As an internal medicine resident working at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, COVID-19 has taken over our workroom conversations as the number of new cases enters exponential growth. As an anthropologist who lived in Wuhan for a year and has regularly kept in touch with physicians there since the city was placed under lockdown on January 23, 2020, COVID-19 has proved to be an unprecedented crisis.
In America today, history is repeating itself with ardent voices calling for division between “aliens” and “nationals,” instilling an “us” versus “them” mentality. What is happening under our watch is eerily reminiscent of the internment camps of World War II and the separation of individuals based on ethnicity that we have seen throughout history. We have created a climate of widespread fear, detaining immigrants and asylum seekers in abhorrent conditions, without a basic standard of care, and separating parents from children.
Softly and subtly, the rustling of the leaves quickens and a cool breeze sweeps across the town. A child rocks gently on a swing and a father stands in the bazaar bartering for the best value for vegetables for dinner. His wife is hospitalized with hemorrhagic dengue; shivering with fevers that rise and fall as do her blood counts.
I had just started my first clerkship of third year at a nearby hospital when the news broke. Hahnemann Hospital, the main teaching hospital of my medical school, was closing. More accurately, the hedge fund manager who purchased the hospital a year earlier was filing for bankruptcy. He separated the valuable Center City real estate from the hospital itself to ensure a tidy profit for investors at the expense of patients and staff.
Over the last year, our collective minds have been captivated by stories about child and family separation, detainment of citizens and immigrants, and the quality of the health care within detention facilities. These stories have been jarring and traumatic, and have also awoken an important level of national consciousness about the nature of detention. What has not received as much coverage in recent discourse is the ongoing nature of solitary confinement in our justice system.
A smear of what I assumed was cat poop obstructed a narrow asphalt path that led to a mobile home. It was raining. I tiptoed around the sopping heap of excrement. Behind me, the wound care attending physician followed.
Last May, Evan matched into a fellowship that will take him across the country for a year, beginning in August. Because he’s a little bit off in the head, he chose subspecialty training that will likely entail even longer hours than residency at the same pay scale.
Nurses in New York City are pushing back against hospital systems that put profits over patients and threaten their efforts to strike for safer staffing ratios. While nurses are fighting, physicians have thus far remained on the sidelines of this struggle.
Career and specialty choice aside, the debt accrued for physicians is very real. Obtaining accessible and accurate advice on what to do with that debt is, at best, disappointing. My goal for this article is to educate, provide adequate resources that can help alleviate stress, set you — the reader and colleague — up to be financially successful, and hopefully make you “money wise” when it comes to your early career.
My partner Evan’s third year of residency completed his trajectory toward what is commonly called “burnout.” Two out of the 10 residents in his class left the program. In an already understaffed department, the remaining residents picked up the slack, taking extra call and working longer days. The general misery index among his cohort skyrocketed.
I met Julian six months ago. He was the first patient I watched go through a buprenorphine/naloxone induction. My preceptor carefully guided him through a series of deeply personal questions: How old were you when you first started using? What is your drug of choice? Have you ever injected? How much? Have you ever traded sex for drugs? When did you last use?
When I took a job as a residency coordinator in graduate medical education at a local community hospital, I made myself a promise: I will not date a resident. They’re too busy, we work together, and we have nothing in common.