Reading for pleasure after a drought feels, I imagine, like a marine animal breaching. Nowadays, an essay stands for indulgence; its serif fonts recall a time when my life was consumed by books (or rather, spent in their consumption). I catch glimpses of a world above, where epic meant poetry, meant story, meant the telling of tales til break of dawn, rather than the late-night perusal of electronic medical records in preparation for morning rounds. A haiku was not written finger-to-phone.
Outside the wind tears
still-green leaves from their branches
pulling them up and off
like a corn shucker
ripping husk from kernels.
In the psychiatric ward
You teach me kanji.
We start with “tree”:
two downward-sloping lines
with branch-like horizontal strokes. Read more
I spent two months last summer doing research in Fukushima, Japan on a trip supported by the Arnhold Global Health Institute at Mount Sinai and Rotary International. Along with another Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai medical student, I got an up-close look at the physical destruction and ongoing mental health challenges stemming from the March 2011 “triple disaster” (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident). During a radiation and disaster medicine course at the beginning of the summer, we traveled to areas destroyed by the tsunami, visited temporary housing complexes and local health screenings, and learned about the science of radiation monitoring. At the end of the summer, we joined a group of American 9/11 survivors visiting northern Japan to share their stories of trauma and recovery.
Even when our schedules get very hectic, the majesty of Central Park – ever so close to Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai–provides me with a constant reminder of the joys and wonders of living in New York City.
While working with the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), a human rights NGO in Cape Town, South Africa, I collaborated with my fellow ISMMS student, Vivian Nguyen, to create “I Am A Sex Worker.” Over the course of 9 weeks, we interviewed and took photos of 85 male, female, and transgender sex workers. Each has agreed to share their stories, portraits, and “I Am A Sex Worker” statements in hopes of combating the dehumanizing, sensationalized media representation of the sex work industry and those who participate in it. Through this project, we hope to spark a dialogue about the shared humanity in all of us.
Included here are 7 entries from “I Am A Sex Worker.” The full project can be viewed here.
Kamini Doobay, Class of 2017, wrote this mix of poetry and prose after joining the treatment team for a 10-year-old boy with cancer. This is the second of a 2-part entry. Read Part 1.
In between cycles of chemo, we saw glimpses
of our macho man.
He circled around the nurse’s station, telling jokes,
playing games, demanding a date to go home.
His parents called.
They called every now and then –
to share new stories, to ask about fundraising events
they could attend, or simply to say thank you again
and again for saving their son.
They often sent fruit baskets, holiday cards and photos
of Joe playing ball, winning awards or just giving us
that innocent smile – one we know so well,
one that barely left his face,
even when he was going through hell.
Kamini Doobay, Class of 2017, wrote the following poem shortly after Schizophrenia was covered in class and she saw a patient with the disease in the hospital. From the author: “This is my attempt to write a narrative poem about a patient based in a time/culture when typical antipsychotics dominated and when there was much less awareness and understanding of the disease. Though the medications have improved and lives are better, we are far from perfect.”
A Plea to Her Father
Is it a disease? I used to ask.
How can a man be ruled by a flask?
Falling into an abyss and falling so fast,
Into this horrid spell that life itself cast.