Dr. Crumpler’s fight for legitimacy more than a century ago helped make my professional life possible, so the notion that I could, in some small way, give back to her, made my heart skip a beat. I could not grab my credit card fast enough. And I was not alone.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses inherent in an underfunded public health system, a monopolized hospital, and a fractured medical supply chain.
No one asks the soldier whether she is afraid to die. That is her job. Healthcare workers are not afraid of dying, but like all parents, they fear leaving their children without a mother or father. Last night, my son asked me the question I have been dreading. “What if you and daddy die of Covid-19?”
To be honest, our lives will not be saved by the government. And lives will not be saved by elected officials or large institutions. Lives will not be saved by a miracle vaccine this year either. Lives will be saved by everyday decisions made by responsible citizens in Washington State and the rest of the nation.
Why do real-life images of camouflage-clad women soldiers or female surgeons wearing scrubs make us more uncomfortable than the highly sexualized images of fictional women warriors, like Wonder Woman? Are many of us more nervous boarding a plane that will be piloted by a woman than a man? And why hasn’t a woman been elected to the highest office of the land? Does society believe female physicians are less qualified than male physicians?
La Flesche’s motivation to pursue medicine came from a haunting experience she had as a child, watching an elderly woman die in agony awaiting the arrival of a local doctor. Despite being summoned four times, he never came. In her opinion, the doctor’s absence made one thing painfully clear: It was only an Indian. She wrote years later, “It has always been a desire of mine to study medicine ever since I was a small girl.”
Piper was the first and the only patient in nearly 20 years of practice for whom I have signed the birth certificate and the death certificate. 100 years ago, country doctors did that sort of thing frequently, but today, it is rare. It remains one of the hardest things I have ever done as a physician.
I have had the honor and privilege of collaborating with three Kitsap Health Officers, including Dr. Willa Fisher, Dr. Scott Lindquist, and Dr. Susan Turner. After becoming a practicing physician, my reverence for the public health system has continually grown. I literally cannot do my job without the support of the dedicated employees working there.
It seems perverse to deliver healthcare services at a place called the Minute Clinic. The kind of physician-patient relationship that can be cultivated in a minute is not one to write home about. While CVS and Walgreens see geriatric primary care as yet another untapped gold mine, for me, the relationship memorialized in Norman Rockwell’s “Physician” resonates as much today as it did 90 years ago. Seamless ecosystems are no match for a “willingness to place professional expertise at the feet of childhood magic.”
Society must endorse the idea that a woman must consent prior to being touched. And when there is a power differential, consent may not meet the necessary criteria to avoid allegations of sexual assault. In fact, it might be equally plausible that Mr. Lauer “lured” Nevils to his hotel room as it is that she showed up of her own volition. I ask this question because of my own experience of having been lured by a physician colleague to his home in the evening under false pretenses. It is a mistake I have never made again.