“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

“A life without cause is a life without effect.”

Dear Readers,

There is some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that my proposal regarding the hate crime incident (read here) was actually seen by the lawyer or someway listened to because the administrative review and grievance procedures have changed (You can read the new one here).  Only small parts of our proposal/arguments were listened to but at least the changes are one small step in the right direction.  At least I can say and know that my efforts and persistence paid off.

The bad news is that this is my last post.  If anyone still wants their story published I will off course do so and if anyone wants to take the reins, I am more than willing to hand them over.

I hope this blog has been informative and helpful.  I also hope that I will not be judged to harshly.

Please check out the ‘Last Projects’ Tab above or by clicking here.  I have also put some links to articles I have written in that tab here:

1.  How to Ensure your Student Rights in a Foreign Country

2. Partial Lock on Tuition Idea

3. Having Vegetarian Options at the Caf

Best wishes to you in the next year and may you be at peace,

MD C

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In one of our first few meetings for the Diversity Council (DC), our first faculty advisor, Dr. Braciale, told us she would write a course proposal.  The idea was simple; have every teacher do one to two hours of lecture a semester on their own lecture material having to do with health disparities and/or cultural competency.  You can read the actual course proposal here (click here) but know that the idea was a 10 year old one we borrowed from the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges, click here).  Also, you may want to know that there are certain states which dictate that this must be taught in their medical schools (such as New York) as well as the LCME (the folks who accredit a medical school in the US) and the ACGME (folks who accredit residency programs) request or require cultural competency be taught/understood.  Furthermore, you should know that AUC spends approximately 4 hours or less talking a mixture of issues, one of which is cultural competency.

When dave, joe, mike, chanell and myself learned all this, we were shocked.  We had been talking for some time about our frustrations with the curriculum and how health disparities in the US and Canada were ignored.  What was disturbing was that many of our colleagues didn’t even know there were health disparities, and to make matters worse, our teachers were propagating an ideology that biology and genetics are a significant factor/cause.  Thing is most US institutions place high importance on health disparities and know that such ideologies are totally untrue, “Current information about the biologic and genetic characteristics of minority and underserved populations does not explain the health disparities experienced by these groups” (CDC, Office of Minority Health Disparities).

Knowing all this we were ecstatic to hear about Dr. Braciale’s course proposal.  However, there were some within the Diversity Council who worried we were moving to fast.  So I tried to go to all the teachers and get their support for the proposal before Dr. Braciale presented it to the monthly Teacher Meeting.  Unfortunately, the proposal was shot down anyhow.  Complaints from teachers included, “We don’t have enough time”, “It’s not that important”, “I can’t teach this and I am not qualified to teach this.”  Furthermore, the Behavioral Department chair, Dr. Johnson, walked into Dr. Braciales office and dropped the Behavioral Course syllabus onto her office before walking out.  Behavioral science has one lecture, depending on the semester, for 50 minutes devoted to this subject.  Afterwards I was told to be careful and not step on “anyones toes” or that people have “long toes” at AUC.

Not one to give up, I tried to write a proposal after my term as president of the Diversity Council was up.  During my time as President I had found that Dr. Johnson had wrote a similar proposal to Dr. Braciale’s years back.  I spoke with her a few times on the subject matter and she told me that other Caribbean schools had such a course.  I looked at other Caribbean medical schools such as Ross and SGU and found they had specific courses for this subject matter.  One of which was called Doctor, Patient and Society.  I modeled my course off it (click here to read about it) with the fundamental focus on health disparities and Culture Competency.  The problem was I needed a Course director; someone who would teach the course, write the syllabus and pitch it to the curriculum committee/administration.  I tried Dr. Johnson.  She said that she didn’t really want to but that she would co-direct the proposal.  I asked Dr. Braciale if she would co-direct with Dr. Johnson such a course.  She said sure.  A short time later Dr. Johnson tells me she does not want to do the course.  I decided that I would get all the teachers I had spoken too together and see once and for all if anyone would chair my course.  I asked Dr. Johnson to organize such a meeting briefly between classes and she tells me that, “Yes, well, I think we should take this off your shoulders.”  I thought nothing of it but a short time later I was told that I was being to aggressive.  Dr. Johnson had requested to meet Dr. Testa and Dr. Braciale about me and my course proposal so that everyone was on the same page when she told me no.

