Author Archives: Ashton Harris

Cover Letter for Life Healthcare

Dear Selection Committee,

My name is Ashton Harris and I am a current freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am glad to apply for the study abroad internship in South Africa, specifically the administrative position with Life Healthcare Children Hospital Group.

Before entering college, I always knew that my interests lie in the healthcare system, whether as a physician or a medical administrator. My passion for medicine was motivated by several fortunate research and shadowing experiences in medicine. In one experience, I assisted Dr. Betsy Davis, a biostatistician working on a scientific study with speech pathologists. She was responsible for ensuring maximum accuracy and precision of the results. I was amazed to learn the importance of ancillary research to the practice of medicine. Overall, I realized the significance and opportunities that come along with a degree in public health. This internship with Life Healthcare Children will give me a greater appreciation for UNC’s several outlets for students to express their interest and passion in public health and premedical fields.

In regards to my personality, I am a very pragmatic person who has learned how to balance logic and emotion. I feel that being logical is very important in a health career, however, one must display empathy in order to improve one’s people management skills. In high school, I applied my pragmatic personality by attaining leadership positions in various clubs and organizations. Being in multiple administrative positions has taught me the importance of voicing the opinion of your colleagues in executive roles; it is important to do what is best for your company, organization, etc., but one must also consider the opinions of others. I believe that this skill will prove to be an important asset in my pursuit of a health policy and management degree.

Specifically to this program, I feel that my communication and consideration skills would benefit my effectiveness in the social work department at Life Healthcare Children. While meeting with parents to discuss financial and emotional distress, I would be able to comfort the child and ensure him or her that her opinions are important and will be taken into account in each medical decision. I have experience with reasoning with others, of multiple ages, which would prove to be useful in this specific program. At the same time, I believe that this internship would allow personal growth by taking me out of comfort zone with the American health care system. Instead, I would have the opportunity to grow personally by being introduced to an unfamiliar culture while also gaining more knowledge about diverse health care systems.

Overall, I feel that this opportunity will allow an ideal outlet for my strengths, while teaching me more about myself and my passion for healthcare.

Thank you so much for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Ashton Harris

chaston@live.unc.edu

843-743-9976

1910 Granville Towers Ln West

Africa Study Abroad Internship Profile (Ashton)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a summer study abroad program that incorporates academic excellence with social change. Overall, this opportunity offers classes for students to take with UNC professors while he or she can simultaneously intern with varying organizations that aim to improve social and demographic atmospheres.

In regards to the background on this program, this study abroad internship will take place during the fall session of the 2016-2017 school year in Cape Town, Africa. No more than twenty students will be selected to engage in this study abroad opportunity. The process involves an application and a series of essays portraying one’s passion for social work. Over the course of the term, students will be placed into two separate internships, ranging from social work in elementary schools to social work in world-class hospitals. In terms of social work, students will work with administration in order to provide a safe environment for patients or students. The goal is to create a democratic environment, meaning the students or patients will have a voice in the decisions that affect them. Though this program is technically “honors Carolina,” one can apply even if they are not considered “honors.” Instead the student will simply receive honors credit after completion of the term.

Personally, I have an interest in this program because of the incorporation of the health care system in Cape Town. This characteristic element of the program motivated my interest to apply. I am a current freshman at UNC who is aiming to pursue a degree in Health Policy and Management. Overall, this major will allow an abundance of opportunities regarding job selection. At the same time, I am also Pre Med. This being said, I am hoping to pursue a career either practicing medicine or implementing health care reform.

I feel that I would be a great candidate for this internship because I have a passion for making sure patients receive the proper care that they need, whether this be financially or medically. This internship perfectly incorporates the two needs of patients in an extremely diverse city. Overall, I am confident in the role I could play in this wonderful opportunity.

Why Dark Chocolate?

46497-Chocolate-Bar

       Photo by Steve Miller on February 1, 2015

Ashton Harris

Love is in the air.

With Valentines Day quickly approaching, I find myself surrounded by an abundance of red roses, cheesy greeting cards, and ginormous teddy bears (honestly, who buys those anyways?) But probably the most characteristic component of Valentine’s Day is the isles upon isles of chocolate in your local grocery store.

While walking through one of the multiple isles solely composed of chocolate, I find myself going through the same thought process every year.

“Is this chocolate going to make me gain weight?”

“Is chocolate really THAT bad for you?”

“Check the nutrition facts. How many calories are even in this?”

