Friday, May 21, 2021

A Bakersfield Observed exclusive: A proud immigrant from a a humble village in India, Dr. Brij Bhambi draws on his past to pay tribute to his adopted country and the power that rests in American exceptionalism

 Dr. Brij Bhambi is an owner-operator of the Bakersfield Heart Hospital and head of Centric Health, the leading provider of medical services in Kern County. He is a native of India and today shares some of his early experiences growing up in India.

"It's amusing to reminisce life, as passage of time ushers fading existence in to the relevance of a relic. A relic that provokes reluctant and evanescent curiosity. To capitalize on the infrequent inquisitiveness, I will share candid thoughts of an American by choice.
 Times were simple in 1960s India, scarcity omnipresent and social media nonexistent. Much has changed since then. But let me not rush.
 Higher education was a foreign, exotic endeavor mentioned in folklore. Distant acquaintances

regurgitated embellished stories of enviable and likely unachievable successes. I was fortunate to be in the audience when an Indian-Canadian, in flesh, visited our village. He also had a couple Canadian professors on a sabbatical to India, accompany him at my village.
 I was enthralled. But I was pre committed to USA.
 My father was the first one in our village to finish sophomore year in high school, raising the roof in education. My marching orders were to raise the roof further, and then some. My father was generous in accepting my achievements as worthy endeavors.
 "Nobel prize I did not deliver him.
 Such audacity in a parent in a remote village in India, scares me. Such permissiveness in accepting mediocrity now and here, scares me more.
 Growing up, happiness was parenthesized by proximate experiences. If want was covered, need did not need to exist. Steve Job was yet not there to insert the dictum: they don’t know what they want. We happened to be insulated from the glitters of riches. Obeisance to the elderly was engrained. Respect to authority stretched to a fault.
 Ambition was not always derided. Healthy ambition was encouraged. Work ethic was foundational. Griping and grievances were looked down upon. The sacred message in Gita told us as much. Salvation depended less on charity, more on personal conduct and industry.
 The founding principles of USA, reflected in my core values, had a natural tug. America drew me like a moth to flame.
 Stories and anecdotes in my last 37 years of existence in USA abound.

 "For now, allow me to share opportunities, successes and challenges encountered here in Bakersfield, focused specifically on Covid times.
Covid laid bare some existing fault lines. It afflicted poor and unhealthy with a greater ferocity. Elderly with constellation of comorbidities, huddled together in nursing homes, ill equipped to handle an opportunistic pathogen, were sitting ducks for disease and death. Next time we will be better prepared.
 This pandemic was aggravated by preexisting behavior related morbidities. We are responsible for what we eat, drink, smoke and exercise.
 Diabesity, a play on diabetes and obesity is the number one cause of preventable blindness in USA (other than politics…more on that some other time). We have primary responsibility for our health. Obesity is a growing problem that lends to diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart disease, increased inflammation, decreased immunity, diminished quality of life and much too often, premature death

 "This cottage industry of justifying obesity on everything else other than personal behavior is a blatant sham. Corporate greed encourages this malfeasance.
 Obesity is an invention of calorie dense, nutritionally vacuous and remote clicking generation. We can’t out source good diet and vigorous exercise without insourcing obesity and ill health. Lessons of my childhood, accountability and no griping figure conspicuously.
 Covid also laid bare our disconnect from commonsense. And common science. These mask wars under the guise of personal invincibility and purported impotence of Covid added to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in USA. Definition of patriotism used to be different.
 Politics needs to stay out. The concept of individual freedom strains credulity when corrupted by recklessness. It endangers the whole. How did this virtuous sentiment of personal freedom become so thin skinned and vulnerable to contrived infringements? At least keep the darn mask till the kids are vaccinated, we owe that to kids.

 "Covid did bring out the best in some. The healthcare workers poorly resourced, dressed in chinked armors toiled long hours for months. Many succumbed to the virus. Solutions emerged slowly.
Collaboration among the leading scientists in the world, an uneasy alliance among normally hostile corporate world and public private partnership yielded magical vaccines in record time. This magic was wasn’t pulled out of the hat, contrary to pervasive disinformation on social media. Decades of formidable science undergirded it. The safety and a remarkable 95% efficacy rates of many vaccines, births optimism in the wary humanity. The virus that should have been buried in Wuhan may, with luck, indeed have a burial!
 "But there is a rub. In a society that accepts over a dozen lifesaving vaccinations routinely has a “patriotic” segment that rather kill fellow citizens by refusing vaccine against Covid. Notwithstanding hoopla on social media, With 150+ million Covid vaccine shots administered, we are still awaiting a monkey tail, a third eye or Bill Gates microchips (that failed to control his divorce). People who choose not to vaccinate should take out patriotism as an excuse. Killing fellow citizens is counterintuitive to the purported cause.

