The Deep Tweet

Who am I?  A number of people wanted to know…. During the same week I was asked for a 1-page professional bio for a website, and  a 1-paragraph blurb to submit with a sample chapter of my novel.  I was also setting up a twitter account, and was appalled to learn that I  had just 140 characters to define myself.

The professional bio (see photo at left) was relatively easy. The template is straightforward, the content is chronological, and you are encouraged to leave out the noise.  Here is what I came up with:

Lori DiPrete Brown joined the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 2003.  Since that time she has played a leadership role in developing and sustaining global health programs, including Graduate and Undergraduate Certificates in Global Health, and a new campus-wide service-learning initiative, Wisconsin Without Borders.  She co-directs core graduate and undergraduate courses in global public health, as well as electives related to quality improvement in low-income countries, and the health and human rights of children. She advises advanced students on independent global public health field study, and is engaged in field courses in Mexico and Ecuador. She also leads the quality improvement component of UW’s emergency medicine partnership in Ethiopia.  As an advisor to PEPFAR and USAID, she has developed standards and strategies for meeting the needs of AIDS orphans. This effort took her to Ethiopia and Tanzania to engage with national leaders from 14 countries where the programs are being implemented.  Currently she is facilitating a UW research circle (FACES) that will further explore rights-based, whole of government strategies to improve the health and well being of highly vulnerable children around the world.

 A native of Rhode Island, DiPrete Brown received a BA from Yale in 1983, served in the US Peace Corps in Honduras from 1983 to 1985, and then pursued interdisciplinary graduate work at Harvard, earning an MS in Public Health (1988), with a focus on global health, and an MTS in Theological Studies (1988) with a focus on comparative religion and faith-based movements for social change. She was a founding member of the Harvard Health and Human Rights group, and carried out related research in Nicaragua.  After graduating she continued as a Research Associate at the Harvard Institute for International Development, where she conducted health services research in Costa Rica and Cameroon until 1990.

 From 1990 to 2003 DiPrete Brown served as a researcher and Deputy Director for USAID’s Quality Assurance Project, collaborating with international organizations such as USAID, the Pan American Health Organization, Save the Children, CARE, and the Aga Khan Foundation.  During this period she led health care quality improvement efforts and contributed to health system strengthening in 13 countries.  Her most notable achievements include leading a collaboration to develop a national quality assurance program in Chile, overseeing a multi-country research effort on patient-provider communication in (Honduras, Trinidad, and Egypt), applying methods from QI in health care to water and sanitation programs in Guatemala, and developing prototype methods and networks for use in quality assurance and implementation science efforts.  She also contributed two volumes to the Aga Khan Foundation Management Advancement Program Series, which was widely used in Pakistan and Bangladesh.  In 2003 she led a regional policy study for PAHO, which explored the role of quality assurance in health sector reform.

Lori values the opportunity to work with UW-Madison students.  She defines global health broadly, taking into account root determinants of suffering and well-being such as access to food, water, health care, education, a peaceful existence, an opportunity to live in a sustainable and harmonious relationship to the natural environment, and realization of political, civil and cultural rights.  

Now this is pretty sound as a career summary (although admittedly some things have “taken shape” in hindsight), but as an identity there are some serious gaps.  There is no mention of food or sleep or song.  It appears that I had an unproductive spell between 1996 and 2000, when I was raising three toddlers, working hard, living life fully, but accomplishing nothing that could be added to a resume.  It would have been bad form to mention that I am a failed novelist, or that I am afraid of flying.  It gives no clue that I have a bad sense of direction (which would be useful and practical information for those who travel with me or ride in my carpool) but am excellent at mental arithmetic (annoys some people anyway). There is no sign that I have a sense of humor, or that I am a good cook and an avid reader.

To be honest, I think the bio of the author that I would like to be makes me appear more interesting, daring, and accomplished than I really am.  But in some ways, it says more about what is important to me, and in fewer words.

Lori DiPrete Brown served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras, where she worked in a home for orphaned and abandoned teenage girls. Her experiences accompanying the girls in her care on the journey to find their birth mothers provided the inspiration for this novel. She is a graduate of Yale, and holds graduate degrees in public health and theology from Harvard. She studied writing at Yale, and at the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival. Currently, she teaches global health at the University of Wisconsin, leads international field experiences for students, and consults with international organizations on improving care for AIDS orphans.  She has published articles and monographs in peer-reviewed public health journals, as well as a creative non-fiction essay entitled “Nicaragua: Excerpts from a Journal,” which describes her experiences as a researcher in a war zone in Nicaragua (Sojourner, 1988). She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three children, and is a Benedictine Oblate of the Holy Wisdom Monastery.  Her writing focuses on themes of spirituality, social justice and personal transformation.

 The  twitter byline was very short, yet it took me as long to come up with as the other two!  I finally settled on this provisory definition of myself:

Writer teacher learner mentor mother wife daughter sister friend and seeker, with the well-being of the world’s children as my life compass.”  

 I don’t think these identities are necessarily in the right order.  In fact, my priorities and roles change from day to day and with the seasons of life.  The life focus seems a bit myopic, too, but I am going to let it stand for now.  With just 22 words it is easy to cut, paste, edit  and retweet as needed.

Looking over these three bios, I am surprised to find that it is the deep tweet that rings most true for me. It gives people enough information to decide if they want to follow me for a bit, or if they want to allow me to follow them.  It reminds me of all the ways I want to be in the world.  Maybe that is really all that is needed.