Medicine is a discipline that claims to be based on empirical and scientific truth about human nature. Instead, its knowledge and practice are often steeped in biases like racism. For example, medicine was used in the nineteenth century to justify slavery due to the “biologically inherent superiority” of White races.
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.
I knew I moved through these spaces easily for many reasons, but being White is a big one that needs to be said out loud. And when you look and feel more comfortable in a space, it is easier to perform “well,” or to sound confident. This is directly related to what academic medicine characterizes as “objective” evaluations of students, and there is data to support this.
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.
Although I’ve spent only a mere two and a half years as a student in this world of medical education, it’s readily apparent that I fit into very few of the “typical medical student” patterns. I’m part of a small cohort of dual degree students. I’m nontraditional, having never considered becoming a physician until after I graduated from college in 2013. And I am a disabled woman.
The United States is the most heavily incarcerated country in the developed world, and with that comes many secondary consequences, including children growing up with incarcerated parents. Although efforts have been made to mitigate the harm associated with having an incarcerated parent, few are focused on meeting the direct health needs of these children through preventative health care.
In college at the University of Michigan, I struggled to find the right place for my blended identity. I felt like the students involved in Indian identity groups were judgmental of those students who did not fit their specific idea of what it meant to be Indian. A friend at the time who was involved in one of those groups would refer to me as an “Oreo” — brown on the outside and white on the inside — for not watching Bollywood movies.
The impostor syndrome I experienced was extremely debilitating and, at some point, it handicapped my performance in my rotation. I even doubted the way I walked; I constantly looked at my badge to make sure it said Ana Meza-Rochin and not someone else’s name.
Greet the customer. Select the meat. Cut the meat. Clean the slicer. Wash the dishes. Sweep the floor. This is my daily routine at High-Venus Deli.