(Backstage) Jerrod Carmichael Treats His Audience Like Adults

By Benjamin Lindsay | Posted March 23, 2016, 11 a.m.

Jerrod Carmichael Treats His Audience Like Adults

Photo Source: Chad Griffith

“I like art that’s perceived to require thought,” says comedian and actor Jerrod Carmichael over lunch in lower Manhattan. That much is clear even in his small talk. While walking to Felice 15 Gold Street after a photo shoot, he riffs on everything from Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” to John Oliver. (While he cites West as a musical revolutionary, he thinks the “Last Week Tonight” host can do better than #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain.) Now splitting a cheese plate and bruschetta, he hones in on someone else’s thought-provoking art: his own.

“I’m curious about how things affect the world more than just personal exploration,” Carmichael says, turning a grape over in his hand. “When I hear of situations, my mind goes to—in the healthiest sense of the word—the ‘broader’ sense of [how] this is affecting everybody around us.”

Such thought processes are apparent in his socially conscious standup and sitcom. His Spike Lee–directed HBO special premiered in 2014, and more recently, his eponymous NBC series, “The Carmichael Show,” premiered its second season on March 13 after a brief six episodes last August.

“My lawyers are the only reason I say ‘Season 2,’ ” he jokes of the new 13-episode arc. “It’s a deeper version of the same thing.”

For fans of the series, that’s good news. At the tail end of summer 2015, “The Carmichael Show” beat the odds and nabbed an audience over the course of three weeks and six episodes. Its deft blend of familial slapstick and of-the-moment politics ensured Carmichael was a voice worth listening to. He got viewers thinking. In standout episodes like “Protest” and “Gender,” Carmichael brought hot-button issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and heightened visibility of the transgender community to the least likely of stages: the multicam sitcom, live audience and all.

“I actually originally envisioned it as single-cam and they changed it,” Carmichael now admits. “Then I realized that multi was more of a challenge. The narrative of the realm of multicameras is that it’s dying, it’s dead, there’s no true art in it. And what’s more fun than that challenge? [There is] also a connection with the stage performance of it—being a standup comic and knowing that at its best, multicam [gets] that reaction. It elicits this response.”

Luckily, it wasn’t just the studio audience that responded. “The Carmichael Show” Season 1 pulled in NBC’s best ratings for its late summer time slot in over a decade and was promptly scooped up for another round. The series also got a stamp of critical approval. Season 2 has already rolled out buzzed-about half-hours on class and infidelity, gentrification, and most notably, Bill Cosby’s tarnished legacy. After the premiere of the Cosby episode, titled “Fallen Heroes,” Salon went so far as to crown Carmichael “the most important comedian in America.”

“People are much smarter [and] the audience wants more than I think a lot of people behind the camera give them credit for,” says co-creator and Carmichael’s “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller of the series’ appeal. “People want to hear the conversations they’re having in their living rooms.”

That’s just where the bulk of “The Carmichael Show” takes place: Carmichael’s childhood living room. Largely inspired by the dynamics of his own family growing up in North Carolina, Carmichael plays Jerrod and is joined by all of the genre’s necessary players: a schlubby, down-and-out brother (Lil Rel Howery); a loud, opinionated father (David Alan Grier); a jovial and equally opinionated mother (Loretta Devine); and Carmichael’s black sheep—and, as the series points out, half-black—girlfriend, Maxine (Amber Stevens West).

Politics of the religious right and bleeding heart left come under one roof while certain events offscreen (a Black Lives Matter protest, for instance) stoke a conversation that is both nuanced and hilarious. More surprisingly, there’s no agenda at play. Audiences can trust that, for better or worse, they will hear all opinions on a matter between the cast’s varied personalities. And while it doesn’t shy away from bits of sobriety, “Carmichael” just as quickly lightens the mood with a laugh-out-loud (if not entirely politically correct) quip. “The laugh that happens after the serious moment [is] just huge because the audience is so relieved,” Stoller says. Look no further than Grier’s take on one character struggling to come out as transgender: “Don’t worry, the woman trapped inside of him will tell the man what to do.” Cue the studio laughter.

“The main thing, I think, that was really important to me and also to Jerrod as we made the show, is that no one’s right and no one’s wrong,” Stoller continues. “I think [that] makes much more interesting conversation and television.”

Carmichael says that much of the series’ content is his perspective as he’s debated with himself and others on these topics. “It’s a completed argument for me,” he summates. “A lot of [Jerrod] is my perspective. Some other characters are my perspective, even the polar opposites. It’s an argument that I’ve had with myself [that’s] harder to do in standup, but with the show, I can fulfill the argument immediately.”

Today, Carmichael credits his analytical humor to his days living in the very home he’s now depicting on prime time. While he’s always rejected the notion of being “just a comedian,” saying it seemed “kind of arrogant” to assume he can make people laugh, that’s exactly what he’s been doing since his days in middle school making comedic topical shorts instead of writing essays. “I have teachers that, years later, tell me they still show some of the videos. My version of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is amazing,” he insists. But even before dreams of becoming a comic, Carmichael recalls wanting a series on NBC.

“This is going to sound like I made it up, but my brother likes to remind me of it: When I was 13 years old, I said, ‘I want a show on Thursday night on NBC,’ ” he says with a sheepish grin. “I wanted a sitcom. That was all I ever really wanted.”

So in 2008, he left to chase the dream and moved to Los Angeles. As any working actor will know, a career’s early years are often the most trying, but Carmichael remembers them with clarity and fondness. He didn’t take for granted that L.A. is a mecca of creativity and Hollywood history. He’d often spend afternoons at the Paley Center watching old TV shows and evenings at open mics.

“Me and a lot of the closest friends I have now even still just wanted to impress each other. We wanted to try new things constantly. We weren’t afraid to fail,” he says.

“Don’t think about it. You just do the work, do the art. At some point in the process, you should do it purely for the love of it,” he advises. “A lot of people jump in and sort of make it a business first, and while I knew [my work] could obviously prove profitable, it was really important for me to view it as art. I try to hold onto that as much as I can, even while navigating the business aspect.”

