fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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July 2024

Listen Carefully to the Youth

With tears in my eyes, I burst out of the classroom, seeking refuge from my teacher’s and classmates’ endless verbal battering of me. We were mired in a debate about whether the canon of religious music should be omitted from public school choral groups’ repertoires to “appease” students who felt uncomfortable with such music. The discussion was framed with a particular implication—that because of a squeaky and unreasonable minority, the majority of students were deprived of critical singing opportunities.

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A Grandmother’s Love

My 18-year-old grandson was born with female genitalia and was assigned female at birth. He never felt at home in or at peace with his body, and he had shared ill-defined feelings of discontent with his father from an early age, before he had any vocabulary or knowledge about gender identity. As an early teen, he declared himself bisexual; perhaps this was a flare he sent out to test the family response. He went through a brief phase of “they/them” pronouns, before firmly settling on “he/his.” From his mid-teens on, he identified as transgender.

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One Person at a Time

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

By medical-student standards, I’m old.

While it’s increasingly common for applicants to take one, two or even three gap years between college and medical school (usually to do research or engage in an activity to be featured in their application), taking ten years off, as I did, is unusual. I fondly refer to this hiatus as my “gap decade.”

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First Cuts

I don’t know how to describe the first woman that I ever cut into. Any description that first comes to mind is purely factual, failing to capture the strange combination of sensations that passed over me.  The sight of her raw, emaciated body and bony limbs. Her otherworldly smell. The vague feeling of disconnectedness that overtook me.

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New Normal

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

When I finally got to take my newborn son home, after an almost six-week stay in the NICU, the social worker said, “You will be his advocate. You will know him better than anyone. And you will find your new normal.”

My son’s diagnosis was that he would never walk or talk. After his brain MRI, I felt that the hospital staff looked at us differently. My son’s life—and, by extension, our lives—would be different.

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His Legacy!

As a twenty-two-year-old working in Saudi Arabia as a public health nurse, I was excited to be going back on vacation to India. As I landed in Bombay (now Mumbai), I got stopped by a corrupt customs officer who demanded money. He refused to let me leave and told me that I had to pay 5000 rupees. I was scared and angry but did not speak. He went to talk with his supervisor, who I assumed would be in cahoots with him. Standing there, I prayed to the blessed mother (Mary) and asked for her help.

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Personal Days

This week, our resident clinic was decimated. The interns were out on a “personal week”-the week between first and second year of residency.  One of our senior residents was on maternity leave, and the three remaining residents were all taking a “personal day” here and there to a attend a funeral, visit a sick grandmother, etc. My co-preceptor, realizing we would not need two preceptors this week, had taken a few days of vacation. Which left me with two new interns, eager and enthusiastic to learn, and my senior resident on her last day of clinic.

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