About the Author

Jeff Parish Jeff Parish is a high school English teacher and journalist. He has worked for the Greenville Herald-Banner, Dallas Morning News, The Paris News and Galveston County Daily News, among others. For comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email him at jeff@eparistexas.com.

NASA medical officer talks space

NASA_01The United States space program has changed, but it is still very much alive.

“People ask me, ‘Smith, do you still have a job since the space shuttle went away?’” Dr. Smith Johnston, medical officer and flight surgeon for NASA Medical Operations, said during a presentation Thursday. “We’ve never been busier — and our budget’s never been lower.”

Johnston gave a public presentation Thursday evening in the North Lamar High School auditorium after a reception hosted by NLHS AVID students. He was the guest of the Lamar-Delta County Medical Society and Dr. Mark Campbell.

“I used to work for NASA, and I worked with Smith for about 20 years,” Campbell said. “We twisted his arm and got him to come down.”

Johnston will address student at North Lamar and Paris high schools Friday. NLHS assemblies are scheduled at 9:15 a.m. for ninth and tenth graders and 10:15 a.m. for juniors and seniors.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for our students to get real world knowledge from one of the greatest experiences in our nation — the space program,” NLHS Principal Clint Hildreth said.

Paris High School health occupation students and advanced placement and dual credit students will hear Johnston’s presentation this afternoon.

“I think Dr. Johnson will have a lot of interesting insights about how the medicine they study with astronomers will apply to those of us who will never go into space,” said Dr. Amanda Green, secretary-treasurer of the Lamar-Delta County Medical Society.

NASA_02Stephen Smallwood, one of North Lamar’s AVID teachers, said the experience provides a unique opportunity for students.

“As an AVID site team, we look for opportunities to collaborate with community resources,” he said. “We were lucky in that we not only had a community organization we were able to work with, we had an international specialist.”

Johnston stressed that his talks in Paris are personal, not as part of his duties with NASA.

The flight surgeons’ job is to find problems in space exploration and develop countermeasures and environmental monitors for platforms like the space station.

“We take the healthiest people in the world, and we get to take care of them in the some of the funkiest and most unique environments,” Johnston said. “We’re basically a clinic. Not only do we take care of all the astronauts, but we also take care of the retired astronauts.”

For example, he and Campbell had to help figure out how to perform medical procedures in a zero-gravity environment. Johnston showed pictures of them on a plane in a parabolic flight, practicing on pigs.

“Mark will go down in history as the man who figured out how to perform surgery in zero gravity,” he said. “I’ll be the man who performed mouth-to-snout resuscitation on a pig.”

Part of Johnston’s job has been to develop medical operations for an international program.

“They said ‘go build it’ with five different agencies,” he said. “When I certify someone to fly with NASA, they have to get a blessing from the other agencies.”

NASA_03Going from earth’s gravity to none and back again can have a profound affect on the human body, including loss of bone, muscle and bodily fluids. People grow an inch or two in space due to the spine stretching out. Back on earth, that has shown a tendency to cause spinal disc problems. Even the suits designed to protect people can be hard on them, particularly the hands and shoulders.

One or two of the seven shuttle crew members usually suffered from major impairment upon return, Johnston said.

“They’re not ill or injured, but they are deconditioned,” he said. “We have some countermeasures. Some people come back stronger than when they left — that’s what we learned from space medicine.”

Longer missions have other issues, including isolation, debris and exposure to radiation outside the protection of the earth’s magnetic field. Not that we should avoid those longer missions, such as a trip to Mars.

“Eventually our sun’s going to give out, and we need to get off the planet,” Johnston said. “That’s why we need to explore and develop a warp drive.”

We need to go back to the moon before going to Mars, he said. The trip will require six months each way, plus several months on the surface. Humans have only spent 75 hours on the moon in total, he said. The longest shuttle mission was 18 days. A typical tour on the space station is six months, and a one-year tour is about to begin.

In addition, investments in space exploration generally give a nine-to-one return. A great deal of modern technology from Velcro to joysticks to x-ray systems derive from the space program.

The medical lessons have applications on earth, as well, from Antarctic expeditions to submarine crews.

Johnston received his bachelor of science in biology from Emory University. He completed his residencies in internal and aerospace medicine from Wright State University, where he received a master of science degree in aerospace medicine and was chief resident in internal medicine.

He is a faculty member at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He presently serves on the board of directors for Houston Medical Centers Hospice and Palliative Care System.

