Categories
Commentary

Green Practices: Whose Responsibility Is It

By Saharsh Satheesh

Published 10:14 EST, Thur September 9th, 2021

Introduction

Modern society emphasizes the importance of conservation of resources and sustainable development, instilling these virtues from a young age for the betterment of society. However, in what ways beyond simply awareness could the movement towards conservation be encouraged? With the importance of resource conservation becoming apparent in recent years, some argue that conservation remain a suggestion, whereas others propose the government create a requirement for all citizens to conserve resources. While the involvement of the government may be futile unless large corporations begin to conserve more, the government should persist in creating rewards for citizens and discourage those who neglect new standards, all the while establishing a precedent for conservation.

Methods for Cultivating Green Practices

For example, motivating citizens by means of incentives may propel the cause of cultivating green practices. In 2003, Germany implemented a system known as pfand, an additional deposit [one pays] as part of the price of a bottle or can [that] gets reimbursed when [one returns] the container to a vendor,” which caused “recycling rates for cans [to rise to] 99% [in Germany]” (Oltermann). If citizens were left to themselves to decide where to dispose cans, perhaps only a small percentage of the population may dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner. However, when the government takes action and creates a system where citizens themselves can benefit, which in this case is monetary compensation, they are motivated to support the cause. In addition, with the emission of greenhouse gases from cars becoming an issue, “the [Singaporean] government [began giving] a lump sum tax rebate of 40% of the price of a vehicle to Singaporeans who opt for hybrids” (Webber). Singapore’s solution to combating the emission of greenhouse gases is ingenious; citizens, for the most part, are unconcerned with whether they purchase a traditional gas vehicle or a hybrid vehicle, and with the right compensation, one may be even be seen as significantly better option than the other. Since cars are one of the most common means for transportation, by enforcing a law that saves citizens money while simultaneously upholding green principles, citizens may be compelled to contribute to the cause of conservation. Thus, when the government establishes laws and practices such that citizens can benefit from them, it becomes more appealing, and this increases the likelihood of successfully cultivating green practices.

In addition, when the government takes initiative and penalizes those who do not exercise green practices, it strengthens the cause for the adoption of environmentally friendly practices. For example, when the “Princess Cruise Lines” in 2016 “[dumped] oil-contaminated waste into the sea” and attempted to cover it up, “[they] agreed to pay $40 million”, as the waste is hazardous to marine life, reduces oxygen concentration in water, and contradicts the principles of green practices (Mervosh). The government has strict guidelines, and any deviation from that, as seen in the example with Princess Cruise Lines, is punishable by law. This ensures that companies and individuals will obey guidelines in the future, as they are aware of what consequences they may face. However, some claim that even with measures in place such as fines for pollution, large corporations will continue to disregard laws, and without the cooperation of these large corporations, it is futile to ask individuals to contribute to conservation. However, an act that directly disproves this theory is the cap-and-trade system, in which “the government first creates a ‘cap’ on the total amount of pollutants emitters may release,” which in Europe caused “emissions [to reduce] by 29% in 2018” (“Cap-and-Trade”). This cap-and-trade system also allows corporations to, as its name implies, trade their caps so that the total pollution emitted remains the same; corporations can, however, trade within themselves, so they do not exceed their maximum permitted pollution level, as exceeding so would result in heavy fines. By allowing corporations to trade their caps, the government ensures that corporations are appeased, as those who need to pollute more can simply purchase from other companies. As a result, corporations, for the most part, are not majorly impacted, and green principles are maintained. Furthermore, these actions by the government are instrumental in establishing a precedent for conservation. In a 2007 survey of residents in different countries, it was found that over 85% of residents in the United States and Japan voluntarily recycle (Rheault). The high rate of conservation-centered residents is undoubtedly the result of government actions that fostered green principles. Due to the various systems and incentives implemented, citizens were motivated to contribute to the cause of conservation. Thus, when the government interferes and creates a system where consequences are imminent for those who do not follow implemented standards, the goal of enriching green principles is achieved.