This overanalyzation of nutrition facts during a universal holiday can be related to today’s fascination with health and wellness. Think about it, how many people do you know that own a personal fitness device? How many constantly check to see the number of steps they have reached or how many stairs they have climbed?

Sure, one could argue that this may have to do with an interest in technological advancements, but if that is true, wouldn’t nearly everyone own a hoverboard?

Here’s the thing, unlike the hoverboard craze, nutrition does not “attach” itself to any age group. Instead, nutrition is universal. You could see a sixteen year old and a seventy-year-old American citizen both wearing the same FitBit, performing the same function. With this in mind, if any food, especially if it is as satisfying as dark chocolate, is claimed as “healthy,” chances are everyone will be talking about this sooner than later. And in fact, that has been the case with dark chocolate.

The health benefits of dark chocolate are all rooted in a high concentration of cacao in comparison to other forms of chocolate. In lay mans terms, the higher the percentage of cacao, the more natural the chocolate.

Cacao originates from the cacao fruit tree, also know as the Theobroma Cacao. This certain tree produces cacao pods. When these pods are split open, hundreds of cacao beans pour out. Overall, the cacao beans are at the root of every dark chocolate recipe. Whether the beans are turned into a paste or a powder, the taste and texture of these products will resemble dark chocolate.

kakao-shokoladnoe-derevo

     Cacao pods on Theobroma Cacao; Minipedia

On the other hand, when milk chocolate is made, cacao is manipulated structurally and chemically in order to create a higher percentage of cocoa, which is probably the more familiar form of chocolate. When cocoa is made, cacao undergoes a heating process, which breaks the bonds within the substance in order to alter the shape to produce cocoa.

Milk chocolate, the most popular form of chocolate, is not only heated but also processed with an alkalized solution in order to change the overall taste; the chocolate becomes much less acidic and much richer in taste.

Overall, if you are really craving dark chocolate, the only place you need to look is on the branches of a Theobroma Cacao tree. But you might have to wait a few hours for you milk chocolate to be heated and alkalized. Sounds delicious, right?

So is it true that the more natural the chocolate, the “healthier” it is?

The main factor that would explain this statement is the presence of flavonoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate; the high cocoa content in dark chocolate results in high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants.

Flavonoids function to reduce platelet activation and create a cardiovascular mechanism called the French Paradox, which means that a population has a low rate of cardiorespiratory complications with a high sugar diet.

On the other hand, antioxidants slow down or prevent the oxidation of other molecules within the body. When molecules in the body oxidize, they create cellular by-products, called free radicals, which are highly unstable. In order to gain stability, free radicals attack healthy cells. This then causes healthy, or normal, cells to act in a very similar way by attacking others in an attempt to gain stability.

Overall, both flavonoids and antioxidants should lead to an improved and efficient physiological system in the human body.

In regards to flavonoid function, the Association of Operating Room Nurses performed a study in 2003 to prove the assumption that the flavonoids in dark chocolate result in improved vascular function. In this experiment, participants’ blood was tested before and after consumption of a variety of chocolate, including white, dark, and milk chocolate. The results of the study evidenced that white chocolate did not reduce platelet activity while milk chocolate slightly reduced platelet activity, but did not reduce platelet production. On the other hand, after the consumption of dark chocolate, the participants’ blood showed reduced platelet production and activity.

In summary, white and milk chocolate artificially produce platelets, which can lead to unnecessary blood clots, such as those in the arteries of the heart. However, since dark chocolate limits platelet production, the formation of unnecessary blood clots is greatly reduced, therefore improving the cardiovascular system.

On the other hand, Louisiana State University professor, John Finely, performed an experiment in 2014 to demonstrate the idea that the presence of antioxidants in dark chocolate benefits the physiology of the human body. In this experiment, his students recreated an artificial human digestive system in order to visually observe the effects of cacao.

The human digestive system contains a variety of micro-bacteria that aid in digestion by breaking down food particles. When food is broken down, energy is created so that the body may perform certain processes that require energy.

Initially, Finely explains that the micro-bacteria in our digestive tract ferments the antioxidants in cacao, therefore allowing the bacteria to properly create energy, without the interference of free radicals. Before conducting this experiment, Finely was aware that the composition of bacteria varies in each individuals’ digestive tract, so some results could be more beneficial than others.

After observing the effects of cacao on the digestive system, Finley noticed that the digestive tracts exposed to cacao expressed an increase in insulin sensitivity.

