I had developed a strong friendship with Ms. D during the rotation, and her passing became one of the first confrontations with grief that I encountered as a rising medical student.
As soon as I let the door close quietly behind me, I turned to face the glaring, rude fluorescent lights of the OR foyer. I felt my pupils constrict against their offensive shine as I ripped down my mask to suck in as much oxygen as my deflated lungs possibly could.
The OR charge nurse looked at me then looked through me the moment she saw the gray ‘Medical Student’ tag dangling below my photo ID on my scrubs.
Well… at least I can’t embarrass myself if I don’t exist, I thought. For some cursed reason, I began feeling all normal sensation return to my toes and fingers — dizziness subsiding, breaths relaxing.
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.
Rachelle’s winding journey to medical school is filled with twists and turns, with each fork in the road driving her in a novel direction. At age 20, she worked as a waitress, giving her the opportunity to travel and live in new places along the west coast and abroad. Each city brought a sense of excitement and adventure; each adventure brought her closer to finding her true calling.
His parents attended a parent-teacher conference with the hopes of encouraging his teachers to transfer him to the gifted track. After their inquiry, the principal explained, “It would be better for Chris to be in the remedial track, so he can see people who look like him.” This instance of racism would be the first of many for Chris, whose journey to medical school required him to rise above institutionalized racism and implicit biases.
Failure was never an option for me. // Every time I fail… / I am reminded that I have let my country down.
Gather a group of American and Chinese first year medical students in one lecture hall, and you will notice some obvious differences right away. The Americans will likely be older with more work experience under their belt already. There will be more women on the Chinese side, and most have been full-time students all their lives. Dig beyond appearances and ask them what their daily curriculum consists of, and you will find even more interesting differences. Although they are two of the world’s largest producers of doctors and healthcare professionals overall, the Chinese medical system greatly differs from its American counterpart in both composition and organization.
As I reviewed the notes, it occurred to me that many of my peers and I have displayed some of the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Our professor’s lectures emphasized the importance of recognizing these features in patients, but what about identifying them in ourselves? Should it also be our duty to recognize the signs and symptoms in our colleagues?
I wish it were different — / Dying patients, struggling hospitals, overworked healthcare workers, / topsy-turvy economies, politicized safety precautions, and the / uncertainty / of tomorrow.
In this episode, we interview Hamza Khan. Hamza is a multi-award winning marketer, best-selling author and global keynote speaker whose TEDx talk “Stop Managing, Start Leading” has been viewed over a million times. He is a top-ranked university educator, serial entrepreneur and respected thought leader whose insights have been featured by notable media outlets such as VICE, Business Insider and The Globe and Mail.
I actually don’t remember his name; he wasn’t my patient. I just saw him during rounds every day during my internal medicine clerkship. He was in his late-80s, and he was very ill. He had a long history of COPD, most likely attributed to his even longer history of smoking. He had been admitted to our service for a severe respiratory infection a few days prior to me starting the rotation. This was my last rotation of my 3rd year, and I walked in thinking I had seen enough COPD patients to know exactly what to expect.
Anxiety defined me more when I denied its existence than it does now that I’ve faced it head-on. Maybe the anxiety helped me get to where I was, but it was a burden I didn’t have to bear — especially not alone. Even knowing how important mental health is as a future physician, it embarrassed me to admit that I might need a prescription to help me cope with my fears and anxieties.