Upon meeting the new children I was babysitting, the little girl Elason immediately asked me if I brought my stethoscope. Her mom had told her that I was a medical student. In the eyes of Elason and Kaje, that made me a superhero. It didn’t matter that I was at the bottom of the food chain in the medical world.
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.
The health impacts associated with structural violence prevent vulnerable populations from gaining access to basic needs. This is due to injustices embedded within institutions and social structures that exist in today’s society.
Developing skills of cultural competence requires an open heart and mind — and often an uncomfortable examination of personal biases. It takes time, but along the way physicians gain greater humility and compassion, which translates to expanded access and higher-quality care for patients.