The Influence of Racism

First off, I want to give a shoutout to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as we celebrate his legacy as well as all the sacrifices that so many people in both the past and the present have made in order to guarantee everyone access to the civil rights that they deserve. While he wouldn’t be much too pleased about the current state of our country, he would be actively encouraging us all to fight for justice and to combat the racist & divisive rhetoric that is being spewed to us on a frighteningly regular basis. With that said, let’s continue to do our best to live up to the ideals that he believed in and work to make this country, as well as this world, a better place to live in!

martin luther king kindness GIF by Gilbert, Arizona

I spent the entirety of my weekend in Nashville, TN, at the quarterly SNMA National Leadership Institute, where members of the Board of Directors as well as pre-med and medical students in local chapters convened for a weekend of leadership sessions, networking, research presentations, and business meetings. Because it was my third one as a member of the Board of Directors, I already knew what the flow of the weekend was going to be like.

And sure enough, it was ridiculously busy.

Although I spent the vast majority of the weekend in board meetings discussing various matters pertinent to the organization, I did get the opportunity to sit in on a few sessions where physician-leaders of various disciplines spoke with us on topics such as what leadership in the SNMA looks like, leadership behaviors, addressing health disparities and racism as an executive, community organizing and using leadership for social justice. One common theme that kept resurfacing throughout the sessions of the conference was the powerful and negative impact that racism can have on one’s mindset. It’s almost mind-numbing to consider how something as arbitrary as race was turned into this whole social construct that was ultimately weaponized against specific populations for such an extensive duration of time that these minority populations ultimately came to believe and internalize the false and damaging stereotypes that were associated with their respective race.

I personally spent so much of my formative years internally struggling with this ordeal. Due to the media, my surroundings, the “Black” & “African” jokes and stereotypes I routinely heard throughout my adolescent years, I truly believed that Black people just simply weren’t “good enough” and that as a Black Man in America, I was supposed to be either an athlete, a rapper, an entertainer or something else along those lines in order to truly be successful. Even though I was fortunate enough to have an amazing support network and incredible parents who invested so much in me throughout my life, I still saw the intelligence I was gifted with as unusual, even embarrassing at times. I found myself desperately trying to fit in with what was considered to be “Black” as I went about my high school days and ended up suffering through an identity crisis. It didn’t help that I had a completely separate lifestyle back at home as a first-generation American.

It really wasn’t until I got to college that I began to truly feel comfortable in my own skin. My mindset about being Black also shifted dramatically during my undergraduate years and I ended up meeting many people who were just like me, including those who were raised by immigrant parents from various countries in the continent of Africa. I found strength in being Black and for the first time in my life, I was 100% proud of my heritage and of being a Black Man in America. I began to actively fight against the stereotypes that I had unconsciously internalized up to that point, instead finding traits such as resilience, wisdom, perseverance, courage and strength commonplace across the Black diaspora. I realized how troublesome it was to believe that being an intelligent Black Man could be seen as unusual and decided to not only be proud of who I was, but to also begin motivating and inspiring others like me to disregard the false stereotypes being placed upon us and to instead internalize the positive traits that we all have the ability to possess.

Even to this day, there are moments where I find myself having to mentally combat a stereotype I was conditioned to believe throughout my life. What’s so crazy about all of this is that even with the relatively comfortable upbringing that I had, I STILL went through all of this. I can’t even begin to imagine all of those young Black kids who don’t have the same resources I had growing up who have been conditioned to believe that they are inferior to others and that they don’t have the ability or potential to be just as great as, if not greater than, what they perceive to be as successful.

Yeah I know, I went off on a MAJOR tangent….but I felt that it was necessary to put all that out there. It was especially fitting, considering that it’s MLK Day.

Overall, the SNMA conference was pretty productive and I was able to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in months. However, I wasn’t really able to do much of any sightseeing of the city because I was so busy 😔. Now that this leadership conference is over, it’s time to gear up for the national conference that everyone knows and loves; the SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference! It’s taking place in Philly this year and I’m really looking forward to it, especially since it will be my final year participating as a medical student 😭. The past two AMECs that I’ve been to were phenomenal experiences and I have no doubt that this one will be just as awesome!