In regards to a background on insulin, this hormone is used to signal liver cells to absorb sugars, such as glucose, in order to decrease blood sugar levels. When one is diabetic, he or she has trouble producing insulin, so blood sugar levels are relatively high.

cell_norm_01

   Diagram explaining how insulin stimulates cells to intake  sugar; Pearson Biology

But what does “insulin sensitivity” mean?

Insulin sensitivity has to do with how well a body responds to insulin. Those that are highly insulin sensitive require very little insulin to store sugar. On the other hand, those that have low insulin sensitivity, typically diabetics, require greater amounts of insulin for cells to intake certain sugars.

Finley’s observations portrayed the relationship between high insulin sensitivity and cacao, which means that the ingestion of cacao could then result in a delay or prevention of being diagnosed with diabetes. Overall, the ability of cells to readily absorb sugar can be related to the high levels of antioxidants in cacao, which reduce the presence of free radicals.

However, though dark chocolate proves to benefit the physiology of the human body, it is important to enforce proper portion control.

For instance, too many flavonoids could result in a complete absence of platelets. This means that when your body requires the formation of blood clots, such as a scab on a small cut, the platelets will not be available to the affected area.

On the other hand, too many antioxidants can result in the disappearance of free radical cells. At first, this may seem to be a good quality for the body to possess. However, free radicals force the body’s immune system to adjust to and fight against these foreign invaders; this can therefore speed up the immune system response the next time it is introduced to a certain free radical cell.

In conclusion, when you are at Walmart on Valentine’s Day, go for it! Splurge and buy some dark chocolate, now knowing the benefits that tag along!

But always remember, too much of a good thing CAN be bad for you.

Why Dark Chocolate? (Query Letter)

Ashton Harris
1910 Granville Towers Ln W
Chapel Hill, NC 27515
chaston@live.unc.edu
January 31,2016

Dear Mrs. Boyd:

I am a current freshman studying Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, I am working on an article discussing the health benefits of dark chocolate consumption. I admire your journal and realize the prestige that it offers. That being said, I am hoping that you will find a place for my article in your nutritional journal.

In today’s culture, the majority of American citizens would agree with the statement, “dark chocolate is good for you.” But what does this mean? What defines “good?” Why is dark chocolate, say, better than other forms of chocolate? In order to find the answers to these questions, we will need to investigate the actual contents of dark chocolate and the effects that they have on bodily function. In order to do so, studies will be investigated and background information regarding the make up of dark chocolate will be addressed. With this in mind, I will aim to prove just why dark chocolate is in fact “better for you.” In my article, I will explain the physiological effects related to the consumption of dark and whether or not these will benefit or harm the human body. If dark chocolate harms the body, it should be avoided; on the other hand, if the treat actually improves the physiology of the body, I will address the proper portions for consumption.

I believe this topic to be extremely important in American culture because of the fairly recent fascination with nutrition. Think about it, how many people do you know that own a FitBit? How many constantly check to see the number of steps they have reached or how many stairs they have climbed? Sure, one could argue that this may have to do with an interest in technological advancements, but if that is true, wouldn’t nearly everyone have a hoverboard? Here’s the thing, unlike the hoverboard craze, nutrition does not “attach” itself to any age group. Instead, nutrition is universal. You could see a sixteen year old and a seventy-year-old American citizen both wearing the same FitBit, performing the same function. With this in mind, if any food, especially if it is as satisfying as dark chocolate, is claimed as “healthy,” chances are everyone will be talking about this sooner than later. And in fact, that has been the case with dark chocolate.

The health benefits of dark chocolate are all rooted in a high concentration of cacao in comparison to other forms of chocolate. In lay mans terms, the higher the percentage of cacao the more natural the chocolate. When milk chocolate is made, cacao is manipulated structurally and chemically in order to create a higher percentage of cocoa, which is probably the more familiar form of chocolate. The reason more people know about cocoa over cacao can be related to a recent study performed by ProQuest. In a randomized study of one hundred people, eighty-four people claimed that they prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate while the remaining sixteen favored dark chocolate. When those who preferred milk chocolate were asked why, the majority stated that, “milk chocolate is sweeter than dark chocolate;” the basis of this statement deals with the amounts of cacao in each sample. Bitter taste parallels to cacao while a sweeter taste relates to amounts of cocoa.

