Author: Genna McCormack

SOCL 240 + ENGL 101

While I was working on the blog posts in the library I was sitting with one of my good friends, Jordan Raccah a sociology, psychology double major. I was telling her about this class and she told me that she was enrolled in a very similar class. The name of her class is Gender and Science and it’s a 200 level sociology class. The focus of the course is about the patriarchal science community and how white males perpetuate the knowledge that benefits them. They focus on the problem of breaking into the science community if you are a women or a minority. I think it speaks volumes that SUNY Geneseo, a relatively small school, would offer two courses in different disciplines that talk about injustices in the science world.  Read more

Final Collaborative Project

At the very beginning of the semester Professor McCoy gave us an article about what employer’s look for when they are hiring. One of the most agreed upon learning outcome from employers was “all college student should have education experiences that teach them how to solve problems with people whose views are different from their own” (3 Hart Research Associates). Our final collaborative project is exactly the type of experience that meets this learning outcome. If I am being honest when I first read the syllabus the idea of a paper written by the entire class seemed absurd to me. I had no idea how we were all going to write a paper, let alone agree on what was going to be said. Well I can now attest to the fact that since our paper is almost complete that it is very possible to write a paper as a class and it was also a rewarding experience. I am confident that in a job interview I could bring up this exact project and how it strengthened my ability to work through problems with people of all different backgrounds as well as ideas. This problem also met another learning outcome identified by the Hart Research Associates which is that 70% of employers want students that can analyze and solve complex problems. The problem of medical voluntourism is no doubt very complex, it deals with the white savior complex, consent and inequalities. The fact that Professor McCoy trusted my class to unpack potential solutions to this problem really shows her trust in me and my fellow classmates abilities. The collaborative project has no doubt pushed my limits as a student and I have seen a lot of self-growth. During the first group session I found that it mostly consisted of people spitting out their ideas and the other group members agreeing. While that was great I knew our class could do better. I saw this at our next group session. Instead of people just spitting out their ideas and others agreeing, people began to build off each other’s ideas. Somebody would say their idea and another person would respond with something to add to that idea. A great analogy I have for this is almost like a snowball rolling down a hill picking up more snow as it rolls down. This type of collaboration was so rewarding and it really allowed me to expand my thinking. I was able to look at my own ideas in a new light and it helped teach me how to work in a group more effectively.

What I Learned From ENGL 101

If I am being honest I am the epitome of procrastination right now. I am frantically typing my blog posts but I can’t help but to reflect on how this course honestly changed my outlook on medicine. From a very young age I have always wanted to be a doctor. I absolutely idolized doctors, especially my childhood pediatrician. In all honestly I had no idea of any of the atrocities we learned about in Medical Apartheid had taken place. I remember in one of the first classes Max brought up the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment and a lot of my classmates nodded to acknowledge that they were also familiar with it. I had absolutely no idea what that was. It wasn’t until I started reading Medical Apartheid that I learned about the long list of wrongdoings that medical professionals had committed against minority groups, especially the African American community.

I would like to now discuss a few of the largest things that I have taken away from this course. First, the importance of the both/and. Almost every class Professor McCoy brings up “the both/and” and it’s relevance to whatever we are taking about in class that day. Harriet Washington was one of the best examples and using the both/and. If you want your argument to be legitimate you must acknowledge the other side of the argument and the facts surrounding it. If you spend an entire argument ignoring the counterargument you are invalidating yourself.

The second take away I have gotten from this class is the importance of educating about injustices. I am a prime example of someone who did not know about any of the injustices discussed in Medical Apartheid. When we started discussing potential solutions to medical voluntourism every group had stated in their collaborative paragraph that educating was the best way to do it. The only way to prevent something from happening is by educating on why it’s wrong. This also connects to both/and as I discussed earlier. In order to successfully educate someone you need to keep in mind the both/and. Another important thing to remember when you are trying to educate someone is to avoid talking down to them.

The third takeaway from this class is the ability to effectively collaborate. I have worked on many group projects before but they mostly consisted of one person doing most of the work and the other group members just mindlessly following. In most of these cases I was the member who took control of the group. Looking back, no-one was benefiting from that type of collaboration. I can confidently say that this class has taught me how to effectively collaborate. The key to a strong group is all about balance. You have to be able to contribute your ideas but also have to listen to your other group members so you can build off their ideas. Collaboration is key to being able to solve complex issues and will be useful in any career field.

Importance of Language in Consent

In our class we have spent a lot of time discussing and unpacking the idea of consent. We spent an entire class learning about the Institutional Review Board. Throughout the reading of Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid we saw many unfortunate examples of consent not being given. We even spent a large amount of time discussing consent with regards to medical voluntourism. Needless to say, consent has been an important aspect of the course. Another focus of the course has been the importance of language and word choice. These two, consent and the important of language, go hand in hand.

