Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Planks and Motes

Just a quick update, because if I don’t I’ll never.

I spent all of Saturday at the 8th Annual Northern California International Health Conference. Despite a too-short poster session and the cancellation of my top pick of the afternoon panel discussions I left the U.C. Davis campus at 5 p.m. mentally exhausted but also nourished.

It was an overwhelming experience, bringing home the breaktakingly wide scope of the field, in which multiple graduate degrees seem to be the norm.

Nicely ensconced in my academic circles I’m used to Ph.D. researchers as the rule, not the exception. But this is the realm of scientific research in which the medical doctor rules. It left me feeling completely inadequate but also reassured me that this is indeed where my interests lie.

And yet, by the second panel session of the afternoon I was pretty damn tired of look at photos of one white person standing in a big group of brown people.

One of the M.D.s discussing an NIH fellowship which sends third year medical students (and exceptional, of course, Ph.D. students) overseas mentioned that, “this ruins you for Park Avenue practice.”

It ruins you for treating fat, rich, white, hypochondriac Americans. You need to go overseas to exercise your human compassion.

International health is about as sexy a field as you can get; jetting to exotic locals to heal the starving AIDS orphans and all that.

It’s easy to overlook the comparatively affluent American suffering.

It’s not that I think there is no place in developing countries for professionals from developed countries. But I feel that confronting the health inequities in your own country is the first thing to do, even if it is while looking towards international health inequities. Still, it seems to be treated in a pre-functionary fashion, separate, distant from the sexy international health, or not at all.

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