I'm grateful to Cassandra Jaramillo for this thoughtful profile, and to all the folks who worked without expectation of recognition to make change happen in Dallas. Read the full column in the Dallas Morning News here. Now, onward to Chicago!
The movement fueling #ThisIsOurLane may fail Black Americans who endure a significant burden of gun violence. Responding to a tweet from the National Rifle Association (NRA) demanding we “stay in [our] lane” the medical community rose to the challenge. A new hashtag gained traction, thousands signed an open letter, and many shared graphic photos and stories from treating victims of gun violence.
My family enjoyed the 4th of July with a patriotic celebration of flags, sparklers, and fireworks. But for me, the seeds of patriotism sprouted in a far corner of South Carolina on my father’s family farm. As a preschooler, I chased chickens that clucked and ran and flapped. I slurped cheeks full of fresh watermelon picked from the field. America. The only thing missing was apple pie.
My ancestors worked that farm as slaves when it was part of a larger plantation. The land was ceded to my great-great-great-grandfather - a gift from his former master. Today my cousins grow soybeans, but for generations escaping the farm was a wartime ritual for the men.
I had the honor of delivering the commencement address to the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine Class of 2018. Being in the presence of 165 exuberant new medical doctors was inspiring, and a reminder of how fortunate I am to serve in this profession.
With a nod to St. Ignatius of Loyola, my address centered on three themes for the new MDs:
Humanity - Guard it. It is one of the greatest gifts you have.
Authenticity - Do not trade it for acceptance.
Vulnerability - It is a source of power, not weakness.
I received the following response to my recent op-ed published in the Dallas Morning News:
“She’d be better served if you put as much energy into teaching her that with hard work, and education – she can do anything she wants to do in life. Let her dream her dreams instead of burdening her with your hangups.”
Initially, I dismissed this comment, convinced there was no way this individual actually read the piece. But for several days the phrase “with hard work and education” stuck with me. Eventually, I chose to seize this opportunity and elaborate on my point about systemic racism.
The American Dream
Of course I understand the importance of hard work and education. I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, went to medical school, trained at Harvard and Emory, and taught at one of the largest medical centers in the country. I understand, as well as anyone, the value of hard work and education. It is an ethos I continuously work to instill in my daughter.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m not feeling Black History Month this year. The annual observance, meant to ensure the contributions of African-Americans are not forgotten, was founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as Negro History Week. It often relies on a curated selection of African-American greats to celebrate what is essentially American history. However, the richness of Black history, its hardships and triumphs, is interwoven into American history and attempts to separate the two must end.
In December, Dr. Nii Darko visited me here in Dallas to record the first in-person interview for his podcast. Well that show is now live! Check out the final cut for the latest episode of Docs Outside the Box.
Resilience is our ability to recover from tragedy. It’s a quality that trauma professionals need all the time — so why then do we wait to discuss resilience only after a mass casualty incident like the Las Vegas shooting dominates the news?
Simply, we should not. Your level of resilience is greatly influenced by your prior experiences, so the time to start laying the personal groundwork for greater resilience is now.
Congratulations to Jeff Holmquist (Senior Editor) and Ryan Hall (Photography & Video Specialist) from the Association of Graduates at my alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy. Their article “We’re In This Together” took top honors (Gold Award) for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), District VI as Best Article of the Year!