Narrative Medicine & Health Policy

Months ago, I was asked if I would be interested in being a panelist for the AMEC 2021 conference and I answered “Yes!” without hesitation. This conference has been a space for Black individuals in medicine to discuss our experiences, our hopes, and our truths. I’m grateful to speak about two of my greatest loves: narrative medicine and patient advocacy; I’m even more grateful to have the opportunity to be a panelist at my first national conference. Post-conference: I’ll share thoughts and reflections. As of right now, I’m just incredibly excited!

The Pause of a Pandemic

Many months have passed between my last post in this digital space and now. In the midst of turbulence (in many domains), the desire to share in this space has been minimal. It seemed silly to say (and echo others) with a statement about how challenging / frustrating / confusing it is to be a trainee during a pandemic, and so I didn’t. Now, on my day off, I wanted to take the time to reflect and to share.

Today marks the start of my second week in the pediatric ICU (PICU). The PICU is a whirlwind of a space: acuity, turnover, harrowing stories, victorious recoveries, and 28 hour calls. I have never been one to enjoy call (quite frankly, I don’t believe they benefit trainees or patients) and I did not fall in love with the PICU when I made my first pass in February of this year (just before lockdown began in Philadelphia). I can’t help but compare my life in February to my life now. In February, I planned the perfect post-call treat after each of my calls which varied between boxing/spin workout classes with friends, interactive art exhibits, dinner dates with my then-boyfriend, and poetry readings at my favorite gallery in Philadelphia. The medicine was hard but my life had such rich balance.

Post-call days are different now. I nap. I cook. I workout in my apartment. I chat with loved ones over FaceTime or Zoom. I interview for jobs (whew another long story). I nap again. I sweep. I pack my lunch for work. The end. The medicine is still hard with new features: new pathologies (MISC), new garb (goggles and masks), and new expectations. The balance feels off. Two days ago, one of my co-residents took a moment to discuss the hardship of the pandemic as providers and as humans. She shared that she felt behind. I told her that I felt the same. In what feels like a never-ending lull, it often feels like we are on “pause.” Some of us have faced grave disappointments in both the personal and professional domains. I’ll share that the cancellation of my opportunities to do global health work (and some pediatric global oncology) which impacted projected research projects and etc. felt like the universe was saying “no” to my hopes/dreams. I’ll share that the impact of COVID on the job market has caused me to question my decision to defer fellowship applications for a year. I’ll share that I wanted to accomplish far more this year than I have.

My co-resident and I made the effort to point out joys (some small, some large) from this period of time. I’ll list mine here to refer back to on a day when I need the encouragement of my own words:

The Human Side of Medicine

For majority of the pandemic, I worked from home. That may sound like a dream for a pediatric resident who had a front-loaded PGY-2 schedule, but it was anything but that. My plans to go abroad (to Botswana) to engage in global health work were deferred; my projects and events and travels were cancelled. I can’t highlight how nice it was to be involved in the Human Side of Medicine project at that time. I believe strongly in the power of words and the importance of maintaining one’s own wellness in order to be an empathetic and appropriate provider.

Check out the interview here. Thanks for your support!

The Things We Lost in the Pandemic

She was perched on one of the two chairs at the front desk of the apartment building lobby. There were a myriad of unsorted boxes stacked in front of her. It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was surprised to see her there, but it was another example (albeit a small one) that everything had changed in the space of the pandemic, everything including staff schedules. It was atypical for there to be one individual at the front desk. It was atypical for me to be home on a weekday afternoon. I craved familiarity: she wore the black hijab that was a staple and greeted me with the same upward lilt in her voice — “hey AJ.” 

I was uncertain whether AJ was an intentional moniker or if she had forgotten my name. “Let me get your packages, you had a couple arrive today.” I smiled — it was forced. In the packages were masks that my parents had ordered on my behalf with the anticipation that they would be necessary. I had teased them but they were right. The other packages had the treasures of a good skincare regimen, delicious books, and clothing items for another time and place. 

After Rounds: Round-Up (3.19.2020)

Since my last round-up on my contributions to the After Rounds space, I’ve had a couple more articles published and I have a few articles (on topics that mean the world to mean) soon to come.

Early congratulations to the fourth years who will find out their residency matches tomorrow.