My medical school career was complicated by more than just complex cardiac physiology or biochemical pathways. Little did I know that at the end of my second year I would go from knocking on a patient’s door during a clinical session, to sitting in an exam room myself.
The heart monitor beeped incessantly, and the pulse oximeter kept dropping to the 80s. I ran to get a nurse. He walked calmly into the room, straightened the patient’s finger and left without a word. The oxygen went back up to 98.
After four years of intensive studying, two years with long hours in the hospital and three years of dating, we made the decision to apply to dermatology and plastic surgery. Recognizing the competitive nature of both of these fields, we quickly realized that matching together may not be feasible. We wanted to take each other into account in the process without either one of us making a large sacrifice in the quality of our training program to be together. Open communication and transparency were critical for us throughout the process.
When I was 17, I went to the gynecologist for a Pap smear because my mom said, “Once you have sex you have to get one.” It felt like punishment, but it was also the only way I had a chance of getting birth control. I went to three different doctors and exam after exam, they kept saying I could have cancer. I did a ‘colpo’ — whatever that is. After that, they did three different procedures on me, three, all to take pieces of my cervix. I don’t remember what they were called or what even happened. All I remember is the pain.
Over the next four weeks, I will share a series of essays with you in which I tell some of those stories. This writing results from the work of a summer, supported by a summer research fellowship in Medical Humanities & Bioethics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, in which I interviewed nine first-year medical students, two third-year medical students, eight anatomy and medical humanities professors, two Anatomical Gift Program staff, three palliative care clinicians, two preregistered donors and one donor’s family member.
There are many reasons a medical student may struggle on their obstetrics and gynecology rotation. There is an obvious lack of medical knowledge or procedural skills common in all clinical rotations. But, on OB/GYN, it can be especially challenging for male medical students to gain the confidence to feel comfortable talking about sensitive topics and being present for sensitive exams.
Recently two prominent children’s hospitals have made unprecedented announcements. Boston Children’s Hospital and Chicago’s Laurie Children’s Hospital announced that they would stop performing certain surgeries on children born with intersex traits. These announcements come after huge direct efforts by advocacy groups like The Intersex Jusice Project, lead by Pidgeon Pagonis, and InterAct, a national intersex youth advocacy group.
In a hospital room lit blue / By the rays entering in from the clouded sun
I entered the office of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, on a muggy, late-summer day during my family medicine rotation. The air-conditioned building boasted a large front room with sporadically placed desks, children’s books and toys, and what looked like a large food pantry. I flexed my elbows and wagged my arms to fan out the sweat from my Black body enshrouded in my white coat.
Thank you for your contributions and your readership over the past year. It has certainly been a difficult one, and we are exceedingly grateful that you all used in-Training as a platform to share your reflections, opinions, and solutions. Run by medical students and for medical students, your ongoing support is what makes us a premier online peer-reviewed publication. We look forward to seeing your contributions in 2021, and we’re excited to see where the year takes us (hopefully some place better!).
Some days, I only feel disillusion of the soul / that yearns for bear hugs, game nights, Nana’s pecan pie.
Current evidence suggests that much of human health is influenced more significantly by contextual factors like the social determinants of health than the direct receipt of health care. This relatively new understanding has challenged the notion of “physicianhood” and what it means to improve the health of entire populations and communities. With the influx of issues that the pandemic has brought with it, this new model for being a highly effective physician has become even more important.