Pain and Prejudice

In the summer of 1904, a Grenadian embarked on a journey to Chicago to attend dental school. The student, Walter Clement Noel, upon arriving to the United States was plagued with health complications requiring his internist to perform a blood smear, a relatively new technique not frequently used in diagnosis. This gave rise to the first documented finding of sickle cell-shaped blood cells which was presented to the world in a case study in 1910.

Almost 100 years later, a Chicagoan receives admission to a graduate program in Grenada, only to complete a thesis on sickle cell and chronic pain in the country that gave birth to a man whose blood gave name to a chronic disease.

Herrick

Dr. James B. Herrick, credited with the first description of sickle cell disease, taught and practiced in Chicago, Illinois.

In science and research, life and circumstances often influence and shape your focus. A son who lost his mother to breast cancer is propelled to devote his energies discovering oncogenes. An impressionable college freshman is captivated by her professor and his research resonates in her own through the years. Inspiration can often be quite predictable. With me, however, someone with no prior exposure or bearings on any blood disorders, I have to believe that sometimes the research chooses you, a phantom deliberately lighting paths and dimming others, making you falsely believe your decisions are truly your own.

A little more than a century separate the opposite journeys that Walter and I took. And yet in that chasm of time, I’ve learned that just because we’ve given a disorder a name does not translate to a cure or even a standard global practice in managing the pain. My thesis helped me more than becoming a published primary author this past summer; it opened my eyes into seeing firsthand how medicine is much more than just biology, but also one part sociology, one part politics and policy, one part psychology, and even some parts geography. Continue reading

An Ode to Grenada

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

Do You Fit the White Coat?

It’s a day I’ve been dreaming of. The White Coat Ceremony. Mostly full of pomp and circumstance and doing little more than reaffirming medical students’ commitments to upholding the pillars of being a physician, it is a milestone. While most people want to thank everyone short of the mailman at the end of their journey of medical school, I think most medical students learn to appreciate the journey itself. Whether your road to medical school was long and winding or short and straight, this day can serve as a sweet and subtle resting stop to a path that will only be getting harder. Nevertheless, day one is just as important as graduation day, and I’ve waited too long not to thank everyone in my life who played both supporting and lead roles in getting me here. Continue reading

There and Back Again

My home for the last year was situated at the southern end of Grand Traverse Bay. The bay with its picturesque views and touristy charm was named by 18th century French explorers describing “la grand traverse,” or “the long crossing” at the mouth of the bay. Apparently geography imitates life for I could not have picked a more perfect spot to emulate my own physical and personal crossing from  11 degrees above the equator to the 45th parallel. Now, approximately one year and 2,600 miles later, I find myself back on the island that started it all, in another bay that could not be more different and ironically, close to Grand Anse, also named by the French and literally translates to “a large bay” in French (the French apparently prove to be a little unimaginative and rather blunt in their geographical naming).

I’ve been in school so long that the inception and ending of each year is synonymous with the school year. So as medical school is about to begin (something I still can’t seem to grasp), I just wanted to recap the past year in pictures and prove to anyone that’s been following that I truly did not spend the entire twelve months wallowing and whining. There were still plenty of good times and I’m grateful for not only the bays that I’ve come to call home but all the land in between that I was lucky enough to visit, if even for a brief moment.

Observing Death Valley, California

The lowest point in the United States–86 meters below sea level.

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5 Misconceptions and Oversights

The minute our plane’s wheels hit that airport tarmac, it still hadn’t sunk in that I was back. Even after a couple of days, there are still countless “pinch-me” moments where I’m exhilarated or despondent at being so far away. While I’m working on my own transition, I wanted to clarify a few misconceptions and oversights that people often make when packing for Grenada and, in particular, St. George’s University, now that I’ve completely relocated to the island not once, but twice.

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