Throughout this semester, I was challenged in a number of ways that provoked personal growth as both a student and as a human. The Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education played a large role in promoting that personal growth. First, this course above all required critical thinking through evaluating held assumptions on things such as medical voluntourism and consent among African-Americans and medical treatment. I was challenged to come up with my own views on the topic of medical voluntourism, and dive deep enough in the topic to come up with my own solution to some of the problems found in it. Second, communication was another huge part of this course. Having group discussions in nearly every class meeting was helpful in so many ways. Engaging in discussion on books, articles and other topics helped me understand the information more clearly and develop a sense of understanding that I was able to implement in future class discussions. Group discussions also inspired several of my blog posts this semester, as ideas would bounce of members in groups that maybe gave different insight on a topic. Lastly, this class was largely based on collaboration, particularly when it came to our final collaborative course statement. Geneseo’s learning outcome for collaboration states “To engage others in developing collaborative solutions; to experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes; to enable, encourage, and recognize contributions to collaborative efforts by all group members; to manage and share work fairly and respectfully; to envision, promote, consider, and respond to diverse viewpoints.” And when I look at what the final project was, it was all of that. We developed solutions as a group to problems outlined in the course, and we encourage and recognized group members discussions both presently and in the forms filled out at the end of each class. As you can see, there are many ways in which Geneseo’s learning outcomes were heavily found in this course. Through the practice of these GLOBE outcomes, I will be able to take what I have learned this semester and apply it in future classes and in my career. I learned so much about what it means to work as a group to accomplish a task, and how important it is to draw conclusions based on valuable information. Both of these things are necessary skills that will come in handy next semester, as well as years from now when in my work environment.
When we listened to the You Are Not So Smart Podcast this semester, it was very eye opening and a new topic I had never thought about. It challenged my very way of thinking. The episode we listened to talked about the “backfire effect” which is essentially how people react to information that is initially found to be true, but is then found to be false. I learned that people will accept information that aligns with their beliefs a lot quicker than they will believe information that goes against their beliefs. I began thinking of one of my close friends, who does exactly this, particularly involving politics, and it made me wonder. Why is it that he clings to his beliefs despite when one of those beliefs is proven to be wrong? I learned in during the podcast that around 15% of negative info causes people to fear that they are wrong about their candidate, and begins to have people hold onto their opinions like it is their own flesh and blood. This quote from the article gives an explanation as to why people will cling to their beliefs, and I found myself relating to it. I began to reflect upon how I will hold onto some of my beliefs because I am afraid that I was wrong, and nobody wants to be wrong.
I can see this problem relating to the “white-savior industrial complex” we talked about during our many discussions on medical voluntourism. We talked about how groups will go into these third world communities with the mindset that they are going to fix all of their problems. In my opinion, one can very easily figure out that they most certainly will not be able to magically solve these problems. However, people who go in to these countries to provide assistance can experience the backfire effect after realizing that they are not able to save these people. But, they will cling to that belief and try even harder to accomplish their unreachable goals driven by the fear of failure and being wrong.
Throughout this semester, we have read a number of books that contained material that was very powerful to read. Some of the material was difficult to handle, but doing so started with thinking critically, one of Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes. In Toni Morrison’s Home, Frank struggled in his search for himself through dealing with his experiences war and how they affected him after returning home. Much like Frank, I can relate to finding my way in this course after reading several texts throughout the semester.
After completing the final collaborative statement today in class, I began thinking about how much we did as a class to prepare for this assignment. Reading about accounts of medical mistreatment in Medical Apartheid, as well as articles on medical voluntourism just to give a few examples, contributed to us finding our voice in this class and being able to contribute that voice in group discussion. Diving into different books throughout the semester encouraged us to investigate outside of class, and follow up what we had learned by posting here on the blog. In order to complete our final collective statement, everyone needed to draw valid conclusions from evidence found within texts such as Medical Apartheid. Much like how Frank needed to find his identity in his own hometown, we needed to take a look at several different works of literature to come up with a statement that talks about our journey in this course through thoughtful information and solutions.
