Thursday, January 29, 2015

Guest Post: Women and Heart Disease by Monique Huntley

Heart disease is a condition that affects the normal functioning of the heart and or the structures of Heart disease includes conditions that affect your blood vessels, such as coronary heart disease; abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias); heart defects that you're born with; and issues with your heart valves and muscles. A heart attack is caused from narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel (cardiovascular disease) and heart disease is used synonymously with cardiovascular disease. As we recognize American Heart Month, remember to get your heart checked-out by your healthcare provider and remember the facts about heart disease.
the heart.

Heart Disease and Women

  • Heart Disease is the #1 killer of women.
  • Heart Disease kills approximately 1 woman every minute.
  • Approximately 43 million American women suffer from Heart Disease.
  • The signs and symptoms of Heart Disease differ among women and men.
  • Heart Disease is often misdiagnosed in women.
  • Hispanic women are more likely to develop Heart Disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Heart Disease is the leading cause of death among African American women.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back is mostly noted by women than men. This may confuse many women because they expect the pain to be located in the chest and left arm.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort. In women, the pain may be located in any area of the chest and not directly on the left side. 
  • Many women complain of stomach pain and they mistake this pain as Reflux. 
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder, dominantly occurs on the down the left arm. 
  • Shortness of breath. 
  • Some women complain of having a nervous cold sweat that resembles a stress-related sweat.

Prevention Strategies

  • Healthy diet: consume healthy fats, decrease saturated fats, drink alcohol in moderation, and eat well balanced foods from each food group.
  • Exercise routinely and regularly.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Get regular cardiovascular screenings from your doctor yearly.
  • Get help immediate if you suspect that you are having a heart attack.


American Heart Association. About heart disease in women. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Heart disease. Retrieved from

Rodriguez, F., & Foody, J. M. (2013). Is cardiovascular disease in young women overlooked? Women's Health, 9(3), 213-5. doi: 

Monique C. Huntley, MSN, FNP-BC, is a doctoral student in Health Studies at Texas Woman's University. 
Graphics courtesy of the author.

On Campus Events
Go Red for Women: Heart Health Lunch and Learn
Go Red for Women: Wear Red (campus photo)

Interested in becoming a health educator? Check out our website and contact us to discuss which program might be the best for you.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Guest Post: Defining the Two Most Common Thyroid Disorders by Julie Gardner

Thyroid disorders affect millions of Americans on an annual basis; however, many of those affected do not realize the cause of their symptoms or illness. The thyroid is an endocrine gland at the base of the neck that produces thyroid hormones; these hormones affect heart rate, metabolism, weight, body temperature, and keep vital organs such as the brain and heart functioning properly (American Thyroid Association [ATA], 2012a; National Cancer Institute [NCI], 2012). 

Two of the most common conditions associated with thyroid disorder are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. These disorders vary in symptoms and treatment; however, both can have detrimental effects on the body if left undiagnosed. 

Hyperthyroidism refers to the condition in which the thyroid produces too much hormone (ATA, 2012a). This overproduction, increases metabolism rates, thus causing nervousness, irritability, anxiety, weight loss, and muscle weakness (ATA, 2012a). Physicians can easily diagnose hyperthyroidism through an enlarged thyroid and rapid pulse; however, laboratory tests will need to be performed for further confirmation (ATA, 2012a). Treatment options for hyperthyroidism include anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine, surgery to remove part of the thyroid, and beta-blockers. 

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is not producing enough hormones. This condition is often caused by autoimmune disease, surgical removal of the thyroid, radiation treatment, medicines, damage to the pituitary gland, or an inflammation of the thyroid. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include a decreased metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, depression, and constipation. 

Although there is no cure for hypothyroidism, patients can manage the disorder through the use of a thyroxine medication; this medication must be taken daily for life (ATA, 2012b). Hypothyroidism is often difficult to diagnose as there are no consistent symptoms and many of the symptoms may be similar to other diseases (ATA, 2012b). Although thyroid disorders can be considered severe in some cases, they can be managed through patient and physician communication. Furthermore, someone with thyroid disorder can continue to live an active lifestyle and is encouraged to do so through healthy eating, physical activity, and continued monitoring of their thyroid condition. Thyroid disorders can, and often are, hereditary so it is important for other family members to be screened so future complications can be prevented. 

