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?
You don’t have to sit in silence and painfully nod along with an attending’s racist, misogynistic lectures because you’re their medical student. You don’t need to pick the skin off your cuticles to stop yourself from replying. You don’t need to learn how to hide your grimaces behind your mask because you know you’ll have to listen to them attack your identity for the next several weeks.
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.
For a variety of reasons, the substance use population is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on data from previous financial crises, the emotional toll will increase rates of new substance use, escalate current use, and trigger relapse even among those with long-term abstinence. There may be a significant lag before these changes are detected and treated because health care resources are being funneled toward the pandemic.
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.
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.
Two years of intense studying should have culminated in a feeling of strength. I ended my second year of medical school thinking I was now prepared to do anything. I was excited to be a problem-solver, armed with the mental acuity to recognize diseases from A to Z, ready to proceed with the next step in my clinical training. Now, in my third year, it is finally time to act like a real doctor. But our superiors treat us like their personal assistants.
In a typical year, medical students have to pass this one final patient actor bonanza before they can become doctors. Like all other USMLE exams, Step 2 CS is eight hours long. However, this is the only Step exam that isn’t administered on a computer; rather, it’s offered at just five centers in the country, located in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, and Los Angeles.
The nightmare of the COVID-19 pandemic offers a view of what climate change will impose on our future health system and communities if uncontrolled. As future doctors, on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day we raise our voices in unison to draw attention to the urgency of the climate crisis.
On March 17, 2020, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) jointly issued a statement supporting “medical schools in placing, at minimum, a two-week suspension on their medical students’ participation in any activities that involve patient contact.” The joint recommendation leaves thousands of third-year medical students, who will soon enter into their final year of school, contemplating their role in the face of this evolving pandemic.
Working with other medical students at our university, and with others all across the country, we have developed an initiative designed to match students with health care workers in a longitudinal one-to-one relationship to adhere to social distancing guidelines and provide necessary services such as childcare, petsitting, and errands.
For my first student interview, I spoke with Nana Amma Sekyere. She is a fellow second-year medical student at Central Michigan University College of Medicine (CMED). She actively promotes diversity at CMED by leading the Student Diversity Committee.