Humanity & Social Behavior

In most African homes, children grew up learning from the wisdom of their parents. Parents laid much emphasis on teaching their kids about moral rectitude. These teachings were so prevalent in our communities such that, children had no choice other than carrying morals as a guiding light in everything they did. As life evolved with different times and seasons, Society presents to us a variety of new standards and values, coupled with the growth in Technology and the various interactions with different platforms on Social Media, the world at large is a global village, with disseminated information forming popular views in the minds of a large group of people. It thus becomes imperative that we pay great attention to human social behavior because it has the capacity to influence an effect on the character, development and behaviors of individuals living in our Societies. We certainly have heard the word “Integrity” but there is always the growing need to learn the in-depth meaning of integrity.

What is Integrity?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines Integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and uprightness. It also connotes that integrity brings together seven magnificent components: Honesty; Respect; Generating Trust; Empathy; Responsibility; Keeping Promises and Compassion in helping others. Integrity is non-negotiable. When we live our lives with integrity, it means that we let our actions speak for who we are and what we believe in. Integrity is a choice we make and it’s a choice we must make over and over again.

Think of the burden often caused in our society due to lack of integrity and how a lack of integrity can change the course of someone’s destiny.
Society is changing with case study in the USA today. Immigrants with the right legal status can run for public office in America. Children born in the USA from immigrant parents, can aspire to run for the Office of the President of the United States. It is the entire embodiment of integrity that will propel someone to evolve into higher grounds. Now, imagine what a lack of integrity can do to a person who has a track record of dishonesty? Nobody wants to vote a candidate that possesses the propensity of telling lies, stealing, fraud, cheating and many vices. We have heard stories of famous people from different works of life, brought down in disgrace and shame as a result of dishonesty. Honesty will open doors for you when you do the right things at all times even when nobody is watching. The onus lies on you to show yourself honest.

You may have heard the statement “Respect is reciprocal”. Yes! It is a two-way street irrespective of age. Respect for one’s self and respect for others, have an interwoven relationship. When you respect yourself, you attract respect from others; likewise, when you respect others, you earn the same respect. It all begins from self-respect. The Social media has presented a misconception of the values of Respect. We read and hear uncontrolled statements, slanders, libels that defame the character of others and by so doing, creates disrespect for one’s self. Defamatory and Derogatory statements and expressed opinions about others, might come back to bite you someday, causing you to lose a prospective position or benefit. Caution is greatly needed both in written and spoken words.

There is a call for self-reflection when it comes to building trust. Are your own actions causing people not to trust you? Do you gossip about others? Do you take credit for other people’s work? Do you fail to deliver after you promised and remain unapologetic about it? These actions may impact your credibility and reliability in the minds of others. Possessing good qualities of credibility and reliability, improves the chances of building trust. Telling the truth even when it hurts to do so; admitting when you’re wrong and showing remorse is of immense value. It is only pride that enables someone to have so little self-awareness that they won’t even consider the fact that they’re wrong or feel the need to say I’m sorry. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel… (Maya Angelou) ...

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another is of paramount importance in our Society today. Many people go through various challenges like depression; obsession; addiction; pain, stress and other kinds of mental and physical illnesses. The way we relate to everyone in Society should reflect empathy. This is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling, so we can respond appropriately to their situations. We often hear the phrase “put yourself in my shoes”. When we fail to put ourselves in other's shoes, we tend to look at human beings as objects. We develop a proud look devoid of feelings for others. We become judgmental and impatient to listen to the plight of others. We are quick to condemn and conclude about other people’s situations without feeling their emotions. These ills bring untold misery to others; they cause some to go into self-isolation, and even commit suicide, because to them, society has nothing to offer. Empathy remains a great tool in rebuilding social connections and interactions with others.

Individuals have a responsibility to control personal behavior. We must take responsibility for our actions in whatever we do. People who are responsible do not make excuses for their actions or blame others when things go wrong. Embracing the value of responsibility means being accountable, being committed and accepting ownership for one’s decisions, actions and behaviors. Each step we take towards being responsible helps to raise our self-esteem and our relationships with friends, families and co-workers improve rapidly.

