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This Department's Contents
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  Robert Buckingham
A public health career - fully lived
Robert Buckingham develops hospices, studies HIV/AIDS

The greatest tragedy in life is not that we are going to die, says Robert Buckingham. “The greatest tragedy is a life not fully lived.”

The epidemiologist and professor of health science in New Mexico State University’s College of Health and Social Services helped found the first hospice in the U.S., has written 17 books, and has traveled the world educating various populations about public health.

When Buckingham was a student at the Yale School of Medicine in the early 1970s, his mother died of cancer. The dean of the Yale School of Nursing asked Buckingham to write a grant to bring a prototype hospice to Yale. He wrote the proposal in 1973, it was funded in 1974, and the U.S. had its first hospice. This occurred a handful of years after the first hospice in the world, St. Christopher’s in London, was founded by Cecily Saunders in 1969.

Buckingham helped develop 81 hospices worldwide, not only in the U.S. and Britain, but also in Canada, Cuba, Russia, France and Thailand, which also has a pediatric hospice for children with AIDS. Now there are 3,000 hospices throughout the world.

There’s still room for more, Buckingham said, adding that South America is next and that he would like to introduce the concept of hospice care to Indonesia and the Middle East, too.

Developing hospices throughout the world is only one of Buckingham’s many accomplishments. He recently returned from a one-year sabbatical in Thailand, where he studied condom usage and the spread of HIV/AIDS among female sex workers in a country in which prostitution is not legal, but accepted. Prostitutes in Thailand are unionized and have a less than five percent infection rate.

Buckingham would like to apply the knowledge learned in Bangkok, Chang Mai, Mae Hong Son and other Thai cities and villages to female prostitutes in southern New Mexico and the El Paso/Juarez area. Buckingham will lead a research team in surveying between 150 and 250 female sex workers between the ages of 18 and 28 in Ciudad Juarez and maybe Palomas, Mexico. The team will work with a hospital that has access to the women, Buckingham said, and will try to finish its data collection by April or May 2006.

Buckingham also has been invited to study condom usage and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nicaragua.

The same humanitarian philosophy that motivated his pioneering hospice work also guides his latest research.

“It does not matter if a person has cancer and is in hospice care or is a commercial sex worker. A life not fully lived is an unfulfilled life.”

To help ensure the fullness of his own life, Buckingham occasionally asks himself three questions that, on the surface, may seem simple. Who am I? What do I want from life? Where do I want to go? These are static questions but the answers change, he said.

“When we’re 25, we answer these questions differently from when we’re 35. When we’re 35, our answers will be different from when we’re 45. The answers we give at age 55 will be different, too. And on and on. It’s important that we periodically ask – and answer – these questions. These important guidelines can help us live life to its fullest extent.”

He admits he is now in the twilight of his career in higher education and when this chapter has concluded, he will continue writing books and traveling. Most importantly, he will continue living life to the fullest.

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  Barbara Chamberlin
The game master

Barbara Chamberlin taps Growning interest in educational computer games

New Mexico moms and dads who worry their kids are wasting their lives parked in front of a video game console can take heart. A research program focusing on educational computer games is being developed at NMSU and pushing the boundaries of finding fun and entertaining ways to deliver information to children.

Branching out from fantasy lands into real-world problems, Barbara Chamberlin, an educational media and instructional technology specialist with NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service, is leading a team working on games that explore new ways to foster productive scholarship.

“Barbara is the heart of NMSU’s progress in game development,” said Rebecca Kongs, chairman of Dona Ana Community College’s Digital Imaging and Design Department.

Computer games and console-based video games are important teaching tools. They often incorporate sophisticated learning principles. Some improve literacy and problem-solving, while their collaborative nature promotes teamwork.

“Kids play games,” Chamberlin said. “We think there’s a way to weave learning opportunities into that play. The types of games we’re developing teach specific content.”

Among Chamberlin’s latest projects is an interdisciplinary effort with NMSU’s College of Education and mathematical sciences department, developing math learning games using the popular Apple iPod. “We’ll be spending the next five years developing new games with math content that will help middle schoolers spend more time thinking, learning and practicing math.”

To test new games, Chamberlin opened a video game research center in Knox Hall on the western edge of campus. The facility features an arcade-like setting – including portable devices and video gaming systems such as Playstation and Nintendo, along with PC and Internet gaming consoles.

“We’ve been doing game development at NMSU for 17 years,” Chamberlin said. “This new lab allows us to expand our interdisciplinary programs to other departments, as well as focus on the research aspects of game development.”

Chamberlin honed her research skills at the University of Virginia, where she earned a doctorate in instructional technology. Her dissertation documented learning on a Webbased game for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site. The site, titled “The Food Detectives Fight BAC,” features games that teach 9- to 11-year-old students how to avoid food borne illness as they prepare snacks, reheat leftovers and help in the kitchen.

So popular is the game that it’s been released on compact disc in both English and Spanish. So far, some 30,000 versions of the CD have been distributed nationwide.

Jeanne Gleason, head of NMSU’s communications’ production division, said Chamberlin has a passion for her work. “She’s developed highly successful protocols for gleaning valuable insights into how and why kids and adults enjoy all types of games,” she said.

Born and raised in Albuquerque, Chamberlin holds a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a master’s in agricultural and extension education, both from NMSU. She lives in Las Cruces with husband, multimedia developer John “C.C.” Chamberlin, and their 18-monthold son, Alexander.

Chamberlin also has public-speaking talents, working as a conference speaker and professional stand-up comedian. “I really owe much of my comic material to NMSU, particularly my first defensive state driving course,” she said. “The manual was simply hilarious.”
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