American Thyroid Association (2012a). Hyperthyroidism. Retrieved from 

American Thyroid Association (2012b). Hypothyroidism. Retrieved from 

National Cancer Institute (2012). What you need to know about thyroid cancer. Retrieved from 

Julie Gardner, BS, MEd is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Health Studies at Texas Woman's University with an emphasis in population health. She received her Master of Education in Education Administration from Tarleton State University in 2000. Julie currently works as a Community Health Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in a partnership effort with Scott and White Health Plan serving Bell, Brazos, Llano, McLennan, and Williamson counties. Additionally, Julie suffers from hypothyroidism, but continues to lead an active lifestyle with her husband and two daughters. 

Interested in becoming a health educator? Check out our website and then contact us to discuss which program might be the best fit for you! 

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Guest Post: Healthy Resolutions and Goals by Kelsi Walker

January calendar with start in red
With the holidays behind us, it is officially resolution time. For many, January 1st was be the starting point of losing weight, eating healthier, drinking more water, making better grades, being on time, or spending more time with their loved ones. 

I remember January 1st, 2012; I had decided I would make some changes for the upcoming year. I wanted to lose 30 pounds, make straight A’s, get 8 hours of sleep, run 5 miles per day, drink 1 gallon of water per day, eat a well-balanced diet, visit 10 medical schools, travel the world, spend time with family more, get a great MCAT score, and the list goes on and on. Needless to say, I didn’t meet a single one of the goals by the end of the year. Why? I had too many broad resolutions without focus. 

To help you set and achieve your healthy resolutions for the upcoming year, I have come up with three successful tips that will help you stick to your resolutions. 

  1. Select SMART goals

    Making resolutions for the New Year is the easy part, but sticking to those resolutions often times ends in disappointment. This is where SMART goals come into play. SMART goals are detailed and aid in focusing on a goal. The SMART acronym is as follows:

    Specific - Who? What? When? Where? Why?
    Measurable - How much? How many?
    Attainable - Is it realistic? Is it challenging me?
    Results-oriented/Relevant - What are the results of the goal?
    Timely - What is the timeframe for meeting my goal? An example of a non-SMART goal is I will lose 30 lbs. This goal isn’t specific, and looked a lot like the goal I had written in 2012.

    An example of a SMART goal is I will lose 30 lbs. by August 30th by eating a well-balanced meal and running 4 miles per day. This SMART goal is very specific in measuring timely and attainable results. When drafting your SMART goal resolutions, remember to be personal. This tool is designed to help you come up with a clear path in reaching your individual goals. 

  2. Write it down

    Research shows that when you write your goals down, you are more likely to be successful in achieving those goals. Invest in a planner and/or a journal to help you see your goals on paper. You can also create a vision board containing your goals, pictures, and progress, and hang it in your bedroom. Writing down your goals will help keep you accountable. 

  3. Reward yourself

    Rewarding yourself for small victories can help you stay on track; however, when rewarding yourself, its very important to stay on track with your goal. For example, if your goal were to lose weight, eating a whole pizza as a reward wouldn’t be ideal. Treat yourself to a movie, a pedicure, or free live concert in your area. Celebrate the small victories and milestones by making healthy decisions. 

As you come up with your healthy resolutions for the upcoming year, remember that these goals are self-improvement lifestyle changes for a better you. As you tackle your goals (because I’m confident you will) don’t focus on how far you have to go, but on how far you’ve come. Have a wonderful 2015! 

References: New year, healthier you [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from,,20452233,00.html 

Kelsi Walker is a graduate student at Texas Woman’s University and is currently pursuing a MS in Health Studies with an emphasis on population health. In 2012, she received a dual-degree in Medical Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Her interests are in minority disparities from preventable diseases. Kelsi’s ultimate goal is to matriculate into medical school in the near future. 

Interested in becoming a health educator? Check out our website and then contact us about which program might be the best fit for you!  

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Guest Post: Men’s Health: A Case for Violence Prevention Programs for African American Youth by Byron Hunter

Byron Hunter PhD Student Department of Health Studies Texas Woman's University
Pictured: Bro. Byron Hunter, MPH, FACHE
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Matt Lauer and Al Roker grew beards in the month of November in solidarity and support of Men’s Health Month. While much of the focus was one the general population of men, special attention for young African American men should be of particular interest as much attention has been placed on the health and wellness of the population in light of recent events is Ferguson, MO. There are profound social issues for some members of the population and there is a great need for social programs for at-risk youth. 

African Americans represent 14% of the U.S. population (44,456,009) yet have the widest gaps in health care compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Individuals experience alarming rates of heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, STDs, and cancer.  Early health education and prevention activities among this population, particularly youth and young adults, is paramount to improve health and outcomes in later life.  Among the population, the health and wellness of young African American men is of particular concern. According to the US Census there are 7.4 million African American males between ages 10-34 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). 

