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12.29.22 | Sage Advice

2022: A Year in Review

2022 was a year of growth for Sage Collective as we continued evolving and celebrating exciting milestones. Today, we’re reflecting on the past year and sharing our proudest achievements:

Vibrant Learning Program

Throughout 2022, we were able to continue strengthening our close relationship with Chicago Commons, another long-standing trailblazer for change in the community. Building upon our past work, we excitedly launched our Vibrant Learning Program with Chicago Commons Adult Day Services in late February, which continues to be a resounding success. 

For the past eight months, our team has had the privilege to get to know program participants and help grow their understanding of everything from new technology to different cultures. Learning themes touched on traditions, storytelling, family connection and freedom, and engaging activities included armchair travel and digital painting. 

Expanding Our Team

Along with the launch of our programming, we warmly welcomed new team members throughout the year. Leading the Vibrant Living Program, DeShunn Bray brought with her an impressive passion for forming rich connections with others and making a significant impact on the communities in which she interacts as our Manager of Programming and Community Engagement. Her amazing energy is something both our team and the participants in our Vibrant Living Program cherish. 

We also welcomed Camille Love as one of our newest Board Members. The transition of long-time member Angela Higginbotham from our Board created such an opportunity for Camille and added to the related expertise of Sage Collective as it pursues ways of encouraging the adoption of healthier lifestyle choices among older adults in underserved communities. 

We can’t wait to continue sharing this journey with you and see what 2023 brings!

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09.29.22 | Sage Advice

Travel the World From The Comfort of Your Home

Traveling is one of the best ways to experience new cultures and hear from other walks of life. However, because of the global pandemic, many of us haven’t had the opportunity to continue checking off bucket list locations in a few years. And although there’s nothing like stepping into a new place, new travel-like opportunities are beginning to emerge, including armchair travel.

What is Armchair Travel?

Have you ever wanted to visit a different country from the comfort of your home? Well, now you can! Armchair travel provides a sensory experience to those looking to learn about a location without going through the hassle of actually traveling. The virtual activity invokes everything from local sights and smells to mindsets and cultural conventions. 

We’ve had the pleasure of embracing the value behind armchair traveling in our Vibrant Learning Program at Chicago Commons. With the help of DeShunn Bray, our Manager of Programming and Community Engagement, participants in our Vibrant Learning Program have had the opportunity to experience everything from an African safari to a trip to Germany and Columbia. 

Participants of our Vibrant Learning Program at Chicago Commons participating in armchair travel

How to Participate 

Becoming an armchair traveler is easier than it sounds, thanks to the do-it-yourself element of the activity. Start by considering if you’d rather travel alone or gather a group of family or friends to accompany you on your journey; traveling with a group tends to spark more engaging conversations and perspectives after the activity. 

Once you’ve decided who you’re traveling with, make a list of general themes and ideas for your travels. These can include everything, from national parks and landmarks to the location of famous events or your favorite movie. Once you’ve created your list, search for resources to assist you in your travels. If you’re tech-savvy, head to YouTube or take a stroll to your local library to find even more free films and videos. Once you’ve found a video accompaniment, pair your trip with a craft activity and serve a local delicacy to complete the experience! 

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your armchair trip now!

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08.25.22 | Sage Advice

Introducing Our Newest Team Member, DeShunn Bray

With an impressive passion for forming rich connections with others and making significant impact on the communities in which she interacts, DeShunn Bray has always been a catalyst in her field. From working as the former site manager at Willa Rawls Manor to various security and programming roles, her extensive experience and radiating energy made her the perfect candidate to lead our Vibrant Learning Program at Chicago Commons. We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce DeShunn as the newest addition to the Sage Collective team. Get to know DeShunn in her introduction below: 

Can you talk a little bit about your professional background and how it has made you an expert in your field?

I have over 20 years of experience working with seniors and managing senior properties. I’m also a certified manager of senior housing, so with that has come other responsibilities of managing and securing properties. Not only was I managing one-on-one meetings with clients, but I also had a chance to discover their needs. One of my key responsibilities was making sure that everyone has a healthy, clean environment that helps them live more independently. So as a result, I was also responsible for helping provide services that would enhance their living space and every aspect of their quality of life.

