English 101 and my study abroad experience

As I write my last blog post, I can’t help but reflect on the course as a whole and what I’ve learned. One of the major problems discussed during class was the negative effects and results that derive from medical voluntourism. Before going on my trip to Ghana, I knew that the trip would consist of me participating in research and interacting with the people in the communities I visited. I was required to go to orientation and learn about what to expect when visiting this country. I was also required to take this online course and be certified in the understandings of extramural research. The online course was required for everyone going on the trip to understand the importance of “protecting human research participants.” Looking back, I can see why Professor Muench expected us to do all these things because our actions can mean good, but cause more harm to the people. Going to Ghana has proven to be one of the best experiences in my life and happy to see now that I wasn’t one of those people going in hopes of getting hands on experience on the people without proper training. Although I eventually plan on working in the medical field, I learned just as much interacting with the people living in these different communities. I was able to tie back what I saw and experienced from each village to major issues that deal with sanitation, urbanization, and neglected tropical diseases. From this course, I was able to reflect on my previous actions and ideas I carried with me throughout the trip. Going to Ghana, I was given the opportunity to learn from the people just as much as they could learn from me. Professor Muench did a great job instilling in our heads that the Ghanians aren’t below us and the theme of interdependence was brought up numerous times throughout the trip. Looking back, I realized that Ghana taught me just as much about myself and what I want to do in the future as far as working in the medical field. Ghana wasn’t the type of study abroad in which I searched for saviordom. I learned just as much if not more from exploring the country and interacting with the people than I would have if I went with a quest for experience or the pursuit of an emotional high. Going to Ghana through the biology department at SUNY Geneseo, I observed the community’s actual needs and had to reflect as to why people were living the way they were. Although Professor Muench does a great job at avoiding to display this “white savior complex,” there are still other programs and organizations out there that will advocate and represent medical voluntourism in a positive light instead of focusing on the harm that comes with it.

The Curtain Fall: Reflection

This is the end. The semester is wrapping up and finals are around the corner. However; this is also a time for reflection. A time to recollect our thoughts and mull over what we have learnt through the semester. Indeed, the Fall 2017 English 101 class covered interdisciplinary issues spanning from race to medicine through the lens of literature. We read books/articles/short stories spanning genres from science fiction to non-fiction. Nevertheless, our conversation would always be in tandem with relevant issues effecting today’s world. Issues spanning systemic racism, the dangers of medical voluntourism to sustainability. Throughout the course, we were able to tie ideas and concepts back to unseeming ideas and justify our findings using textual evidence. Valuable skill earned: To be able to realize interconnectness. I remember participating in the final collective brainstorming exercise and how I wanted my statement to reflect all of the questions I hoped would remain with me and my fellow coursemates. I recorded “intersectionality is a profound concept that appears and will always appear in our daily lives. Everything is connected and nothing lives in isolation. Through every sphere of life, racism can cut through often as intentional and even so directional towards a selected group of people. Even as mere fiction and fabrication, race is perpetuated across spheres like law, medicine, business, government across others. At the end of the day, can we connect the dots? Can we recognize and analyze the staying power and hubris that comes with privilege? Is medical apartheid a real concept even in today’s world? How do we know and how do we call it out with supporting evidence? At the end of the day, epistemophilia as an adopted methodology to finding solutions should/will be a resounding answer” (Adaeze, 2017. )

However, I have come to realise that some of these questions might have no answers. still, I will continue to ask more questions while reflecting on previously asked questions. The world is not black and white hence it’s complexity. Singular views should be discouraged and multiple perspectives should be employed to issues. Perhaps, getting closer to realised solutions is more important than merely seeking answers. Call out systemic racism and advocate for social justice in whatever capacity you can. Recycle and try to save the planet. Untrained medical students should think twice about programs offering to let them volunteer and perform medical procedures in a developing country. In order to advance intellectually and work as best as you can; employ critical thinking and reflection strategies. While critical thinking requires thinking deeply, identifying problems and proposing solutions; reflection helps an individual reach into their capacity after the noise dies. Just like monks reflect and meditate to gain a higher learning and to get to a higher state of spirituality , writers need to reflect to reach higher states of their creativity and higher learning of themselves and their skills as writers. Reflection is like a healing balm that soothes the mind while enhancing writing with its valuable outputs and results. This is not the end. We are continually learning and gaining awareness on important issues happening around us. It is not enough to merely listen but it is essential to process and reflect on what has been heard. If learning never stops; then reflection has no limit. Scour through your mind for the seemingly insignificant yet useful pieces, connect the dots as much as you can and let your mind soar. There is no height too impossible to achieve if an individual puts their mind to it. Reflection: Put your mind to it.