Words are powerful. They have the power to give somebody the permission to do something or in other cases to not give somebody the permission to do something. It is also crucial that the words used to obtain consent or that are being used to give consent are clear the other person. In section 37. of the FAQ of the Institutional Review Board it says” to ensure that the consent document, in its entirety, contains all the information required by 21 CFR 50.25 in language the subject can understand.”. The portion of this that says in language that can be understood is absolutely crucial. This is where word choice becomes extremely important. If you are trying to obtain consent you must communicate clearly what exactly is going to be done and to what extent. It is also important to note that consent needs to be obtained if the procedure changes from it’s plan. “Clinical investigators should be cautious when enrolling subjects who may not truly understand what they have agreed to do. (Section 40 FAQ of the IRB). In Medical Apartheid Harriet Washington dedicates a chapter called “The Erosion of Consent”. An interesting point that she makes is “Various ethicists who are experts in human medical experimentation, such as Jay Katz, M.D and George Annas, J.D., worry that the vague language of federal regulations governing human medical experimentation is being interpreted in a manner that minimizes protections. (Washington 397). This is yet another example of how word choice is absolutely vital when obtaining consent. Intelligent people manipulated innocent, vulnerable people with their words. In some cases these people did not even ask for the patient’s consent due to loopholes in federal laws. Again, these loop holes are due to the wording of a law. I now understand why Professor McCoy stresses the importance of appropriate word choice being able to defend why you chose a particular word.

Do Not Resuscitate

Today in class Professor McCoy shared an article about an unconscious patient with a do not resuscitate tattoo across his chest. In the article a man showed up to the emergency room with a number of health problems and an interesting tattoo of “Do Not Resuscitate” with his signature below. The attending medical staff was torn on how to handle the situation. In the beginning they continued to give him care, “invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty” (Med 2). They decided to call in an ethicist for advice and they ruled to favor the patients wishes. This article is a great example of the crosswalk between literature and medicine. It deals with language use and interpretation of language as well as the importance of language in a medical setting. This issue also touches on the idea of consent which we particularly covered in Fortune’s Bones, Clay’s Ark, Medical Apartheid and Home. Read more

The Backfire Effect

The last class before we left  for Thanksgiving Professor McCoy played a podcast for us about how to convince someone of something while avoiding the backfire effect. At the time I had no idea how ideal the timing of this podcast would be. Thanksgiving for my family means my mom’s entire side of the family gathering in a tiny house, chatting with each other all while stuffing our faces with turkey and mashed potatoes. Everybody always warns that during the holidays “Don’t talk about politics”.  While I safely avoided the discussion of politics with relatives I did not avoid a Thanksgiving dispute about gun control. My aunt’s husband is a corrections officer so everyday he works with a gun strapped onto his belt. He also, by choice, carries an off-duty pistol when he is not working. This is what ultimately started the discussion. My mom asked him “is that a gun clipped to your belt”. I was standing right next to her so naturally I turned to hear his response. Him and my mom had a brief discussion about why he was carrying it. Then, I got involved. The overview of my conversation was my uncle and I arguing over if carrying a pistol in public should be legal in New York. The conversation ended up being an unfortunate example of the backfire effect.  Read more

Identity and Disease

*Disclaimer: this blog post was written prior to the reading of Zone One*

This blog post is inspired by my classmate Emma’s blog post titled “What does it mean to be “human?”. Emma’s blog post got me thinking about the article we read in class about how humans are actually just made up of microbes, the assigned article about how a parasite living fish eyeball controls its behavior and the disease in Clay’s Ark. Upon reading these 3 pieces of literature I am pondering the question, at what point does a disease take our identity? Read more

The Path to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

**Fair warning- I wrote this post on 10/05/2017 and forgot to publish it. So please keep in mind that this blog post was written prior to Professor Muench and Professor Kennison’s visit**

This blog post is a response to my classmate Rachel Katz blog post “Our “Good” Deed“. In her blog post she discusses “medical voluntourism” and our classes reaction to the idea of individuals going to third world countries and medically assisting natives without any prior medical experience with the intention of wanting to put it on a resume or college application. One of the parts of Rachel’s blog post was her line “In class we used words like “them”, that how weird it is that “they” would do something so wild without thinking of the repercussions”. Well I am here to put myself in a vulnerable position and speak of my experience as a previous member of this “they” and “them”.  Read more

Frank Money A Murderer

Character development is a critical component of writing a novel. Character development is a tricky task for an author because while they know and understand their character, choosing when and how to reveal information to the reader is a meticulous task. For this blog post I will be analyzing Toni Morrison’s character development of Frank Money in Home. The thought to make this blog post came to mind when my classmate, Maddy, raised the question why did Morrison wait until the very end of the novel to reveal Frank’s killing of the young North Korean girl?  Read more

Being Skeptical of Medical Professionals

“The tragedy of illness at present is that it delivers you helplessly into the hands of a profession which you deeply mistrust”- George Bernard Shaw

In the science departments at Geneseo you will often here the professors telling you to always be skeptic as a scientist. I thought I generally understood what they meant, that you should always question data numbers and ask “why”. Following my reading the introduction of Medical Apartheid this quote sparked an important question to me, should you be skeptic towards medical professionals and what is the difference between being skeptical and mistrusting them? Read more