The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research has survived and even thrived for 15 years without either Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) or University of British Columbia (UBC) support; VCHRI and UBC are the two institutions that benefit materially and in reputation from CeMCOR’s work. Given that CeMCOR is a (largely) women’s research and educational venture, perhaps we should be grateful that the powers that be have let us exist for this long.
CeMCOR’s 15-year academic achievements, despite our small size and minimal funding, are substantial. See CeMCOR’s important, published concept-changing accomplishments here. CeMCOR has etched the non-fertility/non-reproductive organ lifelong importance of women’s premenopausal ovulatory menstrual cycles into the awareness of Science and of “ordinary” women. Ovulatory cycles are necessary for the prevention of osteoporosis, early heart attacks and breast/endometrial cancers.
During 2017, we have spent considerable effort reaching out. Dr. Prior went to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in March for the launch of the second edition of the Brazilian translation of Estrogen’s Storm Season. CeMCOR has also created new editions of our innovative fictional/educational perimenopause books in English and Portuguese (Brazil) Estrogen’s Storm Season. The English second edition is now available as an ebook through Amazon Kindle and Google Play. The empowering message of these books is: “you, too, can survive highly symptomatic perimenopause if you know you’re not alone, learn from other women’s experiences, know what changes occur and have appropriate support.”
We have additionally been reaching out for the support CeMCOR needs (<$75,000/year for infrastructure and a new Endocrinology academic leader) to continue beyond 2018 and the inevitable soon retirement of Dr. Jerilynn Prior (who is now 74). CeMCOR needs to be maintained as a vibrant woman’s health research and evidence-based information source for women. We are sharing a story, “The Parable of Cebylla and Mack”, that illustrates the culturally sanctioned, likely unconscious barriers to women’s creativity and initiative that are present in today’s “egalitarian” medical and social world.
The Parable of Cebylla and Mack
Jerilynn C. Prior BA, MD, FRCPC
Cebylla was a diligent, rather quiet teenager who worked after school and on weekends in her family’s corner grocery store that her 10 years older brother, Mack, ran. She did well in high school biology (but not chemistry) and even better in English and dreamed of becoming a doctor. Although Cebylla was shy, she was well-liked and had a lot of buddies in her gymnastics programme. She started a vibrant book club at her local community centre, went to a writing group on her one weekend off a month plus also often volunteering at the food bank. Since her family had moved many times, she also regularly texted friends and mentors around the world.
The family had agreed that by high school, children working in their store would earn $5.00 an hour and this would increase to $15.00/hour when they’d worked 20 hours or more a week for more than two years. Cebylla had been working four hours/night after school and eight hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays for three of four weekends a month now for almost four years. Cebylla directly deposited her income into her savings account to fund her future education.
Cebylla checked her bank balance to see what she could afford for family Christmas presents; she was surprised at the lowness of her balance. She confirmed the account was still earning the expected interest. She checked back records and saw that once a month, for the last 10 months, $250.00 had been removed from her account. She asked to speak to a manager. Cebylla learned that her account, perhaps because it was opened when she was still in grade school, was in both her name and Mack’s. He had authorized the transfer from her account into his. She tried to remove his name from her account but was told that she’d need Mack’s signature.
When Cebylla got off work she tried to talk with Mack. He was playing hockey. That next evening, the next day and an evening later in the week she again tried to talk with him. Eventually she cornered him in the kitchen; he looked away and muttered something about he had always helped her and had her back. “But” she cried in frustration “I earned that money. It belongs to me.” He responded, “We’re in the same family; I helped you learn to work at the store when you were little and got you that bank account. Plus I’m doing lots more than you. You don’t really need it since you’re still in school, your income is too low to really matter; plus you still live at home. . . .” and he dashed off.
Cebylla got the form for removal of Mack’s name from her account and asked him to sign it. She reminded him that he also still lived at home. She’d see him at breakfast or on the weekend and set up a time to talk with him. Each time, although he’d agreed, something came up at the last moment and he wasn’t there.
Cebylla was increasingly upset. She told her younger brothers and sister; they said she had to talk with Mack. She began to resent the 36 hours a week she was working. Her school work began to suffer. Cebylla started to have trouble sleeping. Her gymnastic exercises and performance were no longer much fun. Eventually Mrs. Belcher, school librarian, asked her what was the matter. . . ? Cebylla explained everything to her. “That’s not fair. It makes Mack’s work and goals more important than yours.”
Cebylla went tearfully to her mother, explaining the situation and asking that she speak with Mack on her behalf. “Don’t you agree that it isn’t fair?” she asked in frustration. Mother agreed to talk with Mack. But later when Cebylla asked her how it went, she explained that he had been home but Mack just kept talking about a motorcycle he really wanted to buy. She really didn’t have a chance to raise Cebylla’s issue. . . .
When she talked with her father, who’d retired from the store only in the last year, he said that Mack was a budding businessman and she should be happy to assist him. “What’s good for Mack is good for all of us.”
In extreme frustration, although it felt disloyal, Cebylla began to talk with her friends and her teachers about her situation. She texted her local and far-away friends/mentors asking them to write to Mack saying from their perspective why it was important for Cebylla to be fairly paid and that she had important potential and needed money to pay for further education. Cebylla’s conscientious work benefitted him and the whole family. Mack received 40 letters from Cebylla’s friends and mentors and teachers over that next summer.
Finally Mack agreed to and actually met with Cebylla. He said that the store was struggling to make ends meet, his work was important and that she was too poor as a student to deserve the entire good wage he paid her. And “No” he couldn’t promise to support her future education. He gave her $50.00 then and said he’d give her $50.00 the next month if she asked nicely. Then he told her to get back to her studies.
In this Parable, Cebylla is the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR). The money that Mack (Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) takes from the bank account is from the Canadian Federal Treasury and designated for supporting university research. That tax-payer research money goes initially to the University of British Columbia (Cebylla’s mother). It is about 17% of the value of every CeMCOR-earned research grant from the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR, about $150,000/year over the last 15 years). Some of that then goes on to VCHRI (=Mack) with which CeMCOR, without a choice, is affiliated.
VCHRI has twice refused to allow CeMCOR to be designated as a “Program” that would qualify it to be allotted some of the Federal infrastructure money. The reason: CeMCORlacks $1M/year in infrastructure funding. Nor does VCHRI return to CeMCOR even a part of the taxpayer money CeMCOR earns from CIHR grants because CeMCOR is too poor to deserve it.
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA, Cebylla’s father) that includes the Vancouver General Hospital, is supporting the right of VCHRI (Mack) to take the Canadian taxpayer funds for research infrastructure and to set economic (rather than research productivity) criteria for eligibility to become a Program. Both UBC and VCHA have de facto condoned VCHRI’s criteria without ensuring transparency, research productivity requirements, or equitable sex/gender/economic distribution of research funds to support research innovation and knowledge translation.
Meanwhile CeMCOR cannot meet that arbitrary $1 M economic requirement because it would necessitate doing drug company-funded trials or taking for-profit money in return for direction of research. Although these commercial medical research relationships are now common, entering them would destroy women’s trust in CeMCOR’s research. CeMCOR is treated as inferior and not deserving of support because it needs relatively little infrastructure money and what it has is donor-funded; it is also unworthy because it focusses on health issues unique to or most important for females. CeMCOR’s knowledge translation and discovery of results that matter to women are not considered important since these new data are by and for women rather than by and for men. Thus CeMCOR, like Cebylla, is currently suffering from economic, sex and gender discrimination.