In what could be one of the greatest satirical pieces of work, Catch-22, Joseph Heller once wrote:
What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.”
Heller was right. Surely, all countries cannot be worth dying for. Only those countries you choose to regard as your own. I wasn’t born in Grenada, but a part of me is certainly alive because of this island. Some might even argue it’s the most important part: the piece that nourishes your what-ifs and gives substance to your wishful thinking. On the night of my own departure, as I try to test out my own wings from the land that’s served as my nesting grounds on-and-off for the past several years, will I ever deem Grenada as my own?
Some of my favorite shots of campus:
Only time can tell what Grenada will become to me as I continue my life elsewhere: a pit stop, a detour, or a makeshift home? Even more, what will I become to Grenada? An honorary citizen, or merely a temporary dweller, holding as much fondness for each other as a midnight traveler to a dingy motel room. Was Grenada merely a means to an end, or did it define a bigger purpose? All I know is that when I moved to a different country four years ago, nothing was harder than saying hello for the first time. As those years started turning into hours, it got even harder to say goodbye for the final time. Continue reading
As a student known to sleep through a larger portion of my immunology lectures, the material, for me personally, lacked a little oomph. IgM. APC. CD28. C4b2a3b. A litany of cells, cytokines, and receptor molecules with unimaginative names and, often, even less enticing tasks that sounded more like a roll call for Star Wars characters. Little did I know, however, that the lessons imprinted on me in immunology translated to a much broader message.
Our biological well-being relies on the body’s meticulous ability to distinguish between the innate and the foreign. Thus, recognizing our own self is a lesson imbued to us by our own immune system. If the crux of good health relies on our body’s ability to recognize the “self” from “non-self” then being a good doctor, in my opinion, is about recognizing one’s own motives, perceptions, and attitudes against the backdrop of competing interests.
While conducting a research study on undertreated pain in sickle cell patients in a small middle-income nation, I interviewed around 40 sickle cell patients. After several long weeks of talking to patients, they all seemed to blend together as one in my head. However, one particular patient would always stick out in my mind. William, as I’ll call him, was rather gaunt and scraggly when he walked into the clinic where I was conducting interviews. His uncharacteristically hollow and worn face spoke volumes about his disposition and how mismanaged his pain was as a result of his disease.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t his face or his stature that made him more noticeable in my mind, but rather something about his eyes. There was a glaring yellowish tone within them, signs of full-blown jaundice, a common symptom of the disease, but even that was far from what made them distinctive. It was, instead, the dejected look he carried about him, a man who lost that sustaining spark to carry on. More so than his body, it was his spirit that was crippled. Continue reading
Medical school is life-changing. Tell me something I don’t know. But the change that we all speak about occurs more in an evolutionary manner than a creationist-infused, divine poof! However, there are still a handful of singular moments that I attribute to modifying how I view not only myself but this entire process of shaping future physicians. My own transformative moment last term culminated with a simple command: Auscultate the anterior chest.
Our 3-credit Clinical and Physical Diagnosis (CPD) course is a glorified title for what we actually do: playing doctor. As you can guess, this is far from using your Playskool doctor kit and treating yet another case of life-threatening cooties. This was a different kind of play-time: we really had to be as proficient as, if not better, than the actors we see playing doctors on television, without the excess dramatics, of course. Every now and then we had graded practice sessions which encompassed each member in a group selecting a different prompt from an envelope and performing the task correctly on a fake patient. Mine involved listening correctly to my patient’s chest. Continue reading
It doesn’t take long to figure out that your first year of medical school really just serves to be one big tease. Your curiosity as a medical enthusiast for the irregular and deformed isn’t satiated until the start of your second year. However, you can’t really understand or appreciate the irregularities that come with disease until you grasp the normal. So the first 9 months of medicine, you whet your appetite by learning epithelium after epithelium, pathway after pathway, and anatomical landmark after landmark with a minimal mention of defects. It’s standard procedure, but it can get frustrating. I mean, what are we doing in medicine anyway if it’s not to learn why the hell the diagnosis on House is never lupus. Continue reading