Turner pledges to streamline, modernize district clerk’s office

Susan Flanary Turner

Susan Flanary Turner

With the Republican primary drawing closer, Susan Flanary-Turner says she is ready to bring the Lamar County District Clerk’s office into the 21st Century.

“I decided to run for district clerk when it became apparent that the office was desperately in need of management that would provide cost efficient, 21st Century service utilizing the latest technology,” Turner said.

She faces Shawntel Golden in the March 14 Republican primary. The primary winner will not face a Democrat challenger in the November election. District Clerk Marvin Ann Patterson has said she will not seek re-election.

Turner said the district clerk’s main job is to manage the office efficiently and in accordance with the law and procedures of the courts that it serves. A former court reporter, she has worked with local, state and federal courts for 35 years. She also has experience managing her business and husband’s law practice and has served as president of the Texas Court Reporters Association, which has 1,500 members and a budget of $500,000.

“My management and leadership experience will allow me to give the people efficient service while being conservative with their hard-earned tax dollars,” Turner said. “I am the candidate in this race who has management and budget experience. I would like the opportunity to make the office of district clerk as efficient and service oriented as possible.”

With an annual budget of $423,605, the Lamar County district clerk’s office has room for savings without impact on service, she said. The office could operate more quickly and efficiently with technological upgrades, she said.

“I firmly believe that new eyes and new approaches to issues and procedures are mandatory for office improvement, which is so obviously needed,” Turner said. “Although I have vast experience in the procedures of how the court system works, I believe that not having been employed in that office for years will give me new insight and perspective on improvements that can be made.”

Turner is the daughter of C.V. Flanary, a long-time attorney and former Lamar County Judge. He was a driving force in her decision to become a court reporter, Turner said. She and her mother, Magalene Flanary, jointly managed their court reporting firm – Flanary, Turner & Associates – and worked in every district court in Northeast Texas.

“Under my direction, the office of the district clerk will render the people of this county unparalleled friendly service that recognizes that government employees are the servants of the taxpayers,” she said. “I also pledge to the taxpayers of Lamar County that I will implement leading-edge improvements in the office that will result in significant savings to the citizens of Lamar County.”

Golden touts experience in district clerk’s office

Shawntel Golden

Shawntel Golden

As she seeks the Republican nomination for Lamar County district clerk, Shawntel Golden says her experience in the office makes her an ideal candidate.

“I love my job, and I want to continue my service to the public. I know beyond a doubt I am qualified for this job,” Golden said. “I will continue to work serving Lamar County as I have done the last 17 years.”

She faces Susan Flanary-Turner in the March 14 Republican primary. The primary winner will not face a Democrat challenger in the November election.

Golden is chief deputy to District Clerk Marvin Ann Patterson. She has worked in the clerk’s office for 17 years. Prior to that, she spent two years in the tax assessor’s department. Golden said she has experience in all aspects of the district clerk’s office, including civil, grand jury, jury selection, budget meetings and monthly reporting.

“I started working at the lowest level of our office,” she said. “I’ve been chief deputy for seven years now. I have done and can do everything in our office.”

Golden said she understands the budgeting process, as well as the district clerk’s duties, which include direction to keep the records of the district court safe and properly arranged; record the acts and proceedings of the district court; enter all judgments of the court under the direction of the judge; record all executions issued and the returns issued on the executions; administer trust accounts for minors ordered by the courts; keep an index of the parties to all suits filed in the court and make reference to any judgment made in the case, also keeping an account of all funds collected by the office; including fines and fees; and provide support to the district judges and the county court-at-law judge.

“Anytime the clerk is gone, I’m the one in charge,” she said.

A Lamar County native, Golden graduated from Chisum High School in 1992 before attending Paris Junior College and Texas A&M University-Commerce. She married high school sweetheart Adam Golden, and the couple has two children, Garrett and Chesney. The family lives in the Ambia community. They are co-owners of Jerry Golden & Son Concrete Contractors and members of the New Hope Baptist Church in Paris, where she teaches the second through sixth grade Sunday school class.

Golden also serves on the membership committee of the Association of Lamar County Republicans; is a past member of Paris International Toastmasters Club; a current member of the Paris Rodeo and Horse Club, where she served on the board of directors from 2008 to 2011; and she is a member of the Paris Kiwanis Club.

NXS showing off artistic talent downtown

Lena Spencer discusses her new NXS Contemporary Art Gallery during a recent artist reception. (eParis Extra photo by Jeff Parish)

Lena Spencer discusses her new NXS Contemporary Art Gallery during a recent artist reception. (eParis Extra photo by Jeff Parish)

The NXS Contemporary Art Gallery has opened its doors downtown.

