World Citizen

Hope for Medicine, from #Charlottesville

I was going to write about wellness this week, but events from the world demand more attention. And our corner of the world is especially unwell.

I went to medical school in Charlottesville. No city deserves to be overtaken by this ugliness, but I especially never imagined Charlottesville would catapult to national fame as a horrific hashtag.

No, #Charlottesville is history, academia, growing hipsterism, Monticello, winery for miles, farm to table food, community, Blue Ridge Mountains, etc.

I don’t know why Charlottesville was chosen.  But in the immediate aftermath, I thought one saving grace for the inevitable victims is they will be at a world class hospital, certainly the best one I’ve seen.

This Twitter post @choo-ek 1) made me especially proud of #UVAMed from my medical student days and 2) reminded me to have hope for the future of medicine.

Medicine in America today has become much more diverse than just a few decades ago — certainly more so than a lot of the communities it serves. We definitely haven’t eliminated racism or sexism from the field, just as our society at large continues to struggle with the same issues, but look how far we have come.

Some 60 years ago, the leading medical experts of the day decided only Caucasian people could have polio and therefore could be treated.

Most older doctors graduated from medical school classes, like this group from UVA’s medical school in 1956, that included almost no women or minorities.

This is my graduating class from UVA School of Medicine, 2015. 

Huge racial and cultural gaps in medical care still exist, as does the imbalance of genders in certain specialties. The road to being a doctor is still much narrower for minorities, but it exists now and there are efforts to widen the path. The fact we openly acknowledge these issues as areas for improvement is a mark of progress in itself.

And that’s the whole point – medicine can change with the times.

UVA hospital is a better example of diversity and tolerance than many of the visitors to Charlottesville this week. We can change stagnant pockets of darkness by bringing it into the light, as long as we are steadfast, kind, and determined in our stewardship of the light. I have hope that one day our hospitals will also become leaders in true wellness, smart technology, and open forum.