Bill Mckibben and the reality of our actions

On September 30th, Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org visited the SUNY Geneseo campus and spoke about the major problems and contributions of climate change. He spoke about how there has been immense changes with climate/weather in the last 40 years. Unfortunately, he spoke about the issues with climate change and how many people working within the political system will brush off these issues. Something that resonated with me was that he said “we have to take action now and do something about it now.” He said this because people are often uneducated about the growing problems with climate change. Once they learn about the harms, the next step it to work on fixing the problem and looking for solutions. Even though McKibben wants to educate others about the dangers and what contributes to climate change, people will refuse to believe this and turn their cheek the other way.

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The Principle Of Not Choosing An Irreversible Path When Faced With Uncertainty

Upon swearing the Hippocratic Oath, graduating medical students bind themselves to an ethical code that ensures the overall progress and welfare of their patients. The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics (1996 edition), “has remained in Western civilization as an expression of ideal conduct for the physician.” (Lawson, 2010.) Today, most graduating medical school students swear to some form of the oath, usually a modernized version. (Pbs.org)  However, medical ethic is still an important and touchy matter in the health field. Medical ethics is derived from Ethics; a moral philosophy that came about with the Sophists of Greece. Even as physicians have long since held themselves to a moral code, there have been rogue physicians who have subjected individuals to unethical experimentation and research. In Medical Apartheid, Harriet Washington details the systemic and medical abuse, discrimination meted out to African-Americans since colonial times. She details the appalling and unethical invasive experimentation and research practices performed throughout history to African-Americans. She opens her book by talking about James Marion Sims, a 19th-century surgeon who is venerated as a selfless benefactor of women for devising ways to repair severe vaginal injuries occurring during child birth. She talks about how he is celebrated despite the fact he honed his skills by performing scores of painful operations on the genitals of black slaves without amnesia. He refused to give them ether even when it was available but gave them to white women. A physician who “cut his way to the top”. His African-American human subjects were mere guinea fowls in his ploy for recognisance in his field. In a twisted Rob-Peter-To-Pay-Paul  manner, he violated every ethical code possible. In this case, Martin Luther King’s quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” does not hold water. These women never had justice.  Continue reading “The Principle Of Not Choosing An Irreversible Path When Faced With Uncertainty”

Use of Cadavers in Undergraduate Schools

How amazing that people are donating their bodies to science when they pass away? I think it’s incredible and I think I would like to donate mine in the future. However I would prefer to have it is donated to Medical Schools. One of my coworkers took human gross anatomy as an undergraduate at Rochester Institute of Technology. Initially I was pretty upset with her because I felt like students in undergrad would not appreciate the donation to its full potential. I have done dissections in my anatomy lab of a cow eye and sheep brain. I know that people often don’t appreciate those but I’m not sure how comparable that to a human body. My coworker then told me she decided that she doesn’t want to get into the medical field anymore the semester after. Continue reading “Use of Cadavers in Undergraduate Schools”

Alabama’s Black Belt

When reading this online news article found here, I couldn’t believe that there was a lack of proper sewage disposal in a developed country like the US. There was “raw sewage flows from homes” and a lack to basic services for the people living in this small town. Unfortunately, the people that live in this region are people who don’t make enough money to live in a healthier environment with a median household income of 30,000 USD. Most of the people living in this black belt region are African Americans and have faced discrimination.

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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.