Briefly recapping my past week, I spent it experiencing various fields of Anesthesia while working on completing some of my required assignments. I spent one day working in Pediatric Anesthesia, another day observing what life performing procedures in a pain clinic looks like, and yet another day helping manage the airway of psychiatric patients undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. I even got the opportunity to push some necessary medications into them, which was a neat experience. In regards to the midterm I took on Monday morning…..it was pretty tough, but not as terrible as I was expecting. I got my score back a few days later and it definitely wasn’t the best I’ve ever performed, but more than enough to keep my chances of comfortably passing the rotation alive. I scored about what I was expecting to score, so I wasn’t really fazed by my result at all. I just want to now get through these required readings, deliver my PowerPoint presentation that I still have to finish working on, take the final this Friday and FINALLY be done with all these assignments that I REALLY DON’T want to do anymore.

kerry washington eye roll GIF by The Paley Center for Media

Speaking of, I’m going to go ahead and sign off so that I can start working on finishing this presentation as well as get through a chapter or two of my anesthesia textbook. *Sigh* C’est la vie.

I hope that your week is a delightful one!

“Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Black Man, M.D.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Man I have so much to say, but not a lot of time to type it all out. As you can see, it’s Monday…which means that I had just about no time to type up a post yesterday. Why didn’t I have time to type up a post, you might ask? Well, I would answer back by saying that I spent the majority of my Sunday in a Board of Directors meeting for the Student National Medical Association. After the meeting ended, I had to drive from Delaware back to D.C. to attend the orientation for the Medical Senior Scholarship Program (MSSP) at Children’s National Medical Center. (My acceptance into this scholarship program allowed for me to participate in an away rotation at this hospital. Look at God!) In order to get back to D.C. though, I had to fight in the war that bumper-to-bumper traffic, blistering rain, and taxing tolls waged against me. Speaking of them tolls,  can you believe that I paid $16 just to get to Delaware, and $8 just to drive back to D.C.?? Like, what kind of scam is this?? Booyyy was I mad. Matter of fact, I’m starting to get annoyed just thinking about it again. Smh. But anyway, after I FINALLY got back to D.C., I got oriented to the hospital by one of the fellows there and then I finally got back to my cousin’s place, which is where I’m staying for the month. I then had to get all prepared for my first day in clinic in the short amount of time I had left and thus made the executive decision to push this post to tonight.

So there you have it. That’s my excuse. Take it or leave it. 🙃

I’m gonna just blaze through the important updates in my life so that I can get through the rest of the tasks that I need to complete before going to bed tonight. First off, the SNMA National Leadership Institute that took place in Delaware this past weekend was a fantastic experience! Outside of helping take pictures throughout the conference to post on the organization’s social media, I was able to sit in on multiple sessions that focused on branding one’s self in this day and age, reprogramming the negative bias that we all hold within ourselves, optimizing grit and resilience, useful tips for interview season, and pinpointing & combating microaggressions. In addition, I got the chance to do some networking and even got approached by a pre-med student who distinctly remembered me from a panel I was on back at AMEC in San Francisco! Shoutout to her for reading my blog on a consistent basis and I wish her the best of luck on her medical school application cycle!

mel b good luck GIF by America's Got Talent

Oh and yeah, I was also busy playing an active role in a board meeting on Sunday. I had to give (A TON) of updates from my committee (External Affairs) as well as from an AdHoc committee that both my co-chair and I are in charge of. I did a lot of talking when it was my turn to give updates, and I’m happy to say that my updates were well-received! 😄 Being on the Board of Directors is some serious work though; I feel like I’m always busy doing something for the SNMA. Matter of fact, SNMA tends to take up the majority of the free time I have when I’m not busy doing clinical work. While the endless amount of work can get irritating at times, I honestly am glad that I decided to join the board. The experience that I’m receiving coupled with the connections that I’ve been establishing makes it SO worth it.

