Recent events have highlighted a systemic problem within our world, our country, our state, and our community. People of color fight an uphill battle in every facet of life, at every socioeconomic level. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception — as we all know by now, patients from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately afflicted. But the spotlight has refocused on a chronic pandemic: systemic racism.
On June 1, I worked a shift in the trauma intensive care unit as riots and looting continued outside and the National Guard patrolled the streets. A group of nurses and I gathered around the police radio held up by two officers who accompanied a patient.
I constantly have to deal with racism and homophobia. In Boston. In America. When I leave work and go home, I have to prepare to deal with the same prejudices the following day. Why would I ever go out of my way to read such stories in my spare time, as I recover from the day behind me?
This elderly yet jolly gentleman answers our unending questions about his physical health, but it is his question to us that makes me pause. Do I have time for a poem? This busy clinic day, I stop reflecting on why his heart stopped beating and instead what motivates his heart to beat in the first place.
No one had told her how difficult the fight after COVID would be. Of course, few in her community had lived to tell the tale. And then again, precious few people had expected her to survive at the ripe old age of 86.
My husband Tom isn’t afraid of anything; strapping on a bulletproof vest every day for work will do that to a man. Tom wasn’t scared until I couldn’t breathe.
The pandemic points to an important lesson: a rejection of traditional leadership structures, at least those that feed into a profit-based medical system, may be necessary in order to create a different world. The union provides such a framework, vesting power in a collective of voices. But in order to succeed at the level of a union, physicians need to let their voices join that collective — they cannot expect a delegate or representative alone to do the entire job, just as we might expect a program director to guide us in the right direction.
In the first two months of 2020, I watched with alarm as a cordon sanitaire descended on Wuhan. I lived there as an anthropologist completing my research on Chinese medicine in 2017. Friends from Wuhan — most of them doctors — were suddenly describing scenes out of a dystopian nightmare.
When I found out I was going to be deployed to treat patients with COVID, I dealt with a lot of existential dread. I remember feeling like I was leaving medicine behind when I matched to a psychiatry residency, and again after I finished the medicine portion of my intern year.
The Collective for Resident Rights at Yale wrote the following list of demands, under our rights as medical trainees, related to the COVID era. It is time to organize. Our collective voice cannot be silenced.
I’m a soon-to-graduate allergy and immunology fellow and the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have catapulted every single physician into uncharted, and sometimes strange circumstances.
When I first met Rita, she didn’t make things easy. She fired a barrage of questions at me, punctuating her litany with the dreaded blow to every resident’s ego — “Are you a student?” — before slouching back on her bed, sweat glistening on her gray-streaked temples as though she had run a marathon.