By Artur Tumasjan via Unsplash

“Surgery has historically been made up of white males, including this department. So how do you think you’ll fit in here?”

I initially said nothing to the faculty interviewer who sat across from me, taking a moment to absorb the shock from his loaded question. As I calmly answered how important it is to expand diversity and inclusion programs, and how I wanted to be part of that change in the surgery residency program, internally, I felt uneasy. There was an underlying implication that, based on my race and gender, I would fit better in another specialty.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that my race or interest in addressing racial disparities resulted in the questioning of my fit in…

My patients taught me the deepest pain of the COVID-19 is going through it alone.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

“Nobody should die alone,” the nurse said to me as she held the patient’s hand and patted his forehead with a cool towel.

We were in the last few hours of Mr. S’s life. After seeing him continue to deteriorate on the ventilator, his family had made the tough decision to transition him to comfort measures only. Standard precautions of COVID-19 denied his family the opportunity to see him again. Thus, his nurse cared for him in the way she would if Mr. S were her own father.

There have been so many moments like this where I have seen…

Photo: N. Nchinda

“Sixteen-year-old otherwise healthy female presenting with a left adnexal mass.” I looked up from my patient list to see behind the curtain, where a girl laid curled up on the hospital bed. She was facing an older woman who was running her fingers through the brunette hair shielding the patient’s face. A tall man stooped over the bed, knuckles pale as he clenched the bed railings. He turned his head to look at me as I stepped up to the foot of the bed.

“Margot?” I asked.

She simply turned her head and nodded. I introduced myself as one of…

Photo by Nzuekoh Nchinda, MD

Given the divisiveness in the sociopolitical climate, I have been reflecting on key qualities in respectful, sustained dialogue. Every day, there are more and more commentaries noting how polarized we have become as a society, remarking on our inability to understand views that are different from our own. We are surrounded in comfortable circles that enable us to confirm our own views and avoid the discomfort of acknowledging the validity of narratives unlike our own. This geographical and economic phenomenon is compounded further with social media algorithms that aim to keep your eyes glued to screens and apps, presenting beliefs…

Photo by Nzuekoh Nchinda, MD

This is meant to serve as an example personal statement for medical students applying into general surgery and insight for anyone interested in learning more about the training pathway to becoming a surgeon. In response to requests for advice from medical students over the past few months, below I have shared the personal statement I submitted during my residency application cycle. The final version you see here takes into account feedback I received from a senior surgery mentor to be truly personal in my statement. Following his advice to be authentic resulted in positive feedback during my interviews and in…

Photo by Nzuekoh Nchinda, MD

In reading the recent news articles about the viral Central Park video illustrating a white woman calling the police to falsely accuse Christian Cooper, a black man, it has been interesting to see the way in which Mr. Cooper is consistently described. There has been a collective fawning over his credentials, insinuating that Mr. Cooper is not just any black man but rather an esteemed one. He is a Harvard graduate, a senior biomedical editor, a former Marvel Comics editor, an avid birdwatcher, and a member of the Audubon Society. A comment on a Reddit post with the now infamous…

Photo by Nzuekoh Nchinda, MD

A few weeks ago, I mailed a birthday gift to a friend. Amidst the current pandemic, I had built a routine of social distance practices and thus planned to make a single quick trip to the nearby post office and back. I used what I had ready at home — old newspapers and plastic bags — to wrap up the keepsake that reminded me of one the qualities I loved most about my friend. Most concerned with the item not breaking, I placed it in one of the common brown cushioned postal service envelopes and gave the sealed package to…

Photo by Nzuekoh Nchinda, MD

A young woman came into clinic presenting with difficulty sleeping. I began my encounter in the standard fashion I had learned to approach each patient — greeting, asking for how she would like to be addressed, and inquiring about what brought her in. Now a few weeks into the clerkship as a third-year medical student, I had become comfortable and confident in being able to systematically document the patient’s history of present illness, review of systems, and past history. I asked questions to rule in and rule out my working differential diagnosis for insomnia, fatigue, and headaches, while ensuring that…

Nzuekoh Nchinda, MD

Harvard ’14, UChicago Med ‘20, and UWashington general surgery resident who is passionate about health equity, QI/outcomes research, and ethics.

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