Both my mother and brother had breast cancer that spread and was joined by other cancers. During Breast Cancer Month, I am compelled to write about the loss of these loved ones. I often stress the breast cancer that my brother Joe experienced, because too many of us think that breast cancer is a women-only disease. So, this is an ode to Joe. Not only do I write for men with breast cancer, but for all those experiencing the loss of loved ones to cancer, especially the siblings with whom we expect to experience old age together.
The Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times,” seems to be active today, activating our anxiety. Globally. The news sounds more and more like the most alarming drum roll. In the past few weeks, the world has been gripped by reports of terrorist plots and attacks in the US, in France, in Bangladesh, in Istanbul, in Baghdad, in Munich. Refugees from Syria are drowning by the hundreds as they desperately seek a safe foothold. Everywhere the number of the dead mounts.
As I look back sixteen years, I can’t help but thank God for how much He has done for me. I especially thank God for my parents who decided to keep me, instead of aborting me. To all my family, friends, classmates and church members, thank you for encouraging me when I was down, and spending time with me when I was recovering from my craniofacial surgeries.
Guess what readers? It took me 25 hours to go from Dallas to Germany a while back.
But don’t feel sorry for me because that trip was one of my best ever. Now before telling me to get a checkup from the neck up, bear with me for a moment. I’ll get to the rest of the story further down. I first need to come clean with you on a revelation.
The holidays can be a wonderful and cozy time of year. We reconnect with those long forgotten warm sweaters that have waited patiently for us in the back of our closets. Everything we eat and drink is pumpkin flavored. We start to look longingly at our fireplaces, and even anticipate the first snowfall. But for many people, the shift out of daylight savings and other harbingers of fall and winter create feelings of anxiety, loneliness, anger, and depression. Many therapists report an upswing in referrals this time of year, and the focus is often on the difficult feelings that colder weather, less sunshine, and the approaching holiday season evokes.
The world was recently rocked by the untimely death of Robin Williams by suicide. Some called him weak and a coward. Some wondered how he could just leave his friends and loved ones so callously. Some wondered how such a funny and talented person could just give it all up so horribly. The truth is he didn’t die by suicide. That may have been his final act but it didn’t kill him. It was his depression that killed him long before he finally hung himself.
Our Challenging Times
In much of the Developed World, we’ve struggled with the worst economy since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In addition, we live in a culture that has grown increasingly pessimistic in the face of multiple global challenges that seem too complex for our species to navigate. Pessimism seems a lot smarter, certainly more hip, than optimism.
When Dr. Joseph Betancourt spoke on “Solutions for Disparities: Delivering Quality Care to Diverse Populations” in Chattanooga TN, he delivered both unusual expertise and a personal model for future healthcare. Dr. Betancourt’s family came from Puerto Rico to NYC and he talked about his childhood as interpreter for his grandparents to their doctors. Today, Dr. Betancourt is Director of the Disparities Solution Center and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital. With his medical degree, fellowship in Minority Health Policy and Masters from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Betancourt is now a well-respected expert in cross-cultural medicine.
To achieve organizational cultural competence within the health care leadership and workforce, it is important to maximize diversity. This may be accomplished through:
• Establishing programs for minority health care leadership development and strengthening existing programs. The desired result is a core of professionals who may assume influential positions in academia, government, and private industry.
• Hiring and promoting minorities in the health care workforce.
• Involving community representatives in the health care organization’s planning and quality improvement meetings.
He was showing me paintings that hung on his living room wall. He had painted these over the years and wanted me to have one. He pointed to a painting of a Bosnian girl (whom he had met in Seattle) with a very serene expression on her face. “Or you can look at this one”, he said with a chuckle as he turned around pointing in the opposite direction; “it is interesting but not very pretty.” He called the painting -“the obnoxious bird, the bird from down under”.