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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Nontraditional

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I have always been different. As a nurse I was a late bloomer, though I’d always felt passionately drawn to the profession.

I was born to nurse. This was evident even when I was a young child; I bathed my grandmother’s amputated leg while the other kids played in the yard. Although I had planned to go to nursing school

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Being Different: My Struggle and My Motivation

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by my peers into believing that being different was bad.

I grew up thinking that speaking my mind was undesirable if my thoughts didn’t mirror those of others. To my peers, liking the “strange” foods of my parents’ Haitian cuisine, such as tripe or oxtail, was weird. I wore my older

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Total Immersion

Winter 1979

After my first ever transatlantic flight, my plane touches down at Kingston Airport, Jamaica. As we taxi towards the gate, I think back on the events leading up to this moment.

Earlier this year, I’d resolved to leave my native Scotland. Two years out of medical school, having done my internship and three stints as a locum in several specialties, I still had no idea for my future. I wrote to hospitals from

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Chameleon

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

On my first day of kindergarten, in Little Rock, Arkansas, I discovered that I was different. All of my classmates had experienced their first day of school together in August, but I didn’t turn five until after Labor Day, so my first day of school, in September, came coupled with being the new girl in class.

Also, for

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Blacker Than Bald Eagles

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

In the 1990s, having grown up in Texas and spent the summer before college playing semiprofessional basketball in Australia, I went to medical school at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, in Mexico.

While there, I experienced a striking and unexpected sense of safety. Although the people there normally never see Black people, they treated me differently from the way

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My Pen Is Mightier

After 9/11, I waited for The Moment.

I was only six when the Twin Towers fell, but even then I understood that being Muslim in America was going to be difficult. I imagined that a teacher would burst into my elementary-school class, point at me and scream, “Get out of this country, you terrorist!” I feared that my friends would look at me, wide-eyed, and never speak to me again.

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Heart Sounds

At his mother’s request, or rather pestering, a forty-year-old male presented to an urgent-care center after several weeks of progressively worsening flu-like symptoms. His mother asked that the providers please check her son’s heart. They replied that there was no need and sent the man home.

His symptoms progressed, and the pair went to the ER, hoping for better results. Again, the mother asked the doctors to check her son’s heart.

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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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