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Dr. Diana Farid wrote the book to help children understand the respiratory system
When Dr. Diana Farid (MPH, '05) was a student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, she focused on the impact of public health communication.
While at UCLA, including while a fellow with the Fielding School's Center for Healthier Children Families and Communities, led by Dr. Neal Halfon, professor of health policy and management, she continued work as a family medicine physician. One thing she noticed: many of the grade school-aged children she cared for knew little about their own bodies — even something as “simple” as breathing.
“If I had a patient with respiratory issues, I would tell them that their breath takes a magical journey inside of them; then, I would describe the journey as an adventure: air blowing into hollow tubes, shaped like the branches of an upside-down tree,” Farid said. “Those descriptions helped them, and their care-givers, understand their symptoms better and why I was recommending a certain treatment - where in that respiratory tree it would make a difference.”
Fifteen years later, now-Dr. Farid is both a parent and a physician, on staff at Stanford University’s Vaden Health Center and a clinical assistant professor in the Stanford Department of Medicine.
She has seen how California’s curriculum guidelines don’t introduce human biology and health to students until 5th grade, and as a college health physician, she’s also seen how a lack of health literacy plays out as young people are first learning to care, or not care, for their bodies.
Her experience as a storyteller stuck with her, and led to writing a children’s picture book, “When You Breathe,” published this autumn. In it, a young girl inspires a breath that blossoms in her lungs, reimagined as an upside-down tree, then is exhaled as song.
Dr. Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe. Illustrations are by Billy Renkl, an art professor at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee. The book has been named a 2021 Notable Poetry Book by the National Council of Teachers of English.