Jamming to Vampire Weekend’s “Diplomat’s Son,” I walked passed two women on 95th street between 2nd and 3rd avenue. Each woman had an unlit cigarette in her mouth, and one woman was pushing a stroller. Thinking that the stroller could be empty, holding groceries, or carrying a small dog (as is the trend in parts of New York City), I turned around and was surprised to see a child, no more than a few weeks old, quietly sitting in the stroller. Shocked, I clumsily took a few steps away from the trio and debated turning around to mention something about the potential harms of smoking around children. Uncertain, I turned towards them, then away from them. Finally, my uncertainty succumbed to my conscience, and I walked towards the women as they both successfully lit their cigarettes against October’s brisk wind.
On Thursday, many of you will gather round a dinner table with your loved ones and give gratitude for your friends, family and good fortune. Many of you will think of the meal associated with the inception of this holiday, be filled with warm fuzzy feelings and gloss over the real history surrounding the relationship between those who supposedly attended the first “Thanksgiving” dinner. After eating a second helping of Grandma’s famous pie, few will be concerned about the side of historical oppression or racist colonization offered with this dinner because well, that isn’t so palatable.
Gun violence as a public health issue is not a new phenomenon. In 2014 alone, there were 81,034 injuries and 33,599 deaths due to gun violence in the United States,which equate to 222 Americans injured, and 92 killed, by firearms every day.
During my last visit home, my mother waited less than an hour before showing me her medical records. She offered them up the way I’d once presented my middle-school report cards, steering the papers across our kitchen table between bowls of peppercorn chicken and eggplant until they slid to a stop in front of me. Looking at them made my head spin, as they were written almost entirely in Chinese.
It’s been a hard week. Hard, of course, because this election has caused an unprecedented wave of fear across our nation. Hard because those whose lives have been invalidated by our newest president elect are already exhausted by the daily struggle of living in a hostile country. And — not to be discounted — hard because bad days in medical school seem to hunt in packs and pounce all at once.
“Here is what I would like you to know,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates to his son in his New York Times bestselling book Between the World and Me. “In America, it is tradition to destroy the black body — it is heritage.” Drawing on recent events, Coates shines a bright light on the very tangible obstacles African-Americans face in our country. Unfortunately, this is a reality that has largely been swept under the rug by the rest of America, including its health care providers.It is time that healthcare providers, and in particular primary care providers, confront this reality.
Reminiscing on the Etta James hit “At Last,” that’s exactly how I felt when Steven J. Stack, MD, president of the American Medical Association, finally addressed the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. Finally he hit the nail on the head, and called the situation what it really was: a public health crisis.
The history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is marked by devastating losses and a disease burden that persists to this day. Though slow to emerge, both government policy and pharmaceutical research began to address the epidemic, and the resulting combinations of antiretroviral cocktails and outreach programs have helped make HIV infection a manageable, if inconvenient, chronic condition. In 2012, however, the FDA approved a drug that had the potential to shift both the American and global strategies regarding HIV and AIDS.
With the 2016 presidential election just days away, debates on the personalities and as well as the policy agendas of the respective candidates have become increasingly fierce. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may both be moderates at heart, but their official policy platforms represent near-extremes of the political spectrum. This holds especially true in their proposals regarding healthcare: Trump’s proposal, entitled “Health Care Reform to Make America Great Again,” and Clinton’s, “Universal, Quality, Affordable Health Care for Everyone in America” together paint a picture of the spectrum of opinions and debates surrounding healthcare.
Ana and I sat at that table for a few hours, enjoying each other’s company and stories told in choppy combinations of Spanish and English, some laughs of word-finding frustration spattered throughout. We talked about her daughter and grandson who lived with her, the colorful birds that were caged in her open-air courtyard, and the fact that I had come to Antigua from North Dakota to work with the God’s Child Project. As fond as I am of this memory, now that eight years have passed, I look back on my time in Guatemala with some degree of uncertainty about my intentions. I was what many would call a ‘voluntourist.’
Medical school is terrifying. This is not something I feel like I am supposed to admit — or let alone feel — because it conveys insecurity. For all the learning we compress into our days as students, we operate in a constant state of not knowing. Perhaps paradoxically so, uncertainty itself seems to be guiding us down the path laid before us. It is as if we are walking with our hands stretched out in front of us, groping in darkness. Every day, we face the unfamiliar, not just in terms of knowledge, but also the larger questions of whether we are turning down roads that feel true to us.
Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan just announced a 3 billion dollar donation to assemble a scientific ‘dream-team’ tasked with “eliminating, curing or preventing disease by the end of the century.” Cori Bargmann, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University and a scientific superstar, has been named president of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and top scientists such as Harold Varmus, former director of the National Cancer Institute and Nobel laureate, have been recruited to serve on the scientific advisory board. …