I am 42 years old; have a wonderful wife, MaryBeth, and three great kids: a 12-year old son, an almost 11-year old son, and a 4-yearl old daughter. I work as a behavior epidemiologist in the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control. Much of my work focuses on preventing youth violence and sexual violence. Two of my projects have given me the opportunity to work with wonderfully intelligent researchers investigating the relation between exposure to media violence and serious criminal and/or aggressive behavior. I have another project that will study how common sexual violence is in a sample of women with various minority racial backgrounds. Another project I am working on will study how the physical layout and structure of middle schools are associated with reports of crime and violence by both students and teachers. Finally, I am working with some great researchers to look at whether or not experience with bullying in schools (whether being bullied, bullying someone else, and/or witnessing bullying) is associated with reports of experience with sexual violence and harassment.
When not at the CDC, I enjoy photography, the martial arts, scouting, and am active in my church. Since 2000, I have owned a part-time photography business, which was born out (of all place) professional wrestling. When I moved to Atlanta in ’98, I started attending a local wrestling show run by Bill Behrens (a promoter for the National Wrestling Alliance – NWA). When the promoter began filming his television show (NWA Wildside), Bill Behrens asked me to provide some action and promotional photography. Interestingly, my photography never received as much exposure as when it was published by Bill Apter and Doug Winters in the likes of World of Wrestling and Rampage Magazines (this is a sample cover image of mine used by WOW magazine). While photographing wrestling, I created Gimmick Photography. In pro wrestling, “gimmick” is a multi-use word. A wrestler’s character is his ‘gimmick.’ His or her ‘costume’ is a gimmick. If an outside object is used in a match, it’s a gimmick. Out of the ordinary matches (e.g., Table, Ladders, and Chairs match or a Barbed wire match) are called ‘gimmick’ matches. When wrestlers sell pictures or t-shirts, they are his or her gimmicks. It made perfect sense.
Well, one wrestler, then another and another, asked me to photograph their weddings and I soon realized that wedding photography is more profitable than photographing pro-wrestling. However, I quickly found out that brides did NOT like having the word ‘gimmick’ in the name of their potential photographer. I tried to think of a more appropriate name that would appeal to brides and I subsequently named my photography business Photo Traditions. Over the years, though, I quickly realized that I am not a traditional photographer and I have therefore begun the transition of once again renaming my business into Merle Hamburger Photography.
Regarding the martial arts, I started studying Kukiwon Tae Kwon Do in 1988 in Guilderland, NY, while I was working on my PhD in social psychology. Over the course of 7 years, I was able to achieve my 2nd degree black belt under the instruction of Jon O’Kelly. In the summer of 1995, I began training with Master Bob Quinn. I eventually became an instructor at the school (American Karate Productions in Tucker, GA) and teach both Kenpo Karate and Modern Arnis. Master Quinn has awarded me the rank of 3rd degree black belt and I look forward to the days that I get to teach both the youth, teens, and adults who come to classes when I teach.
I began my journey as a scout leader in 2003 when both Benjamin (wolf) and Kevin (tiger) joined scouts. For the past 5 years, I have served as a Wolf, Bear, and Webelos leader in Pack 551. I am in the process of receiving advanced leader training (Wood Badge) and the training to be an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 549. Both Benjamin and Kevin are scouts in this troop, and I continue to look forward to enjoying watching Ben and Kevin develop within the troop.
Finally, I teach the “Our Whole Lives” comprehensive sexuality eduction curriculum at my Unitarian Church (as well as, being a high-school advisor at my UU church). The greatest compliment was when one parent shared that her child indicated that she didn’t think she could have sex without hearing my voice — I look at it as a public service I provide to member of my congregation.
Well, there you have it. My (recent, albeit condensed) life. Thank you for joining me on this journey.