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F the freshman 15

How to stay fit as a frosh

F the freshman 15

The turmoil of university life can really restrict the amount of time we have to move our bodies! Even for people who have always been enthusiastic about sports and fitness, it can be all too easy to relegate exercise to the bottom of our priority lists, especially when our piles of schoolwork often take precedence. Despite our heavy workloads, it’s valuable to dedicate time to fun and enjoyable exercise. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore; once you find activities you’re really interested in, exercise can energize, inspire, and help you focus on your day-to-day tasks. Here are some ideas for where to start: 

Join a drop-in activity

U of T offers many drop-in, instructor-led classes, from intense, sweat-inducing Boot Camp Fun, to invigorating Zumba. My personal favourite is doing a lunchtime yoga class between lectures. Drop-in activities are free for students — well, they are included in our incidental fees. They’re offered at the Athletic and Goldring Centres, as well as at Hart House. You can find the class schedules on their respective websites.

Check out a recreational club at U of T 

U of T hosts a variety of recreational clubs, including groups that explore the outdoors, go scuba diving, practice martial arts, and do hip-hop. Recreational clubs are not only a fun way to exercise, but also to join a community of new, like-minded people. 

Sign up for an intramural sports team 

Soccer, basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and flag football are just some of the many intramural sports offered at U of T. Intramural teams compete against other colleges and faculties within the university. Signing up for an intramural means finding a team and committing to playing games throughout the semester. This is a great option for those who have a competitive streak!

Find an exercise friend

Finding a friend to exercise with can be a great way to stay fit. Personally, having exercise buddies makes me feel supported, especially when my motivation is running low. Walk and talk, go rock climbing together, go for a refreshing swim, or reserve a badminton, squash, tennis, or table tennis court.

Consider registering for MoveU.HappyU

Physical activity can boost your mood and help reduce negative feelings. So, if you’re struggling with your mental health and want to improve your level of physical activity, I highly recommend the MoveU.HappyU program. Participants develop skills to stick to an exercise program and improve physical and emotional well-being through goal-setting, planning, and self-monitoring. 

It can be difficult to achieve a balance between personal life and school while in university. It can also take a while to figure out what kind of physical activity suits you best at this point in your life. The real secret to staying fit as a frosh is as cliché as it sounds: keep exploring and don’t stop trying new things until you find something you enjoy.

U of T launches Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

“Enough is enough, we need to act to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases,” says Centre Director

U of T launches Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

U of T has launched the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health to address vaccine hesitancy. According to the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy is one of the top 10 threats facing public health in 2019, and has led to outbreaks of diseases that were previously eliminated, such as measles.

The Director of the centre, Dr. Natasha Crowcroft wrote, “The Centre will be (as per our vision) catalyzing cutting-edge research and education that maximizes the health benefits of immunization for everyone.”

According to Crowcroft in an interview with U of T News, “Unlike other provinces, Ontario has had no centre of excellence to work in this space. We are filling this gap with some of the best minds in the country.”

Crowcroft also highlighted the need for resources to attract and retain the researchers working on vaccine prevention. She mentioned that “there are great people working in Canada, but Ontario has lagged behind in not having a resource like this Centre before. And we always need new people to bring new energy and new ideas.”

To help reach its goal, Crowcroft hopes for U of T’s new centre to be an “internationally-recognized centre of excellence in vaccine preventable disease and immunization research and education.” She also lays out goals for cross-disciplinary work and increasing access to education on vaccine preventable diseases and immunization.

In an email to The Varsity, Crowcroft wrote, “A strong unified and harmonious voice speaking up for vaccines and more broadly for science is really important. Institutions and students from across Canada need to be on the same side. The battle against vaccine skeptics is never going to end.”

“One has to have a larger risk appetite”: Industry leaders discuss tech innovation at ONRamp event

Talk centres on entrepreneurship in finance, health, cannabis technology

“One has to have a larger risk appetite”: Industry leaders discuss tech innovation at ONRamp event

A panel of industry leaders convened at ONRamp, a U of T-led accelerator, on May 30 to discuss the barriers and opportunities that entrepreneurs face in the highly regulated industries of health, finance, and cannabis technologies.

