We are over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Twelve months of bumbling and anemic federal responses regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) and grossly inadequate testing and contact tracing initiatives. Almost 30 million confirmed cases in the United States. Over 500,000 dead. For months, we have been hearing reports of the racial inequities in the number of diagnoses, severity of illness, hospitalizations, and deaths within Black communities.
So, what’s the good news?
I went for a colonoscopy at the ripe young age of 49, a little over two years ago. I wasn’t experiencing abdominal pain, weight loss, rectal bleeding, or black tarry bowel movements. I had a primary care provider and insurance that allowed me the opportunity to set up the appointment with a colorectal specialist for the procedure at minimal cost. I was working a full-time salaried position and had the privilege to schedule an appointment without having to worry about a workday’s pay.
The evening before I ingested a liquid concoction that tasted like cherries but whose sole purpose was…
The bubbly twenty-something medical assistant poked her head out into the clinic waiting room into a sea of vulnerable faces.
“Roger?” she repeated louder, certain that repeating the name at heightened volume would facilitate improved understanding from her intended audience.
I turned to my father, Dr. Roger Malebranche, who sat stone-faced in his wheelchair next to me, scowling as if someone was waving rotten eggs directly under his nose.
“Dad?” I queried.
He didn’t move. He didn’t speak.
“Roger?” she repeated a third time, now utilizing a sing-song quality used when beckoning a cuddly pet animal…
Over a week ago, I watched a video from a local news affiliate in Buffalo, New York, capturing the current social unrest in our country. The broadcast showed armed policemen adorned in riot gear, advancing towards a handful of Black Lives Matter protesters, including a 75-year-old elder. Two of the officers converged to shove him backwards and he fell, hitting his head on the hard concrete. His body laid motionless as expanding waves of crimson pooled under his scalp. More officers marched past him as if he wasn’t there.
During my second year of medical school, we had a weekly course on medicine and humanities. In it we tackled various social topics and how they played out in healthcare settings — ranging from caregiver burnout to sexism to domestic abuse. The class and its readings provided us with a reprieve from cumbersome histology and pathology lectures, and helped us better understand the pervasive influence of structural issues on medical outcomes.
The director assigned two readings for the week we were to discuss alcoholism. One was an empathic tale explaining how an Irish family patriarch came to struggle with alcohol…
“Wash your hands more often than you ever dreamed possible. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs and call your friends and family, check in on your mother. She wants to hear from you right now. And speaking of mothers, we need you to do this, if not for yourself then for your abuela, do it for your granddaddy, do it for your big mama, do it for your pop-pop. We need you to understand, especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so that we can protect those who are most vulnerable.”
“You can’t take it with you when you die”
I’m sure people said that to you before. I’m sure you rarely listened to them before you collapsed in your study and took your last breath. You were a former Chief of Surgery, a well-versed and traveled man of Paul Robeson-type stature. Why would you have bothered to listen to a tired cliché that served no purpose but to place judgment on your affection for accumulation?
Weeks after your passing, Mom and I started the daunting task of sifting through your possessions, unaware of the sheer volume of what you had…
This is hard.
In my line of work, I have mastered the art of how to give a presentation or talk.
Don’t lose your cool.
Teach the masses.
Never let them see you sweat.
This is not like my work talks. Today I’m going to speak about my father, Dr. Roger Malebranche. If you all can indulge me, I’d prefer to talk to him directly. And forgive me for reading directly from this paper — I want to make sure I don’t forget anything.
Dear Dad, I know the past 6 to 7 years were particularly hard for…
During my years as an internal medicine resident in New York City, there was an oncology attending who had a reputation of doing every test and trying every treatment for his patients living with cancer — even when they had no chance for survival or a meaningful recovery.
This physician eventually assumed the care of his wife when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stories of him becoming so involved with her treatment that he was doing chest compressions on her while she coded in the ICU became mythological resident folklore, and presented a cautionary tale about the dangers of…
I walked with purpose towards the Health Sciences building of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, passing trees painted with vibrant October leaves. I imagined their branches spreading gossip about the chaos my life had become as a rising second-year medical student. The summer semester of my first year was eventful in a way I didn’t want it to be, as I managed to fail three of the five classes offered — Genetics, Pharmacology, and Radiology. Medical school was supposed to be difficult, but I hadn’t anticipated the road to becoming a physician getting this bumpy, this early.
Physician. Public Health Advocate. Writer. Activist