“It’s been a life dream,” owner Lena Spencer said during a recent artist reception. “When all the artists came, and we got the artwork up, it was like, ‘OK, it’s a gallery.’”

Spencer said the name, which is pronounced “in excess,” came to her when she found the word means to go beyond normal boundaries.

“I thought it would be a great name for a contemporary art gallery because they are always going beyond the normal boundaries,” she said. “It’s things that are avant garde, fresh, new and out of the ordinary.”

The show included Spencer’s artwork, as well as that of photographers Ginger and David Cook; Pati Dye, a mixed-medium sculptor who teaches at Texas A&M University-Commerce; painter Susan Moore; sculptor Nathan Porterfield; and painter Drita Tomaj. NXS is located at 102 Clarksville St.

“I think it’s so neat,” said Ann Tschoerner, who works in pottery and ceramic sculpture. “She’s been working on it since November. She’s done a great job. Paris needs more art.”

Artwork ranged from ceramics to paintings to photographs to mixed media sculpture. Conversations wound through the crowd about technique, medium worked in and why artists used various materials, such as Dye’s “My Mother’s Garden,” which used cotton batting and waxed string in a bell jar that symbolized her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s.

“This is a great place Lena has set up,” said David Cook, used to run the Gallery on First Street with his wife, Ginger Cook. “We missed this environment. It’s a great opportunity for people to show their work. There aren’t a lot of places in Paris to show what you’re doing.”

The reception was just the beginning. NXS is accepting entries for its upcoming “Rhythm & Jazz” juried art show, which will run March 7 to April 7. Entries are due by Feb. 20. There is no entry fee, although participants are limited to three artworks each.

“We’re going to have painting parties on Saturday nights,” Spencer said. “We have a theme. You bring our own beverages and snacks, and we get together and have fun. It’s not real formal.”

She also plans to offer workshops and activities during the summer. A North Lamar High School art teacher, Spencer has bachelor’s of fine arts from Texas A&M University-Commerce and a master’s in education with an emphasis in art. She is an active member of Texas Arts Education Association and Paris Area Arts Association.

“She’s got a good place to put her art students’ work up,” David Cook said. “We hosted her students work for two years at our gallery.”

That is exactly one of the reasons Spencer wanted to open her own gallery. She also wanted an environment that could show students that art is more than just the creation; artists also have to be marketers and salesmen. She also hopes to promote the arts in the community through a variety of contemporary art mediums as well as develop new, emerging talent from the area and youth.

“I want to provide a place for the kids to make the transition from working in the classroom to meeting people in the community,” she said.

For more information, visit the NXS Contemporary Art Gallery website at www.nxsgallery.com or call 903-272-4639.

RRVDSS to name center in honor of Johnny Stallings

Snowflakes&Diamonds2014-14Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society will name its recreational center in honor of Johnny Stallings, the late son of Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings.

“Here’s a boy born with Down Syndrome who is going to have his name on a building,” Gene said. “That’s a big deal.”

Executive Director Krissy Crites announced the naming of the Johnny Stallings Recreational Reach Center during the 2014 Snowflakes and Diamonds Gala, held at Love Civic Center on Saturday.

Gene said when he and his wife were told their baby was a “mongoloid” at birth, they were advised to put him in an institution.

“Obviously, we didn’t listen to the advice,” he said. “We did the best we could do, even if we didn’t know what we were doing.”

Johnny died at the age of 46 on August 2, 2008, from congenital heart disease. Gene said it was “the saddest day of my life.” He remembered checking on his son, who was having trouble breathing.

“I said, ‘Johnny, how do you feel?’” he said. “He said, ‘I fine. I fine.’ He passed away the next day.”

He said those raising children with disabilities may have some tough times, but they “will be in the presence of God eventually” for their love and effort.

“Ruth Ann and I can’t thank you enough,” he told the crowd. “What a joy. He would have loved being here.”

Everett Elementary School second-grade teacher Jennifer Haynie was named general education teacher of the year, and Aikin Elementary’s Susan Dicken was named the special education teacher of the year.

The Phillips, Denison and Griffin families were named volunteer group of the year in honor of more than a decade of service to the organization. Brooke Crawford was named volunteer of the year.

The evening also included live and silent auctions and entertainment provided by Blackland.

“It turned out great; I couldn’t have been happier,” Crites said. “I’m proud to be part of this community that gives like they have.”