Greg Pantelic, founder of AHLOT, a cannabis curation company; John Soloninka, founder of health tech company Accelerant Health Innovations; and Teri Kirk, founder of investor-entrepreneur matching program Fundingportal, described their experiences in their respective fields and how they have navigated government regulations.

The event was organized by the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in association with ONRamp. This was not the first time the two organizations had collaborated — Queen’s partnered with ONRamp in February to expand its entrepreneurs’ networking opportunities.

Breaking into the industry and changing with trends

Pantelic’s AHLOT is a cannabis circulation company that “created the world’s first multi-licensed producers’ sample pack and storage accessory product,” despite not being licensed vendors.

“Our vision was creating experience before and after consuming cannabis,” Pantelic said, citing the overwhelming choices of recreational cannabis available to consumers.

After seeing new sign-ups and subscriptions grow at 40 per cent week-over-week in 2017, Pantelic decided to run AHLOT on a full-time basis. The increasingly growing demand for recreational cannabis following the enactment of the federal Cannabis Act, coupled with the market inefficiency of cannabis sampling, led him to create the Cannabis Collection, a series of one-gram samples from different premium licensed producers.

According to Kirk, “one has to have a larger risk appetite and more capacity for innovation [when pursuing entrepreneurship] in heavily regulated space.” Kirk used Fundingportal as an example explaining the importance of measuring cost and benefit. For example, when matching entrepreneurs with investors, geographical costs and benefits differ between Canada and the US, so proximity is a useful measure for deciding which markets to become involved in.

Regulations and innovations

According to Pantelic, the highly regulated nature of the cannabis industry prompted AHLOT to work with licensed producers rather than wait to obtain its own production license. As its Cannabis Collection collects sample cannabis from different licensed partners, every regulation policy regarding the product is dealt with directly by AHLOTS’ partners.

Kirk highlighted the importance of understanding regulations before entering the marketplace, highlighting how her experience of being a lawyer helped her in this regard. She also pointed out that entering a heavily regulated industry like finance technology requires innovators to embrace larger risks than in traditional industries, especially since latent regulations create more opportunities for failure.

Soloninka seconded this perspective. He mentioned that a strong understanding of regulations would provide a competitive advantage for innovators.

“Fitting into regulation is really strategic for starting your own company,” he said. Apart from that, entrepreneurs should remember that regulatory approvals are mostly regional, which is critical when deciding where to start a business.

To solve this regional regulation issue, Soloninka provided two suggestions: first, working with a consulting company that specializes in global regulatory systems; and second, conducting research on the internet.

Data accessibility

In the cannabis industry, data can be described as necessary but nascent. AHLOT is collecting its data by launching a cannabis circulation campaign, to hire people to provide feedback on recreational cannabis quality.

Kirk added that data allows entrepreneurs to understand the world around them despite it being “massively and heavily regulated.” As such, it may be important for entrepreneurs to take the costs of accessing data into account when making market-entering choices.

Labour groups rebuke U of T’s “inaction” on asbestos

Comments come as U of T report finds university meeting provincial standards

Labour groups rebuke U of T’s “inaction” on asbestos

In response to an independent U of T report that found that the university’s asbestos management practices meet legislated provincial requirements, and are even “more restrictive in some places,” labour organizations are criticizing the university over its perceived “inaction and inadequate response.”

The report and the university administration’s response were made public on March 26, two years after asbestos-containing dust forced the closure of sections of the Medical Sciences Building.

The report is a product of an independent panel whose membership was finalized by U of T in January 2018. Submitted to the school in February, the report includes data from over 4,000 air samples taken from university buildings.

The samples found that 95 per cent of indoor air samples from the Medical Sciences Building are indistinguishable from outside air and have asbestos levels below existing standards.

However, the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA), which represents U of T faculty, librarians, and research associates, has strongly criticized the university’s asbestos management and the report’s limited scope.