 Economic fallouts from Pandemic appeared to have irreparable consequences this time, last year. Vaccines (among the willing) have shielded us against the worst. Financial impacts were variably felt by different industries. American dollar is a default currency for the world and denominates most international transactions. Dollar being a feat currency, is anchored by the faith and trust of US government, aka tax paying citizens. That trust is an irrevocable bond. A compromised trust corrodes currency, a corroded currency wrecks cumulative labors of generations, tenuous trust undermines future endeavors.
 Democracy has its pros and cons. The basic premise is an inviolable constant though. That constant is votes. A dystopian interpretation is making the rounds again. Dystopia lies in being able to corrupt the system. Being able to buy votes. Newsom can consume $20K worth wine at French Laundry and still keep the authority to distribute $600 per most voters to consolidate power, is poignantly instructive to corrupt politicians in the Third World.
 "Printing to prosperity is intrinsically inconsistent with logic. It also is economically inconsistent. If indolence is aspirational to the languid and prosperity is state distributed free money then we invite financial apocalypse.
 “Fruits of labor” is reverential and foundational. Labor should not be cheapened by handouts.
 Aspire to be the best.
 Go get a Nobel Prize for your dad.
 My dad will be proud for you. And God willing, for me.

Ford makes a big gamble on an all electric version of its popular F-150 pickup truck, a billboard pops up criticizing Rep. Kevin McCarthy and remember the hold Hell's Angels movie filmed at Hart Park

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... F-150: Head's up Kern County. This is known as truck country, but are Kern County pickup truck drivers ready to trade in their gas guzzling vehicles to go all electric? Ford Motor Co. thinks they are, and that's why Ford has placed a big bet on its all new F-150 electric vehicle that should hit the show rooms

next year. Ford thinks offering its best selling pickup in an electric version could spur the rush to all electric vehicles. The new F-150 Lightning will have a starting price tag at just under $40,000 before any tax credits are factored in. Ford is hoping to attract fleet buyers who prefer trucks that are cheaper to operate.

 * ... BILLBOARD: Did you see the new billboard criticizing Rep. Kevin McCarthy that popped up along California Avenue near Highway 99?

 * ... HOUSING PRICES SPIKE: The price of housing in California continues its meteoric rise with the median price now topping $800,000 - that's right, closing in on a cool million dollars -  putting a home out of reach for hundreds of thousands of people. According to a The California Association of Realtors, April home sales increased 65% from a year ago, with 458,170 believed to have changed hands. “California continues to experience one of the hottest housing markets as homes sell at the fastest pace ever, with the share of homes sold above asking price, the price per square foot and the sales-to-list price all at record highs,” said Dave Walsh, California Association of Realtors President Dave Walsh. A decade ago the media price was around $250,000 following the Great Recession.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: I spotted this picture of a boat load of trash that was unceremoniously dumped on Edison Highway the other day. And so it goes.

 * ... FORMER PRIEST: A former priest who has been accused of preying on multiple young men while serving in California parishes lost a round in court when a Fresno County Superior Court Judge threw out his defamation lawsuit against the Catholic Church. Craig Harrison, who left the priesthood earlier this year, had sued the Diocese of Fresno claiming that a church official, Teresa Dominguez, had defamed him in remarks to a radio station. The court disagreed and tossed the lawsuit. Attorneys for Harrison said they will appeal. Harrison has been accused of using his favor to curry favor with troubled young men and making sexual overtures to several of them over the years. The often lurid allegations have been at odds with Harrison's otherwise untarnished reputation in the community, leaving the community split between those who believe him and those who believe he was most certainly involved in some way.

 * ... HARRISON TODAY: Meanwhile, Harrison is living in Bakersfield and working to polish his reputation and start anew after leaving the church. He apparently is thinking of working as a life coach or personal counselor, and this week he appeared at Hodel's to address an standing room only crowd of adoring middle-aged women. Attending was state Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican who has stood by Harrison's side despite the accusations. The event drew the attention of Christine Niles,  who works at, an organization that tracks accused pedophile priests and has been a thorn in Harrison's side since he was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno. (Harrison has been at odds with the organization and sued a member of the Roman Catholic Faithful for defamation) Niles noted Grove's presence at Hodel's and concluded this: "The cult of Msgr. Craig Harrison is live and well in Bakersfield. Nevermind the alleged victims and their suffering."

 * ... VACCINES: Centric Health, an integrated medical care company, administered more than 10,000 Covid-19 vaccines along with its sister organization, Bakersfield Heart Hospital. According to Centric president Dr. Brij Bhambi, the hospital also administered some 10,000 vaccines, bringing Centric's total contribution to more than 20,000 doses.

 * ... HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS: The 1967 movie Hells Angels on Wheels was playing on local television the other day, an offbeat look at the motorcycle gang shot in and around Bakersfield. The movie was shot both in town and out near Hart Park, and it's a treat to pick out local landmarks during the film.