Conclusion

Although it may seem that the efforts to conserve resources and practice sustainable methods will not have a significant impact unless large corporations begin to follow those standards, if the government creates a system for citizens to benefit from conservation and devises consequences for those who break conservation laws, the creation of a society that is concerned with holding onto green principles will naturally occur, setting a precedent for future generations. With the urgency for conservation being observed in recent years, it is becoming evident that the government should be responsible for leading citizens and corporations to better manage resources. After all, these resources do not exist in infinite quantities, and in order to allow future generations to have the same rights to the resources used in the present-day, it is imperative that the government cultivates green practices.

Saharsh Satheesh, Youth Medical Journal 2021

Sources

“Cap-and-Trade.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, May 2020, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/cap-and-trade.

Mervosh, Sarah. “Carnival Cruises to Pay $20 Million in Pollution and Cover-Up Case.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 June 2019,

http://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/business/carnival-cruise-pollution.html.

Oltermann, Philip. “Has Germany Hit the Jackpot of Recycling? The Jury’s Still Out.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2018,

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/30/has-germany-hit-the-jackpot-of-recycling-the-jurys-still-out.

Rheault, Magali. “In Top Polluting Nations, Efforts to Live ‘Green’ Vary.” Gallup. Gallup, Inc., 22 Apr. 2008. Web. 18 Aug. 2009

Webber, Alan M. “U.S. Could Learn a Thing or Two from Singapore.” Editorial. USA Today. USA Today, 14 Aug. 2006. Web. 17 Aug. 2009.

Categories
Commentary

River Pollution: Endocrine Disruptors, Eutrophication, and Solutions

By Saharsh Satheesh

Published 11:40 EST, Monday September 6, 2021

Introduction

River pollution and water pollution, in general, has become a major focus of the public in recent decades. In fact, just this month, a fire broke out in the Gulf of Mexico following a gas leak. These events can be environmentally destructive, and as a result, it is imperative that we find solutions to these catastrophic events. 

Potomac River

The Potomac River has recently come under scrutiny for the increasing levels of pollution in it. About a decade ago, the river earned a D grade, a poor score that suggested high pollution levels. Over the last decade, my advancements have been made to decrease pollution and spread awareness so that the situation does not worsen to such an extreme again.

One cause of this pollution is the fact that PCBs do not break down easily, and as a result, PCBs, which have not been manufactured since 1979, still pollute the Potomac and other rivers. Polluted urban runoff is another major issue for the Potomac. A proposed solution for this was to set limits for the quantity of pollution in the river, which would reduce the amounts of sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus deposited into the river. There are many consequences of these pollutants entering the water including overstimulation of aquatic plants, eutrophication, and reduced water flow, among a plethora of others. There have also been findings of alteration of animal hormones due to these excess pollutants. Specifically, this is caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Furthermore, when there is high rainfall, sewage pipes overflow and this causes bacteria to enter the river, such as E. Coli.

Economic services that occurred on the Potomac, such as kayaking and boat tours, may reduce the increasing pollution out of the understandable fear of pollution’s harmful effects on humans. Ecological services on the Potomac attempt to spread awareness about these issues, such as Outward Bound, which educates middle schoolers on various things including service projects and river ecology. 

Many solutions have been proposed and/or implemented to combat pollution. One is to plant streamside trees. These trees will be able to capture the polluted runoff. Another solution is to reduce the maximum amount of allowed urban and farm runoff to reduce the total amount of pollutants entering the Potomac.

Through all these efforts, in 2018, Potomac’s grade was increased up to a B. Unfortunately, however, it dropped to a B- in 2020. That being said, Greater awareness and efforts will aid in the journey towards increasing the Potomac’s grade. 

Cuyahoga River

On a summer day in 1969, a train blazed through tracks near the Cuyahoga River. As the train sped along the tracks, a few sparks from the contact between the train and track flew into the Cuyahoga River. Within minutes, the river caught on fire, although it was extinguished within the next hour. However, this brought numerous questions and concerns: why did the river catch on fire, how severe was the damage, and how can this be avoided in the future?