On April 18, the UTFA, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3902, and the United Steelworkers (USW) 1998 held a press conference to voice concerns about the report and the university’s handling of asbestos.

CUPE 3902 represents contract academic workers at U of T, including teaching assistants and exam invigilators. USW 1998 represents U of T’s clerical and professional employees.

Setting standards

Asbestos is a silicate mineral that was commonly used in construction for insulation and fireproofing before 1990. It was later banned, with some exemptions, in Canada in 2018.

When asbestos fibres are released into the air, such as during maintenance or construction, they pose a serious health risk if inhaled.

Across Canada, the occupational exposure limit (OEL) — which is the standard acceptable exposure for construction workers — is 0.1 fibres per cubic centimetre (f/cc) for asbestos.

The generally accepted exposure standard for the general public is half of the OEL — U of T has set its campuses’ action limit to this 0.05 f/cc standard.

The report was unable to find a legally enforceable maximum or best practice standard for public exposure to asbestos, meaning that its findings are tied to existing best practices.

Vice-President Operations and Real Estate Partnerships Scott Mabury stood by the university’s use of a 0.05 f/cc action limit, adding that if it finds a standard that is “grounded in something that everybody can agree on… or is based on some physical reality, then [the university] will consider adopting that level.”

Although not legally enforceable, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has set a desirable concentration of 0.04 f/cc.

Mabury, formerly the Chair of the Department of Chemistry, said that as an analytical chemist, it is “very difficult to tell the difference” between 0.04 and 0.05 f/cc.

U of T’s standards have been a point of contention. The report recommended that the university ensures that asbestos exposure is “as low as reasonably achievable,” with 0.02–0.04 f/cc as suggested reasonable guidelines. It added that 0.01 f/cc should be an aspirational limit.

Mabury, however, said that the university has yet to find a basis upon which to lower acceptable asbestos exposure levels.

Terezia Zoric, the Chair of the UTFA’s Grievance Committee, wrote to The Varsity that U of T must act on the report’s recommendations.

“Despite the Administration’s own Panel’s finding that it would be best practice for the Administration to adopt a more demanding standard for testing air quality, the Administration has shown a complete lack of willingness to do so,” she wrote.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Administration plans to use a less demanding standard and are concerned for the health and safety of UTFA members, students and staff.”

In response to UTFA’s critiques, Mabury told The Varsity, “We believe we will endeavour to always do the best we can. We are holding ourselves to a standard that is connected to a legal requirement because it’s something we can point to that is real and substantive.”

He added that the safety of the U of T community is the administration’s highest priority.

Administration and consultation

Another chief concern that the labour organizations have voiced is what they perceive as the panel’s lack of meaningful consultation with the U of T community.

The three-person expert panel was chaired by epidemiologist and l’Université de Montréal professor Jack Siemiatycki as well as Roland Hosein and Andrea Sass‐Kortsak, both associated with the Division of Occupational and Environmental Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Jess Taylor, the Chair of CUPE 3902, said that the panel failed to listen to criticism and that outreach was “abysmal” and inaccessible, adding that unions were only provided a 10-day notice for the feedback sessions.

“There was a democratic deficiency of representation regarding the review panel process and implementation,” Taylor said. In response, Mabury told The Varsity that the panel “went well beyond what [U of T] asked them to do.”

He also said that the panel’s timing of the consultations was based on its members’ limited availabilities due to their “high demand on a global basis to provide [their] expertise.”

The UTFA has also expressed concern that the panel was not at arm’s-length from the U of T administration, “whose conduct should have been under scrutiny.”

Mabury, however, stressed that the panel was not influenced by the U of T administration.

“These were independent scientists. They are academics… These folks were chosen for their expert opinion. That’s what we asked for. That’s what we got,” he told The Varsity.

Among the recommendations of the panel was a re-evaluation of the university’s Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Department’s organizational structure.

Under the current structure, Mabury is responsible for the removal of asbestos during capital projects, Vice-President Research and Innovation Vivek Goel is responsible for broad environmental health and safety, while Vice-President Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat is responsible for worker health.

