Sunday, November 6, 2011

[uncensored]: Paradigm, Part I

As salaam alaikum,

I'm sitting in bed, reading my Kindle version of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and I had an epiphany of sorts, weeks in the making. I was reading the story of John Moore, a man who was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia whose physician, who sued his physician for not informing him of the purpose of the many follow up appointments that Moore attended miles away from his Seattle home. When I read about the sudden appearance of a consent form that Moore felt uncomfortable signing, his physician's somewhat violent insistence that he sign the form, and then his later contracting a lawyer to find out that his physician had been taking samples from him to create a cell line named "Mo," I was like, shit!

And I laughed, and looked at myself in the mirror, covered in my comforter for heat and yet sleeping naked, the heat blasting in my poorly insulated apartment because we don't have to pay.

I looked at myself and I smiled and I said aloud, "I'm more myself now than I have ever been."

And it's true. Right now, this last hour, I'm becoming more myself than I've ever been.

There's so much to say.

I laughed and said shit because I'm halfway through this book and I've just learned so much about the history of makes me want to read more and more on the topic. I decided to go into this field because I wanted to translate my love of science into a service career, and I picked medicine. I went further with my dedication to service and decided that I wanted to go into primary care, and chose family medicine. While I see medicine and health care in general as a potentially benevolent entity in our lives, what with its Hippocratic oath and its base of helping people, I've always recognized that there is a potentially sinister and dehumanizing side that is pervasive in some areas more than others. This is really vague because it's really quite ubiquitous in the field, from the level of specific specialties to training programs to fields of research.

And I guess more than ethics class teaching you snippets about the Nuremberg Trials or the Tuskegee experiments, this book highlights succinctly some of the many injustices that were committed in the name of biomedical science, the people who were exploited, and the racists that were the founding fathers of many of the technologies and therapies we now take for granted. For example, the father of cell culture was a eugenicist and a Nazi sympathizer.

I think this is an important book for all medical students to read, particularly those of African decent, to understand a little bit of the history of the field we're going to, to appreciate how far medicine has come even in our lifetime and just years before our births, and to therefore learn to revere less the field and some of its predecessors and recognize the importance of our place in getting health care to those who need it most, those of the very populations that have been marginalized and exploited. We owe it to them, essentially.

I want students of African descent, even Africans who don't feel like they're part of the African American experience, to read this and recognize why it is that there are health care's because just 50 years ago, a black patient, dying, could go to a white hospital and the all-white staff, including doctors and nurses, would feel comfortable sending that person away to their certain demise because they upheld segregation and didn't want a black body to taint their white hospital. Fast forward 40 years to Katrina, and its no wonder that happened. The Civil Rights Movement was great but future generations did not carry that forward. The movement was awesome in the most formal sense of the word but it was incomplete without the next generation understanding what their task was to be done.

But that's not why I'm more myself than ever before.

It's a complicated sentiment that, as usual, I'm not sure I can express succinctly. It all started when I met D (yes, he's still around, in some form). I met D while going out with my friend. I saw him "across a crowded room" and I instantly found him attractive. I think I'll save it for another entry.

I realize more people would probably read my stuff if it were shorter. At the same time, it wouldn't be me if it were shorter, so I think I'll put up with a lower readership in order to express myself as I see fit.

I am, after all, more myself than I've ever been before.

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