Summer ’16 Finale

Alas, the Motivation program has come to a beautiful end.

Which means I have exactly one week left until I start my second year.

Complex awkward bye oops jay z

Thankfully, I get another chance to see my family before I head off to studying the copious amount of lectures waiting for me back at school. I’ll leave from Miami tomorrow morning (I can’t stand paying baggage fees…), chill back home for a few days, and head off to Winston this upcoming weekend. Should be a good week.

Now there’s a reason I described the end of the Motivation program as beautiful. It all ended last Friday afternoon with a lovely banquet that was full of emotion, pictures and heavy hor d’oeuvres. (I definitely had my fair share of Swedish meatballs and shrimp. ☺️) The banquet started with the Executive Director of the program welcoming everyone to the banquet and thanking each of the staff & faculty in the room. She then had me and my co-TA stand up to be recognized and gave a congratulatory speech thanking us for our help in the program. We were then each gifted with a card and a stethoscope (ayeeee!!!) and in a surprising twist, we were summoned to the podium to say a few words to the audience. Gotta love impromptu public speaking. After all that, the two student speakers selected by the class delivered their touching speeches to the audience. Their words of gratitude and admiration brought both laughter into the room and tears to the eyes of some of the students in the crowd. Watching them speak on a public platform and witnessing how grateful they were of the program was an awesome feeling in itself. After they spoke, certificates were given out to each student and the program ended with a story from the Associate Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs of the Miller School of Medicine. Then hella pictures were taken for the next hour or so. It was a great time overall. What made it 10x better was the card I received from the students with a note and a signature from each of them on it.

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Reading what they said in the card moved me more than anything else did that day. (I also got the “Proton Award” from my students the night before for being such a positive force throughout the program 😂.) After the banquet ended, one of the students came up to me and sincerely thanked me for being a presence in the field of medicine and told me how motivated he was by my blog. He not only appreciated the content of it, but it also is encouraging him to read more so that he can increase his reading speed and his reading comprehension overall. Isn’t that dope or what? Hearing testimonials like that is what keeps me going with this blog and with this path of medicine in general.

A couple of days prior to the banquet, the SNMA chapter at the UM Miller School of Medicine hosted a forum addressing the racial tensions being felt nationwide as a result of the continued use of excessive force by some police officers in the country against African-Americans. I’m happy to say that the classroom was packed with a diverse array of people from various backgrounds and that we were all willing to listen to each other express ourselves in an inclusive atmosphere. Mediated by the same Associate Dean for Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, we decompressed and reflected on many topics including privilege, the power that medical students have to implement change, advocacy & accountability, how institutional forgiveness of institutional racism in the system causes distrust with the system in this country, the pool party incident that took place last year in Texas, the vast number of incidents of police brutality that have taken place these past few years, the importance of legislative action and instituting actual change in the community, and racial profiling. I found it interesting when he mentioned that many of us have various privileges that we may not be aware of due to their mainstream nature in society and that we should be cognizant of them. He gave white privilege and heterosexual privilege as examples, but he said that there are numerous ones out there that many of us don’t even realize we have when compared to others around us. In regards to speaking out and taking action as medical students and doctors, a first-year student asked how we could do that if we are supposed to be outwardly neutral. A fourth-year med student responded that we shouldn’t have to be afraid to speak out on political issues, especially when it comes to political issues that directly impact the livelihoods of our patients since we are meant to be advocates for our patients, no matter what. Later on in the discussion, an Ed.D spoke on how he was racially profiled by the police as he was driving his wife’s car one day. They had informed him that the vehicle had come up as stolen and they drilled him with questions about it before letting him go. One more thing that piqued my interest during the discussion was when a medical student, a young white male, spoke on how much he appreciated the inclusive tone of the talk and how he was initially worried of race-bashing when he came to the discussion. He stated how he wanted to be helpful in making progress happen and that he wants to fully educate more of his friends about the very real issues that people of color face on a daily basis, but is also uncomfortable asking black people certain questions due to his fear of coming across as aloof or offensive. Another medical student, a young black female, responded by telling him he can help the cause simply by educating others that may be ignorant about the current issues at hand and actively engaging with the community in various ways. She also mentioned how important it was for him to inquire about things that he may not know much about even if it may come across as ignorant, because the answers he’s looking for will kill that ignorance. All in all, it was an engaging and extremely necessary forum. In order for things to get better, we must continue to talk about these issues. But we also need to complement discussion with action, because talking didn’t save Mr. Charles Kinsley from being absurdly shot at by an officer as he laid on his back with his hands in the air while trying to calm down his autistic patient sitting next to him. Ridiculous. Thank God he’s still alive.