Surviving the industry’s business aspects, however, can be just as daunting, and having an understanding of Hollywood’s effect on art and vice versa is key to striking gold. Carmichael says success also requires a thick skin and an ability to compromise and collaborate without selling out.

“You have to be stronger than everyone’s collective caution and everyone’s collective fear,” he says. “A show is still a business. There’s a lot of money at stake… [but] audiences recognize when a machine created something and when something is personal and true and close. When it comes to creation, playing ‘the game’ doesn’t apply. When you make something, it needs to be as pure as it can be.”

Time and again, Carmichael proves a voice worth listening to. Are you listening yet?

Keep Standing Up

Even at the height of his success at NBC, Carmichael continues to do standup whenever he can. When he was in New York City earlier this month, he made it a point to do a quick set at the historic Comedy Cellar. “Sometimes when I’m writing the script [for ‘The Carmichael Show’], I’ll go onstage and talk about what we’re talking about in the episode to really explore how I feel about it,” he says. Contrary to popular belief, though, Carmichael says standup isn’t all about the laughs. “I’m looking for feeling, I’m looking for connection, I’m looking for a reaction…. When I think comedian, I think [of] the satire of Mark Twain as much as the jokes of Chris Rock. Obviously, laughs are an important thing and you want to be funny and you want to give [audiences] that experience, but you also want them to feel some type of connection to what you’re saying. I treat my audience like adults.

The article was published in Backstage.


(Daily News) EXCLUSIVE: Ted Cruz knows ‘absolutely nothing’ about counterterrorism in NYC, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says

BY  | SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2016, 7:18 PM
Ted Cruz speaks during an appearance in Virginia.STEVE HELBER/AP

Ted Cruz speaks during an appearance in Virginia.

There seems to be a widespread belief among certain members of the political class that protecting the country against terrorism is a matter of ideology. According to them, the strong leaders in this area are the ones who are willing to insult Muslims, advocate torture, and engage in various other provocations. They claim that other leaders are paralyzed by political correctness and that they alone have the ideological fortitude to guard against the terrorist threat.

Terrorism is ideologically driven but counterterrorism, like other kinds of police work, has no ideological component whatsoever. It is about stopping the terrorists before they strike. That requires intelligence gathering, analysis and focused investigative work.

In the event of a terrorist attack, police also need the capacity to respond swiftly and with effective tactics. It is a matter of consistent, determined, targeted detective work, of highly trained and well-equipped operational units, and of intelligence analysts who can interpret the data, decipher the chatter and distinguish the real threats from the bluster and the noise.

Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for police to “patrol and secure Muslim communities before they become radicalized.” We already patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods, the same way we patrol and secure other neighborhoods.

When people call the police, we rush to help them. When people break the law, we move to arrest them. But no, we do not single out any populace, black, white, yellow or brown for selective enforcement. We do not “patrol and secure” neighborhoods based on selective enforcement because of race or religion, nor will we use the police and an occupying force to intimidate a populace or a religion to appease the provocative chatter of politicians seeking to exploit fear.

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.

Nor will we accept the fiction of Sen. Cruz’s narrative as presented. Cruz repeated the false reports surrounding the NYPD Demographics Unit and my decision to abolish it because it wasn’t serving any useful purpose. He tried to depict the demise of the unit, as other ill-informed observers have done, as a knuckling under to the forces of political correctness rather than the sensible administrative decision that it was. The fact is that the former administration had allowed the unit to dwindle down to two investigators. Why? Because the work of the unit, which was to map the ethnic makeup of the city to better understand the domain of the New York metropolitan area, was finished. The two remaining detectives simply had little to do.

This sensible move was translated in the bumper-sticker, sound bite language of politics to be one of two extremes. Either transferring the last two detectives out of the Demographics Unit ended an extensive spying program that inhibited religious freedom (it wasn’t and it didn’t) or, we eliminated the key program protecting New York City from terrorists and with it, our undercover operations, informants and surveillance (it wasn’t and we didn’t).

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.

It is clear from his comments that Sen. Cruz knows absolutely nothing about counterterrorism in New York City. We have in this city, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country and virtually any city in the world. Let me count the ways:

—The Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the FBI, has more than 100 NYPD detectives working full time on counterterrorism investigations. They do not place entire communities under surveillance, but at any given time, based on authorized investigations, they may be watching individuals who have aroused suspicion as to possibly being involved in terrorist activity. Our Intelligence Bureau detectives work with informants, surveillance teams, undercover officers and cyber specialists on investigations that are documented, authorized and regularly reviewed to protect the city from terrorism.

—The Critical Response Command, founded on Mayor de Blasio’s watch, deploys more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets. These officers would be immediately deployable to any attack, or series of attacks, and could engage heavily armed terrorists without delay. Given the pattern of attacks in Europe where terrorists hit multiple sites simultaneously and showed the clear intention to kill as many people as possible, these new units have the mission of engaging the terrorists, as quickly as possible, with equal firepower and superior training to stop the killing as soon as possible. The CRC is backed up by other commands with counterterrorism capabilities, including the Strategic Response Group and the Emergency Service Unit. These NYPD units have the capacity to deploy hundreds of heavily armed officers to any attack site in the city at any time of the day or night.

—The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, also houses a wide variety of other capabilities, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; an infrastructure unit that hardens targets across the city; and a public-private partnership called SHIELD, with a membership of some 15,000 local property and business owners.

—The NYPD Intelligence Bureau is staffed not only with police officers but highly skilled civilian intelligence analysts, the sort of experts who work in national intelligence. They are continuously vetting leads, hints and rumors to keep the threat picture in New York updated. The Intelligence Bureau also maintains liaison officers in multiple cities around the world who can swiftly report back to us on any attack anywhere on Earth.

—The NYPD Domain Awareness System is one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world, providing real-time information across southern Manhattan and in many other parts of the city.

The dashboard for the NYPD's Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

The dashboard for the NYPD’s Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.