“We believe that separation of oversight duties has an internal value in having internal checks and balances that wouldn’t be there if we coalesced everything into one portfolio,” Mabury said.

While asbestos management practices will not change, the university will more explicitly articulate each Vice-President’s roles and responsibilities in its asbestos management practices.

Evaluating experts’ expertise

Beyond the lack of community input, Zoric told The Varsity that the UTFA believes that the panel should have included more experts, and ones with different areas of expertise, as its three members did not have “practical experience in asbestos abatement and management, and did not include representatives from employee groups working in affected buildings.”

Mabury said that the three members were chosen because most peer reviews involve two to three experts. He added that they were “the best from amongst those nominated” from an open nomination period, citing Siemiatycki’s four decades of experience as a researcher.

The UTFA retained the services of Environmental Consulting Occupational Health (ECOH), an environmental consultant, soon after the 2017 incidents. According to Zoric, ECOH advised that the university’s current standards are not appropriate and do not meet the best practice standard that the report calls for.

Saving the Great Lakes from ecological disaster

The consequences of climate change on our largest freshwater system

Saving the Great Lakes from ecological disaster

As summer approaches, students are exchanging their scantrons for swimsuits and pencils for popsicles. For many, summer plans will involve the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes are an epicentre of recreational, economic, and ecological activity. 9.8 million Canadians, about a third of our country’s population, rely on them. Carved thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers, the Great Lakes are a unique ecosystem housing a fifth of the world’s freshwater.

However, concealed by the rolling waves and the glassy surface of the lakes is evidence of environmental damage caused by humans over the last few centuries.

We have not always been kind to the Great Lakes. Heavy human use of the lakes has resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation, the introduction of invasive species, and environmental pollution. The invasion of zebra mussels and clouds of green algae blooming from phosphorus runoff are just two consequences of human activity to make headlines.

More than 3,500 species of plants and animals call the Great Lakes home, and for some, this is the only place where they can exist. Faced with the growing consequences of climate change, the Great Lakes system is coming under even more stress and is possibly reaching a tipping point.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center report

In March, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), an American non-profit advocacy group, released a report detailing the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes.

Although it is widely understood that the consequences of climate change – like rising temperatures and more extreme weather events – will affect everyone, this report also detailed specific consequences for those who live in the Great Lakes region.

Increasingly severe weather patterns will bring hotter, drier summers to the area, causing heat waves. They will also bring wetter springs and winters, which will trigger flooding and increased water flow.

From the early 1900s to 2015, the Great Lakes region experienced a 10 per cent increase in precipitation, compared to the rest of the United States, which had only experienced an increase of four per cent.

“We’re seeing more and more of these… powerful wind storms, rain storms, [and] thunderstorms in the summer, and more milder winters for sure,” said Dr. Harvey Shear, a professor of geography at UTM, who teaches courses on the Great Lakes.

However, the ELPC anticipates that by 2100, the Great Lakes region will have less moisture in the summer, leading to fewer periods of intense precipitation at the start of the season.

Intensifying heat will bring about more days with temperatures above 33 degrees Celsius. By 2100, the ELPC report predicts that the Great Lakes region will experience an additional 30 to 60 days of such temperatures per year.

These intensified patterns of precipitation and hotter temperatures will translate into devastating consequences for the environment and our society. Shortened growing periods, increased disease, and the rising prevalence of waterborne pathogens will directly affect humans.

Nothing new

While it may seem like a shock to find that the Great Lakes region will experience such severe changes in the near future, researchers are not surprised by some of these consequences.

“We have modified the Great Lakes over the last 400 years to the point where they’re almost unrecognizable from what we would have seen if we [went] back in time,” explained Shear.

A case in point is the St. Lawrence River, which has been carved out to accommodate human activities since 1680. Construction began for the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1954 to directly connect the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The $470.3 million seaway enabled cities like Toronto and Chicago to expand their commercial shipping industries, bringing in more than $6 billion USD per year to the Great Lakes region.

