Outside apartment 13C the street is empty. It is early in the morning, and yet sounds echo from the metal shop beside the lake, roosters crow, and the children upstairs patter back and forth across the tiles. I roll up my yoga mat, shaking dead cockroaches from its rubbery bottom. Through the grated windows I catch a glimpse of Lake Victoria, shimmering out from the cluttered shore of shanties and deconstructed docks to eventually blend with the blue of the morning sky.
In the spirit of the year of realizing things, I’m starting to think that the med school struggle of knowing/doing/being enough never actually ends. Even as physicians, the problem of “enough” persists, albeit in a form less easily remedied by additional time spent reading First Aid or viewing Pathoma.
When I was first invited to host a Roundtable Discussion, I was told that we were supposed to bring together medical students to discuss their idea of a modern physician: What characteristics would they have? What kinds of skills would we want to cultivate in this increasingly technological age? What kind of doctor would be necessary to meet the needs of the health care system now and into the decades ahead?
“This wine is growing on me,” Emily remarked as she tipped her head back and took another long sip from the now oxblood stained glass, “It’s a lot more nuanced than I originally thought.”
“This is a room of leaders,” Shannon Brownlee, Senior Vice President of the Lown Institute, told us as she encouraged our continued advocacy for change in health care and medical education.
Many students in the health professions find little support for the passions that drove them into health careers. In May 2016, a group of 20 health professions students, clinicians, and organizers assembled on the lower level of a Chicago hotel during the Lown Institute’s annual conference to talk about new pathways.
I’ve heard it said that knowledge is power, and that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I still remember getting a text from my mother when I was on my OB/GYN rotation, during the first window of time I had gotten to use the bathroom all day. I remember her texting me a picture of a CT scan of my grandfather’s lungs with the words: “What does this mean?”
This summer, Illinois passed a law set to take effect in the beginning of this year that stipulated that any doctors who cite conscience-based objection to abortion must have a system in place to give information about or provide referrals to providers who will perform abortions.
I recently attended a panel entitled “Women in Surgery,” where medical students had the opportunity to ask female surgery residents how they navigate what is still a mostly male-dominated field and hear their take on that ever-elusive “work-life balance.”
With the future of the Affordable Care Act uncertain under President Trump, many Americans are left worrying how they will manage without health care. The Americans who must shoulder this burden are disproportionately people of color. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the history of health care in this country that once again our system, purportedly built to protect and promote health, is systematically ignoring the right to health care for communities of color.
Not sure? Uncomfortable? The popular advice is it to just “fake it until you make it.” Since starting medical school, I have heard students repeat the phrase frequently as a way to grapple with novel and occasionally unsettling situations, as well as the extensive amount of knowledge we are expected to rapidly acquire and apply.
Like most people, I watched the Ebola plague tear through Africa two years ago with a feeling of helpless horror. I saw the victims dying by the thousands on television, all eulogized by the same stark words: “No cure.” There seemed to be some unstoppable and malevolent force in the universe, seeking not only the destruction of human life, but hope itself.