A Medical First Week at Geneseo

When I decided to take this class, I knew that I wanted to gain something from this course, but I did not know how immediately the ideas brought up in class would start to connect with me. When I woke up on Monday morning, just one days into my junior year of college, I had immediate tooth pain. It was the kind of pain that keeps you up for hours at night as you switch from applying hot water for fifteen minutes to applying ice for fifteen minutes just to keep yourself busy so you don’t lose your mind or your patience. After two days of this I knew it was time to drive myself to one of the four dentists in Geneseo and found out it was a root canal and the only thing I could think of doing was picking up my copy of “Medical Apartheid” because I had already experienced the “medicine” side of the class I wanted to start figuring out the “race” side as well as I sat in the waiting room of a dentist’s office in Geneseo, New York.

One part that really stuck out to me as I waited was the part where the author opens up old files of men who were in need of kidney transplants. While looking through their files, he noticed that the African American file specifically stated the color of his skin while the other did not (p. 14). The author later goes on to discuss the idea of race with a coworker who stated, “To them, if you’re black and poor, you’re nothing but a guinea pig” (p. 15).  This idea struck me for many reasons.  Firstly, because this idea seems so far-fetched to me, that one’s health even in this day and age can and might be compromised solely based off of the color of their skin. It makes the idea of helping seem less like a human to human interaction and more of an idea of picking and choosing who you should heal or “playing god” if you will.

And that is when it started to hit me because here I am sitting in the waiting room at a dentist office that does not know me and I do not know them. While at home I have been with my dentist since I was five, this dentist that I found on Google three hours before has no understanding of who I am and what I have been through. The only thing that can tell about me is based off of the exterior. They can see the way I dress, the way I carry myself, and even they can see that I am have jaw surgery due to scaring but they will never get to know everything that got me to where I am today sitting in this waiting room. Just like having my skin tone written on my file, the only thing they have to base me off of is what they can see about the person sitting in a dentist chair. This book opens on the idea that one race has been severely underrepresented in the world of medicine and as I sit here waiting to get a room canal in Geneseo, New York, I start to question more and more of why that is. Why is there the idea that one can be based off of their exterior when the exterior tells you so little about what you need to know about a person.

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