 * ... COUSIN HERB: Thanks to the Kern County History Fans website for this nugget: "1950's - KERO TV ... The Cousin Herb Show... Photo credit to Michael L Henson.

 * ... MEMORIES: From the Kern County of Old Facebook page comes this picture of four women on a crew for picking cotton in Buttonwillow.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Dr. Brij Bhambi: Society is at war with vaccine hesitancy even while the young are threatened by the deadly variant out of India ...

 Dr. Brij Bhambi is a Bakersfield cardiologist, officer in Centric Health and physician-owner of Bakersfield Heart Hospital. He has been a regular guest on The Richard Beene Show on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM/1180 AM. His thoughts appear regularly in Bakersfield Observed. In his words:

 Crowning Glory
 "It's been a tale of virus and vaccine. Mankind was blindsided by the release of a pathogen from the vicinities of a lab in Wuhan. A recent report by WHO to investigate the origins of Covid-19, spearheaded by past president of Liberia, used plenty of ink and English yet managed to say nothing. A transparent

failure to hide lies.
 "The virus is ravaging the globe with escalating numbers. Misery is compounded by the spread of virus in countries that are sparsely resourced to mount a meaningful defense. As bodies pile, the perpetrator consolidates power and influence to the detriment of USA.
 Here in USA, we were saved by the miracle of vaccine. A miracle a few anticipated but many worked for. Standing on the shoulders of giants, to paraphrase Issac Newton, science was able to create magic in record time led ably by Warp Speed team. 
 The Covid-19 virus is genetically more advanced than RNA viruses like Influenza. Its larger genome empowers it to proof read its progeny and minimize errors. This stability in the genome of the virus provided science a steadier target, hence better marksmanship.
 The continued replication of virus though is a precarious station. It tempts the faith. Already multiple variants with better skillset to infect and evade immunity have evolved. Fortunately, evolutionary skills of the virus so far have not exceeded the efficacy of existing vaccines. 
Immunity whether natural or vaccine based, compels virus to evolutionary pressures to reincarnate itself as a chameleon engineered to circumvent building immunity.
 Virus replication is a threat humanity need to contain and defeat. 
 Mitigation and vaccination are our proven repertoire.
 CDC has struggled to be consistent in its recommendations. Till recently it erred on the side of abundance of caution. Pressures must have been building. Comforted by emerging data from around the world affirming the efficacy of vaccine in preventing infections and reducing transmissibility, CDC decided to relax mask wearing guidelines across the board barring healthcare settings(and few others like prisons). 
If nothing else, CDC has a knack for jolting the weary. 
 Let's do an inventory.
 Roughly half of the population in USA has had one shot of the vaccine. A little over third have had both shots. A significant fraction of population has had infection. Some both. We can see the mountain top now. 
That reminds me of my first hike to Mt Whitney.
 As I tip toed in to early middle age, urges of fading youth pushed me to smell the roses. Hence Mt Whitney. 
 "The mountain reminded my every upward step that the country doc was unaccustomed to the physical toils. That was before verticality approached its rarefied better half called altitude. I was unacclimated to altitude too. Every forward step expended more energy with diminishing returns. Beyond effort it took persistence. Mountain top demands commitment and discipline. Quitting as they say is forever. 
So also is success. 
That reinforces the imperative that this close to the mountain top we need to recommit.

 "As I have reiterated ad nauseam,  vaccine hesitancy is the last mile we need to triumph through doctors offices. Its the steepest part of the hill, the part where you retool to summit the top.

 "The vaccinated now can intermingle per CDC. Vaccinated is a word to be taken at face value(with or without mask). 
 "We are a deeply polarized country.  President Reagan wisely suggested, trust but verify. The current data suggests more than two thirds of us have trust deficit with each other. Add to that a third or more of the population that questioned the virulence of virus and is adamantly opposed to vaccination. 
We can’t trust or verify!
 The “vaccine anxious” have been vaccinated. We need to recognize that least vaccinated are the kids 18 and under. Who among us will expose our kids to an inadvertent infection when a variant from India is relentlessly sickening the kids. 
 The pressures and anxiety on the part of CDC not withstanding, this recommendation is eminently premature. 
 We may never defeat vaccine hesitancy, we still should allow a few weeks to expeditiously vaccinate the kids whose parents restlessly await the vaccine salvation. 
Expanded immunity among the willing is our best shield against this pathogen. 

 "The resurgence of virus in the third world is largely predicated by abandonment of mitigation measures. New iterations of virus maybe more contagious but still yield to standard mitigation measures. We in USA and EU need to expand our vaccine production to help vaccinate the rest of the world. Our world depends on it.
"In founding this country, the forefathers renounced the crown. Humanity is grateful for their emancipatory vision. The crown is a scornful word but calling vaccine a crowning glory, that I can live with. If you haven’t had vaccine yet, get one. Royalty will have nothing on you. 
The glory was never in the crown.