A few weeks ago I attended a panel called Trans? Fine By Me!, which talked about the everyday struggles the transgender community at Geneseo faces, and it was held in light of the offensive comments that were made by a professor earlier in the semester. Hearing a number of Geneseo students and faculty members speak about their experience on campus was eye opening, and involved a lot of critical thinking internally, one of the learning outcomes which we have been talking about in this course.
I thought I would share a few things from the panel with you all, and talk about how it made me feel. One example that stuck out to me from the panel was a Geneseo faculty member talking about the same sex bathrooms on campus. m. It turns out that Geneseo just turned mens restrooms into gender neutral bathrooms. That being said, they basically just changed the sign outside the bathroom and left the inside the same. I never really gave this much thought, but the student talked about how it makes the members of the transgender community feel as if it is still just a men’s bathroom and makes them feel like outcast. Another example was a student was talking about telling his professor that he had a sex change, and what it led to. After telling him, the professor was calling him a her every once and awhile, and would then correct their self by saying the proper pronouns. The student then elaborated and said how he would have prefered it if the professor would just call him by his name, instead of he or her. This would keep him from being embarrassed when the professor corrected himself by saying “her, I mean him”. This student also mentioned how when something like this happens, he would go home and feel so upset by it that he could not even focus on doing hours of homework and studying, clearly showing that these every struggles have a major affect on their lives.
Upon hearing these two examples among several others at the panel, I began thinking. I thought about how I never really thought that transgender men and women faced such difficulties, and that I truthfully never paid much attention to that subject. This is an example of thinking critically by evaluating the assumptions underlying the claims of self and others. Up until this panel, I had an assumption made in my mind by myself on the struggles of the transgender community at my own college that was clearly a false and understated one. However, after hearing and visualizing how difficult these problems really are, I was able to come to a reasonable conclusions on the basis of evidence provided during the panel that I need to be more aware of the struggles my own schoolmates face and raise awareness among others to try and help make these problems decrease in occurrence.
I just posted about medical voluntourism, but it is a topic that I feel strongly about so I thought I would share some of my thoughts from the class discussion on finding a solution to the problem. Two major problems that I am going to focus on are: people are attending this trips for the wrong reasons, and people going in with hopes in accomplishing much more than they are capable or trained to do. I came up with a few ways to ensure that a higher number of people are going into these third world countries with a better mindset and for the right reasons.
Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are many people that attend these trips with the wrong intentions. One possible solution would be to create a more strict process that candidates would have to complete before being chosen to attend a medical voluntourism trip. For example, implementing a research paper on the culture of the country of the trip would create a way for students to become more culturally aware before stepping into communities. I remember talking in group discussion in class about how in some countries eating with your right hand is considered unsanitary. That is just one example of how a research paper would both narrow down the number of candidates who may attend for the wrong reasons since there is a work load in the application, and educate those attending on how to act and diversify in their culture.
The other topic I mentioned was how groups will often go into these communities in third world countries with the “savior” mindset, or hopes to accomplish more than possible or allowing unqualified students give medical treatment. For example, we talked in this course about how students, college-aged, are delivering babies on these voluntourism trips. This is clearly a huge problem that should not be allowed, and possible solution for this would be to put a policy in place for all organizations that run medical voluntourism trips. To elaborate, if there were a policy in place that provided strict guidelines for what these groups were and weren’t allowed to do, that must be followed by all medical voluntourism groups, that could help prevent things like unqualified students delivering babies from occurring. Whether it be something put in place by the United States government or whomever it may be, a policy with punishment such as termination in that group or organization from holding future trips, seems like a viable solution.
In one of our first group discussions, Sunita brought up an article which talked about taking precaution in taking pictures and watching what you post from a volunteerism trip, which relates to our class discussion on them. After reading her post on this, I did some research and found another article by Pacific Standard Magazine called #InstagrammingAfrica. This article is similar to the one Sunita used, but it has some new information in it and I want to voice some additional things as well.
