Throughout my journey in medicine, one of the greatest challenges I have faced is responding to being viewed as an outsider by certain patients and breaking that barrier. As a turban-wearing and bearded individual who stems from the Sikh faith, I try to live by the idea of seeing the universal oneness in every individual I cross paths with. However, I understand everyone comes from a different walk of life, and people may not see me the way I see them. During such circumstances, it is pivotal that I maintain my composure and cooperate with the individual at hand even though internally I may be deeply disturbed.
A particular case that will always stay with me occurred during my psychiatry rotation. I had the opportunity to care for a patient who was struggling with depression and was admitted for suicidal ideation. As I introduced myself to the patient, I immediately recognized that he did not view me as a provider but rather as a threat. Despite my best efforts to connect with him, I was in for a rather unpleasant week.
Unfortunately, I had to hear the word terrorist being callously thrown at me while mixed in with accusations that I was going to blow up the hospital. He accused me of carrying weapons in my white coat and trying to harm him and everyone else. This was my first time dealing with someone who I was professionally obligated to interact with despite being openly disrespected. I remember the fleeting feelings of frustration that would arise in me. I just wanted to make the patient understand that I was trying to help him, that I was not an enemy. However, I also understood that this patient had his own struggles and experiences, and I had to learn to adapt to the situation without losing my composure. In retrospect, I am so grateful for this experience as it allowed me to truly open my heart further and broaden my horizons as an individual when dealing with people who may hold very different views than you. I hope this particular patient is coming to grips with his own peace, and I wish him all the love and acceptance in my heart.
Living in Trump’s America, we have become all too familiar with the systemic perspectives, policies, and governing that nullify the voices, pain and struggles of the minority all while benefiting the majority. As a health care professional, I understand that patients may hold views that I may not agree with politically. However, at the end of the day, it is my duty and obligation to treat the patient with the same due respect and courtesy as anyone else. Being a more loving individual is the greatest gift to myself. Learning to overcome initial resentment, frustration and dislike is truly an art that requires practice and patience. As minorities in medicine, we must give ourselves the space to heal and open our hearts limitlessly to everyone, including the individuals we encounter who try to prevent us from excelling.
Maintaining peace and poise in the face of discrimination is true power. In this world of hatred, ill will and division, staying true to ourselves is the most meaningful and unifying action. It is a crime to allow the negative convictions someone may hold against us to dictate how we view ourselves. May we all recognize the inherent potential that lies within us to surmount the negativity thrown our way with grace, love and courage. That is a victory in the truest sense of the word.
Image credit: Stethoscope by a.drian is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.