Lauren Bavis

Reporter, Side Effects Public Media

Lauren a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis and the co-host of Sick, a podcast about what goes wrong in the places meant to keep us healthy. Lauren graduated from Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Indiana in 2012, where she began her career as a newspaper reporter. She reported on health and social services and was the digital projects and social media manager for the Bloomington Herald-Times. Her work has been recognized by the Indiana chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and Associated Press Media Editors, as well as the Hoosier State Press Association.  

Ways to Connect

In the early 1980s, Mary Ann Tellas was majoring in biology at Indiana University, and for the first time, she had a class taught by a Black professor.

As a young Black woman, Tellas says having a professor of her own race gave her the confidence to speak up in class and pursue a career in science. Now, she's a high school biology teacher in Indianapolis.

"I always felt as though, gosh, you know, there's nobody like me in my classes. Nobody looks like me," Tellas says. "I don't want to say it changed my life, but it did give me some perspective."

At a news conference on Aug. 26, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said it’s crucial for Hoosiers to participate in contact tracing.  

“So If you get a text or a phone call from the state department of health about an important public health matter, please answer the text, answer the call,” she said.  

Photo courtesy of Indiana University

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced Wednesday morning that its COVID-19 vaccine trial is on hold after a volunteer in the UK had an unexplained illness.

Photo courtesy of Indiana University

Update, Sept. 9, 2020: AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine trial is on hold. Read more.

The Indiana University School of Medicine announced it has been selected to participate in an international COVID-19 vaccine trial.  

Justin Hicks/IPB News

On a Friday evening in late June, Liliana Quintero received a call from one of the Spanish interpreters working at a COVID-19 testing site in Goshen, Indiana. The area has one of Indiana’s higher Latinx populations and higher rates of COVID-19 cases, according to state data.

“[He was] saying, ‘Liliana I need to inform you that the nurse who is in charge of this site just told me that each time that she sees Hispanics coming to this site, she's going to call the police,’” recalls Quintero, director of the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition, an Elkhart-based health education and advocacy nonprofit.

Credit Kristina Ortiz

Kristina Ortiz and Tim Himes aren’t brother and sister by blood, but they might as well be. They’ve never known life apart. Ortiz was six months old when her foster mother brought Himes home from the hospital.  

“I’m always there for you,” Himes said on a video call with Ortiz. 

Lauren Bavis | Side Effects Public Media

This story was updated on July 24, 2020 to include additional information on deaths in group homes.

One of the ways Mikaela Coppedge has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic has been through writing poetry. Her poem “The Fear That Is COVID-19," starts: 

“Since the coronavirus outbreak and then the quarantine beginning, life as we know has all somewhat gone to hell.” 

Coppedge has a rare brain disease called Rasmussen’s encephalitis. As a treatment, half her brain was removed when she was three years old.  

Photo courtesy of Brandon Duncan

Brandon Duncan describes himself as fearless. So when he first heard news reports about the novel coronavirus, the 30-year-old wasn’t afraid for himself. 

“I’m like, how is this going to affect Danny?” he says.

Treva Steele visited her father every day after he moved to Greenwood Healthcare Center in Greenwood, Indiana, in February. Joe Barton, who was 73, was recovering from open heart surgery and on a ventilator.   

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

With more states reopening, public health experts worried that COVID-19 would continue to spread. Those concerns have been compounded recently as large crowds gathered to protest police brutality and killings of black Americans. 

Side Effects Public Media’s Lauren Bavis spoke with Ogbonnaya Omenka, a professor of public health and health disparities at Butler University, about protesting during a pandemic.

Courtesy of Lenore Williams

This is part of Essential Voices, a series of interviews with people confronting COVID-19.

Nearly half of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care facilities. Twenty-three-year-old Aubrey Baker is a qualified medication aid at Wildwood Healthcare Center, a nursing facility in Indianapolis. Her mother, Lenore Williams, oversees the center. They spoke to reporter Lauren Bavis about how the virus has impacted their work, and how it hit close to home. 

