I have learned that patients seek health care services at free clinics for a myriad of reasons and some are atypical. There were specific populations I expected to see: the uninsured, underinsured, undocumented, and those without access to transportation. Yet there were other populations I was more surprised to see, namely patients who had insurance but preferred their experiences at free clinics.
Yet, I am worried that these stories of heroism are harming the very people they celebrate. By creating an ideal “health care worker” as an endlessly altruistic individual, it stigmatizes the medical workers who refuse to take on these risks — even though there are many legitimate reasons not to. I’ve talked to doctors in China who have watched their friends and colleagues die during the SARS epidemic, who have watched the government break its promises to support their families after their death, and who, as a result, are no longer willing to volunteer on the frontlines. I’ve watched videos of nurses in the U.S. crying after they were forced to quit their jobs because hospitals are not providing them with the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to keep them safe. Many of them said that they were afraid of getting infected and spreading the disease to their high-risk family members. Who can say these are not real concerns? Who can call these physicians and nurses selfish and irresponsible?
And with scientific advancements came cures and treatments that the healers of antiquity could have never imagined. However, these advances came at the cost of appreciating a holistic approach to health. How pitiful is it when a profession which was once completely focused on healing the whole person must now devote entire conferences and countless seminars to finding ways of injecting that back into both its practitioners and the people they serve? In modern times, this disconnect is often bridged by the chaplaincy and pastoral care team. I understood this when I first reached out to Reverend Johnson. I hoped that she would be able to shed light on her profession as well as on her role in caring for patients.
It is not uncommon for transgender and gender-nonbinary individuals (TGNB) to be misgendered by healthcare providers or in the healthcare setting. This negatively affects their health and their relationship with their providers. Leaders in the field of transgender and non-binary healthcare recommend asking about a person’s pronouns and integrating pronoun introductions into the clinical setting.
So, what is planetary health? It refers to a burgeoning field focused on understanding the health impacts of human-caused disruptions of Earth’s natural systems, including climate change and environmental pollution. This also encompasses the immediate and downstream health threats from such disruptions, which have impacts on communities at the local level — Philadelphia is no exception.
As many urban academic medical centers have become the world’s leaders in research and patient care, their bordering neighborhoods have suffered through decades of disinvestment and economic blight. Medical students often receive their first years of training in hospitals that serve these disadvantaged populations. While the current focus on social determinants of health represents a rising cornerstone of medical education, what else do medical students need to know about inner city poverty?
Yes, unfortunately, I have become one of the sixty thousand and rising daily cases in the nation.
Yet I am one of the lucky ones.
When I began thinking of establishing an elective, I wished there had been a roadmap to follow to understand where to start and how to invest my time. Hopefully, by detailing my own process, which I’ve broken down into three phases, other students may feel that they too can take ownership of their education by developing something rooted in their passions for others to enjoy and learn from.
Medicine is a discipline that claims to be based on empirical and scientific truth about human nature. Instead, its knowledge and practice are often steeped in biases like racism. For example, medicine was used in the nineteenth century to justify slavery due to the “biologically inherent superiority” of White races.
I was anxious because I was used to moving at such a fast pace that slamming on the breaks gave me whiplash. I was desperate for things to do because I had forgotten how to slow down and relax — how to just be. Slowly, I began to see the opportunity that quarantine had presented me with.
In Nicaragua, where I was born and raised, we routinely stayed at home for dengue outbreaks, violence and hurricanes. I had experienced at least three lockdowns as a child, and now as an adult, I was experiencing another. Although the Nicaraguan lockdowns I experienced happened in the 1990s, the COVID-19 lockdown was still familiar.
As a White male, there are certain things that I will never understand. I was raised in an upper-middle-class family in a safe neighborhood — one with adequate resources, education and funding. I have never had to live in fear in my community, worry about my safety on my street, or been threatened or condemned because of how I look. My reality is inexplicably shaped by the privilege and opportunities that I have been given. I realize that to me, racism appears nonexistent because I have not seen it.