So, no, transferring the two detectives we found languishing in the already defunct Demographics Unit did not have any effect on our ability to protect New York City from terrorists. Sen. Cruz’s references to the discontinuance of the Demographics Unit shows he has been hoodwinked by a 21st century fairy tale that refuses to die. He uses it in tandem with his suggestions that the police create a looming presence to intimidate Muslim neighborhoods with a show of force.

In New York City, we protect all communities from crime and terrorism — yes, Muslim communities too — because like us, they are Americans who own businesses, work hard, pay taxes and dream of a better life for their children. Over 900 of them work in my police department as police officers, many of them in counterterrorism and intelligence. Many of them have served in the military and fought for their country. We police our city not by campaign slogans or inflammatory rhetoric, but by an old piece of parchment called the U.S. Constitution and another called the Bill of Rights.

Ted Cruz and others seem to be willing to sideline these principles because what they stand for shifts with the tide of the campaign and the shrillness of the name-calling. But as it has been said, when you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Sen. Cruz needs to do some homework before he speaks again.

Meanwhile, in New York, we will continue keeping the city safe while policing constitutionally, respectfully and effectively.

Bratton is the commissioner of the NYPD.

The article was published in the New York Daily News.

(Raw Story) Andrea Mitchell rips Trump’s foreign policy scam: ‘He’s uneducated about any part of the world’

27 MAR 2016 AT 15:14 ET

Andrea Mitchell appears on Meet the Press (Screen Grab, Raw Story)

Andrea Mitchell appears on Meet the Press (Screen Grab, Raw Story)

MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell warned on Sunday GOP front-runner Donald Trump was hiding the fact that he was “completely uneducated about any part of the world.”

“It is remarkable,” Mitchell told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. “And when he doesn’t know something, he just changes the subject, and makes it all about himself.”

“On national security, it’s very noticeable, especially to your ears and mine,” Todd agreed.

“Absolutely. And this was a week where he could have gone after President Obama, arguably,” Mitchell noted. “There’s a lot happening, and the president has some vulnerabilities, so does Hillary Clinton. But instead, he’s all over the lot.”

As Mitchell pointed out, Trump indicated in a recent New York Times interview that he would cancel defense treaties with Japan and South Korea, and that he would allow the countries to obtain nuclear weapons.

“American policy for decades since World War II has been trying to keep nukes out of that arena,” she observed. “He would stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia if they don’t pay more for their defense.”

“We need oil. We are not energy independent. We rely on oil still for our daily needs,” Mitchell continued. “He is completely all over the lot. On Iran, he complains that Iran isn’t buying our planes. It had to be pointed out to him that Iran is still under sanctions and cannot buy American planes. He thinks North Korea and Iran are the biggest trading partners, when North Korea’s biggest trading partner is China.”

“He is completely uneducated about any part of the world,” the MSNBC host lamented.

Watch the video below from NBC’s Meet the Press, broadcast March 27, 2016.

(Shoppe Black) The Funky Diabetic – Why Phife Dawg’s Death should Spark a Conversation about Diabetes

in Black Thought by

Like many of you, I was greeted by sad news this morning. Phife Dawg of the legendary group, A Tribe Called Quest, had passed away from medical complications caused by diabetes. He was only 45 years old. Phife had been battling diabetes mellitus type 1 since he was first diagnosed in 1990, the year that Tribe’s first album dropped.

56f2c71bac874.imagePhife’s condition was hereditary (his mother had diabetes) and it was exacerbated by his hectic touring schedule which caused him to eat large amounts of fast food.  In a 2010 interview , he said, “I was still waking up to a glass of Quik, you know what I’m saying? Oreo cookies for breakfast, just stupid shit. It didn’t make it any better that we were on the road performing, eating KFC, McDonalds, shit like that and I was going hard when we was younger”. At some point, his kidneys began to fail and in 2004 he started dialysis. Eventually, his wife became his donor and gifted him with one of her kidneys. He drastically improved his eating habits and seemingly regained control over his diabetes before A Tribe Called Quest’s reunion in 2008. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to prolong his life into old age.


His passing reminded me of the death of Patrice O’Neal, one of my favorite comedians. Patrice was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his early twenties and died at 41.


I’m 37-years old now, and thankfully, in good health.  So as far as I’m concerned, these guys were way too young to die. Unfortunately, diabetes is one of the most life-threatening health problems plaguing the Black community today. Over ninety percent of people who have the disease suffer from type 2 diabetes. This is largely the result of excess body weight and lack of physical exercise. According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only five percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.

Word cloud concept illustration of diabetes condition

Compared to the general U.S. population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH)website, “African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. In addition, they are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, such as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and lower extremity amputations. Although African Americans have the same or lower rate of high cholesterol as their non-Hispanic white counterparts, they are more likely to have high blood pressure.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.18.21 AM

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) signifies that the kidneys are barely or no longer functioning after about 10-20 years of chronic kidney disease. Without dialysis or a kidney transplant, ESRD leads to death.  According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ESRD related to diabetes is about 170% higher in black men than in White men and about 131% higher in black women than in White women.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.21.35 AM

Diabetes isn’t exclusive to the Western world though. This health condition is also becoming more prevalent in African countries. A report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) states that the African continent counts approximately 13.6 million people with diabetes. Nigeria has the highest number of people with diabetes(with approximately 1.2 million people affected).

MCC-treating diabetes in Kenya

In Ghana, a large percentage of the population suffers from type 2 diabetes. According to Elizabeth Denyoh, president of Ghana’s National Diabetes Association, the country has no national diabetes program. Denyou said, “In Ghana, most people diagnosed with diabetes are the poorest of the poor. There is a lot of Type 1 diabetes in rural areas. ” Type 1 diabetes, although still rare in many areas, is becoming increasingly more prevalent. IGT (Impaired Glucose Tolerance) is also becoming problematic in many African countries. This counters the prevailing myth that diabetes is solely a disease of the wealthy west.


In numerous interviews (3 min mark), Phife mentioned how he used his celebrity as a platform to raise diabetes awareness. He said that he would love it if he could inspire others with the condition and let them know that they can still achieve their dreams and desires despite the hardships that come with diabetes.  Like Phife, there are many other well known individuals who have been affected by diabetes directly or indirectly. Many are using their popularity as a platform to raise awareness.