Then came my last two semesters and I met our Medical Ethics teacher Dr. Edwards.  I spoke with her about my course proposal and Dr. Braciale’s and she said that she wanted to teach such a course.  She said that she would write a syllabus and get back to back to me and my colleagues who were working on the proposal (myself, kyle, gundi, jessica – they helped write both of my course proposals).  We gave her a bunch of ideas for the syllabus and course which you can read here.  More than anything we wanted this course to be the course where everything AUC didn’t teach was finally being taught.  Tragically, however, a family member of Dr. Edward’s died.  She had to drop everything and I know I would have done the same had I been in her shoes.  I wish I had met Dr. Edwards sooner.

When I left AUC, after all the efforts my colleagues and I made, student opinion had changed.  I remember sitting in class and watching peers of my semester go back and forth with teachers on cultural competency.  It was a good feeling, knowing that my arguments did not fall on deaf ears.  But then the hate crime happened and I watched people’s reactions and my doubts grew.  I realized that the newer semesters had no clue about cultural competency and health disparities.  Also, that only one or two organizations were continuing the discussion, half heartily, on cultural competency.

Remember though that on the heels of the hate crime incident the school has promised a new pilot course for May 2011.  I for one hope they come thru.

What do you think???

As mentioned in earlier posts (click here), the Diversity Council at some point was intended to replace the SGA.  The smaller organizations were often getting the shaft and student concerns were often tabled or brushed aside.  But, within the DC, students and teachers were split on the topic.  A lot of people were tired of not being recognized and did not feel we could ever supplant the SGA.  They worried that no one would support us in that endeavor.  Others, myself included, felt that if we joined SGA we would never realize our potential; that we would be shackled to a meager or ineffective student government.  Worst of all, we would have to start playing by their rules.

Before we became part of SGA there was no one telling us what we could or could not do.  Yes, the school often denied us certain privileges and the administration would often hassle our supporters when they/we booked a room for an event.  But, the rooms always got booked and we held our events regardless.  We did not have to kowtow to the administration or SGA.  We did not have to report every single event we did to the Deans and SGA (which everyone has to do this now).  We could have as many faculty sponsors as we want and have whatever structure/mission we want.  Basically, we didn’t have to report to anyone or have fear of anyone looking over our shoulder.

However, when we decided to go ahead and become recognized by the SGA I made a mistake.  I did not stand my ground and form a good enough argument.  Plus, I had spoken with majority of the members of the Council and they wanted to be under SGA.  I wasn’t about to become like the SGA and find some way to brush it aside.

At the time all this was playing out we were working for recognition alongside BGLAM (Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians, Allies in Medicine).  Once Dr. Testa shared with them how to become recognized, they shared it with us and we applied for recognition under SGA.  When we went before the SGA we ended up being grilled by SGA members, even our own supporters.    People were worried that we were going to supplant SGA, that we were a political organization and they questioned our legitimacy.  It was funny since we had put on some of the most successful events and were the most active organization on campus, but we were still questioned for almost a half hour.  I did most of the talking and I suppose I was able to put forward a good argument because we ended up being recognized.

Getting recognition was definitely a victory for those of us who started the DC such as chanell, sana, moonmoon, binta, joe, dave, mike and myself.  We were really excited.  Unfortunately, the good feelings didn’t last because when we tried booking a room for St. Maarten day (a national holiday for St. Maarten, day off from school), we ran into the usual problems.  We were only allowed to use a certain minute part of the courtyard.  Plus, we were denied use of a lawn in front of the school, which no one ever uses especially on holiday when no one is at school.  Fortunately, we were able to get use of the lawn last second and we held the event.  After this, I knew even then that becoming part of SGA had been a mistake because it felt like nothing changed.