However, the seaway’s completion resulted in the decimation of the system by invasive species like sea lampreys. Sea lampreys are circular-mouthed fish with hooked teeth that attach themselves to native fish, feeding on their bodily fluids and abandoning them to succumb to their wounds. During their parasitic stage, lampreys kill approximately 40 pounds of fish over 12 to 18 months.

Spiny water fleas, zebra mussels, and other invasive species have also found their way to the Great Lakes system through shipping freighters. When taking on water in their ballast tanks, which are designed to stabilize vessels that are unloading or taking on cargo, these ships will also take on waterborne invasive species. Zebra and quagga mussels, in particular, are known for clogging water intake pipes and being costly to remove.

As temperatures continue to rise, native inhabitants of the lakes will endure added stress from an ecosystem where they are already competing with their non-native neighbours, likely forcing these species to shift to more northern regions.

These concerns are not new — the original 1971 edition of Dr. Seuss’ children’s book, The Lorax, referenced the dire state of Lake Erie. In the 1930s, runoff from fertilizer and waste from humans and animals introduced phosphorus into the lake. Annual phosphorus input soared from about 3,000 tons in 1800 to 24,000 tons in 1960, after the introduction of the mineral in cleaning agents after World War II. The high phosphorus levels caused an overgrowth of algae, clouding the water and killing off other species in a phenomenon known as eutrophication.

State and provincial governments around Lake Erie took action to limit the addition of phosphorus to soap, and began working with local farmers to reduce the amount of phosphorus input by more than half. However, new sources of phosphorus appeared in the 1990s, returning phosphorus levels in Lake Erie to previous conditions.

These algal blooms are more than an eyesore. A species of cyanobacteria called Microcystis causes such harmful algae blooms by producing a toxin called microcystin. The toxin can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and in high enough quantities, liver failure in humans.

Microcystis gripped Toledo, Ohio in 2014, when Lake Erie was subjected to two harmful algae blooms that year due to a one-two punch of increased precipitation and warmer temperatures. The toxin overwhelmed the city’s water filtration system, leaving half a million residents without clean water for three days.

Not all strains of Microcystis produce this toxin, but researchers have found that warmer growing conditions have increased the prevalence of the toxic strain, suggesting that this phenomenon could become more prevalent in the future.

Although some of these consequences listed in the ELPC report are not a result of climate change alone, climate change could worsen their effects in the coming years.

The looming storm

The consequences of climate change are not so far off. Shear noted that significant shifts can happen quickly within a year or two, intensifying extreme weather events.

“With climate change you’re dealing with very long-term changes over decades which makes it easy to attribute extreme weather events to normal year to year variation,” said Shear.

A more tangible consequence of the changing climate, continued Shear, is the uptick of unpredictable weather events, such as violent wind storms. In fact, climate change may have caused the Toronto Islands and the Harbourfront to flood in spring 2017

Shear further explained that we have hardened the surfaces of urban areas with hectares of paved roads and roofs that don’t absorb water. “So when it does rain, there’s nowhere for the water to go but straight into the streams and into [the] lake.”

“[The] Lake Ontario water level was fairly consistent,” he continued, “and then the water level began to rise because of the rainfall and snowmelt… that [had] nowhere to go.”

Concurrent flooding in Montréal, due to extra water in the Ottawa River and St. Lawrence Seaway, denied the officials the option of draining Lake Ontario into the sea to lower the water level.

Although the islands reopened later that summer, visitor attendance was down for the rest of the season, costing the city approximately $5 million in lost ferry revenue, in addition to costs from property damage.

That 2017 flood should be a sobering sign that the Great Lakes will not stay the way they are for very long.

Economic damage

Viewing environmental damage through an economic lens helps put the consequences of changing conditions into perspective. The Great Lakes provide over 1.5 million jobs and generate $60 billion in wages annually for local workers. The regional economy of the Great Lakes system is valued at $6 trillion, which is more than the GDP of countries such as Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

With the prospects of decreased employment, damaged infrastructure, and forgone revenue, it raises the question of whether or not we are willing to lose an ecosystem that benefits local economies so much. It’s not that the Great Lakes will cease to exist, but that the system will cease to be a sustainable habitat for not only plants and animals, but for ourselves as well.