For example,  Lil Jon raised money the American Diabetes Association during his stint on The Apprentice. His now deceased mother had type 2 diabetes and suffered a stroke while they were the taping a season of the show. He went on to raise $195,000 for the cause.

1361555530_lil-jon-now-560Dennis Coles aka Tony Starks aka Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1996. In a 2005 interview about his condition, he said “I didn’t know what that shit was.” He went to two doctors before it was detected. “My sugar was mad high, but it was a little relief to know what it was.” His doctor prescribed insulin along with a healthier regiment. “That meant putting down the blunts and cutting back on the alcohol and sweets.” It’s about discipline”, said Ghost. “You can quit the cigarettes and all that other shit but as a diabetic you fiend for sweets. When you sitting at the crib staring at them Oreos, you gonna fuck around and go in. You want those Fruity Pebbles and all that shit. I had to learn how to just chill, exercise, drink protein shakes and monitor my sugar.”


Let me be clear: this isn’t some pathological problem that’s simply impacting our community. Black people are dying and developing poor health, largely because of racism and oppressive systems. There are virtual food deserts in many Black communities across the U.S. Young people consume high amounts of soda and candy and other crap. There are rarely any healthy food options, let alone affordable options in many of our communities.


Most of us know someone or have someone close to us who are diabetic, if we’re not diabetic ourselves. Eating habits are hard to break, especially considering the fact that sugar is literally in everythingwe consume. The impact of everyday racism and classism have a way of negatively impacting our immune systems and the physiological functions of our bodies.  But to know better is to do better. Let’s all do what we can to prevent another loss like this. If you want to know about some Black owned businesses that are committed to health and wellness, check out our previous post.


To address this growing epidemic, the American Diabetes Association has created programs and materials to increase awareness of the seriousness of diabetes and its complications among African Americans. Learn more here.

The Busy African

The article was published in Shoppe Black.

(HuffPost) ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Reminds Us That AIDS Isn’t A Problem Of The Past

03/21/2016 05:36 pm ET

Rahel Gebreyes

Editor, HuffPost Live

With about 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, there’s no reason the conversation about the issue should be slowing down. Actor Jussie Smollett, who has been an outspoken advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention, delivered that message loud and clear in a conversation with HuffPost Live last week.

The “Empire” star warned against considering HIV/AIDS to be a problem from “yesteryear.”

“We get attached to these hashtags and it becomes this social media fad,” he said. “But it’s almost as if HIV/AIDS stopped being the thing to talk about before social media came around. We’ve gotta bring that back because we’re not done.”

In recent years, the estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable at about50,000 new HIV infections annually, but gay men and African Americans are still most affected. With new infections still occurring, the actor stressed the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and being open about it.

“Getting tested, knowing your status, being responsible for yourself and other people is so important — being honest with yourself, number one, so you can be honest with everyone else,” he said.

Smollett also shared words of optimism for those who have been infected and are seeking proper treatment.

“We have to remember that it’s not a death sentence. You can live with it and you can live a beautiful, wonderful life with it, but it’s also something that we can prevent,” he said.

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Jussie Smollett here

(Medium) The Braiders of Harlem

Christiana A Mbakwe / Medium

Christiana A Mbakwe / Medium

Christiana A Mbakwe | 

There is no décor. The only art on the pumpkin colored walls are vintage posters of bare shouldered black women with elaborate hairstyles. Two women, one from Senegal, the other from the Ivory Coast, split 7 feet of black synthetic hair into sections before they begin to braid.

Behind them is a restless elementary school girl; she swings her legs so vigorously her timberlands thump on the floor. Her hairdresser, Tenin, has tightly wrapped the ends of each braid with string until they resemble sooty bees nests. She dips the ends of the braids in boiling water; acutely aware of the risk involved, the child is finally still. The final step of the three-hour process is simple — Tenin lathers the girl’s head with white mousse.

Aicha Hair Braiding Salon is one of a number of African braiding shops that are clustered around 125th street in Harlem. Much like the Apollo Theatre and Abyssinian Baptist Church, the braiding shops and braiders that work in them are a Harlem landmark.

Hair braiding is a tradition that has been practiced in various African societies for centuries. Across the United States, women from countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast and Togo, have used braiding as a bridge to a better life. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, entrepreneurial instinct and the ability of braiders to amalgamate traditional braiding styles with hair trends within African-American culture, meant braiding was a secure source of income.

According to Professor Cheikh Anta Babou, an expert in African history and the Africa diaspora, although it was generally confined to the informal economy, braiding was once such a lucrative profession, in the peak season braiders could earn $200-$300 a day. Babou estimates 70% of Senegalese immigrant women in the United States are hair braiders. Braiding is so pervasive it has reshaped and transformed Senegalese life in the United States. For instance, the economic independence women gained from braiding meant patriarchal norms were resisted; consequently divorce has become more frequent within the Senegalese community.

In recent years, however, a combination of demographic shifts in neighborhoods, rising rents and technological disruption, has meant braiding is no longer a trade immigrants can rely on.

“This country’s not like before. You don’t get money like before,” said Tenin, the hairdresser who hails from the Ivory Coast. “It was more busy than this. When tax season comes you’re very happy. But now?” she shakes her head in dismay and returns to her work. Two months ago, Tenin gave birth to her fourth child. The uneven nature of her job meant she had to come back to work. On some days she has no clients, while on other days she has eight. Staying at home was far too risky.

Today, it’s not uncommon to see braiders hustling for potential clients at the busiest intersections in Harlem. Some even wait at subway turnstiles, hoping to find a customer. According to Aicha, Tenin’s mother and the owner of the braiding salon where they both work, the spread of braiders onto the streets hunting for clients is a relatively new development. Aicha has worked as a braider in Harlem for over 20 years. She believes the demographic shifts in the neighborhood and rising rents, has meant they have a smaller customer base and have to fight harder for what’s left. “I don’t like to beg on the street for customers. I used to, but not any more. But I understand why women do” she said.

