June 2017

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Testymonial
by Ghanshyam Mudigonda, M1

So many eyes you would think we’re famous
But in reality, we’re just kinda nameless
The infamy that an Indian carries with a wheelchair
Is kinda like
Have you ever been scared of societal spiders?
So many eyes you want to wipe with windshield wipers
Are they malicious? Or are they curious?
Either way it makes me furious
She’s just a child, she’s just my baby sister
Your gaze hurts my soul like a bloody blister
No wonder my mom tried to ward off your evil eye
You don’t see the person within, that’s the true source of life
I could only imagine if her disease was within
Like something that didn’t show up on her skin
What if she had depression or PTSD?
Could you be the ears that she needed you to be?

Truth is,
You have never acknowledged emotions, crying or let alone post-traumatic stress disorder
“Just go study. Get good grades. Get a good job. In that order.”
Ok so I did that process and built up all my tools
Worked hard and somehow ended up in a med school
However, they teach me all of these contradictions
“Mental health is real, but the industry is profuse with prescriptions”
We’ve been selling lies like fake candies labeled as a cure
Because we haven’t learned how to communicate in a form that’s pure
Indians don’t have time to wake up while trying to dodge being poor
Distracting themselves with delusions of grandeur

Not all of them are blind though
There is a tunnel with close-by light glow
All you have to do is look at the roots of your own culture
The one time it’s ok to scavenge what’s dead like a vulture
The path and philosophy is all written in the Vedas
Reviving that tradition might be what can save us
Be complete with your incompletions
Be one with the universe, more than just superstition
“Just breathe. Do yoga. And meditate.”
Surrender to the cosmos something you can’t stipulate
Misconceptions of mental health
Stem from British constructs of caste and wealth
Be free of the chains and anchors of your past
Let go of your blind faith in society at last.


Post Exam Naps. 
Photos by Rahul Dhuka, M1.


Humanism
By Asha Rao, M4

Since beginning medical school, I’ve become increasingly fixated on the idea of the door: a block of wood, a handle. I open countless doors a dayto my apartment, car, ward, elevator. But there is one that’s different, privilegedone I earned the right to access. Plastered with signs reading, “Contact Precautions” and “Fall Risk,” this is my favorite door, because when I pass through it, I forget myself and become another:  

Door 1: I am a mother of four with the new diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme.

Door 2: I am a Chinese immigrant battling terminal lung cancer in a foreign country with no family.

Door 3: I am a 25-year-old newlywed recovering from a suicide attempt by Tylenol overdose.

Crossing the threshold into a patient room is sacred; a bond is forged. After I enter, their setbacks are mine, their pain is mine, their achievements are mine. To me, this is humanism—the dissolution of the door, and the realization that we are not different from our patients. We are bound together by love, fear, sadness, and hopefibers that knit together all humans. Humanism to me is the viewing of a door not as a barricade, but as a gateway.

So how do we promote humanism? We take away the distractions. Take away the computers, the SOAP notes, countless deadlines, and return to the crux of medicine: audition. The simple art of listening to our patient is often dwarfed in value against objective measures like labs and imaging, and neglected due to the hectic hub of the hospital. The assignment: once a week, one patient picked by the student, interact for 30 minutes. No write-ups due, no evaluations—just figuring out who your patient is beyond their diagnosis. Learn their woes, their glories, their favorite author, and if their new kitten finally figured out how to use the litter box. In this way, we students will learn to complete the picture of our patients.

It’s an art, getting close to your patients. But when we let their stories etch onto our hearts, they will begin to shape us. In this way, we can carry each patient with us as we open countless more doors on our journey to healing.


