2018 General Council Breakout Sessions

General Council attendees were given the opportunity to choose between a variety of breakout sessions to attend on Friday, March 23. The Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) is grateful to all the presenters who were able to attend and provide interesting information to our members. For those members who are interested in what delegates learned, UPEA has compiled a recap from each breakout session below.

Displaying the Flag in the 21st Century

John M. Hartvigsen, a representative of the Colonial Flag Company and Foundation, gave a presentation about the proper way to display a U.S. flag. Each delegate also received a flag to display at their homes.

Hartvigsen, a flag historian, was part of the team that worked with former Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, to get the Utah state flag corrected in 2011.

In 1922, he said, Dolly McMonegal made a finely embroidered copy of the flag for the state at a time when flags were mostly handmade. McMonegal either made the shield too small or the word “Utah” too big, leaving no room on the shield for the correct year the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. She put the year beneath the shield, even though the law required it to be on the shield, and no one ever corrected the mistake.

The state flag also was corrected to return it to the original 1913 color scheme—a white background on the flag’s shield instead of blue.

Hartvigsen explained that many misunderstand the significance of the artwork on the Utah flag, thinking it represents the three branches of government. Through his studies, he has found that the artwork reflects the many years and struggle for statehood that Utah endured, and the flag is a statement of pride, displaying the bald eagle and U.S. flag. The date 1847 represents the year the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, while the 1896 represents the year that Utah was admitted as the 45th state.

Behind the Scenes of the Public Health Lab

Speakers from four different departments in the Utah Public Health Lab offered UPEA delegates their insights on the important roles the lab plays in testing and analyzing substances. Each department contributes something unique to benefit the state’s health.

The Chemical and Environmental Services Laboratory focuses on three program areas: environmental testing, chemical threat response, and biomonitoring. It tests drinking water, lakes and rivers, and clinical samples. The chemical threat team assists with analytical services and responses to chemical emergencies.

The Forensic Toxicology Laboratory works with law enforcement agencies to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs in cases involving driving under the influence, automobile homicides, and other crimes. This lab can determine the presence of substances by analyzing body fluids and tissues. Medical examiners use toxicology results to determine the cause and manner of death. Toxicology staff members conduct analyses, issue reports on their findings, and provide court testimony to interpret the test results.

The Infectious Disease Laboratory helps he state and local health departments investigate and test for outbreaks of infectious disease. Employees also have training and equipment for identifying agents used as biological weapons. This department serves as a resource and reference to private laboratories in the state.

Newborn Screenings are special blood tests done on each Utah newborn . If you have given birth in Utah, this department has helped protect your child. The screening is designed specifically to reduce the occurrence of diseases or conditions that alter health and quality of life and increase the risk of death due to certain metabolic, endocrine, and hematological disorders by identifying the disorder before the onset of symptoms. The presenters showed pictures of healthy-looking babies who were actually suffering from disorders that put their lives at risk.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp in your 50s, 60s, and Beyond

Kevin Duff, PhD, presented, “Keeping Your Mind Sharp in Your 50s and 60s and Beyond.” Duff conducts research in clinical neuropsychology, aging, and dementia. His primary areas of interest include longitudinal cognitive assessment, practice effects as an indicator of cognitive plasticity, neuropsychological test measures, training to improve cognitive deficits in later life, cognitive decline in normal aging, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and dementia.

Duff explained that as we age, our hippocampus begins to shrink. This is where our brains store memories. As it shrinks, we become unable to recall things that we should, he said. In addition, as we age, our brains become less active, you we work less, have fewer problems to solve, and generally just use our brains less.  The combination of these things has increased the prevalence of dementia, Duff said. Currently, about 30 percent of people older than 80 will experience some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, affecting about 35 percent of dementia patients.

Everyone worries about dementia, whether it is our own, a family member’s, or a friend’s. Luckily, we can do many things to maintain or improve our brain function. Here are a few that Duff recommended:

  • Take a walk
    • Aerobic exercise has been proven to actually increase the size of the hippocampus, improving memory.
  • Get social
    • Whether it is with a spouse, family members, or friends, social activity has been shown to decrease memory deterioration.
  • Dance:
    • Dancers, even amateur dancers, have better cognition, reaction time, and motor performance.

These are just a few of the examples Duff provided during his presentation. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, please contact the University of Utah Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research.

Compassion: Self-Care for the Working Professional

Sharon Cook, MC, LVRC, CRC, presented “Compassion: Self-Care for the Working Professional.” Cook, herself a state employee, understands the many stressors that develop at work. The one she emphasized during her presentation was  “compassion fatigue.”  She quoted C. Figley’s definition of compassion fatigue as, “The emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from consequences of traumatic events.”

Employees can develop compassion fatigue when working with coworkers, supervisors, and especially clients with personal trauma. It can occur after one specific circumstance or after cumulative trauma. Symptoms of compassion fatigue include depression, impaired judgment, loss of morale, and decreases in cognitive ability. Sometimes people confuse compassion fatigue with burnout, but there is a difference. Burnout occurs when an individual is emotionally exhausted and withdrawn due to workload, high turnover, and diminished interest.

Cook stated that compassion fatigue has a faster recovery time if recognized and treated early. She encouraged everyone to follow the ABCs of prevention:

  • Awareness
    • The ability to identify what could be compassion fatigue in your life.
    • Is your ability to function interfered with or altered? Regularly waking up tired in the morning? Becoming easily frustrated?
  • Balance
    • Nurture yourself by doing activities that you enjoy.
    • Allow yourself to take “mini-escapes.”
    • Seek professional help.
  • Connections
    • Talk through your stress.
    • Build a support system.

Her final piece of advice is to find compassion satisfaction by taking gratification from care-giving. Cook encourages everyone to find satisfaction in their work and in their lives. If you’d like to see this presentation and learn more about compassion fatigue, contact Sharon Cook at sharoncook@utah.gov.

Utah State Parks System Adds its 44th Park

Eugene Swalberg from the Department of Natural Resources presented, “What’s Up at Your State Parks?” Swalberg ­­began with the exciting news that a new state park is in development and will be added to the current 43 state parks to bring the total up to 44.

Echo Reservoir in Summit County will open this spring.

He explained the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and Utah Department of Natural Resources all have different responsibilities in making our state a great outdoors place that everyone can enjoy and visit. Prices vary at each state park, and they can change depending on time of week.

Utah’s Department of Natural Resources is in charge of Utah’s state parks. They embody the slogan, “go and do.” Utah’s state parks provide many opportunities for adventure. These activities include various forms of camping (tents, recreational vehicles, cabins, yurts, teepees, hammocks), hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding, ATVs, a zip line (Deer Creek), an archery range (Starvation), and golf courses (Palisades, Green River, Wasatch Mountain, Soldier Hollow). Twenty-four state parks have boating access and 18 state parks are off-highway vehicle (OHV) friendly.

The presentation also provided a section on safety. The state parks advertise safety initiatives to promote the wearing of helmets and life jackets, explaining, “no one is invincible.”


For any members who are interested in having one of these presenters come to an event, contact Angie Mann at angie@upea.net.

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