Two pandemics

The world we live in is being dramatically shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is new information coming out every day, new policy changes, and more people sick and dying from the disease. As a student of medicine and simply as a human, it has been overwhelming to try to keep up, to help. I am by no means an infectious disease or public health expert and so I have tried to leave the education to much smarter people than me. But I will say, please continue to take it seriously, stay safe, and care for those around you.

A good resource that is updated daily is the American College of Physicians COVID-19 resource guide.

Additionally, please check out the recent piece from the American College of Physician leadership entitled The Collision of COVID-19 and the U.S. Health System. A particularly meaningful quote from this article is:

‘This pandemic has ripped the seams of the U.S. health care system wide open, thrusting front and center our health care inequities and injustices.’

It is time to make a change.

Please note that I have held volunteer positions in the American College of Physicians, including Chair of the Council of Student Members, but on this site I speak for myself and myself only.

The second pandemic has been going on much longer. It is racism. Racism is a barrier to health equity and is a public health crisis. There are many different types of racism (definitions from the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre):

  • Individual racism: “An individual’s racist assumptions, beliefs or behaviours and is ‘a form of racial discrimination that stems from conscious and unconscious, personal prejudice'”. This is learned from /connected to our culture/history and can be expressed in many ways (definitions adapted from @DaniBeck on twitter – link to thread):
    • Micro-assaults: Explicit expressions meant to hurt others (example: wearing confederate flag clothing or saying “go back to where you came from”).
    • Micro-insults: Insensitive communication that is demeaning (example: an employee asking a colleague of color how they got their job, implying they may have landed it through affirmative action).
    • Micro-invalidation: Ignoring the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color (example: asking “Where are you really from?” after someone has already answered the question)
  • Systemic racism: “Includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups.” Subsets of this are:
    • Institutional racism: “Racial discrimination that derives from individuals carrying out the dictates of others who are prejudiced or of a prejudiced society.”
    • Structural racism: “Inequalities rooted in the system-wide operation of a society that excludes substantial numbers of members of particular groups from significant participation in major social institutions.”

As a person of European descent, I cannot begin to understand the pain that my Black and other non-White community members experience. However, I can continue to listen and learn how to be a better ally and use my platform to amplify their voices. I plan to develop a FAQ page that can serve as a FREE, comprehensive resource for those aspiring to go to medical school and/or graduate school and within this page, I plan to link to as many relevant non-White perspectives as I can (if you have any particular questions that you want answered, please use the contact page or reach out on Twitter).

I also always welcome guest posts from students about their personal experience in any aspect of MD/PhD training (though I understand that writing for free for a little med school blog is not the most bang for your buck). If you’re interested, again, please use the contact page or reach out on Twitter.

In the meantime, you can find a list of some of the voices that I am listening to in this Twitter thread.

I will end with two quotes from the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo that I hope my fellow White allies take to heart:

‘I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir”, or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetuate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.’

‘If, however, I understand racism as a system into which I was socialized, I can receive feedback on my problematic racial patterns as a helpful way to support my learning and growth. One of the greatest social fears for a white person is being told that something that we have said or done is racially problematic. Yet when someone lets us know that we have just done such a thing, rather than respond with gratitude and relief (after all, now that we are informed, we won’t do it again), we often respond with anger and denial. Such moments can be experienced as something valuable, even if temporarily painful, only after we accept that racism is unavoidable and that it is impossible to completely escape having developed problematic racial assumptions and behaviors.’


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.