It is a virtue to be faithful to a promise one has made. As a person of integrity, you will be held bound by your words. “Your word is your bond”. How can you expect anyone to trust you when you keep proving that you can’t keep a promise? Keeping promises is the backbone of any healthy relationship. A finding was done to determine how kids perceive keeping promises. Keeping promises for kids means being consistent in what we say and do. When we do what we say and say what we do, it makes children feel secure and greatly helps them learn the concept of commitment. Do not make promises you know you cannot keep!!!

Compassion is helping to relieve another person’s suffering through acts of kindness, caring and support. It takes a heart of love to be filled with compassion in helping others. Compassion gives us the ability to understand someone else’s situation and the desire to take action to improve the quality of lives for others. Knowingly or unknowingly, Society today has presented fear in the minds of the down trodden. People who are in need and suffering, have taken to isolation for fear of being stigmatized, mocked, shamed and disgraced. How is it possible to confide in friends who will later on be the architects of causing you emotional distress? Let’s strive to be one another’s keeper. Humanity and Social behavior are both inextricably intertwined, that you cannot possibly make meaningful sense of one, without making mention of the other. Integrity is a virtue. Be the change you want to see in the world…… (Mahatma Gandhi) …

For those with integrity, “To whom much is given, much is expected”. Continue to raise the bar high for yourselves and be a role model for others to follow.

For those without integrity, “A man cannot give what he does not have”. But there’s a catch! Integrity is that choice we must make over and over again. We can build it from scratch and join our positive efforts and contributions to make the world a better place, which will serve as valuable assets to pass down to our children of the next generation. A great reminder to carry along, is the end of Office of our outgoing President of the United States 2020. Irrespective of his popular stances in Political and Socio-economic policies, a lack of integrity will disgrace you and demote you out of your destiny.

Building character with integrity will make a man. The lack of integrity will break him.


Health & Wellness
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, most of us have (understandably) been more worried about preventing (and in some cases, surviving) COVID-19. With this write-up, please spare a moment to think about your eyes - those precious organs that God blessed us with, to experience the gift of sight. We have all likely heard this statement, "The eyes are a window into the soul." However...did you know they are also a window into the body? Well, read on. 

When was the last time you had an eye exam, or even thought about getting one? I find that most people go about their daily life, taking for granted the fact that they can see 'clearly' (and of course, that is a relative term, since clear vision comes in varying degrees). Moreover, the absence of eye pain or discomfort, is often misinterpreted to mean the absence of an eye problem. Sadly, and all too often, that is not the case. Just like how the absence of war does not necessarily mean there is too, even in the absence of noticeable vision loss, eye pain or discomfort, there very well could be serious underlying eye health, and/or systemic health conditions. 

One such health condition that could occur without warning, is glaucoma. This one is close to my heart, partly because it directly involves my line of work as an Optometrist. Also, Blacks/African Americans have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, so I am deeply passionate about helping to sensitize Black communities about such risk. Speaking of risk, January is Glaucoma awareness month. How aware are you, about your glaucoma status? Do you know whether you are at low or high risk of developing this condition, or if you already have it? The answer to these questions, often begins with a comprehensive eye exam, and then keeping up with your doctor's recommendations for follow up. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 2.7 million adults in the United States of America (USA) had glaucoma in 2010. The NEI projects that by the year 2050, that number would have more than doubled, to an estimated 6.3 million. 

Glaucoma is actually a group of several conditions, all of which basically result in damage to the optic nerve head. The optic nerve is the second of twelve "cranial nerves," which power up our senses of smell, sight, hearing, touch, as well as countless body parts and their functions. The optic nerve goes from the eye up to the brain. The "head" of the optic nerve, also called the "optic disc," is the portion that is inside the eyeball, and easily visible on exam. The optic disc is the part of the eye (in the back) affected by glaucoma. 

On any given day of patient care, I see at least one (often, more than one) "glaucoma suspect." That is someone who has one or more of the signs of glaucoma. Examples of such signs include increased intra-ocular pressure (high pressure inside the eyeball) in one or both eyes, a suspicious appearance of one or both optic discs, and/or several other factors (which we evaluate during an eye exam). 

