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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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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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Black and White

Joe, a young Black man, has fire in his eyes as he storms down the apartment building’s front steps and into the night. It’s around 10:00 pm, and you can tell he means business as he heads across the parking lot toward a group of rough-looking white guys who are drinking beer and playing loud music.

I’m on the front porch talking with the minister as we wait for the funeral home to arrive to

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“One of Them”

Suzanne Smith was an elderly white woman who experienced a violent assault some odd years ago. Since then, she’d never been quite the same. Plagued by fears and sleepless nights, the concepts of medicine and psychotherapy were alien to her, and from my understanding in speaking to her children prior to her coming in, she wasn’t keen on speaking to medical professionals.

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Dear Worried Mother

I can’t stop thinking about you.

Last night, at about midnight, the phone aroused me from my happy slumber. It was Vance, the on-call resident, needing advice from me, as the supervising physician, on how to help a worried mother—you—who’d called our family health center’s after-hours service about your daughter’s worsening asthma.

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On Hateful Things

This essay is modeled after Sei Shonogun’s list “Hateful Things” from her tenth-century classic The Pillow Book. She listed everything she hated about being a lady-in-waiting to the Japanese empress, ca. 966-1017.

I wrote my list as a family physician working in community health centers, ca. 2005-2020. As our nation grapples with endemic racism while also facing the COVID pandemic, my trials and tribulations may seem trivial–but they also reflect a broken medical

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The Masked Asian Psychiatrist

About three months ago, I had a Definitely Racist Interaction at work. A patient—we’ll call him Allan—said to me: “I’d like a white doctor. Is there a white doctor available?”

Allan’s voice was even, but his attitude was provocative, as if he were testing me. I felt a flash of fury, but kept my face expressionless. Presumably the surgical mask I wore also helped to hide my feelings.

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No One Ever Asked

Today I greet Mr. Williams verbally, which is very different for us; usually we say hello with a hug.

“Mr. Williams,” I say, “I’m not going to hug you today, with this pandemic.”

“I get that, Doc,” he answers, adjusting his mask; I can’t tell if he’s smiling or not.

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Some of the Hardest Weeks

Some of the Hardest Weeks

Editor’s Note: Since the end of March, Pulse has been carrying special edition pieces on the impact of the COVID-19 virus on patients, families and healthcare workers. In response to recent events, we bring you this special edition on Racism, which is also the theme of this month’s More Voices. In weeks to come, we hope to continue addressing both Racism and COVID in our special-edition series.

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Basic Training

George Kamajian as told by Bob Fedor ~

I’m an old family doctor. Seen much and forgot more. Life has taught me that we touch our patient’s lives for a moment, a season or a reason–and sometimes with unforeseen consequences.

I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. In 1968, when I was nineteen, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam caught the American military off-guard, and the Pentagon began frantically drafting new troops.

My

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Incidental Finding

Deborah Pierce

“You need to give me the name of a different specialist,” Ashley asserted.

For several years, Ashley, age twenty-nine, has been my patient at the residency practice where I work as a family doctor. Our relationship is not entirely comfortable; after visits, she frequently seems dissatisfied, yet she refuses to see anyone else.

Ashley’s body is a source of distress to her, often developing various pains and discomforts that fade away

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Snared by Skin

 

Of all the hues of prejudice that the disparities in skin tone might paint upon the psyche, the one that strikes as the most glaring is often the one that gets smudged and then smeared over; a recent glaze upon a remnant stain, as seemingly seamless their strokes may merge. 

Mr. B’s diabetes flouted conventional therapy with a flourish, or so it seemed until I crosschecked with his pharmacist. He had refilled not

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