Olapeju Simoyan

Healers Need Healing, Too

When flight attendants deliver safety instructions, they remind us of the need to put on our own oxygen masks first before we try to assist others.

As health-care professionals, our natural tendency is to focus on the well-being of others; that’s what we’ve been trained to do. We give our patients good advice regarding their physical and mental health, yet the environments we work in are not always conducive to our own well-being. The result can be burnout, which is associated with depression, which increases the risk for suicide. In fact, physicians have a higher suicide rate than the general population.

Another Day on the Calendar

“And the year 2020 came to an end and they all lived happily ever after.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all leave this year behind and be certain of the “happily ever after” part?

I have often wondered at the hype that typically accompanies the end of a year and the beginning of another, especially since the year starts and ends at different times, depending on which calendar we choose to follow. The Jewish New Year and the Chinese New Year do not coincide with the 1st of January, and they do not even occur on the same day each year.

It eventually occurred to me that the meaning we attach to a day or anniversary is what gives it significance, not the day itself. On one occasion during my residency training, I specifically asked to be allowed to deliver a laboring patient’s baby because it was the anniversary of my mother’s passing. I felt that helping to bring a new life into the world on the day when I could have been focusing on death would have a special meaning. I remember looking at an obituary as a child and announcing to my mother that someone had …

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Life Gives Us Choices (Sometimes)

I recently heard that a former coworker had passed away. The news took me by surprise, as I had not known that she was ill. I was told she had cancer and had made the choice to let it run its course without treatment. Earlier in my career, I probably would have questioned this decision. Why refuse treatment, when it’s available? Why not do everything possible to “beat” the cancer?

I do not know the details of her illness, or at what stage the cancer was diagnosed, but I realize that she made an informed choice and that it was her prerogative to do so.

The Gift of Today

I’ve spent my whole life waiting. Waiting to join my sisters in boarding school. Then, once I was in boarding school, waiting for the Christmas and summer holidays when we could go home. And all through high school, waiting to go to university, which, in my opinion, would be much better.

When I got to university, I was in a six-year program, so graduation seemed very far off—so I studied and waited and studied and waited.

For Some Ills, There Is No Pill

Fatigue comes in many forms. Physical fatigue. Compassion fatigue. Emotional fatigue.

I should know about physical fatigue, the kind I experience when I realize that I can’t jog for more than three minutes without taking a break. Then I remember that I am overdue for my iron infusions. Way overdue. I blame my poor self-care on my recent move–in the midst of a pandemic–and how the circumstances were not exactly conducive to getting under the care of new physicians, despite being a physician myself.

People versus p-Values

The only thing that seems certain these days is uncertainty itself. I am in the process of preparing educational materials for the general public to address some of the misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. How does one address all the misinformation out there, especially when people’s lives are concerned?

We Can No Longer Remain Silent

A patient walked in with her child, who was probably about four years old. I greeted the child, but he wanted nothing to do with me. He said, “I don’t like her. I don’t like that color!” I thought maybe I’d misunderstood him. Then he said, loud and clear, “I don’t like Black.” His mother, obviously embarrassed, told him that wasn’t a nice thing to say, and I had to carry on with the visit as if nothing had happened.
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