Allowing natural death gives the elderly and terminally ill the opportunity to control the end of their life, providing empowerment and a sense of peace during their time of uncertainty. This patient and her family’s forethought allowed us to provide medications to ease her pain and discomfort. When she closed her eyes for the last time, her body relaxed into the sheets, and I pulled the blanket up to her shoulders. Her family said goodbye, and then I began to perform post-mortem care.
After this conversation, I am left thinking about ways in which medical schools can create an environment that is more welcoming and safer for students of color. An important part of learning is feeling comfortable enough to make mistakes in order to better identify opportunities for learning and growth.
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.
Tanner always planned on becoming a physician, but found himself with a gap year before medical school. During this time, he began teaching different levels of students and soon realized how much he enjoyed tailoring concepts to fit the needs of his varied audience. He told me about his first failed lesson in anatomy, when he learned the hard way that kindergartners can get rowdy and don’t quite know their colors yet.
I stand for justice and peace; / I stand for equity alongside equality. / I stand until the hate crimes cease.
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.
After our conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating community. As students of color, especially in areas with low diversity, we create our communities of allies with other students of color or students who are open-minded and willing to learn. For students who come from places with established diversity, the transition to creating communities of their own can be a challenge.
This year, like those before us, we entered our study periods for Step 1 with some trepidation — both about the long hours of studying and the high stakes of the exam. Like those before us, we reassured ourselves that if we put our time in now, we’d be able to move beyond memorizing minutiae to caring for patients in the hospital. And then, unlike those before us, testing centers across the world closed.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has relegated medical students to the sidelines of clinical duty. Cancellation of in-person class and clinical rotations combined with protocols for social distancing have left us without our normally packed schedules and to-do lists. Eager to help, many have begun grassroots efforts to support physicians and other frontline health care workers outside of clinical settings and beyond typical roles.
Last week, the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) announced that Step 1, the first of three required licensing examinations for medical trainees, will stop reporting three-digit scores and instead report only a pass/fail designation as early as January 2022.
It was not until our second semester of medical school that we started gross anatomy. Finally, I became that quintessential medical student walking home too tired to change out of my formaldehyde-tinged scrubs.