What is your role with Sage Collective and our pilot program at Chicago Commons?

My title is Manager of Programming and Community Engagement. So when I walk into an assisted living program, or any program that deals with housing or providing a service with senior citizens, I make sure I come in with my “arsenal” — some excellent references and connections to vibrant living. I ensure that Sage Collective has the resources to carry out the different programs that we provide, including putting together an outline to touch on themes such as health, wellness, culture and arts. 

By tapping into that good vibe that we possess at Sage Collective, I also help our participants believe that life hasn’t ended and that every day is a great day. So when our participants’ family and friends see them thriving, it’s a way for them to say, “This is what I still like to do. I’m just a little older, but I am still the same person.’’ Through the programing, participants gain the ability to say with assurance what they need and I’m elated to provide them with that type of confidence and language they need to be able to communicate better with everyone. 

You’re also doing grassroots outreach throughout the community. How meaningful is this type of outreach for organizations like Sage Collective?

Well, you can talk about it, but our thing is to be about it. We have to go out in the field and connect with people on their level, sit down, have a conversation with them, have a conversation with the community, and say, “This is what we need in our community.” So connecting with the public, the Aldermen, builders, and even larger corporations allows Sage Collective to advance our service to others that may be in real need of tackling isolation and depression. If we come in and show them the type of programming we’re doing, we could get funding. And so connecting with different organizations and bringing those resources to the community, where there are underserved seniors or disabled communities is key to what we should and will be doing.

It’s very fulfilling work to walk out of the door and have a purpose. And that’s one of the things that we at Sage Collective make sure people understand — that they do have a purpose in life —  and it should extend beyond what the nation is saying or thinking.

Speaking of purpose and along the lines of Sage Collectives beliefs and values, what unique values held by Sage Collective drew you to work for them?

The fact that Sage Collective has implemented a new way of thinking. Humans have to constantly think differently to allow themselves to change. I can go to YouTube now, and I can download two-minute workouts, 15-minute workouts, and 20-minute workouts and Sage Collective helps put those resources out there so that seniors can know that they don’t always have to tap into their budget and do something expensive to improve their health. Why wouldn’t someone want to be a part of an organization that’s not trying to buy them, not trying to make them spend a whole lot of money to improve their lifestyle, to improve their health, to help connect them with others?

What are you most looking forward to most as a new member of Sage Collective’s team? What do you hope to accomplish in your time ahead?

Making change leaves a legacy. So it’s a great feeling coming on board with a team that shares the same beliefs that I have and takes them to the next level. Even though I am living with the purpose of securing myself and others, I’m also changing the way people look at their futures. And there’s not a lot of people preaching that or teaching that. And I love the concept of being that person that can walk through the door and make you smile and laugh. 

One woman in the Vibrant Living Program made me smile last week when she told me that I had brought out a feeling she had been missing because she was listening to blues music and remembering their younger years. So I think knowing that somebody cares, and then incorporating their feelings into the next lesson, into the next program, into the next adventure, who doesn’t want to be a part of that? So I see myself being that person, taking the time to understand my clients, and then being right there on the level with them. And as far as Sage Collective, as long as they’re in business, I want to be there.

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04.21.22 | Sage Advice

Creative vs. Critical Thinking

At Sage Collective, we champion our inspired model of 9 Ways of Vibrant living, and encourage everyone to discover new methods to help better their wellbeing. Today, we’re taking you back to Psych 101 to talk about the key differences between critical and creative thinking, why they’re both important, and ways you can practice both in your life to help you live more vibrantly: 

What Are Creative and Critical Thinking?

Understanding the difference between critical and creative thinking can be broken down simply this way: creative thinking is approaching problems or situations in new ways and with a new perspective, whereas critical thinking is using logic to analyze a situation in order to make an informed decision. Essentially, creative thinking is more subjective (influenced by feelings) whereas critical thinking is more objective (influenced by logic). Both are important when decision-making, so let’s explore some of the reasons why. 

