No Smoking This Side of Room: Reflecting on things that aren’t there any more after 42 years as a student and a teacher in a medical school

By Michael Dauzvardis

In The Beginning

It was June of 1977 and I had just begun my graduate career in anatomy.  Little did I know that I would be taking all my major classes with the medical students.  A lifelong journey in accompanying medical students in various ways had begun.

The Lecture Hall

A typical day in anatomy class began with 130 or so medical students, shuffling sleepy eyed into their small seats with swing out mini desk tops. They came bearing newspapers, coffee mugs, 3 course breakfasts, adorned in hair too long and shorts too short.  Bell bottoms, blue jeans, and baseball caps ruled the day.  I quickly assimilated by wearing my new Levi overalls. On the right side of the room (while facing the podium) was a sign affixed to the wall which declared “No Smoking This Side of Room.”  Now I must say that on the opposite side of the room I did not observe a lot of smoking but on more than one occasion I observed a student chewing tobacco and spitting into a large plastic cup during lecture.  The class of 122 consisted of 90 men, and 32 women– with a racial and ethnic composition of 1 black person, 3 Latinos, 7 Asian-Americans, and 111 Caucasians.  Forty-six of the men had mustaches, with the majority of those also sporting beards.  It was the prime of the disco period and it showed.

A portion of a newspaper containing the daily crossword puzzle would be passed around for each student to contribute. The instructors drew on a thing called a chalk board while some students tried to keep up on their yellow pads of legal paper. Audiovisuals consisted of carousels of 35 mm slides projected onto a pull down screen in the front of the room. On more than one occasion I observed a professor drop his entire tray of slides before lecture.  The slides would fly in all directions. Students and staff, eager to be helpful, would assist in reloading the carousel, but since slides needed to be placed upside down and reversed in order to be projected correctly, this usually resulted in much confusion and sore necks during the lecture.  These slide carousals also provided for the mischievous opportunity of inserting bogus slides into the lecture.  If a lecturer wanted to show a “film strip” he had to notify the AV department in advance so they could bring in a reel-to-reel projector, whose sound never worked and which often melted the film.

There were no computers or cell phones (two payphones were mounted outside the lecture halls).  Pocket calculators were the rage–and I even saw an occasional slide rule.  Virtually all students participated for 15 dollars in a co-op note club.  Each student would be assigned a lecture at which he or she would take detailed notes.  These were typed out, mimeographed and distributed to the entire class.

The lecture hall had a center aisle, but no side aisle.  As a result, students had to climb over each other to get to and from the end seats.  Furthermore, the floor slanted at almost 45 degrees toward the front such that a dropped pencil or spilled cup of coffee made it all the way down to the lecturer.  The lecture hall spanned two floors with the upper half flanked by the outer windows in a manner leaving a precarious eight-foot drop hidden by curtains– which on more than one occasion gobbled up a medical student like a bug in a Venus flytrap.

The Pub

There was a long, often leaky, run-down hallway that connected the medical school and hospital with the dental school, a dark tiny basketball court, an old theater, and the beloved pub. The pub served pizza and sandwiches and soft drinks for lunch during the week.  But, at 2:55 pm on Fridays, students, staff, and faculty could be seen with their tongues attached to the outside of the pub Read More »

“Pobrecito” – The Fine Line between Compassion and Infantilization

By Fabiana Juan Martinuzzi

“Pobrecito”– she said as we discussed the patient’s pneumonia course before entering his room.

Pobrecito” – she repeated as we donned our gloves.

Pobrecito”- she mouthed to us in front of our patient.

Pobrecito”- she whispered in my ear as we left the room.

That day, “pobrecito” became a word I eliminated from my vocabulary. In Spanish “Pobrecito” translates roughly to “poor thing” or “poor baby” and it is an appropriate word to use to show empathy with an endearing connotation. However, when one of the healthcare providers in the team used it incessantly to show pity in front of my 60 year old patient with cerebral palsy and dementia I began to cringe every time I heard her say it.Read More »

My Pediatrician

By Puja Nayak

“Doctor,” I say, my voice fading. I hear footsteps running and my eyes shut.

Hours later, I have a wire in me. I try and pull it out but my doctor stops me.

“No, don’t do that sweetie.”

I give her a look. I don’t understand why I’m here. My head is hot, I am sweating, and many students surround me, taking notes. Are they talking about me?

“Honey, you have something called Kawasaki.”

I raise my eyebrows.

“Your body and I are fighting it, so you will be okay.” She hands me a juicebox and leaves the room with my parents.Read More »

Working on my MD and PhD degrees as a DACA recipient

By Cesar E. Montelongo Hernandez

Last week a federal appeals court upheld the ruling that blocks the Trump administration from ending DACA. This means the nationwide injunction that allows DACA to remain will stay in place. Despite this, the legal battle will continue and likely head to The Supreme Court of the United States. DACA recipients have been granted a few months of respite but their long-term outlook is still very uncertain.