Hearted
by Hasan Sumdani, M1

Right-brained and right-handed
But I don’t know if I’m right-hearted
And I don’t think I’ll ever know
But I know which cadavers were left-hearted and right-hearted
By seeing where their coronary arteries went

Sometimes I forgot the secrets of medicine
But their hearts were open to me
So I knew all the secrets of their person
Except if they were left-brained or right-brained
Except if they were left-handed or right-handed
Except the stories of their lives
And I know that I’ll never know these things
But, for their kindness in donation
I’ll always know their heart


The 2nd Law
By Ankita Brahmaroutu, M1

On days when the pessimist in me prevails, I walk down the stairs of my apartment complex wondering why it has not crumbled to the ground. The second law of thermodynamics: entropy is always increasing. I recall reading that for the first time in chemistry class and thinking how funny and philosophical it sounded. The universe is always striving toward randomness, chaos, disorder. How have we as humans almost completely disregarded that law and worked our whole lives fighting against it? How have viruses and bacteria become resistant to our drugs; how does a mutated cell eventually end up robbing a person of life? I decided to dedicate my life to fighting the second law of thermodynamics. I study hard every day to find ways of combatting randomness.

I have always believed that the purpose of human life is to do good, help others, and leave the world a little better than before you entered. Every occupation strives to take the uphill path against entropy. If you choose to let the second law win at any given moment, then you are letting other people down. The stakes are especially high for physicians who must help patients face their own personal war with entropy. We must fight against the disorder even though we know entropy will always win. Broken bones, autoimmune disorders, and even cancers may or may not be a part of a Plan, but they are at least a part of a science. We cannot allow ourselves to view death as an anomaly; it is an equilibrium and a law. At the end of the day, we must ensure that a patient’s time comes only after their battle with entropy was well fought.

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Anxiety
by Anonymous

Some days when I go to bed
I hope with all my heart to never wake.
That a different me, a better me without all my flaws
Would take my place instead.
A me without the imperfections that swirl and mingle and stain my day
The imperfections that wash away colors and make everything gray.

A me that wouldn’t fail.
A me that wouldn’t wail.
A me that didn’t hear people brag about how the test was easy
A me that didn’t have to walk away ashamed and feeling queasy.
Wondering was I always this dim?
Or has medical school merely brought it to the rim?
Wishing for a me that didn’t miss graduations
Or spend holidays and birthdays studying
Only to do worse than those that attended class and somehow lived life to its fullest.

Even whenever dissatisfaction overflows and spills out
Even when I told someone
They’d just stare
Mouths agape
And move on.
As if to say “if you have time to complain
Then you have time to remove your academic stain.”
Or worse they’d rationalize the test and dismiss my fears.
“It wasn’t that bad. I got honors, and I hardly studied.”
“You just need to study more.”
“You’re smart so I know you’ll be okay.”
“I hope the next block is this easy.”
As I struggle to barely get by.
And try to hold back tears.
Much better to cover my mouth with tape.

It’s so much easier to say “I’m fine”
On rare occasions when with others I dine.
It is much better to keep it all in.
To walk that fine line.
Than brave those empty, dismissive, or even worse, pitying stares.
If I think to share my affairs.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.”
A mantra I keep repeating.
Since maybe if I say it enough times then it’ll become true.
It’s not the things that you say in the end that matter.
It’s the things that you don’t say that matter.
“I’m not really fine.”
“Don’t you guys feel any of this strain?”
Maybe inside we’re all similar.
And if we were honest ...

But a part of me yells “I just need to pull myself up by my bootstraps.”
While another part whispers “Rather, is there something in me innately lacking?”
Sometimes I think to probe deeper, but I’m too much of a coward.
And while I want more than anything to move forward
I remain at this impasse.

Sometimes I want to seek professional help
But I don’t want that label
Or for people to think I’m less stable
To have that diagnosis follow
And make my future hollow
Or even worse, worry my kin.
I couldn’t bear that sin.
I couldn’t bear that judgment.
I couldn’t bear that weakness.
I couldn’t bare my shame.
I’ll just hide what’s in my head.
Which has already filled me with so much dread
And turns my limbs to lead.
Better to remain faceless.
Left behind in this stasis.

It’s easier to think I can always give more.
No hobbies.
Fewer meals.
Less sleep.
How much of me will there be left?
At the end of this long road?

