September 18, 2017 by
Syed “Samin” Shehab, M.D.’17 (SS) is currently a first-year internal medicine resident at Boston University Medical Center. He recently published a blog post, titled “403,”
on In-Training that addresses the issue of caring for patients with vastly different beliefs. The Larner College of Medicine (LCoM) recently conducted a Q&A with Shehab.
LCoM: Why did you choose to pursue medicine?
SS: I chose to pursue medicine, because it allowed me to bring together my love for the sciences and my passion for social justice/advocacy work.
LCoM: When did you attend the Larner College of Medicine?
SS: 2013 to 2017
LCoM: Where did you grow up?
SS: Dhaka, Bangladesh
LCoM: How do you identify yourself?
SS: I’m a cis heterosexual male, immigrant, brown, culturally Muslim, low socio-economic status/ family of modest means, son, brother, friend, doctor (as a recent graduate, I am still coming to terms with what this means), advocate, activist, policy and politics wonk, learner, person who wears glasses, person who has a beard, person who loves General Tso's chicken, football fan, pro-civil rights, anti-discrimination.
Note: I chose to prioritize certain aspects of my identity at different points in time. I have also learned that my identity is continually changing; I am yet to become a father or a husband. Above is a sample of how I am identifying at the time of this interview.
LCoM: How were you impacted by the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017?
SS: I am afraid. It is terrifying to see hatred compel someone to violence. Because of my identities, there is a constant level of fear and threat of violence that I have become accustomed to. Charlottesville reinforced and augmented those fears. The lack of condemnation, or passive agreement with, this event from different parts of society and the halls of power has had a chilling effect on me.
LCoM: In your “In-Training” post, you describe an experience you had during your medical school clinical training that helped clarify how you want to practice medicine and care for patients, even in the face of the hatred and violence that exists in this world. Can you share your perspective?
SS: No matter the amount of hatred that someone directs towards you, it does not disqualify them of their humanity. This is one of the important lessons that I received during my training at UVM. If it is possible for me to help, especially when I hold the position of power, like in a doctor-patient relationship, I would like to think that I will be capable of doing so. But I also believe it is justifiable if I do not want to be in the presence of someone who seeks to invalidate my existence. In that case, I have to find someone who can give the best possible care for my patient without prejudice.
In the wake of Charlottesville, we are all thinking about the black/brown/Muslim/Jewish physician who is taking care of a neo-Nazi/white supremacist. But we also care for people who espouse virulent homophobic and sexist views or are sexually aggressive towards their doctors. I believe that we have every right to step away from that situation. Sometimes providing the best care for a patient means taking care of yourself by having someone else take care of your patient.