Aicha is correct in her observation about rising rents and dwindling black customers. A report by the Community Service Society, showed between 2002 and 2014 average rents in Central Harlem rose by 90%. Recent census data showed that Harlem’s black population is the smallest it’s been since the 1920’s and they are now only 40% of its residents. The ramifications of this on the informal braiding market are palpable. A number of braiding stores have been forced to close, and some braiders even left New York in search for work elsewhere. However, there’s another force working against women like Aicha and Tenin — technology. In particular, the proliferation of social networking sites, which have created virtual communities centred on sharing information about black women’s hair and an increase in women finding their hairdressers using the Internet. In an unexpected twist, it seems that immigrants aren’t taking jobs from Americans, instead technology is taking jobs from immigrants.

In 2008, a shift occurred in the black cultural zeitgeist that reshaped how black women decided to style their own hair. According to “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” by Ayanna Byrd and Lori Tharps, the natural hair movement caused a critical mass of black women to stop chemically straightening their hair and wear their hair in its natural state. Historically, there have been other waves where black women have favored natural styles however this was the first in the era of online social networking.

Conversations about black women’s hair are constantly happening on the Internet. They occur in YouTube comments, hair forums and an amorphous subculture within Twitter called “Black Twitter”. The #naturalhair hashtag on Instagram has 7.4 million photos. In theory, this movement should have meant African hair braiders were perfectly positioned to exploit a new and hungry customer base. According to Mintel Black Consumers and Hair care 2015 report, the black hair care market is worth an estimated $2.7 billion — there’s more than enough money to go around. But a cornerstone of the natural hair movement and the digital conversation surrounding it is an emphasis on autonomy and agency. An important expression of this agency is the ability to understand and do your own natural hair.

The emergence of social networking and the fact that the web significantly influences black women’s hair choices, places braiders at an acute disadvantage. The informal and underground nature of the braiding industry has meant there’s a natural and almost instinctive aversion to social media. Despite their presence on the streets of Harlem and Brooklyn, most braiders prefer to be or remain inconspicuous. Some braiders are undocumented or in regular contact with people who are undocumented and this creates a reluctance to create a visible online presence. Very few of the braiding shops have Facebook or Instagram pages, websites are rare and most salon owners don’t respond to reviews on Yelp. Furthermore, in West African culture, privacy is viewed as virtue and openness is a vice. All these things are diametrically opposed to the relentless self-promotion and hyper-exposure the digital age requires. In the meantime, the savviest natural hairdressers are exploiting technology for their benefit and gaining customers.

“I did it in college just for fun, just one video — and it went viral” said Sadora Paris, a popular natural hair blogger. Since Sadora posted her first video tutorial two years ago, her audience has grown to 120 thousand YouTube subscribers and almost 25 thousand Instagram followers. She has leveraged her fan base to become a fulltime brand ambassador for natural hair care lines such as Carol’s Daughter and Shea Moisture. Sadora also earns additional income as a hair coach and beauty consultant.

Sadora views the relationship between the African braiders and their customer base as a complex one that is fractured by generational differences as much as cultural ones. African braiders aren’t the only segment within the black hair industry that struggled to keep up with how technology has transformed it. Many older African-American salon owners who catered exclusively to black women with chemically straightened hair failed to keep up with the times and are also struggling. Additionally, the women she coaches who no longer go to African braiders cite three main factors — saving money, time and their hair. Traditional braiding methods favor tight, neat styles and an aesthetic is valued over the health of the hair. However many black women have concerns about their hair, particularly the perimeter of the hairline referred to colloquially as their “edges”. For Sadora and her clients, the choice to do their own hair is less about the African braiders and more about how they prefer to do their hair.

Dr. Shartriya Collier is an expert in immigrant women entrepreneurs, who has done extensive research on the braiding industry in the United States. While she agrees that technology and other variables have contributed to the difficulties the braiders currently face, she cautions against overstating their significance. In her view, there were no real glory years in the braiding industry– it’s always been a difficult trade. “There was always a tension between African shop owners and their African-American clients,” she said. The intersection of language and cultural barriers meant exchanges between African braiders and their African-American clients have always been characterized by difficulties.

In their economic transactions, most braiders tend to occupy the grey space between legal and illegal activity. Cash is the preferred, and often the only form of payment. Most financial transactions aren’t documented in official records and braiders aren’t paid an hourly wage; instead they pay the shop owner a commission on every client they get. And while technology has had an adverse effect on their cash flow, it’s been advantageous for most parts of the informal economy. Professor Justin W. Webb, of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is an expert on entrepreneurship within the informal economy. In his research, he has observed how technological advances have created more opportunities for entrepreneurs who operate outside of the formal sphere. “Technology is presenting a larger market and in a way they’re able to skirt [legislation]. They’re less visible to those who are monitoring and enforcing them,” said Webb.

In his years of studying informal economies, Webb has frequently come across a phenomena he calls the “stepping stone effect” This occurs when a worker gradually formalizes and legitimizes their trade or they accumulate enough capital and knowledge to leave the informal sphere and work in another part of the formal economy. But braiders face a challenge that impedes this effect — language.

Most braiders come from French-speaking African countries, so if they do speak English, it is often their third language. French or Wolof tends to be the lingua franca inside the hair shop and English is only used while establishing price or in brief exchanges with clients. The lack of English fluency makes it difficult to leave the industry. On the other hand, braiders from English speaking African countries often use braiding as a job on the side, to support them while they attend night school or while they learn a more economically advantageous trade. As soon as these women achieve their goal they stop braiding.

In 2002, Mama (as she calls herself), made the trip from Nouakchott, Mauritania to the United States. At the time she was fluent in Wolof and French, and could speak only broken English. She found accommodation in the Bronx and was embraced by a network of African immigrants. They told her to go to Harlem and start braiding hair. Mama is middle aged and braiding has taken its toll on her body. Some days she works for 12 hours at a time at Barry’s Good Braiding, she has constant back pain but can’t afford the surgery. What was supposed to be an opportunity has become a trap and Mama wishes she picked another trade when she first moved to America. Braiding is so niche that her years of experience aren’t easily transferred to another industry. “It’s not a job I’m doing and love it. I don’t have a choice,” said Mama.