That about does it for this post. I unfortunately have to now go and pack for tomorrow…

Make your week a fantastic one!

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

– Black Man, M.D.

Chills.

It’s been one hell of a week.

All within these past seven days, I’ve felt the emotions of happiness, gratitude, anger, fear, hope, love, sorrow, excitement, frustration and thrill. In this short amount of time, I’ve gone from running the usual errands in my program to learning that we now live alongside Pokemon to witnessing the brutal murders of two innocent black men to jumping out of a plane 10,000 feet in the air to protesting in the Wynwood Art District near Downtown Miami to advocate for the importance of black lives and that they matter just as much as the lives of everyone else in this country. I feel like I have so much to say today, but I’ll try not to make this an excessively long post. No need to write a thesis, ain’t no Ph.D in blogging bih. So with that said, please bear with me.

Okay so first things first. After a couple years of going back and forth, I FINALLY WENT SKYDIVING!!! Okay I wasn’t going back and forth, I knew I wanted to do this the whole time…but my money wasn’t where it needed to be. Plus it was a struggle finding someone that wanted to go with me, because there was no way in hell I was gonna do it alone lol. I don’t think words can describe the experience of jumping out of a plane well enough. It was exhilarating, crazy, spectacular, insane, fun and incredible all at the same time! I was still feeling the rush of adrenaline over an hour after I landed! Never before had I felt the way I felt when I was free-falling at damn near 120 mph. You know what, lemme go back to the beginning and walk you thru this whole experience.

My friend and I got to Miami Skydiving Center last Friday afternoon all pumped up and ready to skydive. We had been looking forward to this for the past couple of weeks and were excited that we had finally made it to the site. We walked in, paid the necessary fees and signed quite a few waivers. (Talk about signing your life away.) We then met our skydiving instructors a.k.a. the people who had our lives in their hands. One of them, a guy from Hungary with a very thick accent, instructed us on how to properly dive out of the plane and pumped us up with high-fives and very corny jokes. He also happened to be the person I was going to dive with. More high-fives and corny jokes for me. We then got strapped up and waited for our plane to get all suited up. After what seemed like an eternity (about 30 minutes) we finally walked to the tiny plane, took some pictures and climbed inside. Now when I tell you there was very little space in that plane…matter of fact, there was absolutely no space at all. The four of us were crunched up in that little Wright Brothers-look-alike plane as the pilot proceeded to take off. Because I had decided to let my friend jump first, she was at the door with her instructor with her legs all stretched out while I was squeezed in the back with my instructor with my crouched legs already starting to go numb. We ascended into the air and got an awesome sky-view of the city of Miami. We were mostly quiet in the ten minutes or so that we climbed into the air, with my instructor breaking the silence every couple minutes with his high-fives and his picture-taking. We then finally reached the altitude that we were to jump at, so then my friend’s instructor clicked open the plane door. Now this whole time I was very calm and excited about this whole experience, even as we were reaching for the clouds in the plane. I wasn’t fearful or anxious at all. But when I looked out at the Earth after this man opened that door, I felt a sudden chill go down my spine, yelled an expletive out of surprise and instantly regretted the fact that I let my friend go first because I had to watch her jump out before I did. After a minute, she jumped out of the plane with her instructor and then my instructor and I scurried to the door because I was next. I had no time to think about the fact that I was about to do something completely insane, because in less than 60 seconds my feet were already out of the plane ready to dive out. I sat there and waited for a countdown from my instructor that I never got. Before I could take a deep breath, I was looking up at the plane screaming my lungs out with my feet to the sky.

