VIU Campus

March Blog Post

Author: Dr. Deb. Saucier

Beware the ides of March” (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Sc.2)

Although I remember the phrase, I had no idea what date this referred to. After a quick search, I found out that it is March 15. Ides, it turns out, is a term the Romans used to refer to the middle of any month. Turns out the Romans didn’t line up the days of the month from the start to the end; rather, they counted forwards or back from fixed points in time, such as the ides. I wonder if (and how) playing with ideas like time, going backwards and forwards from a specific point in the middle, might change how we view things in the environment around us.

Three things

Thing 1

One of the more interesting topics I studied in graduate school statistics featured key historical figures in public health. The first case featured John Snow (not that one), the so-called father of epidemiology, who was interested in how cholera was being transmitted in London in the 1800s. Using a map on which he plotted the incidences of cholera, he was able to link it to contamination of water (a good book about this is The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson). Thanks to him we now know that cholera is caused by a bacterium that passes from feces to water or, less commonly, to food. Cholera remains a problem to this day, and following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UN peacekeepers introduced the bacteria to the country via the dumping of raw sewage into local rivers.

The second case was about the work of Ignaz Semmelweis, who is known as the father of hand washing. In 1846, he noticed that women who gave birth in the maternity ward under the care of doctors died at higher rates than those who gave birth in the maternity ward under the care of midwives. He determined that, unlike the midwives, doctors often visited the maternity ward without washing their hands after performing an autopsy (YUCK!). Long story short, he instituted hand washing as a practice and mortality decreased. Unfortunately, his regime did not last, which is why you haven’t likely heard of him.

So, the three things that I learned from that class were:

  1. The general linear method for analyzing data turns out to be a pretty useful technique given my research questions.
  2. Don’t poop near where you drink water (Seems pretty obvious but see this story).
  3. Wash your hands. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to stop the spread of infection. Skip the alcohol-based hand sanitizer – in most cases, you don’t need anything other than soap and water. Wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing two choruses of Happy Birthday (or if you are like me, I prefer singing a rousing chorus of ‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo).

Isn’t science great?

Thing 2

This month (and next) brings a flurry of strategic planning activities. We are hosting activities at all three of our campuses, so please take time to participate as we really want to hear from you. This is a community-led initiative titled The Future We Want to See. There will be world cafes, conversation starters, online materials and suggestion boxes. You can find information about the strategic planning process and upcoming activities here: If you can’t make it to one of the many activities that are planned over the next while, why not start a conversation with your team? You can always reach out to the team by email at Many thanks to the folks who are leading these activities and to those of you sharing your thoughts and ideas. I look forward to hearing your comments and working on our institution’s strategic plan over the summer.

Thing 3

I love going to the grocery store at this time of year – plants are arriving daily and the seed packets are so beautiful and full of hope and promise. I receive daily emails from a gardening blog about what to add to my soil, what plants go with each other, and how to plant for maximum success. I can’t resist gardening – I pruned my fruit trees as prescribed, at the end of January and early February, diligently washing the clippers between trees to avoid infection. I have also bought seeds that should get started around now, things that like cool weather like peas and spinach; plants that will stay inside until it gets a bit warmer in May like tomatoes, etc. This, I suspect, is at the heart of my flurry of garden preparation – the desire for really good fruit and vegetables that strikes at the start of spring. It’s March, and what wouldn’t you do for a “real” tomato or a piece of sun-ripened fruit? 

But here’s my confession. Although I am great at starting in the garden – I  am a compost spreader; a digger of beds; a seed soaker – I  get a bit complacent as the season moves on. I’m a lackadaisical weeder, not a great staker of tomatoes, and don’t get me started on the need to thin carrots. Aren’t these the jobs of the rabbits and deer that routinely break into my garden (why don’t they eat the weeds, though?). This also lets me partake in the local farmers’ markets, where I am so thankful for the lovely people who take their time to sell me thinned, weeded and staked veggies. So here goes. I’m off to my garden to see what’s in bloom and to see how my garlic is doing.


In my briefcase

I confess that this has been a very busy month and I haven’t travelled and so haven’t had that Air Canada reading time. As such, I can tell you about one book that I’ve read and have kept on my desk since 2016. That is: Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome. If you don’t know Mr. Pasricha’s story-you can watch his Ted talk). One of my favourite pieces in the book is pretty much the first piece of awesome: the other side of the pillow. Is there anything better than the cool side of the pillow? Anyway, Mr. Pasricha gives us insight into many things that are so ordinary and so awesome. 


March’s playlist

March Madness. The CCAA Women’s Basketball Championship will be held at VIU (oh and there’s a little tourney happening down south, too).

  1. Darude: Sandstorm
  2. Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis: Can’t Hold Us feat. Ray Dalton 
  3. Journey: Don’t Stop Believing
  4. Panic at the Disco: High Hopes
  5. Sirius: Alan Parsons Project
  6. Kevin Rudolf: Let it Rock (Feat. Lil Wayne)
  7. John Tesh: Roundball Rock
  8. Blur: Song 2
  9. House of Pain: Jump Around
  10. Queen: We Will Rock You

Bonus: DJ Khalid: All I do is Win


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