Starting change

Seeing the consequences of our past actions shows how much of an impact our behavior can have. But how can we begin to undo the damage that we have done?

Canada and the United States have pledged to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the Great Lakes by 40 per cent by 2025. However, this goal has proven to be tougher to match now than it was in the past. Unregulated farms, dissolved phosphorus, and different phosphorus sources causing the algal blooms have made it harder for the countries to meet their targets. With the added threat of rising temperatures, the threat of algal blooms is imminent.

The Ontario Great Lakes Strategy 2016 progress report outlined the collective efforts of the government, scientists, Indigenous peoples, and private-sector organizations to work toward returning the Great Lakes to a state where they are not at risk of ecological collapse. However, governments have yet to impose hard-hitting restrictions on certain behaviours such as the use of phosphorus by the agriculture industry.

In 2018, then-Ohio governor John Kasich signed an executive order to restrict agricultural runoff, which contributes to algal blooms, by setting requirements for how nutrients in animal waste and fertilizer should be stored.

But government intervention isn’t the only source of change in our society. Organized groups of concerned citizens have a created huge impact on these pressing matters.

According to Shear, citizen activism has led to eradication of all sources of mercury in the Lake Superior Basin and to the cleanup of the Love Canal disaster in New York in the mid-twentieth century.

Love Canal was the site of a failed energy project that became a landfill, which was eventually buried and sold to the city for development. Decades later, chemicals began to seep up through the ground, exposing the region’s residents to carcinogens and teratogens, which are implicated in deforming embryos.

“It was citizen activism in Niagara Falls, Ontario that linked with citizen activists in Niagara Falls, New York that really brought [the provincial, state, and federal governments] to shut down Love Canal… to prevent the contamination of the Niagara River,” said Shear. “So citizen activism can really work.”

In building our cities, we did not plan to bring harm to our environment. Rather, we were careless and uninformed about how our actions could damage the very home we live in. As we learn about why these ecologically devastating events occur and how human activity causes them, we must take action to prevent further damage and restore what we can.

We could otherwise negligently trek forward and continue to make decisions that harm not only ourselves, but those who will come after us.

The elusive diagnosis

Why aren't we talking about endometriosis?

The elusive diagnosis

“Are you drinking enough water?”

My family doctor clicked through something on her computer, occasionally peering at me through wire-rimmed glasses. I was in her office for the third time in several years, attempting to get a medical explanation for what she scribbled down as “dysmenorrhea” — severe cramps that hit up to a week before my period began and intensified during it, sometimes rendering me incapable of carrying out daily activities.

“Yes, about four litres a day,” I responded. These kinds of questions were typical. By this time, she had prescribed me a variety of painkillers, advised me to improve my diet, and speculated that I might be out of shape, despite my membership on the cross-country team. None of this had done anything for my pain, and that day, I was determined not to leave her office without an ultrasound referral.

My dad knows all too well what it’s like to get a call from me, asking him to come to where I am collapsed on the sidewalk mere minutes from my front door, cramps eating through my stomach. Once, my mother came home to find me crumpled on the floor, crushing pieces of homework in my hands to distract myself from the all-consuming pain. And yet, none of this compared to the time when I was 12 and passed out in a mall on the first day of my period, the ache radiating from my lower abdomen to dull the rest of my body. Somehow, despite all of this, I was worried that what I felt was merely a figment of my imagination, manageable if only I were stronger.

I did manage to obtain my referral that day and to schedule an ultrasound appointment. A few weeks later, I received the report: no abnormalities found. In some ways, perhaps testing positive for something — anything — would have presented me with a sense of relief, because it would mean that I wasn’t overreacting. But in many other ways, had the doctors found something, it could have been the beginning of a life structured around a chronic, incurable, and often misunderstood condition: endometriosis.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California Los Angeles defines ‘endometriosis’ as a condition wherein “the tissue that makes up the uterine lining [in the womb] is present on other organs inside your body.” In other words, tissue from a woman’s uterus can crawl into her fallopian tubes, spread into her pelvic cavity, and even plant itself in her lungs. There, it builds up, breaks down, and bleeds just as normally-located uterine tissue does. Eventually, scar tissue develops to mesh internal organs together. Not all women with endometriosis suffer symptoms, but those who do report intense pain with or without their period and sometimes even during sex.

