Connecting with an author through shared experience

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I frequently feel a sense of connection with other writers when I read their work. I was first exposed to Chimamanda Adichie’s work several years ago when I listened to her Ted talk, The Danger of a Single Story. I easily identified with the message which encouraged people to avoid the trap of stereotyping based on single stories of people and countries.

Perhaps the strongest sense of connection, though came when I read her New Yorker¹ essay written in her father’s memory after his passing last year, after having lost my own father the previous year. I had previously heard her reflect on how she and her siblings had shown up at her parents’ home in Nigeria to celebrate his 80th birthday. …


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Photograph by Olapeju Simoyan, MD, MPH

Forget about perfection — mistakes are for learning!

“If you want to improve at anything, you need to know where your mistakes are leading you.” - Hannah Whitaker for the New York Times

Perfection: it seems like a laudable goal, or is it?

I once heard a pastor state that perfection was a goal that Christians should strive to attain. I remember wondering if “perfection” meant that once this state was attained, mistakes would no longer be made. I eventually concluded that it was unrealistic to believe that we could somehow achieve a state of perfection while living on earth. The mere fact that we are human beings means we are subject to making mistakes. …


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I rarely watch movies, but the ones I have watched tend to stay with me. I once watched a movie where the main character was played by an actor that I was familiar with from a sitcom in which he had played the role of a near perfect family man, husband, father and pastor. I had watched several episodes of this sitcom years before watching the movie. Early on in the movie, his wife was murdered and even though I didn’t see the actual scene, I think someone who was more used to watching movies might have guessed that he was responsible. However, even as the evidence against him mounted, I kept telling myself that he couldn’t possibly have killed his wife. Wasn’t this “Mr. Perfect” from the other show? He couldn’t possibly hurt anyone, let alone his wife. Well, by the end of the movie, it was obvious that I was wrong. Why was I so sure he was innocent? …


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A few years ago, I had an experience while attending a music retreat that emphasized the importance of a comprehensive approach to teaching. I had been studying music theory on my own prior to the retreat. During the retreat, I attended group lessons on music theory which reinforced some of what I had been trying to learn on my own. My fellow learners were mostly more experienced in reading music and piano playing than I was, but I was surprised to note that some basic concepts in music theory that I was familiar with seemed new to them. …


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Photo by sylvie charron on Unsplash

“Synesthesia” — does this play a role in unconscious bias?

Synesthesia is the perception of one sense as another, such as “seeing sound” or “hearing colors”. I first came across this term when I was studying for my addiction medicine board exams. This phenomenon can be caused by hallucinogenic drugs but occurs naturally in some people. It occurs when information that is meant to stimulate one sense stimulates another or several senses.

An essay published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1), describes a situation where a patient appears to have experienced another version of synesthesia. This patient, on seeing an Asian American physician stated that she wouldn’t be able to understand her, due to her thick accent, which she reportedly heard as soon as she saw her. The only problem is that the physician in question was raised in the US and had no foreign accent to speak of. What the patient really noticed was the doctor’s brown skin. Ironically, the same patient had encountered other members of the team who had strong foreign accents during that same visit– and had not expressed any such concerns. It turns out those other team members were white. I don’t actually believe that this patient was experiencing synesthesia in the true sense of the word, but her perception of difference led her to make an unfounded claim and perhaps, in her mind, at least, justified her reason for refusing to be seen by this doctor. …


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Photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash

Learning to say the D word

In a recent essay published in Pulse, Dr. Charlotte Grinberg reflected on some of her experiences as a medical intern related to how doctors tend to communicate about the end of life, avoiding words like “death” or “dying”. She noted the importance of using direct language when discussing death with colleagues, patients and family members (1).

As an intern several years ago, I received a handbook prepared by the senior residents in our residency program. The handbook contained advice about many things we needed to know as freshly minted physicians, including the need to communicate clearly with family members when patients die. The instructions were clear: avoid statements like “no longer with us”, make sure you say the word “dead”. …


African Time: It’s time for change

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Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

I got my hair braided today and the hairstylist did a great job — as far as the actual braiding, that is. However, there were other issues that got me pondering on the issue of “African time”.

My regular hair braider (hairdresser number 1) was home with her newborn baby and not scheduled to return to work till next week. Fortunately, I had found out about another braiding salon in the area and thought I would try it out. …


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Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Dyschromatopsia is a myth when it comes to race

Dyschromatopsia is a fancy word for color blindness. When it comes to race, do we live in a “color blind” society? Some people believe that systemic racism no longer exists in America. To an extent, it is understandable that some people are unaware of something they have never experienced. On the other hand, there are black people living in Africa who believe that systemic racism is nonexistent in present day America. …

Olapeju Simoyan

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