Several Key public health issues among young African American men include HIV/AIDS, lack of health insurance, and violence (Battle, 2002). HIV/AIDS: African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV infection. In 1999, AIDS was the leading cause of death for African American males between the ages of 25 and 44 years (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).  Ten years later, the estimated rate of new HIV infections among African Americans (68.9) was 7.9 times as high as the rate in whites (8.7) (Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 2014). Of all of the new HIV infections among African Americans, 51% were among men who have sex with men (MSM) (CDC, 2014).  Lack of health insurance: Nearly 4 out of 10 young African American men lack health insurance (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006).  Violence: Among 10 to 24 year olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans; the second leading cause of death for Hispanics; and the third leading cause of death American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

Of the aforementioned health issues violence among young African American men is of
Pictured: Bro. Garland Thompson, MCD
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
prominent concern. Inner city African American youth are at risk for interpersonal violence and aggression. Statistics reveal that homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans age 10 to 24 year olds (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2014). Additionally, among youth and young adults age 15 to 24 years killed by firearms in the US, 60 percent are African American or Hispanic (Teplin, McClelland, Abram, & Mileusnic, 2005). Many young African American men particularly those in urban settings live by the ‘Code of the Street’, in which they exert extra masculinity to intimidate peers to establish credibility (Stewart, Schreck, & Simons, 2006). Problems with violence are worsened by ill relationships between police and young African American men. Reports indicate that the likelihood of police contact (including stops) for African America men in urban settings is higher than in any other ethnic group (Meares, 2008). 

In addition to violence, there is a great need to educate youth and young adults about bullying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated (CDC, 2014). Up to 25% of U.S. students are bullied each year and as many as 160,000 students stay home from school on any given day because they are afraid of being bullied (Hardy, 2005). Boys are more likely to be involved in physical or verbal bullying, while girls are more likely to be involved in relational bullying (Wang, Iannotti, & Nansel, 2009). African-American adolescents are more likely to be involved in physical, verbal or cyber bullying but less victimization (Wang, Iannotti, & Nansel, 2009). Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death (CDC, 2014). Victimized youth are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment (CDC, 2014). 

In the U.S. homicide is the leading cause of death for young men age 10 to 24. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the firearm homicide rate among males ages 10 to 24 years was highest for Non-Hispanic Blacks with 48.4 deaths per 100,000 populations (CDC, 2013). In the state of Texas homicide rates have decreased from 16.7 per 100,000 population in 1994 to 6.5 per 100,000 population in 2010, yet for African-Americans males age 10 to 24 homicide continues to be the leading cause of death (30.2 per 100,000 compared to 6.9 per 100,000 population white males and 11.0 per 100,000 population Hispanic males) (CDC, 2013). Homicide rates are perpetuated by social-economic problems and ongoing programs are needed to address these issues to reduce homicides and other crimes. 

The literature suggests that the physical and social environment such as poverty, access to firearms and drugs, urbanization, disadvantaged neighborhoods, poor social support (parents, teachers, classmates, and close friends) and inadequate education and school systems plays a large role in determining and individuals potential for engagement in violence behavior (Reese, Vera, Thompson & Reyes, 2001; Li, Nussbaum, and Richards, 2007; McMahon, Coker & Parnes, 2013). Of these, poverty is of cited as the most significant factor of particular importance considering 20% of individuals living in poverty are under the age of 18 and African-Americans represent 26% of these individuals (Reese, Vera, Thompson and Reyes, 2001). Vowell and Mary (2000) suggest that many inner-city African American youth feel strained by society and are unable to achieve their fullest potential because of competitive disadvantages, economic resources and limited opportunities. As a result, they reject normative structures and may engage in risky behaviors including drugs, alcohol, or violent behavior. 

Reese, Vera, Thompson & Reyes (2001) suggest that most teen experiences are interrelated, for example, experimentation with drugs and alcohol are usually tied together, and therefore, programs should approach violence prevention strategies from a multifactorial viewpoint. The literature further suggests that programs examine emotional support, improve communication skills, coping skills, eliminate gang activity, and that bolster child and parent relationships simultaneously may be possible strategies to manage violence. 

