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Guest Lecture - Lynne T. Bemis and Linda Burhansstipanov

Lauren Erica Davis

On March 19, 2012, Linda B. and Lynne Bemis came to speak to us about their work with cancer in the Native American community. The main focus of their discussion was the ways in which they used their creativity to help people with cancer and their families. They emphasized that the important thing when dealing with cancer patients and their families is to listen to their struggles, and then modifying their programs to fit the needs of the people they are trying to help.

They began their talk with a description of energizers, which are games they play with people in group seminar settings. The three things that energizers should be are 1. they should be short, 2. they should be fun, and 3. they should get the blood pumping. Linda B went over three of their energizers with us. The first was called "that's me," in which the speaker asks a series of questions and the audience stands and shouts "that's me" in response to questions which pertain to them. This game serves several purposes, first it wakens people up, second it gives the speaker some idea of who their audience is. The second energizer was Warrior, Princess, Bear, which is along the lines of rock, paper, scissors but with more dramatic motions. And the third was sweeping the teepee which involved a lot of movement but also required participants to be somewhat vulnerable. The latter being important because in homes of cancer patients it is important for families to be able to ask for help if they need it, which requires some vulnerability.

They then went on to talk about ways to become more creative. First when trying to be creative you should work with someone you trust, because in order to have good ideas you need to be able to have bad ideas without being harshly criticized and discouraged by the people you are working with. Then take walks and talk through problems with partners. Seek balance and focus of the learner. Decide what the objectives are so you can decide how to meet them. Then ask questions about the objectives in order to reinforce them. Always make sure that all activities leads to one of the objectives.

They emphasized that to be creative you can't be afraid, but that not entertaining fear does not mean that you should disregard common rules of human interaction. Have no fear but be respectful and tasteful. NEVER do anything that will humiliate anyone.

They also discussed how to come up with funding, different grants, how to get them, how long they last etc. And we discussed issues with funding, how you can never bank on any funding you apply for, you must consistently apply for funding for the future.

The take home message of this talk was nothing is perfect, be willing to fail and keep trying, be willing to keep changing and be innovative.


  1. How do you know the cultural boundaries of the places you are going to so that you know how to avoid cultural insensitivity/misunderstanding?
  2. How do you communicate effectively the information people need to go without going over their heads? How do you know what level the audience is at?
  3. How can you focus on the learner in a large group?