Overall, I will show that dark chocolate improves the physiological functions of the blood stream and the vascular systems. In order to do so, I will relate the effects of dark chocolate to the percentages of cacao. I will be aiming to prove to the reader that dark chocolate is in fact good for you. After stating my claim and supporting it with an abundance of evidence, I will then educate the reader on portion control, in regards to the consumption of dark chocolate. Though dark chocolate will improve vascular function, an abundance of this sweet treat could reverse effects by introducing too much of one thing into the human body. In fact, dark chocolate is sometimes described as an accessory rather than a main course. It is important for the reader to realize that I am not encouraging complete reliance on dark chocolate’s effects, but rather consuming the treat in regards to its intended purpose and function.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Ashton Harris

Why Dark Chocolate? (Annotated Bibliography)

Astrup, A. Eating dark and milk chocolate: a randomized crossover study of effects on appetite and energy intake. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 5 December 2011. Web. 21 January 2016.
The main premise of this experiment was to observe the appetite sensations between dark and milk chocolate in normal, healthy weight men. In general, this source is a step by step explanation of a scientific experiment. The experiment was motivated out of a desire to prove that milk chocolate is in fact unhealthy. In the experiment, 16 young men were selected at random. The meals were either 100g of dark or milk chocolate. Astrup recorded the appetite sensations before and after the experiment in order to determine the effects of the two different types of chocolates. The results from this experiment concluded that the participants felt less hungry and had lower ratings for the desire to eat after the consumption of dark chocolate. Overall, this study evidenced that dark chocolate suppresses energy intake much more than does milk chocolate.

Anonymous. Eating Dark Chocolate may be Good for the Heart. ProQuest. October 2003. Web. 21 January 2016.
This scientific article aims to explain the benefits of dark chocolate consumption for cardiac health. The main factor that would explain this statement is the presence of flavonoids in dark chocolate; the high cocoa content in dark chocolate results in high levels of flavonoids. Flavonoids reduce platelet activation and create a cardiovascular mechanism called the French Paradox, which means that a population has a low rate of cardiorespiratory complications with a high saturated fat diet. In this article, the author references a common experiment in which participants’ blood was tested before and after consumption of a variety of chocolate. Overall, white chocolate did not reduce platelet function and milk chocolate slightly reduced platelet activity, but did not reduce platelet production. Overall, this experiment proves that the consumption of dark chocolate can result in greater cardiac health. In summary, this article will prove to be beneficial in describing how dark chocolate relates to human physiology.

Courage, Katherine. Why is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank Your Microbes. Scientific American. 19 March 2014. Web. 21 January 2016.
The purpose of this scientific article is to explain the relationship between dark chocolate and digestion. Initially, Courage explains that the micro-bacteria in our digestive tracts ferment the antioxidants and fiber in cocoa. Overall, this can result in improved vascular function. In order to further explain this idea, Courage introduces an experiment conducted by Louisiana State University professor, John Finely. In this experiment, his students recreated the human digestive system in order to visually observe the effects of cocoa. Before conducting this experiment, Finely was aware that the composition of bacteria varies in each individuals’ digestive tract, so some results could be more beneficial than others. In result, Finely explains that the results of his experiment depicted an increase in their arterial flow, which improved vascular function. Also, Finely noticed that the digestive tracts exposed to cocoa expressed an increase in insulin sensitivity, even if the participant was not diabetic. This could then result in a delay or prevention of being diagnosed with diabetes. Overall, this study is useful when discussing the relationship between the digestive system and dark chocolate.

McClees, Heather. Cacao vs. Cocoa: What You Need to Know. One Green Planet. 15 May 2014. Web. 26 January 2016.
This article focuses on the nutritional and informative facts regarding the difference between cacao and cocoa. Overall, McClees aims to express to the reader that cacao is the purest form of chocolate while cocoa is processed based on the manufacturer’s purpose. The nutritional benefits of cacao are also discussed in order to show that the truest form of chocolate is also the healthiest. In order to do so, McClees compares the origins of each form of chocolate in order to express to the reader that the source of the chocolate determines the health and dietary benefits. This article will be useful in my scientific journal because dark chocolate contains high levels of cacao, which could explain why dark chocolate is linked to a healthier lifestyle.

History of Autism

Todays reading introduced the medical condition of Autism. One point that I found interesting was the idea that Autism is never the same from patient to patient. Rather, the text explained that some struggled with numbers and memorization while others were extremely gifted in their quantitative abilities. I thoroughly enjoyed Howe’s point that those with Autism should not be claimed as “idiots” because some were extremely proficient in areas such as reading and musical abilities.