Central PA Medicine Summer2020 - 9
daup h i n c m s .o rg
Ms. Christina LaGamma is a second-year
medical student at Penn State College of
Medicine. A born and raised New Yorker,
she graduated from Barnard College of
Columbia University in 2016 with a BA
in Neuroscience. Christina then went on
to work as a Research Assistant at the New
York State Psychiatric Institute for 3 years,
in a translational neuroscience laboratory,
before matriculating to medical school.
Dr. Poles: Healing cannot begin until other medical students across Pennsylvania
we identify the cause of the symptoms; are not "stirring up political activism" − the
symptoms cannot be treated until we dignity of human life is not political. The
identify a safe and effective treatment; reality is that every one of us has racial
so...how do physicians expect to improve biases. The difference elucidated recently
the health outcomes and quality of life lies in how clearly and vividly who and
for all Americans without that process? how racism and police brutality is practiced
Debridement hurts like heck − I've had it and experienced on a level that most were
done! But it is necessary as a part of the not aware of.
healing process. No physician shirks their
Ms. LaGamma: I agree. The more
to have the difficult conversation(s) difficult question people are struggling
Dr. Sidorov is the Immediate Past President
with patients in spite of how hard and with is "Am I a racist?" vs "Did I make a
of the Dauphin County Medical Society.
uncomfortable it is for them and the
Dr. Sidorov: Before addressing health- patient. We cannot dilute our message. If racist comment?" It is more often the latter,
care and racism, can you please give me we choose that, then we have consciously and how do we constructively self-evaluate
the "elevator" speech on why #blacklives- decided to minimize the brutal murder of from there.
matter should be front and center in our George Floyd as well as the racism that is
Dr. Sidorov: Dr. Poles, it sounds like
fully support medical student activism
undoubtedly a part of our profession which
Dr. Poles: Discussing and confronting continues to impact the health outcomes,
racism is uncomfortable for the majority of health care, and quality of life of African
Dr. Poles: Our medical students are our
population but long overdue. Racism and its Americans and other minorities.
future and have a very insightful perspective
impacts are controversial because discussions
Dr. Sidorov: Ms. LaGamma, what on issues of the day − and of our long, trouabout race and implicit and explicit biases are you saying to your fellow students bled history. They are focused on becoming
makes people uncomfortable. Without being - as well as Dauphin County Medical better physicians than those of us who are
uncomfortable there is no change.
Society's member physicians about this currently practicing; being better human
beings who don't silo issues, who don't avoid
Ms. LaGamma: Additionally, the ar- important topic?
the status quo for the sake of
gument is not "all lives matter," which
Ms. LaGamma: As a future physician, I their "reputation"; who aren't afraid to "look
dismisses the very real history of slavery will need to advocate for individuals and
and segregation that specifically continues communities whose health has negatively in the mirror." Change can begin with us
regardless of the "controversy" which is
to haunt black individuals.
been affected by a history of social and actually an excuse to avoid looking in the
Dr. Sidorov: Dr. Poles, you've had a long political oppression. Confronting racism mirror and tackling an uncomfortable issue.
and storied career as a physician, and many and social injustice is a wholly bipartisan We've had many uncomfortable moments in
of my doctor colleagues would think that issue. If the Dauphin County Medical medicine which have led to needed change.
your professional status shielded you from Society (DCMS) is not willing to publicly This is our generational moment.
embrace that and advocate justice at this
racism. Did it?
Dr. Sidorov: Following Dr. Poles's lead
critical time, then it is not the leader it
Dr. Poles: Living in America as a black
claims to be in medicine. If the American above, what is the advice of you and your
woman is a daily struggle in health care
Medical Association (AMA) is willing to fellow students for not only physicians, but
as well as other facets of society − as an
all of this journal's readers?
address it, so can DCMS.
employee, as a student, as a customer, as a
Ms. LaGamma: Here are some resources
Dr. Sidorov: Dr. Poles, I'm a physician
pedestrian, as a driver, as a patient and as
a colleague and so on. We doctors dance
around the edges of racism by discussing
EDUCATE ourselves on the following
Dr. Poles: Some misunderstand the
"acceptable" language such as "health care message as all whites or those who don't terms: institutional racism, systemic racism,
disparities," "health care inequality" and quite understand this think they are being interpersonal racism, and intrapersonal
"social determinants of health" and so on but called racist. Admitting to learned or racism (click on this hyperlink here 1to
refuse to call it what it is; refusing to take a implicit racial bias for some erroneously request access to a great resource my classstand to begin the process of addressing it. equates to admitting to "racism."
mate compiled for easy learning on these
topics); also watch this video2 explaining
Dr. Sidorov: How do we as physicians
This is not a conversation about "judging what systemic racism is.
white people" and that only blacks experience racism and discrimination, etc. That
Continued on page 10
is no one's sentiment! Ms. LaGamma and
Central PA Medicine Summer 2020 9
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