Watching Ann Arbor go by from the back of my family’s car at the end of August was really the first time it hit me that things were going to be different. By this I don’t mean it was a surprise- I was well aware that coming to Michigan would mean big changes and that being away from my parents would give me more independence that I would have to use wisely. But up until this point there were things I knew in concept, not things that actually happening. Pulling up to the curb outside Couzens meant the concept had just become reality.
To my surprise I never saw either of my parents cry because I was leaving even though I knew it was a big moment for them too. We unloaded the car, said our goodbyes, and that was it. Although I believe myself to be a really sociable person once you get to know me, I have never thought I was all that good at meeting people and introducing myself in a way that accurately depicts who I am. In initial stages of friendship I always feel pressured to speak and make jokes, but of course when you really get to know someone the conversation ebbs and flows with the situation, and laughter seems to come naturally. On this first day in Couzens one firm handshake and nod led to the next, and I forgot almost every name as soon as I had heard it. Hello I’m Chris the Eagle Scout and state finalist pole vaulter. Hello I’m Chris and I want you to know that I like cookies. Hello I’m Chris and I want to be your friend. Welcome week brought about many such conversations and I found my social anxiety spike. How did I make all my friends in high school? Was there a trick to it that I was missing?
I met up with some old friends who had also come to Michigan to help me readjust, and came to find that I was putting too much pressure on myself when meeting new people. Instead of trying to small talk and joke my way into a friendship I decided to try and open up more and include new people in my free time activities. Having more confidence in myself really worked, and by taking this less stressful approach I made some amazing friendships throughout my first and second semester that I’m sure will last a lifetime.
From this experience there’s only one thing I would tell myself if I could travel back to the beginning of my freshman year: have more confidence in who you are and everything else will follow.
In the past two weeks I’m sure that many of us have spent more time thinking about how we communicate and make decisions on a daily basis; There are a multitude of communication methods and settings, and nearly every decision we make has some risk associated with it. What is best for what we expect our careers to be? How, in the setting of healthcare, can we ensure that the patient is both well informed but also not influenced by our own bias when it is unnecessary?
In Dr. Zikmund-Fisher’s discussion I was most surprised to realize that there is likely not a single medical decision that can be made which has no “cost” associated with it. Whether it be physical, mental, monetary, or some combination of each even something as simple as making a conscious decision to improve one’s posture has ramifications. Although at times this principle may become trivial (indeed I feel the argument that improving posture could negatively affect one’s mental health is weak), one point that is to be taken away from this is clear: as future healthcare providers we must realize and evaluate potential costs and benefits for all procedures given to patients.
As far as I’m aware my goal is still to go into the medical field, which of course means that I will have to be very good at communicating and decision making so that patients feel comfortable asking questions and I can give them the best responses/advice when it is necessary. This is a vital component to medicine because it minimizes miscommunications and allows for decisions to be made in a case by case fashion so that they reflect what is best for a specific patient. Through my recent literature review and discussions with medical professionals I’ve found that communication is oftentimes lagging today in medicine, especially as the pressure to go faster increases and we become more dependent on technology. As an upcoming generation of leaders and best in the medical field we have an obligation to change this trend, because improved communication means improved patient care.
Over the semester, I’ve found myself becoming more and more extroverted, working out more, and my face becoming colder and colder as I head outside each week. Overall I’m most proud of myself for maintaining my fitness and also proving to myself that I am ready for the college life. In my letter I told myself that I wanted to work as hard as I can in each of my classes, which I at first faltered at doing but quickly recovered and put forth my best foot in everything I’m doing, which is another thing I’m proud of. Next semester I would like to improve my timeliness by working more ahead of the deadlines that are presented to me and keeping a more organized calendar (ironically, this post is late. Shhhhh.). Additionally, after cleaning my room today, I would like to keep my standard of cleanliness higher than it has been these past few months.
Another thing that I mentioned in my letter was joining some clubs that I found interesting, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found FIMRC, which is the foundation for international medical relief for children. Next semester I plan on being much more active than I have been, and I’m excited to see where it takes me. Additionally there is the Michigan Beats Club, where I’ve been learning more about sound production and how to take my compositional skills to the next level. Overall I’m very happy how my first semester has gone, and am excited for next semester as well.
When it comes to discussing modern health disparities, you would think it would become quickly undeniable that there are several issues that require immediate attention and drastic changes: African Americans are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, obese patients are more likely to be ignored by their doctors, and just in general minorities are more likely to receive less treatment for similar diagnoses than their white majority counterparts. But, despite all of this, the sad reality is that factors such as politics, money, and personal pride oftentimes cause people to turn their heads and look the other way or simply deny that there is an issue. For this reason I argue that a primary disparity in healthcare is a lack of acknowledgment.
At the intrapersonal level of the SEM we can examine the role of the doctor; In Dr. William’s presentation we saw the surprising effects of manipulating nothing but the gender of a patient on a radiologist’s scan information, in which men were far more likely to be referred for further care than women. After showing us these results Dr. Williams said that none of the doctors considered themselves to be bias, with many of them denouncing the results. This is an instance where personal pride prevents acknowledgement of the issue. It’s understandable how it could be considered an insult to a medical professional’s personal skill if they were told to have bias towards their patients, but it’s a hard fact that needs to be faced before progress can be made. We all have unconscious bias, which doesn’t necessarily mean we’re bad people, but especially when it comes to the issue of health disparities progress can be made much more easily if all doctors come to accept their biases before attempting improvement in the field.
At the public policy level of the SEM we can see gridlock caused by political polarization. Similar to current issues with police brutality, institutionalized racism is an issue that needs to be addressed and changed as soon as possible, and yet there are still those that deny institutionalized racism even exists. Although the ACA solved many issues, the fact remains that minorities are more likely to receive less treatment for similar diagnoses than their white majority counterparts. This is a good example where equity rather than equality could help solve this key issue, because it’s clear that in this instance minorities are going to require more attention in order to solve the issue. But, as aforementioned, progress is will continue to be evadable for as long as we pretend that institutionalized racism is not an issue.
Finally, at the interpersonal level of the SEM I believe that a general lack of public knowledge has contributed to health disparities; if everyone was aware of factual statistics from Dr. William’s presentation (and other information avenues we explored for lecture) I’m sure that more pressure would be placed on politicians and health professionals alike for progress to be made. It’s a simple yet powerful solution, and I believe that as members of HSSP and as potential health professionals in the future we have an obligation to spread our knowledge of these disparities and do our best to create substantial changes for the better.
My questions to you as commenters are (1) do you agree that lack of acknowledgement is a key issue on the topic of addressing health disparities, and (2) how important do you think it is for everyone to be educated on the topic of unconscious bias and current statistics regarding health disparities?