I am currently in my fourth year of medical school. In total the combined MD-PhD program takes eight years to complete (an MD degree alone takes four years). Students begin by completing two years of the MD, switching over to the PhD for about four years, then coming back to complete the last two years of the MD. At present I have completed two years of the MD degree and I am in the second year of the PhD degree. Ideally, I will complete the PhD degree by 2021 and the MD degree by 2023.Read More »

A Response to Alumni Disappointed in Stritch’s Support for DACA

By Sunny Nakae

In May the Stritch alumni magazine published a cover feature article about our first cohort of DACA recipients admitted to the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and their impending graduation.  We received both positive and negative correspondence about this feature.  What follows is a compilation of complaints I received from some alumni and a summary of the responses I offered.

“As an alum I am disappointed in your policy to admit DACA recipients over US citizens.  Because you are admitting non-US citizens that means a US citizen will not get a seat. Supporting undocumented students violates Federal Law.  Did these DACA recipients get ‘affirmative action’ status?  Candidates should get admitted because of their credentials, not because they are minorities or immigrants.  What constitutes the right minority?  It seems like Japanese, Korean and Chinese are no longer considered minorities but smaller Asian groups like Hmong are? In my graduating class there are many of us who will no longer be supporting the school.”

Dear Stritch Alum,

Thank you, sincerely, for expressing your current views on our decision to accept MD applications from DACA recipients.  This happened in 2012 with the support of our then dean, Dr. Linda Brubaker, and our then president, Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J  The inclusion of DACA recipients continues to receive full support from our current dean, Dr. Steven Goldstein, and our president, Dr. JoAnn Rooney.  It seems from your email that you might not have all of the facts for the situation, so I would like to open a dialogue and provide those facts for you and any colleagues with whom you wish to share this information.  I understand that at first glance this decision may appear to disenfranchise other applicants, specifically those of Asian descent or US citizens. Read More »

Emotional Rollercoaster: Learning to Doctor through Humbling Experiences

By Kihyun Kwon

It was an eventful start to the morning. My attending saw the first patient, who voiced murder ideation towards her unfaithful husband. I imagined myself being taken aback in a troublesome situation like that. I was still in a state of shock when my patient arrived. The clinic schedule had no regard for my emotions and gave me the most difficult patient I ever came across.

The nurse came back shaking her head and said, “The patient will not talk or make any eye contact.” The preparation notes I took earlier said she was a college student with Autism spectrum disorder, depression and anxiety. Never having had any interaction or personal experience with autism, I was nervous. My attending offered to see the patient with me, but I took the initiative to interview by myself. The patient was lying on the examination table playing on the phone while her mother greeted me. I introduced myself to the disinterested patient; I was utterly ignored.

I asked the mother about the patient’s history.

“How has she been doing?”

“Have her symptoms improved?”

Talking about the patient in her presence without actually conversing with her felt awkward. Answers that the mother gave seemed impersonal, and I could not empathize with the information especially with the patient being engaged in her phone.

I wasn’t sure if it was out of annoyance, or concern, but I started directing questions toward the patient.Read More »

Sharing at the Free Clinic

By Megan Masten

I recently had the opportunity to spend a month at a free health-care clinic in Flint, Michigan as part of my third year Internal Medicine clerkship.

I am in an underserved medicine program and I have a deep interest in working with people who have characteristically been left out of healthcare.  I loved working with the population who receive their healthcare services at the free clinic – I have mostly been impressed with patient’s willingness to feel vulnerable.  I have spent my third year of medical school in a variety of medical settings, and my favorite type of patient interactions are the ones where patients are willing to be completely honest with me and share things about their life that they might be ashamed of or have complicated feelings about.  I feel like I am doing what I’m called to do when I get to have difficult discussions with people about medical and non-medical issues that affect their lives, and my ability to have these discussions has been strengthened by my time at the clinic.

I spent time with a patient at the Free Clinic who opened up to me about his mental health issues.  He was recently started on a new antidepressant medication for depression and anxiety, and he was open and honest about his challenging feelings.  He shared with me that he was feeling really depressed and had frequent suicidal ideations – and he was quick to say, “I’m sure you don’t struggle with depression, I’m sure your life is really good.”  It was such an important and unexpected conversation to be had; although I don’t personally struggle with depression at this point in my life, I can’t say that I never will, and I can’t say that I don’t understand how he feels.  I shared this with him, and I shared with him the fact that I have family members with depression and bipolar disorder who have been suicidal in the past.Read More »