Perhaps becoming part of SGA ensured that the DC would continue after I left but I admit now that the DC of today is not the DC we created.  Not by a long shot.  For the first executive board and myself, the DC was the most important organization at AUC and we put a 110% into the organization.  Having watched the two executive boards that followed, I can say that progress is being made.  I can only hope that the DC will have more than just one meeting a semester and that it will once again become the most active organization on campus.  Mostly, I hope they continue to educate and discuss with students health disparities and cultural competency.

What do you think? Do you think the Diversity Council should have joined the Student Government??  Do you think health disparities or cultural competency is a big deal???

Dear Readers,

I’ve added a new tab and I would like you to check it out.  It’s basically the last projects I was working on before leaving Sint Marten.  Check it out above or click on this link.

Best wishes and happy holidays,

MD C

As I wrote about in a earlier post (click here), Culture week was a blast.  It was a success and we fully intended for our successors to continue to do this event every other semester.  However, as we handed over the Diversity Council (DC) to the next executive board (e-board), we encountered a fundamental disagreement.

Joe, a co-creator of the event and a founder of the DC, did not want to orchestrate the second culture week again and only wanted to do the Talent Show.  He felt that every organization could handle their own day/event for that day, because the weekdays preceding the Friday of the Talent show were always devoted to the organizations putting on their own cultural events.  I felt, however, that the organizations needed help and that since the culture week event was fundamentally ours, our energy’s should have been spent coordinating the events, advertising for the organizations and doing whatever else we could do.  Essentially, I felt that the days leading up to the Talent show were the most important.  The new executive board sided with Joe.

As the semester progressed, however, the new executive board became overwhelmed.  Half of their e-board left that semester and the other half had just become second semesters.  With block exams and a hectic schedule, the weeks before the culture week turned into days.  Members of the second e-board did not even want to do the culture week events because it turned out that no one was ready.  Furthermore, the dates of culture week had changed last-minute.  I was able to argue successfully for culture week to continue.  The reason for the last second date change was Joe had once again run into room booking issues with Dr. Testa, but this time, he did not fight it and just changed the date of the Talent show.  The Diversity Council e-board decided to also change the dates of culture week.  The other organizations had to scramble last second to get room bookings.  It was a mess.  Advertisements were put up the day before for culture week events.

When Culture Week finally came around, few people showed up.  Some organizations had decent turn outs and were pleased.  Some were upset that everything had been changed last second without little notice.  The president of JMSA (Jewish Medical Student Association) at the time, a fifth semester who was leaving the Island, tried single handily to organize an entire baking workshop.  Because of room mix ups, other issues, and the low turn out – he was pretty upset about the entire operation.  None of the diversity council officers attended the event.  I was told afterwards that the DC officers didn’t attend anyone’s events and that the two second semesters barely helped with the Talent show.

I admit that I did not want to go the second Talent Show because of what happened to Culture Week.  I am glad I went though because the Diversity Council’s Talent show was actually diverse.  This talent show was more than just guitar, rock and string instruments.  It was a good show showcasing a lot of cultures and was very well organized.  Ironically after the event a teacher came up to me saying, “See, look what all your hard work paid for.”  I told him it wasn’t my work, but Joe’s, that led to “all” this.

That semester the Culture Week died in a way, our first tenets of cooperation and focus on culture week shoved aside for the glory of the talent show.  I didn’t go to anymore Talent shows but I was told that once again the Talent show returned to guitar, rock and string instruments.  Also, I found that the third DC e-board put up signs for culture week several days before the actual event.  So I’ll call it progress for now but I know that the Culture Week will unfortunately remain a sidekick to the Talent show.  Also, it seems to me that the level of cooperation we once enjoyed between the organizations and students has faded away.  I only hope it hasn’t gone away forever.

What do you think???

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Purpose of this Blog

This blog is an account of past and present struggles at the American University of the Caribbean Medical School (AUC). My colleagues and I endeavored to make our Caribbean Medical School more progressive and supportive of all its students. We worked against an administration and student government to end marginalization of students and fight ignorance. When all was said and done, the administration at AUC claimed that they had single handily brought more diversity to AUC. It's time to share the whole story.

This is the story of those that fought for progress, stood up to AUC's administration/SGA and, just sometimes, won.

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