It’s difficult to understand the extent of the pain without experiencing it, but one woman who lives with the condition likened the sensation to being hit in the ovaries with an axe. Others have written that it feels “like my uterus is sitting on a bed of razor blades,” or “like someone is taking a cheese grater to my cervix.” On top of this, it comes with high rates of infertility; for women who want to have a child, their physical pain might be compounded by the emotional strain of being unable to reproduce.

FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

For a condition that one in 10 women live with, endometriosis is remarkably difficult to obtain a diagnosis for. Among those who are aware of its existence, this difficulty is notorious. For starters, the condition takes an average of eight years to be recognized by a physician. The reasons for this are various, grounded in both the medical and the social.

To begin with the medical, the condition’s symptoms are largely invisible; they’re also often misunderstood to be those of gastrointestinal, rather than reproductive, disorders. A laparoscopy, in which a tube probes the interior of the belly for out-of-place uterine tissue, is understood as the only definitive way to determine if a patient has endo. Due to the risks it carries as a surgical procedure, it’s recommended by physicians with caution.  

The barriers to diagnosing endometriosis are also incredibly social. Up until recently — and continuing today, depending on cultural context — strong taboos around discussing reproductive issues like fertility and menstruation have discouraged women from being open about their experiences. The consequences of this include reduced knowledge on the severity of symptoms, as well as increased difficulty for professionals to construct diagnoses. Compounding this is the physicians’ response to endometriosis symptoms. Suffering extreme period pain has been normalized to the extent that many health care providers won’t investigate it further. Instead, women are told to take painkillers — as I was — and to wait it out.

Beyond this, there’s a well-recognized trend demonstrating that health care professionals take women’s pain less seriously than men’s. Experts acknowledge that women endure and declare pain more frequently and of greater intensity, but they are less likely to receive sufficient treatment for symptoms. Researchers Diane Hoffmann and Anita Tarzian of the University of Maryland found that gender bias prompts physicians to dismiss a woman’s pain, unless there is an explicit, objective reason not to. In other words, women detailing their pain are perceived as sensitive or hysterical, and are at risk of having physical ailments attributed to psychiatric conditions.

At different intersections, this difficulty is only exacerbated. Endometriosis is perceived to be a white woman’s condition, and women of colour suffer the consequences of this. “The symptoms present the same way, but the complaints that women of color bring to a provider aren’t taken as seriously sometimes, and they aren’t properly diagnosed,” Oluwafunmilola Bada, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Howard University, told SELF Magazine.

Even if a diagnosis is obtained, there is no real cure for the condition as surgeries to remove the uterus and ovaries aren’t always effective, and pain can flare back up when temporary treatments are halted. Living with endometriosis is a daily affair that is drawn out over years. As sufferer and advocate Lara Parker put it, “chronic pain means chronic.” Living with a long-term condition, especially one that is so misunderstood, can bleed into all aspects of an individual’s life, with implications for their mental health, family, relationships, and career.

Endometriosis is slowly gaining ground in terms of awareness, which will hopefully prompt improvements in the way that it is addressed. Celebrities like Halsey and Tia Mowry have been vocal about their experiences; Girls Lena Dunham has also been transparent about her diagnosis. As a result, it’s not as obscure as it was 10 years ago. However, the persisting difficulty that women face when trying to have their pain understood, their health conditions recognized, and their symptoms managed can be incredibly damaging. It compromises their quality of life as well as the integrity of the health care system, which professes to serve everyone equally but far to go before this becomes evident in practice.