Recall that the optic nerve is an important structure that begins in the back of the eye, carrying visual information up to the brain. Without a healthy optic nerve, vision becomes compromised. Needless to say, if unchecked, glaucoma can lead to disabling vision loss, and eventually blindness. This process is gradual and painless, and that is why glaucoma is known as a "silent blinding disease" (also called "the silent thief of sight"). Unfortunately, vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. The best way to prevent glaucoma, is to get routine annual eye exams, just like we are supposed to get annual physical exams done by our primary care provider (PCP). I like to tell my patients that an annual eye exam is basically a physical exam for your eyes. This is necessary because, the general physical exam (your annual "physical" with your PCP) does not quite address eye health status, if any mention of it, at all. 

Another important illustration of the importance of preventive care, comes with the example of diabetes. When it comes to this condition wow, where do we begin? Many are already familiar with diabetes, as it is (sadly) an extremely prevalent condition. The American Diabetes Association estimates that in 2018, 34.2 million Americans (10.5% of the population) had diabetes. Being a systemic (i.e., general body) condition, particularly as a circulatory system condition (pertaining to blood circulation), diabetes can damage so many organs and body parts. Those parts include the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, which can lead to kidney failure), the eyes/retina in particular (diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness), and the legs/feet (diabetic neuropathy, which can lead to amputation, or loss of one's leg/foot). 

Circling back to the eyes, the retina is an inner sensory layer, lining the back of the eyeball. It contains photoreceptor cells (known as rods and cones). These photoreceptors receive and transmit light signals, which the brain processes into images that we see. Damage to the retina, such as in diabetes/diabetic retinopathy, threatens those photoreceptor cells, thus, compromising vision. Diabetic retinopathy is among the leading causes of preventable blindness in the USA. 

The example of diabetes above can also be applied to hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure (HBP). Per the Centers for Disease Control or CDC, about 45% of adults (approximately 108 million adults) in the USA, have hypertension. This is another systemic and circulatory system condition, and can affect the eyes in ways similar to diabetes. HBP can also damage the kidneys, as well as increase a person's risk of heart attack and/or stroke. I would add that both diabetes and HBP, being circulatory system conditions, can also increase a person's risk for glaucoma (by limiting blood supply to the optic nerve, thereby, potentially damaging the nerve and causing glaucoma, as a result). 

There is so much more to be said about systemic conditions (and sometimes, their medications) that can show ocular/eye-related manifestations. Without going into the details of each, a short list of such conditions include HIV/AIDS (yes, there is such a thing as HIV retinopathy), lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and even brain tumors, or cancers in other parts of the body - believe it or not. The bottom line is, we need to get preventive physical exams yearly (including blood work), but also need to get annual eye exams. If you have health/vision insurance, take advantage of that coverage, and get your preventive checks done regularly. Most plans do cover exams annually, or every two years for some Medicaid plans. Even if you don't wear or need new glasses, an eye exam is still recommended. That is where we not only check and correct vision, but (more importantly), we measure eye pressures, evaluate the optic nerves, and assess any other risk factors for glaucoma (including family history, which could also mean increased risk, if a close blood relative has glaucoma). We also screen for diabetic retinopathy, other types of retinopathies (e.g. from HBP, HIV, sickle cell disease), as well as cataracts, and so much more. 

As we begin this new year, make a commitment to yourself, to get better at preventive care. If you've been going for your annual physicals, eye exams, dental visits, etc...great job! If not, well, better late than never. Start using those insurance plans (medical, vision and dental), if you have them. If you do not have insurance, check out your local health department for information on a free clinic in your area. Sometimes, even searching "affordable clinics near me," can bring up some local clinics that work with uninsured people. For each one you find, note their name and phone number, then call them for more information. Let us prioritize self care, and not forget our eyes, while we're at it. Stay safe and healthy...happy new year!

Dr. Fausta Tabe, OD


Thank You notes to New York Chapter
General UOPSA meeting: Tentatively slated for Saturday, Feb 27th 2021
Thank you to all contributors: Cynthia Ebini-Obichi, Yvonne Fomengia, Queenta Etta , Fausta Tabe
Linda Andoseh & Miriam Enowmbi Agbor
Celebrating Sixty-Five Years of Queen of the Rosary College, Okoyong Mamfe