Pictured: Bro. Adam Whitaker, M.Ed.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Violence continues to threaten the health and wellness of African American youth. The literature suggests environmental and social factors play a key role in predicting violent behavior. Members of the target population are often excluded from intervention development and there are significant gaps in participant involvement in strategy and design. It is important to involve individuals in planning interventions and to empower them to take control of their health. Informed violence prevention strategies may be accomplished through implementing techniques such as Community Based Participatory Research (CPBR) or peer education, which encourage discussion and active participant engagement. 


Battle, S. F. (2002). Health Concerns for African American Youth. Journal of Health & Social Policy, 15(2), 35-44. 

Center for Disease Control & Prevention (2014). HIV among youth. Retrieved from: 

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (2014). Youth Violence: facts at a glance. Retrieved from: 

Hardy, D (2005). In the mix: stop bullying take a stand. Public Broadcast Service. Retrieved from: 

Li, S. T., Nussbaum, K. M., & Richards, M. H. (2007). Risk and protective factors for urban African-American youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(1-2), 21-35. 

McMahon, S. D., Coker, C. and Parnes, A. L. (2013). Environmental stressors, social support, and internalizing symptoms among African American youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 41: 615–630. 

Meares, T. (2008). Legitimacy of police among young African-American men. The Marquette Law Review 92, 651. 

Reese, L. R. E., Vera, E. M., Thompson, K., & Reyes, R. (2001). A qualitative investigation of perceptions of violence risk factors in low-income African American children. Journal of clinical child psychology, 30(2), 161-171. 

Stewart, E. A., Schreck, C. J., & Simons, R. L. (2006). “I ain't gonna let no one disrespect me” does the code of the street deduce or increase violent victimization among African American adolescents?, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43(4), 427-458. 

Teplin, L. A., McClelland, G. M., Abram, K. M., & Mileusnic, D. (2005). Early violent death among delinquent youth: a prospective longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 115(6), 1586-1593. 

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (2006). Young African American Men in the United States: race, ethnicity, & healthcare fact sheet. Retrieved from: 

U.S. Census Bureau (2010). Age groups and sex. Retrieved from: 

Vowell, P. R., & May, D. C. (2000). Another look at classic strain theory: Poverty status, perceived blocked opportunity, and gang membership as predictors of adolescent violent behavior. Sociological Inquiry, 70(1), 42-60. 

Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Nansel, T. R. (2009). School bullying among adolescents in the United States: Physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45(4), 368-375. 

Byron Hunter, MPH, FACHE, is a PhD Student in the Department of Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX. All correspondence should be sent to Pictured individuals are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, which is the first Greek-lettered Fraternity for African American. The fraternity’s headquarters is in Baltimore, MD and the organizations aims are ‘Manly Deeds, Scholarship, and Love for all Mankind.’ The organization leads violence prevention and other training programs for inner-city youth and young adults. 

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guest Post: Holiday Stress by Luis Espinoza

Many of us are counting down the days till Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know I am.  The holiday season is supposed to be a wonderful time where we get to spend time with our family members and friends, but let’s be honest… it can be just as stressful.

Stress can be caused by having to make decision on what gifts to buy, dealing with particular family members or even resisting those holiday cravings.  All these occurrences can lead to a stressful holiday season.  Fortunately, you can stay mindful and happy during the holiday season by mastering the following tips:
1.    Don’t be afraid to partake in some indulgences such as pumpkin pie or that extra sitting of turkey.  The goal is to fill your plate with a large portion of healthy foods so you can still enjoy those not so healthy ones (Krippendorf, 2010).
2.   If you are traveling and are ill please bring extra supplies and medications just in case you experience travel delays (Nurmi, 2011).  As a general rule carry snacks and a blanket on your travels should you experience some type of delay (Steffes & Steffes, n.d.).
3.   Consider online shopping to reduce that stress that comes with last minute impulse buys and reduce the strain to your bank account (Palmer & Cooper, 2013).  Holidays are not about buying extravagant, expensive gifts.
4.   If you are hosting a meal during Thanksgiving or Christmas be prepared to have extra food should someone stop by unexpectedly (Krippendorf, 2010).  Word to the wise, go to the grocery store and buy more food than you will need at least 4 days before.
5.    We all have those family members we could go without seeing, however, don’t let them be the reason you dread the holidays (Nawijn, 2012).
6.   Exercise regularly to reduce holiday stress.  It is a way to let go of the bad and feel better afterwards (Adamson, 2009).  Exercise is vital to everyday health.

I hope you enjoy the holiday season and see the rainbow at the end of the season. It is after all about spending time with your loved ones and giving thanks for everything you have. 


