Times of Good and Grim

I’ve been a doctor
for three months
during a global pandemic
during an election year
everything is urgent 

I treat children
(not adults)
but we’re spreading a disease as
dangerous as COVID
that shows itself every day

power dynamics
proving “good fit”
politicization of health 

How have the rest
been doing this for so long?
Have they adapted and grown strong? Or just
learned to disconnect to move on to the next? 

Is it possible to serve patients without
taking from myself?
Without taking from each other? Can I hold
my values close enough  to keep them clear,

I’ve been a doctor
for three months–
these are my struggles
still, I’m committed 
to doing as much good as I can

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

“Oh, what isn’t on my mind lately?” she began. This woman was a first-year pediatrics intern living in Boston. She’d just moved across the country to begin her medical career, so was away from her immediate family. She also had extended family that lived in India, and had recently learned her uncle and grandmother had contracted COVID. Though they were both doing well, she didn’t know how she could help care for or advocate for them, being so far away and in another country, even though she was a doctor. She’d been feeling a similar sense of disconnect in her daily work, seeing first-hand the ways in which microaggressions and unconscious bias were playing out in the hospital setting. She felt uncertain about how to address them, especially in her role. She was also struggling with how to balance caring for herself with caring for others, and noticing the pressure of needing to prove herself in some instances, especially as a person of color at the lower end of the power structure. She was holding many contradicting and complex questions, while at the same time optimistic about what was possible. “I want this to feel hopeful, but maybe by sharing these contrasting and messy truths, those of us who feel similarly will also feel less lonely,” she said.

Interviewee: Anonymous, Physician (Intern)
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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