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I was free-falling. I had my eyes closed for the first few seconds of free-fall trying to breathe and scream at the same time. Crazy part was, I couldn’t even hear myself scream. When I finally opened my eyes to fully capture the experience, I realized that we were doing flips in the air while plummeting to the ground. My instructor was also having a blast snapping hella pics of me looking like a fool. I then went from being initially fearful to feeling exhilarated as I spread my arms out and yelled in excitement. After about 30-40 seconds of free-fall, my instructor opened the parachute. Soon after the strap clapped on my groin very uncomfortably, we were smoothly sailing towards the ground. He also let me hold the parachute and control our course towards the ground for about a minute. It. Was. Awesome. At this point, the adrenaline was coursing through my veins so I was acting a fool in the air out of excitement & loving every second of it. We finally landed by sliding on the ground and after I got unstrapped, I was running around and yelling about how incredible that experience was. After my friend landed, we all drove back to the center, got our pictures/certificates/t-shirts and left for a well-deserved dinner.

Before I dive into the relevant issue plaguing the country, I want to quickly note the Dinner & Discussion that took place this past Thursday. We had an Internal Medicine/Pediatrics doctor come in to talk to us about her life as a black woman in medicine. With the majority of the students in the program being women (17 women & 6 men), her perspective was very well received by everyone in the room. She touched on points that I found pretty interesting while she was talking with us. For example, I never thought about the dynamic between women nurses & women doctors and how women nurses tend to be, on average, nicer to male doctors. She also spoke about times where some of her patients both white and black didn’t want to be treated by a black doctor, as if her care was “inferior” to the care that they would receive by another doctor. She said it was real tough for her at first, especially when it would come from an older black patient. She would tell all these patients that she was the only doctor available at the time being, so they could accept her care now or struggle with the wait of finding another doctor, which could take a long time. She spoke on the duties of a locum physician, which is a doctor who travels to different short-staffed hospitals in the country in order to temporarily fulfill the duties of an absent physician. She also talked about how she had a friend from Russia who had parents that were doctors over there (ophthalmologist & Ob/Gyn) but when they moved to the U.S., they were forced to find different jobs since their same license wasn’t effective over here. So her friend’s dad went from being an ophthalmologist to a business man and her mom transitioned from Ob/Gyn to Psychiatry. The moral of the overall conversation was that life is fluid and that you can’t write a table of contents for your life, no matter how hard you try. It was a real informative and interesting conversation, to say the least. And oh yeah, the food was dope. You ever heard of airbrushed chicken tenders? Yeah, I hadn’t either until I had some. I enjoyed those with my bacon & chicken wrap, salad and both my chocolate chip & oatmeal/cranberry cookies. 😁

This post has already stretched out longer than I would have liked it to…but I really have to get some stuff off my chest when it comes to the social issues we’re currently facing right now in this country. There’s SO MUCH I could say when it comes to the hurt that I’m currently feeling with these unjustified killings, but pretty much all of it has already been said by a large number of my friends, and by many people on social media in general. There’s really nothing worthwhile for me to add to everything that people have already said. I could retweet all day and share almost everything that catches my eye on my Facebook timeline, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better. The only solace I get by doing that is knowing that I’m lucky to know so many people that feel the same pain and sorrow that I feel every time I get a notification that another black man has been beaten and/or killed as a result of police brutality. The two men (R.I.P. Alton Sterling & Philando Castile) killed this past week were ordinary Americans that were going about their everyday business when dangerous racial bias and unfair stereotyping rooted from the oppression of African-Americans in this country created enough fear in these cops to unjustifiably murder these men. I mean, come on man! Mr. Sterling was LEGALLY selling some freakin’ CDs in front of a convenience store when a homeless man called 911 after he noticed that Mr. Sterling had a gun on him after repeatedly asking him for some money. The way the police treated Mr. Sterling when they arrived was outrageous and highly uncalled for. As for Mr. Castile, he was stopped for a busted taillight for God’s sake. How in the hell did the traffic stop end with a dead father in a bloody shirt, a mother handcuffed and detained and a LITTLE GIRL separated from both her parents AFTER WITNESSING A MURDER, never to see her dad again??? Mr. Castile was reaching for his wallet AFTER BEING ASKED to retrieve his license and registration. He even informed the officer that he had a firearm in order to avoid any trouble. Yet, he was shot MULTIPLE TIMES. You know what, I wonder what the headlines would have said if Ms. Reynolds never captured the whole video on her phone. It probably would have stressed the fact that Mr. Castile had a gun and that the police was acting in self-defense. That sickens me. And to anyone that dare inquires why these men had firearms, are they not under the protection of their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms? These men were peaceful, yet there are plenty of other people, including this guy right here, who use their 2nd Amendment right in a hostile manner, yet are not killed on the spot. (Remember that little punk that goes by the name of Dylann Roof?) Most of these people also happen not to be black. Go figure. I know law enforcement is capable of taking care of a situation without killing the perpetrator. They have done so numerous times. Yet, it just so happens that if you’re black and are wielding a gun, you’re much more likely to be “taken care” of by simply being shot at, thanks to racial bias. Matter of fact, why is the National Rifle Association all wishy-washy about these unjustified killings all of a sudden? Why wouldn’t they want to rush to the defense of a licensed gun owner who was following all the rules that he should be following? Who EXACTLY do they stand for? It’s as if the lives of black men don’t matter as much as the lives of others. And some people have the nerve to get offended when we proclaim that Black Lives Matter.