Why Are They Important?

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, creativity – particularly for adults – can lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle. The same rings true for thinking creatively! Brainstorming new solutions and exploring new ideas are imperative for older adults because it helps provide a sense of self that is innovative and capable. The goal with creative thinking is to have an open mind and to approach situations with diverse perspectives. As for critical thinking, it’s equally important to approach situations constructively and logically, but it is the synergy of both thinking patterns working together that makes us great problem solvers. 

How to Improve Creative and Critical Thinking Skills:

To improve critical thinking skills, when you’re problem-solving, make a list of facts and then cause and effects. This will help you logically analyze outcomes, and come to a decision that way. To think more creatively, try asking yourself: what other considerations are there in this situation? What perspective could I be missing? An easy way to practice this is by brainstorming with another person– hearing a different perspective may inspire you to think of others as well, and is great practice for when you’re alone.

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02.10.22 | Sage Advice

5 Podcasts to Help You Start the Year off Great

With the new year comes a plethora of rich podcasts for audiences to dive into. As our Vibrant Learning Program with Chicago Commons continues to explore the affordances of modern technology, we wanted to share a few tips of our own. Last autumn, we spotlighted five of our favorite podcasts at the time, and today, we’re spotlighting five more that are sure to bring you joy and an excess of knowledge throughout the year:

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brains

Hidden Brains prides itself on being “a conversation about life’s unseen patterns”. Each week, the stimulating show explores deep questions that lay at the heart of the changing world to help listenings not only better understand their surroundings but also themselves. Episodes range from discussions on the psychology of self-doubt, working from home, difficulties of apologizing and everything in between. Archived episodes of the beloved podcast can be found on NPR, and new episodes can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more. 

Reply All 

For some of us, the internet is an unexplored world and for others, it’s a comforting tool. And while those audiences seem distant, Reply All provides a perfect place for everyone – novice or expert – to listen and learn. The tech podcast does an amazing job of exploring stories involving complex technologies in accessible ways, explaining what they are talking about as they go. Previous episodes have included investigating online scams to the best accounts you should follow on various social media platforms. You can listen to Reply All on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more.  

Grief Cast

While a podcast all about the process of grief might not sound fun, Grief Cast explores themes hard to find anywhere else in the podcast world. Cariad Lloyd, the podcast’s host, brings a new comedian guest to the show each week, which helps transform the discussion into a dark comedy at times. Wandering through discussions of grief, loss, and the “weirdness that happens when someone passes”, Grief Cast is a perfect podcast for anyone looking to feel a little better during a hard time. You can listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more. 

How to Fail With Elizabeth Day

With so many podcasts filled with stories of success, it’s sometimes just nice to hear how some people’s failures led to a larger impact than their largest success. How to Fail With Elizabeth Day provides just that; Day shares her platform to interview a variety of guests on how their failures have shaped who they have become today. The inspiring, comforting and relatable podcast showcases just how when we think we’ve hit rock bottom, there is always a way up. You can find the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more. 

The Daily

Known as one of the most popular podcasts around, The Daily covers all you need to know about world news in less than 20 minutes. The New York Times produced podcast covers one in-depth news story each weekday. Michael Barbaro, journalist and the host of the show, provides listeners with the top story of the day paired with guests that include Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, other acclaimed journalists. The archived episodes are easy to explore for listeners, and there are many ways to listen, including on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Echo or simply from The New York Time’s Website.  

While podcasts may be an unknown area for many, the audio stories afford amazing resources, tools and manners of entertainment for both newcomers and natives alike. You can listen to each of the podcasts on their websites, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music or Google Podcasts. 

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06.10.21 | Sage Advice

Sage Collective Partner Spotlight: Chicago Commons

At Sage Collective, our name serves as an indicator of how we work. We’re a collective because what we do, we do together. As part of our holistic approach, we work with local social service organizations and health and wellness professionals to create a vibrant ecosystem where resources, ideas and successes are shared. Since the beginning of this new era in our development, Chicago Commons has been a key partner and collaborator. In celebration of that partnership, today’s spotlight highlights their organization’s own important mission and work.