UTSC Chatime receives two significant Dine Safe health infractions, passes upon re-inspection

Toronto Public Health found employee hygiene, sanitation failures

UTSC Chatime receives two significant Dine Safe health infractions, passes upon re-inspection

On March 19, the Chatime at UTSC received a “conditional pass” from Toronto Public Health’s (TPH) Dine Safe program after being given two significant infractions for employee hygiene and sanitation, as well as two minor infractions for failing to clean the floors in its food-handling room and for failing to ensure sanitized equipment surfaces.

A conditional pass is issued when an establishment is found to have one or more significant infractions. Significant infractions are violations under the Food Premises Regulation that pose a potential health hazard.

The first significant infraction was for using the “handwashing station other than for handwashing of employees.”

The second significant infraction was for “fail[ing] to provide equipment for sanitizing utensils as required.”

As per TPH’s system, TPH re-inspects establishments that received a conditional pass within 24–48 hours. If the significant infractions are corrected, the establishment will receive a pass notice.

If the infractions are not corrected upon the first re-inspection, a second re-inspection will be scheduled at a later date. If after that the infractions still have not been corrected, then “a summons to court will be issued and a referral to Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Division may occur,” according to the Dine Safe website.

On March 22, Chatime passed the re-inspection with one minor infraction left for not maintaining clean floors in the food-handling room.

The Chatime at UTSC is located in the basement of UTSC’s Student Centre. As with all food vendors in the Student Centre, Chatime operates with the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) as the landlord.

There have been numerous food incidents at UTSC in the past, including a large, winged insect found in Asian Gourmet food at the Student Centre. A similar incident happened again with the same establishment a few months later, but this time, the visitor was a larva.

The Varsity has reached out to Chatime and SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis for comment.

On the hunt for the ‘runner’s high’

Track star-approved trails to convert the anti-runner

On the hunt for the ‘runner’s high’

There are very few pasttimes more controversial than a run.

On one side are the avid dissenters, those who profess that nothing could be more unpleasant than a jog around the block. These are the folks who tend to opt for taking the elevator over the stairs and are big fans of those moving walkways in airports.

The opposing camp, however, raves endlessly about the magic of a run in the park with such uninhibited fervour that you would think scuffed sneakers and blistered feet were addictive.

As such, they often mention the wondrous ‘runner’s high,’ a phenomenon much spoken of but little explained. The runner will enthusiastically describe the euphoric feeling of blood in your cheeks, wind beneath your feet, or any other consequence of running that still fails to exemplify the promised addictive excitement to a staunch opposer.

It seems like the kind of thing you have to feel to believe. So, if you’re an inquiring anti-runner looking to convert, or are just looking to shake up your running routine, we have a few suggestions. The Varsity spoke to U of T alum and former Varsity Blues track star Madeleine Kelly for her advice on some runs that will get you jonesing for your next fix.

“A route is as difficult as you make it,” says Kelly. “So I don’t know which of these is the most difficult. I can tell you a little bit about the surfaces.”

If you’re looking for a scenic, hilly jog, she recommends Riverdale Park: “There’s a track there, and then there’s also a great hill, so you can get hill work in your bag or get some speed training.” The closest major intersection to her favourite running spot in the park is at Broadview and Danforth Avenues.

If you’re interested in testing your endurance, Kelly says that the best place to get in a long run is along the waterfront. “The Martin Goodman Trail goes for [roughly] 30 kilometres, along the bottom of Toronto,” she says, and the views of Lake Ontario don’t hurt either.

Finally, if you’re looking for a calm, “sheltered,” meditative run, she suggests the Beltline Trail, a nine-kilometre scenic route along an old railway line running from west of Allen Road down past Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the latter being a surprisingly peaceful running spot in its own right: “The cemetery is also great if you want a workout: rolling hills, limited traffic.”

Kelly also encourages runners to hop on the ever-dreaded treadmill. “I see it as a training tool if the weather’s brutal, then in my opinion it’s a much better option than potentially wiping out.”

However, it’s never her first choice, and she concedes that she would “always go outdoors if [she] had the option.” The takeaway for discouraged newbies? Try a scenic route instead of a machine, and maybe you’ll find yourself lacing up your running shoes more often than you think.