Walk into any braiding shop and you’ll notice the incredible speed at which braiders move their wrists and fingers. No matter how long you stare, this speed makes it difficult to decipher each step of the process. It’s wondrous to watch because the women maintain this speed for anything from 3 to 6 hours. And on a particularly busy day they may braid for a total of 10 hours.

Ask any woman who’s had her hair braided the worst thing about it and she’ll probably mention the pain. Most people don’t think about the pain the braiders endure. The physically taxing nature of the job and the mental strain of hoping for clients mean that braiders often end the day exhausted. Over the years this accumulates and has acute physical manifestations. Back pain, shoulder pain, it isn’t rare to come across braiders with ganglion cysts on their wrists — big bumps that are the evidence of years of strain.

For those that have the option to work in the formal economy, the decision to become an entrepreneur is often an expression of their independence and freedom. But for many of the braiders, with limited childcare options, low levels of education and significant language barriers, being an entrepreneur is the only option, rather than a romantic form of self-actualization. It is a beautiful struggle at best.

The article was published in Medium. 

(TimesLedger) Youth to receive job training at new Starbucks in Jamaica

Baristas David Merrick (l.) and Nigel Armstrong (r.) predict the new Jamaica store will have a good effect on the community. Photo Credit: Michael Shain

Baristas David Merrick (l.) and Nigel Armstrong (r.) predict the new Jamaica store will have a good effect on the community.
Photo Credit: Michael Shain


By Madina Toure

Two Jamaica-raised baristas at the newly opened Starbucks in Jamaica, David Merrick and Nigel Armstrong, who met barely a month ago but have already branded themselves the “dynamic duo,” are excited the store will offer job training for youth in the community.

Starbucks held a preview opening for its new store at 89-02 Sutphin Blvd. Monday, the first of at least 15 stores that will open throughout the United States to hire and train youth in diverse and urban communities. The store officially opened Tuesday at 6 a.m.

The store includes an onsite classroom space available to local nonprofit organizations to provide job training and skills building programs for young people in the area.

It is part of the chain’s goal of hiring 10,000 opportunity youth, 16- to 24-year-old individuals who are not in school and not employed.

Merrick, 23, who volunteers for LIFE Camp founded by Erica Ford, said the initiative will give kids an alternative study spot to the library and keep them occupied.

“Honestly, I feel like it’s a good thing because as a kid, you kind of don’t learn what’s going on at a young age,” he said. “So this is definitely a way to get kids at 16 and 17 off the streets and actually introducing them into the workforce and the work environment.”

For Armstrong, 20, the store will be a “home away from home” for kids in the area.

“I know they’re going to have a lot of youth coming in and out of here, so to make that connection with them is going to be really big,” he said. “I feel like they’re going to be looking to us for guidance. I feel like it’s going to be really big for us and for the youth.”

Alisha Wrencher, the store manager, who has worked for Starbucks for 18 years and was born and raised in Jamaica, handpicked all 17 employees, who range in age from 16 to 36 and hail from Brooklyn, parts of Queens and Jamaica in the Caribbean.

“I know how much this store can do to create a brighter future for our opportunity youth and am honored that Starbucks chose me to lead this new store,” Wrencher said.

Borough President Katz, who has launched the Jamaica Now Action Plan to revitalize Jamaica, praised the selection of the borough as the beta site.

“We understand that this is a prototype for the rest of the nation, but just to be clear: It started in Queens,” Katz said, her words met with applause from the crowd.

Starbucks has partnered with the Queens Community House, Queens Connect’s lead agency, and YMCA’s Y Roads Centers, which will be utilizing a dedicated training space within the store specially created by the Starbucks design studio.

The Jamaica store is the first in a nationwide initiative Starbucks announced last year to deepen investments in at least 15 similar U.S. communities by 2018 by opening stores with the goal of creating new jobs and engaging local women and minority-owned vendors and suppliers. The next location will be in the West Florissant neighborhood of Ferguson, Mo.

“One of the things that we’ve learned over the time is that we can’t do it alone,” said Rodney Hines, director of community investments for Starbucks retail operations.

Candice Cadogan, a Brooklyn-born barista raised in Cambria Heights, and Jermaine Slater, a newly promoted shift superviser who was born in Jamaica in the Caribbean and raised in Jamaica, led a coffee tasting for Guatemala Finca Monte David, one of their small batch Reserve coffees.

The article was originally published in the TimesLedger Newspapers.

Medicare Proposal Aims to Prevent Diabetes (NYT)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans on Wednesday to propose expanding Medicare to cover programs to prevent diabetes among millions of people at high risk of developing the disease, marking the sixth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with the prospect of a new benefit, federal officials said.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, is scheduled to announce the proposal at a Y.M.C.A. here. Under the plan, Medicare would pay for certain “lifestyle change programs” in which trained counselors would coach consumers on healthier eating habits and increased physical activity as ways to prevent Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult onset diabetes. Such programs have been found effective in people with a condition known as prediabetes, meaning that they have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes.


Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, in Flint, Mich., last month. Credit Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

That expansion was made possible by provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed six years ago Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 86 million adults, including at least 22 million people 65 or older, are prediabetic, increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes itself.

In 2012, the National Council of Y.M.C.A.s, also known as Y.M.C.A. of the U.S.A., received a federal grant of nearly $12 million to test the value of a diabetes prevention program in eight states. The curriculum for the program was approved by the C.D.C.

After a formal evaluation, Ms. Burwell said, “this program has been shown to reduce health care costs and help prevent diabetes.”

Federal officials said that Medicare saved $2,650 for each person enrolled in the prevention program over 15 months, compared with similar beneficiaries not in the program. That was more than enough to cover the costs. In addition, officials said, Medicare beneficiaries in the program lost about 5 percent of their body weight, which was enough to reduce substantially the risk of future diabetes.

Under the 2010 law, the health secretary can, by regulation, expand such demonstration projects nationwide if she finds that they would reduce Medicare spending without reducing the quality of care, and if the Medicare actuary agrees. That is a major change from the situation before the health care law, when an act of Congress was generally required to make even minor changes in Medicare benefits.

The proposal must go through a public comment period, but without the need for congressional approval, there is little doubt it will go into force before Mr. Obama leaves office.

Ms. Burwell said the counseling for people with prediabetes was the first preventive service to become eligible for expansion into the Medicare program under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Matt Longjohn, the chief health officer at the national Y.M.C.A. organization, said the results of the demonstration project vindicated the role of “lay health workers” in preventing chronic disease. These workers, he said, delivered preventive services at a much lower cost than doctors, nurses and other health professionals, and the services were “just as effective in terms of weight loss.”

Private insurers have also begun to cover diabetes prevention services like those provided by Medicare and the Y.M.C.A.s.

“The program helped me a lot, and I hope it helps other folks,” said Timothy L. Enfinger, a 45-year-old nuclear licensing engineer in Wilmington, N.C., who received the service through UnitedHealthcare and his employer, General Electric.

He said in an interview that he had lost 35 pounds, lowering his weight to 240 pounds. And he told the government: “I was pretty much your standard couch potato before the program. Now my wife and I go walking every day, sometimes as much as two and a half miles. I feel a lot better.”

Services covered by the proposed diabetes prevention benefit could be provided in person or online. Omada Health, a San Francisco company founded in 2011 with venture capital, says it has provided diabetes-prevention services online to more than 45,000 people, most of whom had employer-sponsored insurance.

“With Medicare coverage, our work with seniors is likely to grow dramatically,” said Mike Payne, the head of medical affairs at Omada.

Prediabetes is treatable, federal officials said, but only about 10 percent of people with the condition are aware they have it. Left untreated, up to one-third of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes within five years, the government says.People can use a test devised by the C.D.C. to assess their risk of prediabetes.

The government has not said how it would pay for diabetes prevention services. Medicare could reimburse providers directly or could pay for their services as part of a package that also includes the services of doctors who monitor the progress of patients.

Omada executives said that health insurers and employers paid the company $650 to $800 in the first year for each person who successfully completed its program and lost weight, reducing the risk of diabetes. But Medicare could use a different approach. Medicare officials will set forth details of payment in a proposed regulation that will be open to public comment.

Read More at the NYT.com

New dengue vaccine shows promise (CNN)

(CNN)A new type of dengue vaccine called TV003 seems to protect people against at least one type of the virus, according to a small study. If further research can bear out its effectiveness, the new vaccine could eventually represent a big advance in controlling the most common mosquito-transmitted virus worldwide.

Although another dengue vaccine recently became available in Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and El Salvador, it may not be appropriate to use in countries such as the United States.

By Carina Storrs, Special to CNN

That licensed vaccine, called Dengvaxia, has been found to reduce the rates of severe dengue cases in adults and older children in Asia and Latin America, but many of them had probably already had a dengue infection in their lives. In contrast, Dengvaxia could increase the risk of dengue disease among young children who have not been exposed to dengue virus before — a group that is similar to the U.S. population. (In countries where the vaccine is available, it is only given to children age 9 and older.)

So researchers at several institutions in the United States set out to develop a new vaccine that would give people — including those who have not been infected — strong protection against all four types of dengue virus.

“Control of dengue has certainly been a public health priority for many years. But getting there has not been easy,” Stephen S. Whitehead, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who designed the new vaccine, said at a news teleconference on Tuesday. Whitehead is one of the authors of the study that tested TV003, which was published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers decided to take a different tack in testing the vaccine. Normally the efficacy of a new vaccine is tested in large studies in areas affected by the disease, but those kinds of studies can take up to 10 years and cost millions of dollars. Although that research will still need to be done, “we really wanted to have an early clue that the (vaccine) would work,” Whitehead said.

A different way to test vaccines

Instead, the researchers used a “human challenge model.” They gave TV003 to 24 adult volunteers in Maryland and Vermont, while another 24 adults got a placebo as a control. After one injection of TV003, 92% of participants in the vaccine group developed antibodies to all four types of dengue virus. The only side effect associated with the vaccine was a rash around the injection site, which typically went away in five to 10 days.

But the biggest question is whether the new vaccine can prevent dengue infections. In the “human challenge” part of the study, the participants were artificially infected — using a needle, instead of a mosquito — six months after receiving TV003 with a highly weakened version of dengue virus Type 2.Previous studies have suggested that Dengvaxia does not protect as well against Type 2 as Types 1, 3 and 4.

None of the vaccinated adults got infected, whereas 80% of the individuals in the control group developed a rash and all of them had detectable dengue virus in their blood.

This type of experiment could be “totally unethical,” but in this case, the researchers got consent from healthy adults and used a form of the virus designed to be very weak, said Dr. Sarah George, an associate professor of infectious diseases at St. Louis University. George was not involved in the current study.

As the researchers discussed in the teleconference, this type of approach has been used to develop vaccines for a number of diseases, including malaria, flu and cholera.

The researchers are now testing whether the TV003 vaccine can protect people from the three other types of dengue virus. They are currently challenging study participants with Type 3 and hope to have results by late spring or summer.

ar, the results with TV003 have helped inform dengue vaccine studies about which vaccine formula to use, Dr. Anna P. Durbin, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said at the teleconference. “We are very happy to say that the first phase 3 efficacy trial of the vaccine started last month,” said Durbin, who led the current study on TV003. The trial is working to enroll 17,000 people between the ages of 2 and 59 around Brazil and address whether the new vaccine can help reduce dengue disease.

“Who knows what will happen (in future studies) — dengue is full of surprises,” George said. However, she added that it is unlikely that TV003 would increase the severity of disease among people who have not previously been infected with dengue, as Dengvaxia seems to do.

The difference comes down to how the two vaccines are designed. Dengvaxia contains hybrid viruses that are made up mostly of yellow fever virus and have just two molecules from dengue virus. On the other hand, the new vaccine contains the entire virus for all four types, except they all contain mutations that make them much less potent in people.

