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.
While it is easy to feel stuck and unhappy in this current life-box, I recognize that we must take a few deep breaths and understand that this too shall pass. And that this did pass for all the physicians before us and will pass for all the physicians after us. And we will all get past this together.
While the professor moved to the next slide, my face visibly blanched. All I could hear was the drowning sound of my own heartbeat thumping in my ears. Is this true? I thought. Nothing we can do? Only five years of survival? Did this apply to my grandpa Baba? But Baba has been sick for six years!
Mrs. H’s story is just one of millions of Americans who have become victims of structural violence and suffered from the social determinants of health. With a clearer understanding of the complex factors that contribute to patients’ health outcomes, I now aim to reunite the erroneously separated domains of medicine and social sciences.
After four years of adapting my schedule based on the results of my experiments, I once again look forward to having a guided regiment based on monthly shelf exams and the ever looming threat of standardized tests.
A rainy day while the sun is out is a bad omen. But every day seems like a bad omen now. I stand by the window at times watching the strange weather passing through. If you look at the right moment, you will see me there with a face that mirrors the solemness of what I look at.
Back in late March, I was a medical student in D.C. studying for exams. Today, I am a 23-year-old living with my parents again. Despite being in school 5+ hours away, my bedroom in upstate New York has become my new classroom. Being at home has its perks: I get food from my mom again, and I can wear pajamas all day if I wanted to (not that I actually do that). However, there are many things that don’t feel right about being a medical student who has no connection to the medical world right now.
The same four walls surround us for hours on end while we try to marry the responsibilities of medical education with those of social distancing. While these new restrictions may at first seem conducive to much desired additional study time, gym closures and social gathering restrictions only deepen the isolation already felt by so many medical students.
Many honor their cadaver with the designation of being their “first patient.” Yet, the term “patient” implies the receipt of some benefit in the form of treatment or improved well-being. Throughout our time together, I treated my cadaver with nothing but careful and thoughtful desecration. Just several months earlier I had promised to do no harm. Yet, as my inexperienced hands repeatedly sliced through layers of tissue, I could not help but feel like an intruder stealing something that was never meant to be mine.
Many medical schools today offer wellness programs that aim to strengthen the ability to cope with the demands of curricula through techniques such as mindfulness. However, although these efforts are well-intentioned, they have yet to completely resolve the issues of isolation. It is critical for students and faculty to explore innovative methods to tackle feelings of isolation, such as through the use of improvisational and comedic theater.
This is the conclusion of the two part series of Yichi Zhang’s experience as a patient in China’s emergency medicine system.
In part one of this two-part series, Yichi Zhang recounts his experience as a patient in China’s emergency medicine system.