meus intuitus

Archive for March 2014

CGH reflection draft

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Having maxed out my global health credits on Guatemala and Ghana this year, I’m still not sure what my new friends abroad thought when I told them, “Hi my name is David. I’m going into psychiatry and I’m here for four more weeks.” Psychiatry is only a budding presence in the global health scene, but the time abroad has been incredibly relevant nonetheless. Long story short is that my interest has always been in humanity and, as luck would have it, there is a lot of humanity outside of the United States.

For many of you that last quip is a moot point, but it remains important to me, a former ethnocentrist. Being a mainstream product of my society its media, I conceptualized places like Guatemala and Ghana in stereotypes like tacos, drug cartels, hungry children, and child soldiers. About a year prior to my abroad electives, I stumbled upon something profound—a series of photos online showing people from dozens of nations making funny faces. The ethnocentrist in me was shocked and the humanist in me stirred. It was like being suggested that stars are the suns of other worlds. “These people might be… people.” This is a shameful thing to have to realize, but the real culprit is the divisive and dehumanizing nature of our media and socialization. Mainstream Americans like myself grow up with the assumption that people different and distant are other when in reality they are us.

However, seeing a few pictures was not enough to oust a lifetime of preconceived notions.  Being a humanist and a future psychiatrist, cultivating an appreciation for the humanity of the locals was among my favorite activities. Feel free to laugh. I do “empathy exercises.”

In any abroad experience, global humanism success is not guaranteed. There is a risk of reinforcing stereotypes, increasing a sense of helplessness in the face of poverty, and reinforcing a sense of other. As for practical recommendations for how to guide students:

  1. For every difference you observe, think about something you have in common.
  2. Appreciate something about what a person, community, or culture is. Do not just dwell on what it lacks. Even dare to consider the ways it is superior to your own.
  3. Keep in mind that you have everything to learn and can give nothing better than your humble attention.

This kind of perceptual guidance is important. The majority world will be better served by respect, investment, and cooperation than pity, charity, and coercion. Furthermore, the leaders who will spearhead these initiatives first need to be inspired. There is a lot of inspiration in the people of the majority world, we just have to open our eyes to it.

UVA SOM students seeking abroad electives are often already matured in their perspective. These words of guidance may be better suited to shorter initiatives, larger groups, and younger groups (think alternative spring breaks) where there is less immersion and more novice.

Further still, we can bring these lessons home with us to the minority, low income, and marginalized populations we serve.

Before discussing what my experiences in Guatemala and Ghana have done for and meant to me, I will briefly talk about where I’ve come from. I did not travel at all during my undergraduate years. My world was small, confined to my campus, and all-important. My concerns covered the breadth of how much I liked the tasted of beer to how many hours I had studied for a physical chemistry exam. Far away places like Guatemala, Ghana, and even “developed” places like France were a sophisticated list of incredibly accurate stereotypes and media notions—tacos, drug cartels, hunger, orphans, horizontally striped shirts, wine, and cheese. By a generous assessment, I was an average American college “dude.”



Written by meusintuitus

March 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

why psychiatry?

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I have been blessed with a, particular combination of characteristics—a pragmatic empathy, humanistic curiosity, and intuitive intelligence. With these, I have an ability to understand others on their terms and also see their individual potential. If this is not what people call a “gift,” it is by far the closest thing I have to one.

My primary concern in life then is to use this gift. I do not care about publications, wealth (not much at least), or prestige. My primary concern is this gift and the people that I can help with it. Be they patients, students, or loved ones my purpose will always be in the space between them and myself.

Written by meusintuitus

March 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized