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In the spring of 2021, as a third-year medical student in the midst of the pandemic, I worked on a research thesis while continuing to build my clinical skills. Every other week, I would visit the endocrinology clinic and see patients with my research mentor.
It was a day like any other at the clinic. Wearing the usual blue surgical face mask, I knocked on the exam-room door, and asked permission to enter. After sanitizing my hands, I began my introductory spiel while heading to
I was in my third year of medical school, partway through my psychiatry rotation.
“You’re ready for your first mental-capacity consult,” my attending said. I felt excited at being deemed ready to administer this evaluation, which is used to determine whether a patient has the ability to make decisions about their own care.
“The medicine team is confused about this one,” my attending continued. “He’s clinically improving from his COVID infection, but he wants to
I knock on the partly open door and peek around the curtain. A grainy yellow light above the hospital bed falls on a frail, trembling woman as she struggles to comb her wet grey hair.
“Margaret?” I say quietly.
She does not hear me over the hiss of the supplemental oxygen. I watch her for a moment longer.
One winter weekend, I was walking in a local park that has an ice-skating rink. I stopped to watch the skaters for a few minutes. I’m not a skater myself, but I appreciated the skaters’ wide range of ages and abilities.
Off to one side of the rink, I saw a young boy struggling to skate. He was hanging onto one of the walker frames that were provided, his face a mixture of determination, frustration
I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of the mask.
Not the cloth mask, which I now wear every day, as habitually as my socks. I mean the plastic bipap mask, which provides the highest level of ventilation COVID patients can receive, short of intubation.
It was March 2020, and COVID was coming. The virus hadn’t yet reached my small suburban community in Pennsylvania, but already businesses were waning, streets were emptying, clinics were closing. Fear was widespread.
A collective refrain sounded: “Shut it down”—the university, the restaurants and, most of all, the public schools.
Once I spent days, which became weeks, which become months, by myself in a small house in the village of Oshikango, Namibia. Two years prior, I had arrived there as a newly minted college graduate, eager to begin my new NGO job of teaching high-school science and HIV education.
It didn’t take long for the bubble of confident competence to burst.