The main thing that I would like to point out is how social-media is often a place where people put up a fake curtain or wall of what they want people to see and how they want to be viewed by others. This is clearly a problem with medical voluntourism. The article jokingly states “a six-day visit to a rural African village can completely change a woman’s Facebook profile picture” and “I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders”. While these quotes are clearly jokes, they are actually exposing why many people go on these trips. I believe that there are too many people that go on these trips for the wrong reasons.
I am a freelance photographer, and often have a camera in hand during my free time. One thing I believe whole heartedly in is capturing moments as they happen, not making them. While this may seem somewhat unrelated, let me explain. I always focus on what is happening around me, the people I’m with and what I am experiencing, and never try and let the camera get in the way of enjoying that moment. If you apply this to people on voluntourism trips, some people are on these trips to make those moments. Instead of just being present with the communities they are visiting and trying to make an impact in their lives, they are also making sure they snap a selfie with a few children in the village to post on instagram. In the article, author Lauren Kascak says this of an experience taking a photo while on a trip, “I’m beaming in the photograph, half towering and half hovering over these children. I do not know their names, they do not know my name, but I directed a friend to capture this moment with my own camera. Why?”. This question really stuck out to me, and I think more people need to stop and ask themselves, “why?”. In Laurens case, there was no need to take a picture with two strangers. Now, if they had been sick while she was there and she was taking care of them throughout the trip while they returned to health, that would be a moment worth capturing. I’m not trying to say not to take any sort of pictures at all, but what I am trying to say is to not let the camera get in the way of why you are really there.
In Genna’s Recent blog post, which can be found here, she gave several good thoughts on the collaborative project. She started her article by referring to the article we looked at in the beginning of the semester, and within the article is said “all college student should have education experiences that teach them how to solve problems with people whose views are different from their own”. Going off of this quote from the article in Genna’s post, I agree with her when she said that this final collaborative project provides a great example of the quote, and I wanted to share a little bit from a Cultivating Community Event I went to a few weeks ago that relates to our project as well.
Cultivating Community is an event in which group discussion was held on “bubbles”, which essentially are known as identity markers, and how to merge those bubbles or identities to accomplish a task. In the group discussion, one thing that way brought up was that people have the language skills to communicate good and thoughtful information, but they don’t have the power to communicate what they are feeling. This relates to our collaborative final project in the aspect of giving people the power to say what they are feeling. In the first group session in this class, the discussion was solid, but they have improved greatly since then. There are many more people contributing in groups, bouncing off of each others ideas. Another reason why people are communicating more is because we all feel for the subjects and have opinions on them. In the cultivating community group discussion, we also talked about how a person has to experience or feel something to produce language. If you look at this course, we all felt something when reading the horrific encounters described in “Fourtune’s Bones” and “Medical Apartheid”, which gives us a voice to exclaim in group discussion. Lastly, we talked about how awareness of these differences in identities and beliefs leads to change. I know personally this project has shown me how to respect and value what other people have to say. I have heard insightful things in every group discussion that has helped be learn to do it. As you can see, there are several ways in which Cultivating Community can be related to both our journey in this course as well as our final collaborative project.
In my ENGL 203 course, we have been taking a look at literary theories, and one of them pertains to this course that I thought I would share with you all. One of the theories, ethnic studies, states that “You can thank literary theory and criticism for much of the positive change that has occurred over the past few decades. Students are still assigned works by many of the “dead white European males” that used to monopolize reading lists, but those students are now likely to be assigned books by Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison or Amy Tan alongside with those by Charles Dickens or John Milton”. If you take a look at the first name in that list of authors, you’ll notice Toni Morrison’s name among the list. What this quote from the book is saying that we owe reading Home this semester, to the literary canon, which is known as the change in the collection of texts read in classrooms.