Architectural drawing, "Chicago Commons," Pond and Pond architects
Architectural drawing, “Chicago Commons,” Pond and Pond architects

Deep Community Roots

Chicago Commons has been serving residents of their community for over 125 years. Founded in 1894 by Graham Taylor, a Minister and key social reformer in Chicago. Originally, Chicago Commons began as a settlement house serving immigrants on Chicago’s northwest side. Its model was inspired by progressive social reformer and activist Jane Addams’ own Hull House – the two houses even shared the same architect, Pond & Pond.

Traditionally, settlement houses provided services such as daycare, education, and healthcare, with the goal of bringing equity and social connectedness to their communities. They had brought one of the earliest kindergartens to Chicago in 1897, and also provided programs for individuals of all ages through clubs and classes, and an open-forum discussion platform for local community events.

Graham Taylor was succeeded in 1922 by his eldest daughter and long term settlement house resident, Lea Demarest Taylor, who carried on his legacy. Even when local calls for segregation began during the racial strife of the 1940s, Taylor resisted and stood adamant that the organization’s services and programs would continue to serve all races.

Two African American women embrace and smile. One is an adult and one is an older adult
Photo courtesy of Chicago Commons website

Chicago Commons Today

Today, Chicago Commons carries on the historic legacy of settlement houses and stands as a leading provider of early childhood education, family centered adult education, and senior services on the South and West sides of Chicago. Their mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to overcome poverty and systemic barriers, embrace opportunities, and thrive across generations.

Over the past 125+ years, their services (and reach) in Chicago have greatly expanded to include centers in Bucktown, Englewood, New City, West Humboldt Park, Back of the Yards, and of course, their headquarters in Bronzeville. 

During COVID-19, Chicago Commons has also partnered with leading health organizations and local institutions to bring informational, online events to their communities addressing common misconceptions and questions regarding the virus. Sage Collective was a proud partner in bringing one of these live Q&As to life – learn more about the past event here

You can also learn more about Chicago Commons, including how to get involved, on their website here

Chicago Commons logo
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04.15.21 | Sage Advice

Chicago Commons COVID-19 Live Q&A, Part 2

Sage Collective is thrilled to have recently partnered with Chicago Commons to bring a live, virtual Q&A event to their community of older adults. The purpose of the event was to address both facts and myths regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccination. 

The live Q&A session, which was part of Chicago Commons’ Adult Day Service (ADS) Program, featured questions from the audience, answered by Rear Admiral (Ret.) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC, with Monique Caradine serving as moderator.

You can read Part 1 of the Event Roundup here. In Part 2, Dr. Galloway tackles skepticism about the vaccine head on. With respect to the history of medical inequity in Black and Brown communities, and the distrust it has sowed, Dr. Galloway explains the safety of the vaccine and why it remains a critical solution to the ongoing pandemic.


MC: What would you say to those that are nervous about how quickly this vaccine was able to be developed? Usually, vaccine development takes several years, and this occurred over the course of just one year.

JG: Both Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA protein vaccines, and we’ve been working with this type of vaccine structure for decades. We already had a foundation in place before the need for this vaccination, so those developing the vaccine were able to rapidly ramp up the studies and production in a safe way with that knowledge already in place. 


MC: Another question that came in from an attendee: what if I decide not to get vaccinated? Some people are considering this option based on what they’ve heard about the potential severity of side effects from the vaccination. Can you speak to that?

JG: Yes, I can. We’ve heard rumors about side effects of the vaccination. To be clear: the side effects of this vaccine are quite mild. You may experience soreness, swelling or redness in/on your arm where the vaccine was injected. Other mild side effects include headache, fever, muscle pain or nausea. But, it’s important to note that these side effects only last a few hours, if they even occur at all. 

And despite the hype, serious side effects are very rare. The number of people who do have severe side effects is infinitesimally small, and those effects have been treated when they occur. Meanwhile, if you decide not to get vaccinated because of these concerns, let’s compare the risk of severe side effects to the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection: COVID-19 is causing severe infections and hospitalizations, and in the US alone, one death every 28 seconds! 

