The Power is Yours: An Exhortation from an Undocumented Medical Student

By Sumbul Siddiqui

My parents immigrated to the United States when I was 4 years old, hoping to give their children a better life. I was raised in Georgia with my three younger siblings, two of whom were born here. Georgia has a policy called 287(g), in which some counties are proud to work together with ICE agents to detain immigrants.

My first encounter with ICE officers was probably when I was 14 years old, just about to enter the 9th grade. I remember this moment very well, because the night before I had watched this scary movie called Saw. So, I was terrified that someone was going to kidnap me. I checked my closet and slept with the lights on that night. No one came for me, but my mom was taken. Two ICE officers entered our home that morning. I only heard bits and pieces because my mom had closed my bedroom door and told me to go back to sleep. Eavesdropping, I heard them tell my mom to go with them, and she would return back to her family soon. That took 3 months. She was taken to the Atlanta Detention Center, and then transferred to an Alabama detention center.

I don’t remember much of what happened during that time, but I do remember visiting my mom in the Atlanta Detention Center. We were only allowed to see her for a brief moment. She was wearing an orange jumpsuit – crying. Her handcuffs were taken off so she could talk to us through the glass window. I told her that everything was going to be okay even though I had no idea what was going on – or really, a clue about our immigration system. When my mom returned, I started high school, and I didn’t think much about immigration again.

Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. They come for my dad. Within just a few months, they come for my brother. My dad was gone for 2 years, and my brother was gone for 7 months. They were both in two different detention centers. Sometimes, I had to figure out who to visit – whether I would drive an hour up from Atlanta to see my father or 3 hours down to see my brother.Read More »

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 »

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 »

The Past Today: A Southern Physician Visits the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

By Suzanne Minor

At this year’s Southern Group on Educational Affairs conference, the University of Mississippi hosted an outing at the Two Mississippi Museums, consisting of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

I focused my visit on the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.  It was exhausting, difficult, heart-wrenching, and, in the end, hopeful.  Growing up in rural Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, I witnessed legalized segregation through small private schools and experienced rampant racism as the norm. Thankfully, college and medical school broadened my perspective, particularly gross anatomy.  Once without skin, all of those black and white cadavers looked so similar.  Not better than or less than, but equal in skinless death.  I dove into former slave narratives, reading Frederick Douglas and trying to reconcile the message from my upbringing – that I was better than because I was white – with my new learning in gross anatomy and in my direct experience with people who looked different than me.  I was learning that we were all just human, no better and no worse than each other.  My professional career has been dedicated to attending to the medical and holistic needs of the underserved communities of Miami, Florida, a diverse area in which I’m in the minority.

Read More »

Switching Roles: A Physician, An Educator, A Patient

By Nalini Juthani

On a bright early morning while getting ready for work, suddenly, something went “Swoosh” in my head. I saw double and felt dizzy with eyes open. Horrified, I returned back to my bed. In a few moments I began to play out various scenarios in my mind. Each potential diagnosis that flashed in front of me had an ominous outcome although my mind was clear. I woke up my husband, a physician, who examined me and said “I am calling our neurosurgeon neighbor”. It was a remarkable Friday when the world seemed to be crashing down on me.

I was a 40-year-old, happily married doctor with three loving young children. Our family had just moved into a new home. I was also enjoying a successful academic career. I wanted to live.  I was simply afraid to die!Read More »