There’s no time for a break.
There’s too much at stake.
With what time we spend to only scratch the surface.
In the end I can hope it’s worth it
In this race.
Until then I will struggle. Crawl. Drag myself.
Scanning. Hoping. Praying.
Maybe one small line, a figure, a graph, or obscure detail will change someone’s life.
And make it worth it all.


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Rest In Peace
By Iqra Qureshi, M1

We’re here now and I see
the bodies of the people that you used to be.
Every detail adds a piece to the story
if you know the language it speaks.
We see the final engraving,
and we love the pattern.
Every mark the chisel makes
brings with it its due pain
that’s first ignored
then deliberately forgotten.

I know I should be in awe,
but all I am now is anxiety.
If I don’t run faster,
the pace will get the best of me.
There’s so much left to find.
There’s so much left to know.
So many things I leave behind
to make it to tomorrow.
And I trust tomorrow knowing how fickle it is
And gamble my sanity on its whims
I feel these feelings from a distance,
emotions the world has deemed unnecessary.
If I let them show, I’ll be misunderstood
or not taken seriously.
Forgive the wrong impressions I know I give;
they aren’t done so intentionally.
I used to think it was good enough
to be friendly.

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I think I could be wrong
but I keep moving on.
There’s no time to stop
until it catches up.
Am I losing touch with reality?
Or have I found it, finally?
Is this just another illusion?
Am I winning or losing?
I don’t need praise or fame.
I just need to pass.
I won’t get caught up in any rat race.
They lead nowhere
and I want my strength to last.
I know that if I look at you
and let myself see a test.
I’ll train my brain to look at patients
and see bills and numbers at best.
Somewhere between insecurity and ambition
we forget about the person.

Dodge the blows that life can throw
so they don’t break your will.
All the cleverness you can hope for
pales against grit and skill.
The things that we build when we’re tough
are never built in vain.
If they’ve been built strong enough,
they won’t break even when strained.

I’m careful with my care;
my mind’s used to being free.
But it’s not too hard to see
The tools that I’ve relied upon
are starting to fail me.
My understanding’s incomplete;
I know I must go deep.
I have no trouble putting strength to the test,
but I’m not used to holding my breath.

How many people I’ve seen lose heart
when they feel their senses waning.
But even in the face of death,
you chose to give life meaning.
How could you for sure know
if the people who handled your body
wouldn’t be working so hard only to feed their ego?
Or wouldn’t respect what you had to give?
You could never know our motives,
yet you chose to entrust us with a most precious gift.

If people saw the price
of courage and wisdom,
they’d never wish for them.
Of the steps to earning patience, calm is but the first.
Patience is felt in every nerve.
Whoever knows its worth
gets what they deserve.
But I’m no fan of the labor.
I didn’t get that favor.
Is it a fault of character?
Or is it all right to not like to suffer?
I don’t intrinsically enjoy the run.
I live for when all is said and done
when all’s either lost or won.

But now I clearly see
running faster’s
not the answer.
I’m where I need to be.
If I take them, the lessons you offered will save me
from reaching the finish line empty-handed.
Waiting until the end
to learn what you need to know
isn’t anywhere near as efficient
as picking things up as you go.
There are things here we can see and others we can’t;
We master our own mind while we study the body;
Both are difficult to figure out, but each is worth knowing.
The stubbornness that sometimes makes me fall behind
also, at other times, keeps me going.

The best thing you’ve taught me, my friend
is that good stories never end.
I’m moved by your mortality, but more so by the life I see in front of me.
You’ve allowed me to see
both anatomy and humanity,
selfless generosity giving me your trust without ever knowing me.
May you rest in peace.


A fallen comrade, medic SGT Jon Peney. Andrew Fisher, now an M1, escorting Peney's wife at his dedication.
Sometimes you end up taking care of your friends and family; it does not always end well. 

Photos provided by Andrew Fisher, M1.


