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Double Take

Sauntering into the dark hospital room, I was dazzled by my patient’s radiant smile. It spanned her face and crinkled her eyes; her crooked teeth peeked through her lips, making her seem approachable and kind.

“Hi, Ms. Radha, I’m a third-year medical student,” I said. “Is this an okay time to chat? I’m here on behalf of the psychiatry department.”

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Us and Them

I am a second-year medical student—an older medical student, married, with a five-year-old boy and a baby. In medical school, people like me are called nontraditional—a euphemism for peculiar, different.

Today a group of my classmates and I have gathered, wearing our white coats, at a basketball court in Barrio Bélgica, in the south of Puerto Rico, where I’m completing my first two years of medical school. We’re here to visit with some of the

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The Role of a Lifetime

In our first week of neonatology, my third-year classmates Jay, Em and I donned PPE and filed like ducklings into an operating room on the birthing unit.

A young woman sat slouched on the operating table, her unbuttoned hospital gown revealing the S-curve in her spine. Her name, we learned, was Elise.

Beside her stood the anesthesiologist, Dr. Lane. He put a hand on her shoulder.

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A Heart to Heart

One unusually wintery April morning, when I was fifteen, my maternal grandfather (“Nanabhai” to me) passed away.

The phone call came before my sister and I left for school. My father solemnly handed the phone to my mother, who’d been expecting the call, but not this soon. From my seat at the kitchen counter, I watched her expression morph from shock to disbelief to grief. Without hearing a word, I knew what had happened.

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Unmasking the Problem

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

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Colored Darkness

“You know how empowering it was for me to walk out into the ocean without my shirt on?” asked my twenty-four-year-old cousin Neil after we’d returned from a day of swimming and sunning at the beach.

For me, it had been a rare and welcome break from my coursework in medical school, where I had just started my fourth year.

It was the first time I had worn a bikini in public after years of veiling myself in shirts and

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Dignity in Childbirth

My interest in women’s health began when, in high school, I became aware of the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Learning about that conflict’s impact on women in terms of sexual trauma and maternal mortality opened my eyes to the depths of inequality that women face in the Global South. This, combined with the fact that I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American, led me to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology, with a global-health focus.

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Why Isn’t He Listening?

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

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Where My Story Ends and Yours Begins

It was a Thursday morning, my first day on the medical oncology service. I hurriedly gathered my white coat and badge, the block letters “3rd Year Medical Student” unmistakable in fresh ink. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to look up at the cancer center.

This is going to be difficult, I thought.

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Everyone Has a Story

As I’ve learned in my three years as a medical student, medicine teaches us to place one another in cardboard boxes with worn-out, silver duct-tape labels: “Difficult” patients, tolerable colleagues, children working as family translators, nurses balancing too many beds, the old man who just needs someone to talk to. Like everyone else, I’ve gotten comfortable interacting within the boundaries of these boxes. It’s easier. It’s safer.

And then came Shirley.

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Jell-O, Phone Calls and Other Small Stuff

As I reflect on my year of clinical rotations as a medical student, my mind instantly conjures up some of the biggest moments I’ve experienced.

There have been euphoric highs, like delivering a beautiful baby girl to first-time parents on Mother’s Day. And heartbreaking lows, like having a panic attack in the bathroom after a patient with psychosis shared his delusions about race with me.

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Living the Dream

The first time I watched a baby being delivered, the world narrowed to the woman in front of me. And the head coming out of her. Followed by a little shoulder, then the other. Then there was a baby in the room. A brand-new human being, seconds old.

The doctor placed the baby on the mom’s chest, and the baby cried—a soft newborn cry, the kind before their lungs develop and it becomes shrill.

I

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