Adamson, E. (2009). 365 ways to reduce stress: Everyday tips to help you relax, rejuvenate, and refresh. Adams Media.
Krippendorf, J. (2010). Holiday makers. Taylor & Francis.

Palmer, S., & Cooper, C. (2013). How to deal with stress (Vol. 24). Kogan Page Publishers.

Nurmi, N. (2011). Coping with coping strategies: How distributed teams and their members deal with the stress of distance, time zones and culture. Stress and Health, 27(2), 123-143.

Nawijn, J. (2012). Leisure travel and happiness: An empirical study into the effect of holiday trips on individuals’ subjective wellbeing. Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS).

Steffes, B. & Steffes, M. (n.d.). Your mission: Get ready! Get set! Go! [Brochure]. Retrieved from

Stress free holidays [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Luis Espinoza is a Sociology doctoral student at Texas Woman's University (TWU) with areas of specialization in Social Stratification/Social Inequality and Health & Illness. His research interests include: Maternal and Child Health, Latino Disparities, Medically Underserved Populations, Health Education/Health Promotion, and Infectious & Chronic Diseases. If you are interested in getting in contact with him please contact him at

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest Post: Get Smart about Antibiotics Week Nov. 17-23rd by Christine Heady

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the health care community and is a serious threat to community health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2013). The demand for a quick fix for infections has led to a consumer driven prescribing (Bartlett, Gilbert, & Spellberg, 2013). Health care providers are giving in to patient’s desires rather than prescribing using the available evidence and necessity of the antibiotic. Two million people a year develop antibiotic resistant infections and 23,000 die as a result of the resistant infection (CDC, 2013). Everyone needs to have an awareness of how to prevent antibiotic resistance and the seriousness of the problem. There are several ways everyone can contribute to getting smart about antibiotics.

Bartlett, J. G., Gilbert, D. N., & Spellberg, B. (2013). Seven ways to preserve the miracle of antibiotics. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 56(10), 1445-1450.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013. Retrieved from

Christine Heady MSN, RN, FNP-BC is currently working on a PhD in Health Studies at TWU with a focus on higher education. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from Abilene Christian University in 2001. Christine currently works for Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Colorado City, Texas as a nurse practitioner and primary health care provider for the Wallace and Ware Unit.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spotlight - Interview with Justin Gerstenberger, Coordinator of Academic Advising

Justin Gerstenberger

We had the opportunity to sit down virtually with  Justin Gerstenberger at the TWU Pioneer Center for Student Excellence. Justin graciously took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions so we could get to know him a little better as well as talk about some of the services the Center offers.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I recently assumed the role of Coordinator of Academic Advising at TWU after advising for 8 years at TCU, UNT Health Science Center and UT-Arlington. I’m in the process of completing my Doctorate Degree at TCU in Educational Leadership focused on Higher Education. I did my masters at UNT in Education focusing on Higher Education and my Bachelor’s at UT-Arlington in Interdisciplinary Studies.

What do you do as Coordinator for Academic Advising?  

As the Coordinator of Advising I work with the advisors on professional development and working to help create a common advising experience for students and advisors on our campuses.

Can you tell us more about academic coaching?  

Academic Coaching is a program that is available to assist students with test taking, note taking, and study skills as well as help student learn about the different types of learning styles and the resources available to on campus to help them be successful. Sessions are typically about a half hour to an hour and students can meet with their coach up to 6 times a semester.

What types of services does the Center offer for online students?  

Our academic coaching services are offered to students online. Students can indicate that they are an online student and through the use of technology in the Center we can do academic coaching sessions via skype to allow online students the same experiences as on campus students in regards to academic coaching.

As many of our students know, we like to have fun in Health Studies. We have held themed orientations complete with alter egos such as Mo Solo, Hoda Fett, and Dee Dee Wan Kenobi from our Star Wars orientation. We also had a Mission Impossible orientation with passports and top secret missions. Sometimes we even make up code names for each other.  Who would your alter ego be or what would your code name be?  

I would have to say that my code name would be Sterling, which also happens to be my coffee name. I’m a big fan of the show Archer, which is where the name comes from. But, I would be all about a Star Wars themed orientation or alter ego!

What is your favorite quote and why? 

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” – Alan Greenspan. This quote sticks out to in our age of technology where we communicate online. It is easy for words and meanings to be misinterpreted through our technology so it is important to be cognizant of the things we say and send online because we never know if the person on the other end is going to interpret it the way that we said it.

Thanks, Justin! We are glad we got a chance to chat with you! 
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