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About 20 or so women were gathered for a late afternoon video conference. Some had glasses of wine, or cups of coffee. You could see pets in a few frames. It was March 26, when COVID-19 cases were beginning to ramp up in Indiana.

One of the women, Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, posed a question: Was anyone else feeling guilty? 

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Continuamos respondiendo a tus preguntas acerca del coronavirus y la COVID-19. Si tienes preguntas, envíanos un correo electrónico a health@wfyi.org, un texto con la palabra “salud” al 73224 o déjanos un mensaje de voz en el 317-429-0080.

¿Qué precauciones extra debe tomar mi obstetra y el hospital cuando tenga a mi bebe?

Courtesy of Marvin Miles

Marvin Miles got a call from his mother on March 27. She had started rehabilitation about a month earlier at Bethany Pointe Health Campus, a skilled nursing facility in Anderson, Indiana. They had spoken almost daily since then, but this call was concerning because it came at 1:35 a.m. 

“She was complaining about she couldn't breathe, and she had been pressing the nurses’ button for over an hour and no one would come in there,” Miles says.

Photo courtesy of Gabriel and Sarah Bosslet

This is part of Essential Voices, a series of interviews with people confronting COVID-19.

Physicians Gabriel and Sarah Bosslet have been married almost 20 years. Sarah was diagnosed early this year with breast cancer. Soon, the world began dealing with another health crisis: the coronavirus pandemic. 

Arianna Thompson of South Bend, Indiana, is pregnant with her first child, a girl she's naming Heaven Noelle.
Courtesy of Arianna Thompson

Arianna Thompson had big plans for her pregnancy. A photoshoot. Two baby showers – one in South Bend, Indiana, where she lives, and one with family in Chicago. 

Everything has been cancelled. 

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We're continuing to answer questions about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. If you have a question, email health@wfyi.org, text “health” to 73224 or leave a voicemail at 317-429-0080.

Stickers on the floor of a Kroger in Bloomington, Indiana, show how far apart customers should stand in checkout lines.
Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media

These days, a familiar place – the grocery store – looks very different. They remain open as essential businesses, even as other stores close. But they’re making accommodations to keep the new coronavirus from spreading. 

When Heather Woock was in her late 20s, she started researching her family history. As part of the project she spit into a tube and sent it to Ancestry, a consumer DNA testing service. Then in 2017, she started getting messages about the results from people who said they could be half-siblings.

"I immediately called my mom and said, 'Mom, is it possible that I have random siblings out there somewhere?'" Woock says. She remembers her mom responded, "No, why? That's ridiculous."

Most people knew James Strain as “Butch.” Dr. Cynthia Meneghini called him “Dad." She remembers him as a handyman who could fix anything. When she moved to a new house, he painted it top to bottom, despite feeling pain in his ribs.

Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media

Kazito Kalima was 14 at the start of the Rwandan genocide. Over just a few months in 1994, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi people in his country were killed, including most of his family.

The opioid epidemic has ravaged cities across the United States. And just a couple of years ago, Dayton, Ohio, had one of the nation’s worst overdose death rates. Now, overdose deaths have decreased, and Ohioans impacted by addiction are sharing stories of hope.

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Some doctors see access to birth control as a tool in the fight to decrease maternal and infant mortality. Indiana has one of the nation’s worst rates of new mothers and infants dying, and those rates are even worse for black women.

But a history of abuse has led to distrust of health care professionals in communities of color. 

Daniel Reche/Pixabay

In another step to lower its high maternal death rate, Indiana has joined the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health.

The alliance is a national group of public health organizations and hospitals that works to reduce poor birth outcomes. It analyzes hospital data and provides training materials on addressing health complications during pregnancy.

Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media

Melody Lynch-Kimery had a fairly routine pregnancy. But when she got to the hospital for delivery, she says things quickly turned dangerous.

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