Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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More Than Skin Deep

Our successes are born out of
The communities that uplifted us.
The teachers that pushed us.
The mentors that guided us.
The friends that backed us.

And yet,
The very communities that propelled us
Have been overlooked. 

Not a page in the books
Acknowledges your (or their) existence.

Not a patient in the clinical cases
With a vague resemblance to you.
Not a book with images
Reflective of the diversity
That you grew up with.
Or the diversity
You will serve in the future.

So, what do the images reflect?

Unfamiliar names
And shades of beige
Are what you come to expect
Of your textbooks.

Clinical and research presentations
All seem to overwhelmingly prove
Poorer outcomes for the poor
For those without English as their native tongue
For African Americans
and Latinx.

And your clinical textbooks
Fail to look beyond noted trends
Of inequitable clinical outcomes.
To investigate interventions that
May bridge these ongoing gaps.
And recognize how culture and identity
May impact patient education and management.

What good can you do
For your patient if you cannot recognize
A dermatologic condition on their melanated skin.
If you cannot work to navigate
Religious considerations to care.
If you cannot adopt a
More financially feasible plan
That they can commit to.
How will you improve the
Quality of your patients’ lives.

And yet in medical education
We don’t have the how
And rarely the why
And though it’s easier to turn a blind eye. 

The future of our field
And the future of our patients
Depends on our ability to
Propel change that is
More than skin deep.

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.

Rewan Abdelwahab Rewan Abdelwahab (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

Rewan Abdelwahab is a third year medical student at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Rochester, MN class of 2024. In 2020, she graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology with minors in African American Studies and Spanish. She enjoys calligraphy, reading, singing, writing, and photography. In the future, Rewan would like to pursue a career in oncology.