Science; A Way of Thinking
By Graham Aufricht, M2

We live in a time of political and informational chaos. Weekly bombardments of exaggerations, falsehoods, and evidence-free accusations from our government challenge the ability of even the most conscientious guardians of truth to separate fact from fiction. Communication is obscured with terms like “alternative facts” and “truthful hyperbole.” How did we get here? When did we stop holding our leaders accountable for what they say? When did truth become partisan and media fact checkers the “opposition party”? We desperately need a universally agreed upon method to extract truth from untruth; to sort out true “fake news” from fake “fake news.” In a society poisoned by distortion, science is the best antidote.

If I were to ask what role science plays in our world, how would you respond? The first thoughts that come to mind may include smart phones, GPS, or the internet. You might consider self-driving cars or modern warfare. You may even cast a glance toward the ever-growing stack of medical textbooks on your desk. It takes little effort to recognize the immense impact the knowledge and technological products of science have on our daily lives. But is this all science has to offer?

As budding healthcare professionals, we view science primarily though the lens of medicine. It is the system we employ to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. It has provided germ theory, penicillin, X-rays, and vaccines. It separates our work from mysticism, astrology, and superstition. Although the utility of science in medicine cannot be denied, we must not quarantine its methodology from other aspects of our lives.

The late astronomer, author, and astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, “Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.” We desperately need to refocus our view of science on the latter half of Sagan’s definition: science as a way of thinking.

At its core, science is a pursuit toward understanding the universe. It is a quest for truth. It systematically grows, organizes, and revises our knowledge into testable and predictable explanations. At a maximum, science brings us closer to the truth. At a minimum it reduces the risk of misinterpreting reality. Although our scientific methodology is imperfect, it is the best agreed upon system humans have produced to understand the natural world.

But not all “science” should be valued equally. In the popular media, science is often misused in a manner that is backward and predictably convenient, completely detached from the unidirectional process of deduction. Rather than outlets using the collective data of science to help form opinions, too often it seems they first form their opinions and then scavenge the literature for any semblance of a finding, however rare, that supports their stance. This deceptive cherry-picking of science may boost ratings or energize a political base, but it will not lead us closer to truth. It causes confusion amongst viewers, leaving them with the impression that because there seems to be ‘evidence’ on each side of an argument, both sides must somehow be equally valid. Truth becomes a frustrating game of tug-of-war, instilling the public with a sense of distrust, or even worse, disinterest.

I am calling on each of you to be ambassadors of science in your communities; to advocate the practice of science as a way of thinking and to educate your friends, family, patients, and neighbors on how to ask intelligent questions and think critically about what we are told is true; to stress the importance of demanding a rigorous standard of evidence before forming beliefs; to assert that learning how to think is much more important than learning what to think. Only by equipping our communities with the tools of critical thought and analysis can we protect against dishonesty and deception in society.

The next time you see a headline where truth is questioned, endorse a scientific outlook. Remind yourself that science is more than a collection of facts or a book of formulas. It is more than the bedrock of our technologies. Science is a method to discover objective truth. It is our best hope for reaching a common understanding of reality. If we fail to agree on what is true, we will fail to align our efforts, and we will quickly find ourselves living in a nation of perpetual strife and ignorance. Informed decisions will become inhibited, progress will be stifled, and our future, endangered. Please, each of you, take on the responsibility of advocacy for the scientific way of thinking. In all aspects of your life, be skeptics. Be investigators. Be educators. Be scientists!



Hanna Fanous, Copy Editor
Garret Hisle, Copy Editor
Hasan Sumdani, Copy Editor
Anandini Rao, Copy Editor

Puja Panwar, Chairman of the Board
Alexander Hsu, Managing Editor
Hailey Driscoll, Acquisition Editor
Bevan Johnson, Design Editor
Britton Eastburn, Design Editor

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THANK YOU

A special thanks to... 
Dr. Karen Wakefield for being our faculty editor,
Dr. Barbara Gastel for serving as editorial mentor,
and Dr. Gül Russell for providing support and encouragement.