I only realized that I was an optimist on November 9. Crushing disbelief is cliche, and yet — as I walked home, hot-cheeked, through rain and yolk-colored streetlights just after midnight, past a dive bar where neighbors tallied states and feverishly refreshed fivethirtyeight — I felt trampled.
As a fourth-year medical student, I enjoy introducing myself to patients as the “extra eyes and ears of the team, so feel free to tell me anything you forgot or would like to address, even if you think it’s irrelevant or burdensome. I will be your advocate.” As I establish rapport with them, the walls come down, and they often provide important information that helps my team provide the best care for them.
“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.
Ten male students crowded around a clean-shaven instructor who asked a series of questions. The students had meticulously prepared and would maintain close proximity to well-rehearsed answers. Hopefully the questions are simple, they thought. One by one, they answered, at times stumbling through their responses. This was expected. The students were learning and the incorrect answers allowed room for humility. Such a scene could easily describe an American teaching hospital, or, a Republican presidential debate.
Though they make up 5.6 percent of the US population, discussions about Asian-American health appear to be few and far between. According to the Asian-American Health Initiative, a variety of medical and public health scourges disproportionately affect the Asian-American community. Some of these disparities entail disease incidence, while others describe a paucity of certain preventive health measures being delivered to this group.
I recently had the opportunity to shadow a local occupational medicine physician over spring break. I arrived at his office Monday morning expecting a brief day of clinic, maybe some conversation over lunch; maybe I get lucky and he pays for my sandwich. Within minutes of meeting him, though, the physician offered to host me for the entire week on a “mini-rotation.”
Medical students are subjected to a barrage of advertising that inevitably leads to a physician-industry connection that can be harmful to our health care system. Medical students’ exposure to pharmaceutical marketing begins early, growing in frequency throughout their training.
Almost every morning, one of our physiology lecturers asks a question. Usually, it’s a question to which most of my 200 classmates would know the answer. Every day, the professor asks their question, often losing their rhythm in the twenty seconds it takes to shake an answer out of us. The silence lingers until finally they get a response, often whispered like an embarrassing secret by someone sitting near the front. The timid self-consciousness on display in this small ritual is a major part of the socialization that happens in medical school.
On November 27, 2015, a horrific shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs left three people dead. This tragedy is a stark reminder of the grave consequences that may accompany inflammatory political rhetoric and poor legislation. After his arrest, Gunman Robert Dear declared “no more baby parts” to investigators. Dear’s terrifying actions have been linked to the national ongoing attack on reproductive rights as well as inadequate gun control laws. As a medical student, I fear that we will have many more Robert Dear’s in this country unless we make sure that political interests do not continue to impede on patient-provider relationships.
Just last month, the Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring bans on same-sex marriage illegal. While many hail this as a major step in the quest for equality, equity in health outcomes is still lacking in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Many clinicians and prospective clinicians do not receive significant training in how to address the unique needs of members of the LGBT population.
“Race is a social construct.” This is a statement that we hear frequently but don’t fully believe or understand. In the United States, we may superficially state that race is a social construct, but in reality, we understand it as genetic underpinnings. In medicine especially, race and genetics are often understood as interchangeable.