I spent a good amount of my free time last week tying up loose ends that I had been putting off during my Heme/Onc AI. I ran a ton of errands, got my locs retwisted (ayyyyeeee I’m fresh), spent time with my girlfriend, prepared for the SNMA conference, did a lot of emailing, helped host some conference calls, and drove from Winston-Salem all the way up to Maryland. I even got to stop and visit some of my siblings on my trip up to the DMV! (DMV = D.C., Maryland, Virginia. That’s for those of you who thought I was talking about the godforsaken Department of Motor Vehicles). And last but certainly not least, I actually ended up getting some residency interviews last week!!!

tiffany haddish dancing GIF by Saturday Night Live

I honestly thought that I wouldn’t be securing any interviews until about maybe mid-October. With that said, try to imagine my complete surprise when I got my first interview last Monday! Ever since then, I’ve been on an unusually high level of alertness for new emails lol. Like, I really do look like a madman whenever I feel my phone vibrate. Boooyyy I be yanking my phone out of my pocket so fast…..

It feels awesome to know that residency programs are confident enough in me to give me a shot at training in their program. This application cycle is already proving to be leaps and bounds better than my medical school application cycle was 😅. I’m looking forward to my interviews and to hearing back from the other residency programs that I’m currently waiting on!

Okay I’m all done for now. My first day at Children’s National was wonderful; you’ll hear all about it plus more on my next post! 😉

Keep your grind up this week!

“Let yourself be driven by your will to succeed rather than your fear of not succeeding.” – Kevin Hart

– Black Man, M.D.

The Strength of Endurance

Well, this week was quite an adventure, to say the least.

In fact, it was so much of an adventure that I’m actually typing this post on a plane back to North Carolina from Minnesota. Wait, why am I on a plane? Better yet, why was I in Minnesota? Aren’t I supposed to be at camp getting ready to start the week? Lol, I’ll get to all that later on in the post. 😉

I want to start off by talking about my first full week at the Victory Junction Summer Camp. Simply put, it was both a touching and challenging experience. It was also pretty tiring, yet very fun! And I’ve been eating reeeal good here. (Shoutout to all the free meals I’ve been getting here on a daily basis.) Me and the other counselors in my cabin were assigned to care for a young group of boys aged 6-9 who were diagnosed with various blood disorders and gastrointestinal conditions. If you didn’t already know, having to look after seven little boys who like to play around at all times of the day isn’t the easiest thing to do. Them being hyperactive, hating to go to sleep, having very different personalities and testing our rules to their hearts’ desire didn’t make things any easier either. Plus let’s not forget, they have chronic medical conditions that require our attention. At the same time though, it was really fun interacting with them and engaging them in various activites across the camp! Some of the activites we did included fishing, paddle-boating, archery, playing with horses, bunnies, goats & llamas at a barn, playing in a waterpark, making arts & crafts, playing video games, watching Joey Logano speed around our camp in a racecar at what we call “NASCARnival”, and various other things. Before last week, I had never even done half of those things before! Also, the kids who were NASCAR fans flipped when they saw Joey, who just so happens to be a famous NASCAR driver. I had no idea who he was, so I looked him up and he happens to have a net worth of over $20 million. Go figure.

Although I was working as a camp counselor for the week, I made sure to observe what the medical volunteers were doing with our kids whenever they came around so that I had a better understanding what measures these kids needed to take in order to keep their lives as “normal” as they could. Although the kids were living their best lives at camp like any other kid would, their conditions still had to be managed quite frequently by the medical team as well as by us counselors. There were a lot of ostomy bag changes, IV flushes, device recalibrations, trips to the onsite clinic after any one of the kids with his respective bleeding disorder would suffer from a fall, wound or sustained nosebleed, and dressing changes. It was unreal to witness the resilience of these little warriors and how candid they were to each other when talking about how they live with their respective illnesses. Like, two kids would be having a candid conversation about how many times per day one of them would have to change his ostomy bags and how many times the other boy had to get ports placed in him due to various infections. Then a minute later they would talk about a movie or something and I would be just standing there like:

shocked eddie murphy GIF

It was amazing to see how the kids interacted with each other, especially when some of them found out that they had the same condition. It was as if they had never met someone else with their same illness, much less someone their own age. The moment that those particular kids discovered they had the same diagnosis was a precious one that I’ll never forget. Moments like that was one of the reasons why this camp was built in the first place. Alongside moments like that, there were other times where the boys would spontaneously get into altercations with one another. Having to deal with those issues weren’t as precious, as you could probably imagine. But with that said, I think that because this camp is structured the way it is, it forces the kids to learn how to get along with their peers in a non-school setting away from home. Good thing with most kids their age is that they’re good at brushing off conflicts and can get back to playing together rather quickly. Reminds me of how simple my own life used to be when I was a kid…good times, good times.

All in all, my first week at camp was a successful and unforgettable one, even though I was missing the majority of the World Cup games and felt like the world was passing me by while I lived in the camp bubble. Along with interacting with the kids, I’ve made good friends with the counselors in my cabin as well as with various summer staff workers outside of my cabin. I’m looking forward to getting back to camp and meeting our next group of campers, who will apparently have various types of neurological disorders and will be teenagers. It’s also going to be a short week due to the 4th of July taking place on Wednesday, which only gives me less than three days to establish relationships with them. That just means that I gotta make the most of my time with them!

Alright that’s all I got for today! See ya later!

Lol I’m just messing with you, you thought I forgot about the whole Minnesota thing didn’t you?

Yeah you did, don’t lie.

The reason that I traveled to Minnesota a day after leaving camp was because I had to be in attendance for the SNMA’s first National Leadership Institute of the 2018-2019 term. As a member of the Board of Directors, I’m required to attend these conferences, which take place every three months at different locations throughout the country. This conference just so happened to take place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I must admit, Minnesota wasn’t on my bucket list of places to travel to. However, I was very surprised at the incredible diversity of the city and was completely blown away at how enormous the Mall of America was! Like bruh, there’s a whole amusement park with rollercoasters and ferris wheels and whatnot in that mall! Not to mention the Marriott hotel and the aquarium. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous number of stores and restaurants (*cough* Benihana’s *cough* Hard Rock Cafe *cough*).

We had a meet-and-greet on Friday night, where all the pre-meds, medical students, physicians and University of Minnesota SOM faculty mingled and chatted with one another. The majority of the conference took place on Saturday, where we had several excellent presentations concerning various topics such as working to combat the current devolution of our society, being an effective leader, the rich history of the SNMA, adequately caring for people afflicted with disabilities while addressing their concerns in an effective manner (this session was led by people who actually suffer from various disabilities, which made it even more engaging), the potential dangers of social constructs and how they can be used to oppress various populations of people, the incredible importance of social workers, the hazardous nature of making assumptions, dealing with microaggressions, the importance of health equity and advocacy (this presenter used the Black Panther movie to reinforce his message which was very effective), the power of social media and writing op-eds, the various ways in which business can affect the practice of medicine, being knowledgeable about health insurance in order to effectively advocate for the patient, and financial planning. I was also able to attend and participate in the two Board of Directors meetings that took place at the conference. Yeah yeah I know, that was a lot. But there were just so many great things that were shared with us, and I want you to get a good birds-eye view of what we talked about at the conference. I wish I could go into more detail about some of the topics that I’ve listed here, but I don’t got all day to type this already lengthy post out. Plus, I’m going to be landing soon and I want to be pretty much done with this post by the time I get to NC.

So with that said, I’m going to go ahead and end this novel here. I had a great time at the conference and was able to not only reconnect with people but also make new connections with some wonderful people. Overall, the week was quite an eventful one! I’m looking forward to seeing what this upcoming one has in store!

I hope that your week is a splendid one! And have a Happy 4th of July!

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bernard Williams

– Black Man, M.D.