Patients of Color #2

“Bad black mother”
She’s back again.
It’s her seventh child.
She’s positive for amphetamines, again.
HIV positive, no prenatal care, no insurance.
It’s 2 a.m. The baby is 3 months early.
It’s born — transferred to the NICU.
Mom is discharged.
“We’ll see her again,” my attending shrugs and turns to his computer.
We all failed her.

Roshan Bransden, MS4
Student

Despair

Fever, chest pain, shortness of breath. Death
Shackles, choking, gasping. Death
Centuries of invisible, invincible oppression

A tale of contagion and two viruses
For one- tests, treatments, vaccines, fueled by money
For the other- words and more words, running on empty

Change is coming.
Change is coming.
Change is coming today
No change is coming

Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD
Faculty Member

White Enough

“Well, we’re just glad we switched to you as her PCP… Mom’s last doc was too Middle Eastern.”
Wordlessly, I gesture to my name badge: five Arabic syllables next to my white-passing face.
He shifts uncomfortably before leaning forward, determined to make a smooth recovery:
“No, I mean he was like… Middle Eastern Middle Eastern.”

Samer Muallem
Faculty Member

For The Kulture

2020 was supposed to be the year of manifestation.
A pandemic shook the table and brought endless devastation.

Tragedy took Kobe and Pop Smoke.
COVID took my stepfather and the rest of my folk.

As humans, we all matter.
But all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.

Tilicea Henry
Medical Student

Secure unit dialectic

Looming over her,
Yellow gown, masked,
Breath misting plastic, I barely hear:

“I can’t breathe”.
Intergenerational despair.

“Can I have my clothes?”
Crumpled on the mattress, tugging the
Baby doll around her,
“It’s for safety”, says the white nurse.
Stripped of identity
Like her ancestors.
Isolation again.
She hugs herself;
No budget for kind words.

Lisa Burback
Academic Psychiatrist

Steel to Skin

You were excited to see me. And I? Your knee.
Propofol administered.
You called me a king; pride for me was heavier than the shackles removed.
I was envious.
We did not differ too much.
I have been on their treasure hunt for years.
Hopefully, one day, I jump through enough hoops to find my keys.

Medical Student

2020: A Visionless Summer

Summer solace in pandemic solitude.

Are you okay?
I just want you to know…
I don’t understand…
Teach me.
I don’t want to be…
BLM.

Everyone is pr[a]ying.
Different agenda, same power.
I miss my underground freedom.
This newfound love is suffocating me.
Mask off. No more hiding…
Yet, I still can’t breathe.

Jason Mascoe
Medical Student

Act Now

I Can’t Breath. Please Help.
COVID-19 or police chokehold.
Emergency Medicine doctors- we see it all. Rush to aid.
Give oxygen, intubate, CT scan, medication?
What can we do? Anything? Powerlessness.
Coronavirus and systemic racism.
We can witness, We can feel, We can give voice to our patients.
Act with what energy and time remains.

Alisa Hayes
Faculty Member

Are You OK?

Minneapolis is eighty miles away, so these events literally hit close to home. As a black man, it can be uncommon for others to be concerned about my safety. Many of my colleagues asked how they can show solidarity. I am grateful for these bright lights during this dark moment in our country’s history.

Suliman EL-Amin
Fellow

Swan

I think she’s Punjabi
Rare around here
Chatting after the appointment
I’ve missed this connection
She asks for my name again
Last name, too? I give it
Faced with her confusion, I repeat myself
She doesn’t understand
Realize I’m pronouncing it like I’m white, not Indian
I correct, try to explain
Have I forgotten myself?

Anmol Hans
Medical Student

Where Do We Seek Refuge Now?

1998: Hiding in the attic. “Shhhh,” Baba whispered. “No refugees here,” Jordanian police said.
1999: Mama said “America where people are free and safe” accepted us.
2020: Pandemic. Despair. Racism. 7,791 miles. Iraq to America. Still not enough to escape injustice.
White coat hangs, symbolizing the force that preserves life, instead of destroying it.