The side effects of the vaccine are uncommon — and mild if they occur — compared to the severity of the impact of COVID-19 infection. Personally, I think that makes the value of the vaccine abundantly clear.


MC: There are many in the community that think, I’m young and I maintain a healthy lifestyle. Do I really need the vaccine?

DG: The lack of the vaccine, no matter how healthy you are, makes you much more susceptible to the virus. We’ve also seen that the virus can cause long term complications, even in young people, and we’ve seen the death toll. We also know that if you get it, you endanger all those around you — your family members, the folks who live in the home with you and any folks you come into contact with regularly. So there is, in both my mind and from the CDC’s perspective, no alternative that comes close to the protection of a vaccine.


MC: Another question from an audience member — a controversial one, which speaks to the distrust in the African American community around vaccines: How can I be sure that they are giving people in Black and Brown communities the actual COVID-19 vaccination? 

JG: It’s a reasonable question, and one that underscores the longstanding issues of trust bred by historically racist and dangerous health policies, and clinical experiments in vulnerable Black and Brown communities. That history, combined with the current political perspectives swirling around, and some of the more chaotic messaging from multiple social media platforms and media outlets about the vaccine — of course there is distrust. It’s clear there is not a lot of trust in the medical profession or in healthcare in general.

I’d like to give you my perspective of the development and distribution of this vaccine. First and foremost, the vaccine is produced in large quantities and these manufacturing plants are under close supervision and control, without knowledge of where in which communities the vaccine is going to be distributed. So large lots of the vaccine are developed, and the vaccine is placed in small bottles which are sealed and shipped in bulk to states and cities, and these bottles are only opened when ready for use at the local level.

I myself have worked at a vaccine delivery site. When shipments are received, there are multiple individuals in a group overseeing the administration of the vaccine — from the pharmacist who oversees the opening of the containers, the calculation and measuring the dosages, the filling of the syringes and the actual administration of the vaccine. Many, many parties are in the area for safety concerns and traffic concerns.

I say this all to reassure you that it would be difficult for anyone to infiltrate the system and preferentially administer an ineffective or incorrect vaccine to any particular community or persons. 

However, I will say, ensuring that the vaccine is distributed equitably between communities of color and white communities is a serious and real issue. With the data in place to backup these inequities, it is more important than ever for us to be outspoken and to work diligently with our local leaders in the arena of social justice and health equity in order to improve the fairness of distribution and ensure there is transparency around the process. 


MC: In closing, where can people turn to for credible information and facts about the vaccine?

JG: CDC.gov is my number one, go-to place. Many public health directors at the state and local level go to the CDC for guidance and redistribute that information on their own websites as well. Certainly, your doctor or healthcare professional is also a good resource. Those would be my top three: the CDC, local governments and medical professionals.


And if you’re eager for more Q&A sessions on COVID-19 fact and fiction, Sage Collective is planning another event with Dr. Galloway, this time in conversation with Joseph West, PhD. Click here for more details and to RSVP. 

Text on graphic reads: Talking COVID-19. Dr. James M. Galloway talks COVID-19 Facts & Fiction Part 2. Graphic includes the Sage Collective logo, the Chicago Commons logo, and a headshot of James Galloway
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04.01.21 | Sage Advice

Chicago Commons COVID-19 Live Q&A, Part 1

Sage Collective is thrilled to have recently partnered with Chicago Commons to bring a live, virtual Q&A event to their community of older adults. The purpose of the event was to address both facts and myths regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccination. 

The live Q&A session, which was part of Chicago Commons’ Adult Day Service (ADS) Program, featured questions from the audience, answered by Rear Admiral (Ret) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC, with Monique Caradine serving as moderator.

Rear Admiral (Ret) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC is a former Assistant Surgeon General for the United States and a public health physician, as well as a member of the Sage Collective Leadership Team. You can find his full bio here. Monique Carradine is a professional broadcaster, author, podcastor, and certified money coach for women leaders and entrepreneurs with over two decades of experience.

