Month: May 2021

Uniquely Me

“She plays with you when you’ve got no one to play with.” Those words were used to describe a young girl in a Sunday school class many years ago.

The adult equivalent of “not having anyone to play with” might be the experience of being in the minority.

Being a black female physician in the US, I am no stranger to this. It seems like I have been “in the minority” for the majority of my life. Those who don’t know me may be surprised to hear that I experienced “minority status” even while growing up in Nigeria. Not only was I a year younger than my classmates, I was also one of the few Nigerians in a boarding school where the majority of students were white North Americans. Later, I was the “American” in a predominantly Nigerian school. Decades later, as a “second career medical student,” I was on the other end of the age spectrum.

The only female in a group visiting a traditional ruler in Northern Nigeria during a year of national service, I wondered why I wasn’t offered a handshake along with my male colleagues, only to realize later that it was for religious reasons.

This perpetual …

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Educating a Surgeon

My grandmother’s bed bounced high
But I lost the pillow in my hands
Four stitches in the small town
green tiled emergency room
where peering intently into the mirrored light
I was mad because I couldn’t see

Another Kind of Healing

Editor’s Note: In the midst of last summer’s COVID pandemic, medical student Jordan Berka interviewed patients at a Bronx family health center, collecting personal stories from its diverse community. Today’s issue of Pulse is the product of one such interview. Rev. Rocke’s words are her own, approved by her for publication.

My name is Reverend Hyacinth Rocke, and I reside in the Bronx. I was born in Barbados. My husband died a little while ago, and I also just lost my mom. I have three children, four grandsons and one great-grandson. I am an associate minister at Greater Centennial A.M.E. Zionist Church in Mt. Vernon, New York.

Being Alienated Can Be A Catalyst for Improvement

Starting pre-med in 1948, my intention in becoming a physician was to learn how to be a healer. To learn how to relieve pain and suffering.

At that time, medical education viewed the physician’s role as a mechanic. Physicians were mechanics who fixed a malfunctioning machine: the human body.

My medical school professors “trained” us to be objective, to view patients through their separate parts, and never to view patients as  persons. With the benefit of hindsight and the autopsy table to uncover the pathology, they viewed the “local medical doctor” and “the local hospital” as second-rate.

My medical school professors marginalized the art and humanity of medicine. They did not treat their students as persons. They did not address the cultural aspects of health, such as racism, sexism and homophobia. They marginalized the palliative needs of dying patients. They failed to address the spiritual dimensions of sickness and suffering.

As a medical student, I felt like a stranger in my own land. I felt isolated.

After completing my training, I joined one of those “local hospitals” my medical school professors had disparaged. And it was at Morristown Medical Center that I discovered that I was not alone in wanting …

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COVID Angels

I work as a registered dietitian nutritionist in a nursing home located in a New York City suburb, not far from the community that was the epicenter of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

For the past two months, I’ve also been a member of the COVID Angels, a group of volunteers who help senior citizens in Westchester County make their vaccination appointments.

Final Appeal

“He basically killed me,” Sam said flatly, sitting my office. “I don’t want to talk to him.”

I nodded sadly with understanding as his on-demand oxygen hissed away each moment, like the ticking of a clock. Why would a patient want to speak to a doctor who’d missed his diagnosis? Why should he?

Wreckage

It must have come in a hurry
on a ship of pain, breaching
the weak seawall of her lungs.
The tumor, split from its moorings, set adrift.

My First (and Only) Day in the ER…

It was the first day of a course in medical ethics at the University of Vermont medical school. As a graduate student in public administration, I had been invited to sit in on the class because of my research interest in health care distributional ethics. That made me the only student in the room who wasn’t training to be a physician.

I entered the classroom and took a seat. I barely had time to say hello to a couple of other students before the professor walked in.

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