Shams Nassir
Medical Student

False Advertisement

Never ending war, repression of basic human rights, and scarce quality education pushed my family to leave our home and risk imprisonment and the dangers of human trafficking. The US beckoned with abundant opportunities from across the Atlantic, masking the reality that it will always reduce me to the color of my skin first.

Daniom Tecle
Medical Student

It Happens, Even in a Pandemic

We were two friends starting off our very first rotation. She is white and I am Indian, which made the difference. The questions started immediately.

“But where are you from?” “Are you Dr. Ahmed’s daughter?” “Love your tan skin.”

Though they were harmless, my friend never got these comments. It happens, even in a pandemic.

Meha Shah
Medical Student

A Story Erased

Their dream was medicine, but it was not easy. They failed and tried again multiple times. The feeling that came with their success was immeasurable. All the sleepless nights, the stress, sacrifices, and hard work paid off. Then they hear “its easier for you because of your ethnicity.” Just like that, their story was erased.

Sanga Shir
Medical Student

Safe breathing spaces

We are hunkered down afraid to breathe
Looking for hope
Within this long night
We lost a lot
Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, Husbands, wives
Alas children too

Let us fight for rights
Of those vulnerable
Let us equalize the breath
Give a gift of safe breathing space
For colors of the heart are the same.

Manveen Saluja, MD
Faculty Member

Misfortune Rising

Balancing on tightrope
Rural America and inner-city staring me down
Death haunting those I love
Lack of hospitals- grim reaper looming
Family casualties in the war of inequality and racism
New threat of COVID-19- misinformation rising
The first medical degree- potential savior
A long path- bringing awareness hopefully home.

Evelyn Darden
Medical Student

Shumard Oaks

Breaking through societal imposed expectations, statistics, and reignited resentment.

Proceeding through a heightened awareness of what Mr.Roth would refer to as The Human Stain.

I rebuke self-imposed limitations. My mind is durable, my will is tenacious, and my humanity will serve all the same.

Vanessa Vides
Medical Student

The Storm

Like an encroaching storm, COVID-19 gains momentum. An ominous sky foreshadows masked isolation and death. Discontented winds sweep the land. The burden of racial injustice saturates the dark clouds, erupting in pelting rain, each drop stinging wherever it lands. Hailstones of racial violence add destruction to the deluge. Will a rainbow follow this national maelstrom?

Michael P. Flanagan, MD
Faculty Member

A chink in someone’s armor

Once she sees my raven hair and “exotic” features, will she ask me to go, ok?
As I flip another intubated COVID patient prone to ease his breathing,
I study his brown and yellow life lines.
Will I be a chink and someone’s armed, or
Will I be identified for who I am?
A doctor.

Lealani Mae Acosta, MD, MPH
Faculty Member

Unprecedented times of Uncertainty

Another invisible war to fight. Headline news – “in these unprecedented times of uncertainty.” I am confused, what are we referring to, COVID-19 or how I’ve felt my whole life as a black man in America? Pause, breathe, think. Maybe knowing is not important because something is different this time. Ironically, I don’t feel alone.

Anonymous
Medical Student

Everyday

“What’s your name?”
The dreaded question
You can’t pronounce it
I’ll have to spell it out
Repeat myself
Do I butcher the very thing that identifies me
For your ease
Or suffer through the routine
Of trying to assuage your discomfort
I love my name
I hate the way you make me feel about it

Anmol Hans
Medical Student

Essential Personnel

I can’t breathe.

Is it the seal of an N95 respirator
Or the sole of a black leather boot crushing my windpipe
#SupportHealthcareHeroes
Until, like Breonna Taylor, our black and brown skin is no longer made palatable by white
White ambulances, coats, and hospital badges
Make us essential personnel but not essential persons

Aaminah Azhar
Medical Student

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