Final Reflection Essay // Medicine and Racism

When I was choosing courses for the Fall 2019 semester my advisor had noted that I needed another class in Literature that would fulfill the general education requirement. As I’m sifting through the registrar of various types of literature courses my eye suddenly got caught on a class titled, “Literature; Medicine and Racism”. It stood out to me because I immediately started thinking about how medicine and racism could be related and/or connected through literature. I just had never put those two together in my head before. My sister is in her last year of pharmacy school at the University of Buffalo so if you can imagine, she was the one blessed with the science brains. However, I wanted to learn more about the coexistence of medicine and racism. I gained interest by the second and signed up for it. Before classes began I was set in stone to the fact that either way this class was going to be either one of my best or a challenging one due to the fact that going into this I knew writing and reading wasn’t my strong suit. The framework completed throughout class discussions, the essay writing templates reviewed, comprehension strategies practiced, independent work, and group projects have all been an enjoyable challenge to overcome. I can confidently state that what I’ve learned in this course like the different approaches to reading, writing, and listening, has given me an exceptional opportunity to boost my knowledge on the current issue of how medicine and racism are unfortunately still currently becoming more and more intertwined all over the world. Also the ability to apply what I’ve retained in this course to my everyday life.

Since I was a young child I’ve been a ‘show me or I don’t believe you’ type person. Prior to enrolling at Geneseo, this is how I had always been.  This course and Dr. McCoy’s tactics taught me to dig deeper and really utilize your brain so that I could ‘show’ myself. I was also able to learn how to use surrounding context more and more each day because with some of the challenges these books brought me, I was inclined to refer back to the Reflective Writing article. “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice”. This is a quote from Dionne Brand that has been brought up numerous times in class and it is also the course epigraph. Acting as a general theme for everyone, my classmates and I were able to notice different things that stood out to us in each book. Then the following class we would come together in a group and discuss what jumped out at us, what didn’t make sense to us, and if there were any themes that were able to be tied back to another book that we had already read or been reading. One of the most helpful articles of this whole semester was the article about reflective writing. This article taught me the most about myself as a writer while feeding my brain with new knowledge on how to become a more effective and also reflective writer. The first thing we did in class was stand up and throw a bouncy ball of a wall continuously. One can think of this procedure as how the act of noticing and thinking flow in a group of people. When working in groups during class this semester I was more comfortable than I thought I would be because of the ball off the wall tactic. My classmates and I whether we had the same ideas and thoughts or polar opposites, were able to assist each other by offering new perception. So I wasn’t worried to say how I felt knowing that someone would bounce off of it soon after with what they feel about the topic being discussed. As noted on the syllabus for this course “We are here to listen, to learn, to teach, to debate, to change, to grow.” All of these things were achieved each class by listening to Dr. McCoy and cooperating with peers in group activity. For example, with the group blog post assignment, Dr. McCoy stressed the importance of working together in a group and bouncing ideas off of each other to get started. With having a serious case of anxiety, talking in front of people and stating my opinion has always been burdensome. However, as each class went by I became more confident in what I had to say because I kept becoming a better reader, listener, and speaker. As I read on for this class in my dorm room every week, the reflective writing article written by Kate Williams, Mary Wooliams, and Jane Spiro was always pulled up on my computer. The part about asking strategic questions, specifically, aided me the most by allowing myself to pause whenever needed during the book  to ask myself important critical questions like, What? Why? And Who? These questions may seem shallow but they give you good insight on who you are writing for and reading about. Sometimes, especially with the book Zone One, I would find myself stumbled upon words that I had never seen before like emporium, menagerie, which is like a training habitat for animals, and spirochete that is a vicious bacteria due to the effect of it being diseases like Lyme disease and Syphilis. Before Googling all of the words I was barely able to pronounce throughout this semester, I was able to remember back to the reflective writing article and the What, Why, Who strategy. Then I could piece together context clues and sometimes not even need to look up a word. Combining the use of the course epigraph, the strategies of the reflective writing article, and many more sources Dr. McCoy has given us to utilize as resources to make writing our essays less painless like the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, I have become a more well rounded reader and writer. 

During the year while I wasn’t reading a novel for this course or any of my other classes I tried to make enough time to read the biography of Tony Dungey who was an NFL player when he was younger and is now retired, a Super Bowl winning coach and an analyst. I started at the beginning of the semester when I myself didn’t believe I had the skill to absorb information at all when I would read, causing me to re-read and take double the time. Now at the end of the semester, I’m about 10 chapters in and I catch myself stopping every chapter and asking myself what just happened and how that chapter makes me feel. Along with the rest of the questions that the Gibbs Reflective Cycle follows with including the conclusion which makes me ask myself if I read it again knowing what I know now would I think or feel differently about it? It has made reading more enjoyable for me knowing that I have these templates and cycles in the back of my head now. I’ve become more of a proactive reader which I’ve noticed has helped me in other aspects in life as well.

While reading Medical Apartheid, I was exposed to a lot of new information that I had never heard before. My perception on the topics in the book had taken a side because now I have proper knowledge on topics like African American reproductive rights and the amount of abusive medical practices being done on African Americans. Prior to diving into this novel I had not much of a viewpoint on the linkage of Medicine and Racism but in finishing it I was able to form an educated opinion. The whole science and medicine industry needs to come together and fix this recurring issue because minorities anywhere in the world shouldn’t be treated like lab rats and lied to about their medication. Washington in the beginning of the book speaks about back in the day when slaves weren’t able to get medical care due to their unpleasant working conditions and they were actually used as lab rats for new medicines (Washington 29). Many people who are a part of the science or medicine industry often argue that the aboloshment of slavery was so long ago and that is also when unfair medical treatment was halt to a stop. However, according to the “sixth U.S. census (of 1840)”, the free blacks suffered far worse mental and physical issues and diseases than did enslaved blacks and of course white males and females (Washington 145,146). What Washington was trying to tell readers is that sadly racism is still present in relation to medical treatment regardless of slavery officially being banished in the United States.

Now that finals are just about over and classes are wrapping up, I noticed the usefulness of the things taught to me during this course. With the Reflective Writing article and all the tips and templates practiced over the semester I not only feel more confident internally with my speaking skills, I also feel like I am more able now to help people with writing and word play. Increasing my ability to comprehend in general and speak aloud in front of a group of people is the one thing I think has been most important to my personal growth this semester because I truly can apply those skills to everyday life.

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