In Part 1 of the Event Roundup, we review questions (and answers) related to deciding to receive the vaccine, and how the process works. For the sake of this recap, questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. 


MC: Let’s start with this question from an audience member — should I consult with my doctor first, before I get the vaccine?

JG: Generally, it’s not necessary to check with your physician unless you have a severe allergy to the vaccine or its components. However, if you’re hesitant or worried about getting the vaccine, and the vaccine’s relationship to your health and safety, it’s a great idea to talk to a trusted physician. 

Groups who should absolutely consult with a physician to determine if vaccination is right for them include those with multiple sclerosis, those who are immunocompromised, those who are on blood thinners or who have a bleeding disorder, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women.


MC: Another question we received — which of the vaccinations is “the best”? We know there are two pharmaceutical companies manufacturing vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer). Is there one that’s better than the other?

JG: Pfizer has been shown to be 95% effective in blocking symptomatic COVID-19. Moderna on the other hand has been proven to be 94% effective in the same area. So within the range of error described there, they’re equal, and no, one isn’t better than the other.

But I’d like to explain a little bit more about what that effectiveness means. You know, 95% effective — what does that mean? You can think about it as being that you are 95% protected from getting symptomatic COVID-19. But even more importantly, if you’re in the small 5% of vaccinated people who do get the disease, it’ll be mild, and present more like a cold or common flu. So essentially, this vaccine is 100% effective in preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19. 

So if you go to a vaccination location, and they offer you a choice between these two vaccine companies, you can receive either vaccine with confidence, knowing that you will have an appropriate level of protection from both.


MC: Here’s another good question, which is about the fact that there are two shots required. Can you talk about why that is? And what happens if a person gets the first shot and perhaps waits longer than recommended to get the second one? 

JG: Many of our immunizations, particularly childhood immunizations, require two or three shots. The reasoning behind that is when you get the first shot, it’s the first time the body is encountering or is exposed to what’s called an “antigen”, or that particular virus piece that we’re trying to immunize against. So there’s a mobilization, where the body’s immune system begins to work to develop a response to the newly introduced antigen. And the body will begin to develop a number of mechanisms to fight off that virus — however, because just one dose was administered, those mechanisms aren’t as strong as they could be. 

So when you receive a second dose of the vaccine, you want to land in the ideal follow-up window in order to re-stimulate the immune system and to have the  most effective, full-blown, full-body response. 

But if somebody were to get one shot and not the other, for whatever reason, there is still effectiveness in just that one shot. The first shot for the COVID-19 vaccine alone produces somewhere between 50-60% coverage against serious COVID-19 symptoms. This coverage is obviously better than not having any protection — and it does provide significant coverage, just not as much as having that second shot and reaching the 94-95% coverage level.

It’s also important to note that you should receive both shots from the same vaccine company, whether that’s Moderna or Pfizer. 


MC: The next question is: when are you fully vaccinated against COVID-19? The key word there is “fully” vaccinated — is there such a thing as being fully vaccinated?

JG: Right now, it’s too early to say. This is a new disease, and there’s a chance that it may become a routine seasonal infection, meaning that it will recur every year. That would mean that, much like the flu, we would need to get a shot every year. 


MC: Once someone is vaccinated, do they still have to wear a mask?

JG: I’ll refer you to current CDC guidelines here. Currently, the CDC recommends maintaining mask wearing for the foreseeable future, unless you are in a private space where everyone around you is also fully vaccinated. This is in part because of new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 becoming widespread globally, and also because while you’re immunized against the virus, there’s still a chance you can spread it to those around you who are not. So yes, it’s important to continue wearing a mask and washing your hands and following social distancing guidelines.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Q&A recap next week, where we’ll address the distrust of the COVID-19 in Black communities, and share more reasons why vaccination is of the utmost importance to your health and safety.

Image reads "Talking COVID-19. Dr James. M. Galloway talks COVID-19 facts and fiction, part 1." Graphic includes a headshot of Dr. Galloway and the logos for both Chicago Commons and Sage Collective
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