Because the immune system will “see” more dengue virus molecules with the new vaccine, it could develop a stronger protective response to the four virus types, said George, who has received funding from Takeda Pharmaceuticals to study the immune responses to a dengue vaccine the company is developing.

Read More at CNN.com

New York to Discard Prescription Pads, and Doctors’ Handwriting, in Digital Shift (NYT)

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One morning this month, Silvia Cota, a nurse supervisor in the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, gathered her nurses together in a huddle to prepare them for the future.

“It really is not a complicated thing,” Ms. Cota told them, speaking loudly over the bustle of patients and emergency room staff. “We just have to get used to it.”


Starting on March 27, the way prescriptions are written in New York State will change. Gone will be doctors’ prescription pads and famously bad handwriting. In their place: pointing and clicking, as prescriptions are created electronically and zapped straight to pharmacies in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

Dr. Daniel Baker, the vice chairman of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, teaches a physician assistant how to use a new electronic prescription system. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

New York is the first state to require that all prescriptions be created electronically and to back up that mandate with penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for physicians who fail to comply. Minnesota has a law requiring electronic prescribing but does not penalize doctors who cling to pen and paper.

Just as doctors putting away their pads will face a culture change in New York, so, too, will patients, who will no longer be able to shop around for the shortest waiting time or the best price for their medications.

Lenox Hill was one of several New York hospitals owned by Northwell Health, formerly the North Shore-LIJ Health System, that on March 1 began to comply with the new mandate.

The shift is rooted in a 2012 state law known as I-Stop that was designed to curtail the growing problem of prescription opioid abuse. The scale of the problem is enormous. More controlled-substance prescriptions were written in the state from 2013 to 2014 (about 27 million) than there were residents (about 20 million), according to the State Health Department. In 2004, there were 341 opioid-related deaths in the state. In 2013, there were 1,227.

The first part of I-Stop, put into effect in 2013, is an online registry that a doctor must check before prescribing a controlled medication. The registry lists all controlled substances recently prescribed to a patient so doctors can spot a history of abuse.

But the registry can be gamed, even by a move as simple as a patient’s misspelling his name for the doctor.

“It’s certainly not foolproof,” said Dr. Douglas Schottenstein, a Manhattan pain management doctor whose office writes dozens of controlled-substance prescriptions daily.

The second major component of I-Stop legislation is the shift to electronic prescriptions, intended to reduce fraud, as well as mistakes caused by misinterpreted handwriting.

The transition was scheduled to take place a year ago, but state lawmakers pushed the start date back, largely because of software security issues. Those have been resolved.

“There should really be no reason that a doctor shouldn’t have had ample time to get it up and running,” said Dr. Joseph R. Maldonado, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York.

With the push to go digital over the past year, New York now leads the nation in the percentage of medical practitioners able to prescribe controlled substances electronically, according to Surescripts, the company that runs the network on which the prescriptions travel.

Still, many institutions are waiting until the last minute. As of January, only about 60 percent of the state’s roughly 100,000 prescribers were able to send prescriptions electronically, and about half as many were set up to prescribe controlled substances, which requires an extra security step.

In the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital, nurses were given a briefing on the move to electronic prescriptions this month. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Hospitals and nursing homes are among the late adopters, in part because of the complexity of rolling out technical systems in big institutions. Several of New York’s major health systems are applying for waivers to get more time for at least some of their facilities, including Montefiore Health System, NYU Langone Medical Center, Northwell Health and the Mount Sinai Health System.

Officials say that transmitting prescriptions to pharmacies will cut down on fraud, because people will no longer be able to modify a prescription by, for example, increasing the number of pain pills ordered.

“Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency that could be traded even more easily than the drugs themselves,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, the state’s attorney general, who helped write the legislation. “By moving to a system of e-prescribing, we can curb the incidence of these criminal acts and also reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting on good-faith prescriptions.”

Yet electronic prescribing will present its own set of challenges as patients and doctors get used to the idea.

Patients will have to come in knowing what pharmacy they want to use. At Lenox Hill, nurses will ask all incoming patients to indicate a preferred pharmacy, or have them pick one from a list presented by the software.

And if the medication at the pharmacy is either too expensive or not available, there will be no quick fix. To have a prescription sent to another pharmacy, the doctor will have to cancel it by phone and then prescribe it again.

The hospitals acknowledge the difficulties. When trying to convince doctors of the benefits of electronic prescriptions, “I don’t pitch it as, ‘It’s going to be faster for you,’” said Dr. Michael Oppenheim, the chief medical information officer for Northwell Health. Instead, Dr. Oppenheim said, he mentions things like improved legibility and better coordination of care.

Yet problems at Northwell’s pilot sites have been relatively few, he said. And at NYU Langone, where nearly three-quarters of prescriptions are now issued electronically, doctors report that most patients seem to like that the prescription is sent to the pharmacy ahead of them.

One unexpected impact has been that doctors tend to prescribe more common medications that are likely to be in stock, to avoid the headache of having to reissue a medication because the pharmacy does not have it.

“It’s probably driven us to prescribe more standardized regimens and more standardized dosing,” said Dr. Paul A. Testa, the chief medical information officer at NYU Langone. “And the reality is, there is always the phone. If I have a doubt, I can call the pharmacy.”


Doctors can still write prescriptions by hand in exceptional cases, such as when the medication will be filled out of state, when there are technical problems and when the prescription is for something other than a medicine, like crutches or a wheelchair.

Doctors who fail to follow the mandate “will be subject to a full range of disciplinary actions, including both civil and criminal penalties and fines,” according to the State Health Department.

Saying goodbye to the prescription pad is a relief for some doctors. After all, in most medical settings, pointing and clicking is already more prevalent than writing with a pen.

“My handwriting is really pathetic to the point where I think I have dysgraphia,” said Dr. Steven Lamm, the medical director of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health with NYU Langone, which has embraced electronic prescribing over the past year. Now, he said, “my prescriptions are actually legible.”

Read More at the NYT.com