This term literary canon often reflects national culture, which is another way this term relates to this course. It talks about how some people view culture as a broad collection of a countries practices, while others see culture as a kind of goal or ideal. That second view of culture reminds me of our journey through this course. We took a look at several pieces of literature this semester on the topic of how racism has played into medical treatments and consent, with a goal in mind of raising awareness on this topic. Books such as Home illustrated examples of consent within the text and illustrated topics we looked at in Medical Apartheid to life. We owe being able to dive into such a topic due to the literary canon, as it has changed into reading texts that encourage discussion and questioning.
In class last week, we had a group discussion on Institutional Review Boards, which is described by the FDA as “an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects”. Additionally, IRB’s approve research, protect human rights during research, and also disapprove certain research if need be.
We also talked about how IRBs fail to protect human rights on occasions more frequent than we would hope. There are several examples of this from the texts we’ve read throughout the course of this semester thus far. One example in specific that comes to mind is from a recent reading in Medical Apartheid. In chapter 11, when it talks about 126+ African American boys between the ages of 6 and 10 were tested with a drug fenfluramine to determine if violent behavior in these children could be biological. Later in the chapter, the book states that “children cannot give informed consent, because they cannot understand the medical procedures, or weigh the risks and benefits of participating in medical research”. With this in mind, researches will turn to parental control, but this can also lead to problems for the child. This is one clear problem from the text that came to mind in class last week when having this discussion on IRBs. Clearly, something needs to change to keep experiments such as this one from occurring.
I found an article called “Ten Ways to Improve IRBs” that suggests one good example that can spark a change in those IRBs that fail to protect the human rights of it’s participants. The article states that it is necessary to clarify the powers of IRBs. It says that many institutions do not do this, which can result in IRBs becoming informal, educational bodies that make suggestions and modify consent. I’m not saying that all IRBs need improving, but there are most certainly necessary improvements needed within some.This example from the article would be a good place to start, and it would prevent the modification of consent, such as the study that I mentioned from Medical Apartheid.
Before entering this course, and really even these past two weeks, I had little knowledge on what medical volunteering was. Also, I had no idea how many negatives people find in these medical mission trips. After diving into this subject in class, I haven’t come away with a clear decision on whether I think medical volunteerism is good or bad, but I’ve taken away thoughtful insight from both the articles assigned and group discussions.
In Scientific American’s article “Trouble with Medical Voluntourism”, a number of the negatives people find in this subject are talked on. It talks about students being underprepared and unaware of the necessary treatments for people in these countries. One example is found in the text when it reads “Mary violated obstetrics best practices, doing unnecessary episiotomies (cutting the skin between the vaginal opening and anus to make room for the baby’s head) and pulling breech babies (babies positioned bottom instead of head-first in the birth canal)”. This is an example where there is obviously great danger that can be caused through these medical missions.
In Rafia Zakaria’s article “white tourist’s burden”, a slightly different tone is found, and I tend to agree with this article more than Scientific American’s. It mentions how some people go on these medical assistance trips mostly to talk about it when they get home, rather than feeling a need to actual help the people in sed communities. In response to this, the author of this article believes that Medical Voluntourism is not a lost cause, and can actually be a very good thin, but it is currently a cause that can be improved on greatly. One thing that I learned from our guest speaker in class on Wednesday is that the people of the village they visit in Haiti are thankful to have American friends. I believe that when done properly, medical missions can be a very great thing. I connected what the guest speaker had said to a group conversation I had in class on Monday. Our group had come to a consensus that these people that are in the most severe of situations, do not care where their help comes from, they are just grateful to be receiving help. This is not true with all patients, but something such as a matter of life and death situation, indigenous people would be grateful to receive any help. Overall, I believe that while there are flaws in the system of medical tourism, there is also a lot of good that comes out of it, and a lot more can come if there are stricter rules and guidelines are enforced on people leaving for these trips.