I just don’t get it when people get mad about that. You mean to tell me that Black Lives don’t matter? Is your comeback All Lives Matter? Well duh, of course they all matter. I’m sure we all realize that no life is inherently worth more than another. So with that said, why aren’t you asking why the lives of these people, who happen to be black, are being abruptly ended in a disproportionate rate? If all lives mattered, then black lives surely matter, right? Are the lives of every race in this nation currently being cut short by the hands of those that were sworn to protect the communities of this nation in a disproportional fashion? We know that all lives matter. That’s why we protest, shout and cry out that black lives matter. Our lives don’t overall matter more than the lives of other people in this country, just as their lives don’t matter more than ours. We’re not better than anyone. The people that I protested with at Wynwood last night understood that. The absolute best part about it was that there were many different races & ethnicities represented in the group of protesters. We don’t want trouble. We don’t want violence. We just want to make sure you’re aware that our lives matter just as much as yours, because as of right now, I’m not sure if that’s clear to everyone. One of my friends said it clearly on her Facebook:

‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ does not mean black lives are more important than other lives. It does not mean that black people want special privileges. It does not mean that black people think all white people are racists. It’s about awareness. It’s meant to bring awareness to the injustices that black people in America face. Everyone has difficulties in life. Black people are just trying to point out that some of our issues are issues with a system in this country. That’s all.”

Another thing I can’t stand is simply calling every police officer evil and trying to start a war against the whole police force. That’s very simplistic thinking. It’s not that simple. Yes, there are a number of officers that don’t deserve to wear their badge. These officers like to display their power by using excessive force, especially on minorities, and their racial biases greatly influence their decisions and actions. They tend to categorize minorities as an alternate group of people that should be treated differently and more aggressively instead of seeing them as ordinary Americans like themselves. These officers should be purged and punished for their actions. However, there are an even greater number of officers that fulfill their sworn duty to protect and serve each and every law-abiding human being in this country. These officers tend to be overlooked when an unjustifiable officer-related shooting occurs, and as a result, they are looked down upon because of their association with the police force as a whole. This is unacceptable as well, as Officer Nakia Jones made very clear. I’m not saying I have an answer to correct this, but I do think it’s important that we’re all aware that it doesn’t help to call all cops “pigs” and to be distrustful of all of them. We also need cops like Officer Jones to speak out against cops that abuse their power in order to show that there are many officers that refuse to abuse their power. When people begin to negligently believe that all white people and all cops are bad, you get left with intolerable terrorist acts like the unjustified killings of the five innocent officers in Dallas that were simply fulfilling their duty in a peaceful manner. (R.I.P. Officer Brent Thompson, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, Officer Michael Krol, Officer Lorne Ahrens, & Officer Michael Smith). Killing police officers off is repugnant and will only make the overall problem worse. But with that being said, as a young black man myself, I do admit that it’s becoming harder to trust anyone in a blue uniform these days. I can break down stereotypes all I want, but being able to completely shake off the stereotypes that some people have of me for simply being an African-American man is nothing short of impossible. It’s almost like I can’t do anything without somebody being suspicious of what I’m doing. Smh. The best I can do is smile and say hi to every officer I come across. I hope that’ll break some unnecessary tension between us.

Violence only brings more violence. Hate only brings more hate. Love dissolves both.

May God be with us all.

“If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how f–king exhausting is must be to live in it.” – Jon Stewart

– Black Man, M.D.