sofa. I resolved myself to reserve judgement. I would watch without criticism. I wanted to understand. And, if nothing more, at least I'd know exactly what she was watching.
I sat next to her every afternoon for a few weeks until, one day I turned to her with genuine curiosity, and asked "What is it you like about this show?" Without missing a beat, she responded, "I'm just fascinated by what people are willing to do to be on television."
Whew! I was so relieved! My kid wasn't using Jerry Springer as a manual on how to live life or have relationships with others. She knew exactly what was going on. Her critical thinking skills were strong and her moral rudder was still intact. As it turns out, I didn't have so much to worry about after all — something I wouldn't have known, unless I had entered her world.
After that day, whenever I asked Jessi if she wanted to go to the park, or the library, she was ready to go — because she knew that I understood, that I wasn't trying to change her behavior or deliver a lecture on the fundamentals of a wholesome life. I was simply offering an additional form of entertainment. By taking the time to see the world through her eyes, and discover the appeal of a show that caught her interest, I had conveyed that "I got it", and she felt that I both respected and loved her for who she was.
20 years later, while interviewing experts on child development for my book, Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You, I realized why I was only able to get her out, by going in. Every psychologist, pediatrician, educator and social worker I spoke to emphasized that if you're in any sort of power struggle with your child and having difficulty getting through, stop trying to teach. First, you have to relate.
Relating, as described to me by Dr. Laurence Steinberg, is about entering your child's world and spending time on topics and activities of interest to them. It is the surest way to get to know your child for the unique individual they are, and to communicate that you value and love them. Teaching is a different (and equally important) way of connecting to your kids and demonstrating love. But there is a clear and important distinction between teaching and relating, and the order matters. When we teach, our intention is to be understood, and our kids are the students of us. When we relate, our intention is to understand, and we are the students of the child. Children are far more likely to listen to what we have to say, if they first feel understood.
If you think about it, that is true for humans of all ages. Few people --adult friends, students or colleagues —are ready to listen to advice given by someone who doesn't first demonstrate they understand them. So whenever you find yourself in a situation where you disagree with the behavior of a friend, family member, or even a direct report at work, instead of jumping to advice, consider trying to relate first. Ask questions (without judgement), to understand their thinking before trying to impart wisdom. You just might be surprised and delighted by what you discover, and will build a stronger bridge for true connection.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."