Diversity in Mind Not Just in Race

By: Iris Siguenza, MMSF Junior Mentee

For a diamond to take its beautiful final form it must be put under high pressure.  Although oblivious to the fact at the time, arriving at Johns Hopkins was the first step in the process for me. It was overwhelming to walk up to my dorm knowing that I would be spending two weeks taking on the responsibilities that others regularly take on. Waking up on time by myself would prove to be the hardest, along with handling my money while in Maryland. These concerns weighed heavy on my shoulders.

These doubts were sharpened even more on the first day of class. Everyone was required to dress according to a dress code, usually business casual, which made everyone look even fancier. I was nervous around my peers. On the first day, we had to present whatever it was we had put together, earlier in the summer, to represent who we were as people. Our teacher, Mr. Teraguchi, explained it was important to remember the person who you were before you become the person behind a white lab coat. I chose to present fourth, since I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible, and as I walked up to the front of the class I felt my heart start to beat a little faster and I thought it might actually burst from my rib cage. My power point on my trip to China exemplified one of my best qualities, my tendency to be very open minded to trying new things. After sitting and watching the rest of my classmates present on their passions of drawing, traveling, and varied experiences in the medical field, I realized that my open-mindedness would be one of my greatest strengths. My classmates had become familiar faces within a couple of days, and it was a noticeably diverse class. There were students from Japan to Honduras, from India to Peru, and not to mention, all over the U.S.. To say I was intimidated was to say the least, but a series of fortunate events to follow would be the cause of change in the way I thought. A new interest had developed in my mind: How were people from so many different places going to get along in such a competitive setting?

One of our very first tasks seemed to be more than a brain buster, seeing that we would be dealing with real moral issues and decisions that doctors faced in the hospital. The case was an actual hospital case that had been discussed at a medical convention some years before. The story was of a baby boy born with multiple health issues whose only chance of living a longer life was to undergo a life-altering operation which would save his life, but one of the side effects would be for him to live with Down Syndrome. We were split into groups and the group I was in was from all over the world. Every single answer seemed so eloquently delivered and factually sound, so why was it that I did not agree with what they were saying? I shared my opinion on how as a doctor, our job should always be to look out for the patient’s best interest, which in this case was extending the child’s life, so I was pro-operation. It seemed then, with the confused stares and blank expressions, that the group was unanimously against my thoughts. As we sat waiting for the whole class to come back together, my mind went on a trip. I tried hard to see why everyone’s opinion was so different and why mine seemed like it would be the one nobody wanted to listen to.

        Once the teacher got our attention again he began to tell us what the actual decision was. The doctors decided to go forth with the operation, even though the parents were opposed to it. They ended up taking the parents to court and eventually winning the case. The operation ultimately resulted in the child living with Down Syndrome, but the child was guaranteed a longer life than if pre-operation. I didn’t look over at my group. Everyone’s answer had been different, but I had chose the answer that was carried out. To me, this moral debate led to one of my most valuable epiphanies, which I believe to be one of my bigger successes from the program.

    Having a different way of thinking than others is inexorable.  To change your mind to be more positive to these differences and to accept the fact that your differences are your best assets is not nearly as impossible. I smiled at my group mates then. Slowly one connection led to another between the neurons in my brain and I came up with this: Their thinking has been shaped by where they came from, but I had been naive to think that my own mind had not been shaped by my background as well. I initially believed that my opinion mattered less than those around me because their words sounded wiser. Once we found out what actually happened with the case, I knew that my way of thinking, although different, could be right. Everyone has different perspectives on what medicine respectively is, and so did I.   

     This new perspective allowed me to grow a little bit closer to the type of accepting person I want to be towards the racial and intellectual lines that seem to divide us rather than unify us as a culturally diverse human body. It seems that this one little moment could not have been so monumental, but it was this one situation that exposed me to such diversity in mind. It encouraged me to look at every new situation in a new light. I like to believe that I have always appreciated every mind, but now I can truly say that I also believe in my own mind a little bit more. The experiences I had at Hopkins challenged me deeply, and this past summer allowed this diamond in the rough to shine a little brighter.