Chicago Med Students Stage Die In

Chicago Med Students Stage Die In
I’m over (fill in the blank city) 911 and Emergency Room TV shows these days. They’re neither funny nor entertaining anymore. Sure, the “safety challenged” hunter that comes in with an arrow through his head or the guy who can’t, well, "ya know", after taking too many of those little blue pills gives us a chuckle to watch for kicks and grins because we know it doesn’t happen all the time. We know these people are usually okay, a little worse for the wear, but after all the releases are signed, everyone walks off screen back into their normal lives. What we don’t see is the bigger more lasting picture of outright devastation and grief left behind in the carnage of young people mowed down by gun violence. I’m not debating “#whomatters” or who is at fault or who is killing who. Let’s say for the sake of argument, we can all agree that everyone wants to go home at the end of the day and that no one wants to be shot or to shoot anyone. Okay? Let’s just pretend in this world, just for today, that this is true. We’ve got a long talk about that coming soon.

For now, let’s talk about what’s happening in our communities and how we are reacting to it; as parents, as mothers, as neighbors, students and as professionals. I read an interesting reaction the other day happening among young medical students from the University of Chicago and Rush University. I wondered if it got the media attention it deserved. These students are in the process of learning about the undeniable truths in this world. People die. People kill each other. They are on the front lines as medical students, preparing for a life where in their profession, everyone they touch, no matter what they do or how hard they try, will die. Maybe not now but there’s no way out. To live is to die. Oh, what must these young new doctors witness? I’m sure they’re not as naïve as we want them to be. I have an inkling only because my sister is a doctor. I know that they have to sleep. So did I. As a young prosecutor, during the heyday of the crack cocaine and gang era, at the end of my day, I had to push it out of my head so I could come back the next day. I had to face an awful truth. People do awful things. People experience awful things. And I had to live my life without that cloud of inhumanity hanging over my head. Still in 2015, it is now as it was then, young people, and an inordinate number of young black men are dying in horrific ways due to gun violence.

So, I am both saddened for them and impressed by these young men and women for taking a stand. It’s one thing to know what to expect and to take yourself away for your own self preservation. You can stand on the periphery and mentor, speak at a few assemblies, tell some shocking emergency room stories in a scared straight kind of narrative. Knowing that you will soon either commit to the challenge of playing some small part in dropping those statistics. Or move on to something more lucrative, like plastic surgery or oncology. It’s another to jump in and shout. These young doctors staged a die-in. When that happens you know it’s too much. Too much even for a doctor. I would image their learning environment today to be sort of like an Army MASH unit. We romantically think it’s for the best...baptism by fire. But only they know and they are vigilant, brave and honest enough to admit that it is unacceptable. According to the Chicagoist.com, the students “argue that the excessive violence and lack of accountability by city leaders is a full-blown health crisis”. It’s hard to argue that it’s not. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cook County medical examiner’s office, counted 166 homicides as of June of this year alone. Chicago ranks fourth in police shootings between 2010 and 2014 with 70 shootings, according to Bettergovernment.org. Whether the deaths are black on black or police engagement related, simply put, it’s just too much. For me, too much. For the United States, too much.

What can we do? What should we do? The students are calling for the resignation of the city’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel. I get it. He is the steward of the policies that keep order, order in the communities, safety of the citizens and yes, the safety of police in their persons and performance of their duties. Whether he stays, resigns, or gets voted out or not makes no difference to me as long as we start to recognize that deaths such as these present an undeniable public health crisis. As long as we respect the enormity of this small gesture of a group of students who are trained to be compassionate yet detached and stoic; that even death can be too much. Applaud them. Listen to them. Spread their story. Die in with them. The die in is the new sit-in.


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