When the fire occurred, it was not initially a cause for concern in the community. According to National Geographic, “When fire broke out on the river again in 1969, it seemed like business as usual. ‘Most Clevelanders seemed not to care a great deal,’ write environmental historians David Stradling and Richard Stradling. ‘Far too many problems plagued the city for residents to get hung up on a little fire…The ’69 fire didn’t represent the culmination of an abusive relationship between a city and its environment. It was simply another sad chapter in the long story of a terribly polluted river.’”

However, the situation was brought to the interest of the public again following the publishing of Rachel Carson’s iconic book “Silent Spring,” which highlighted the importance of environmental conservation and exemplified the drawbacks of DDTs. 

With this renewed interest in the fire, it was discovered that the cause of the fire was largely due to the pollution accumulating in the river in the decades prior to the fire. The dumping of oils and other flammable materials was at such an extreme degree that the spark from the train was able to set the river on fire. Undoubtedly, this fire was very detrimental to the organisms living in the river. That being said, there were very thorough efforts to rectify the damage done and to prevent this in the future.

According to the New York Times, “The cleanup of the river advanced on many fronts. A year before the fire, Cleveland residents voted to tax themselves an additional $100 million for river restoration. Since then, local industries and the Northwest Ohio Regional Sewer District have spent $3.5 billion to reduce sewage and industrial waste pollution, Mr. White said.”

Through these efforts, the Cuyahoga River is in the process of healing. Pollution levels have significantly decreased since the fire of 1969. These efforts have increased awareness for river pollution worldwide, and hopefully, no river reaches pollution levels of such an extreme degree again.

Saharsh Satheesh, Youth Medical Journal, 2021

References

“2020 Potomac River Report Card.” 2020 Potomac River Report Card | #Potomacreportcard, http://www.potomacreportcard.org/.

“2020 Potomac River Report Card.” Potomac Conservancy, potomacreportcard.org/pollution/.

Blakemore, Erin. “The Shocking River Fire That Fueled the Creation of the EPA.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 22 Apr. 2019, http://www.history.com/news/epa-earth-day-cleveland-cuyahoga-river-fire-clean-water-act. 

Board, Editorial. “Opinion | The Potomac River Is Getting Cleaner. Now’s Not the Time to Take Away Funding.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 30 Mar. 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-potomac-river-is-getting-cleaner-nows-not-the-time-to-take-away-funding/2018/03/30/40ad4194-338d-11e8-94fa-32d48460b955_story.html.

Cooper, Rachel. “Things to Know About Washington DC’s Potomac River.” TripSavvy, http://www.tripsavvy.com/washington-dc-potomac-river-waterfront-1038693.

“CUYAHOGA RIVER FIRE: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: Case Western Reserve University.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History | Case Western Reserve University, 14 Jan. 2020, case.edu/ech/articles/c/cuyahoga-river-fire#:~:text=The%20blaze%20apparently%20was%20caused,hill%2C%20SE%2C%20in%20Cleveland. 

Lugbill, Stephanie. “Ask the Expert: Is It Safe to Swim in the Potomac?” Potomac Conservancy, Potomac Conservancy, 6 Aug. 2018, potomac.org/blog/2018/6/19/potomac-river-swimmings-laws-regulations-washington-dc.

​​Maag, Christopher. “From the Ashes of ’69, a River Reborn.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 June 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/us/21river.html. 

Nitrogen and Water, http://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/nitrogen-and-water?qt-science_center_objects=0.

“Potomac River Canoeing: Environmental Service Leaders.” 8-Day Canoeing Environmental Leadership Program | Outward Bound, http://www.outwardbound.org/course/potomac-river-canoeing-environmental-service-leaders/654/.

Written by Jane Recker | Published on October 29, 2020. “For the First Time in a Decade, the Potomac River’s Health Is in Decline: Washingtonian (DC).” Washingtonian, 29 Oct. 2020, http://www.washingtonian.com/2020/10/29/for-the-first-time-in-a-decade-the-potomac-rivers-health-is-in-decline/.

Categories
Commentary COVID-19 Health and Disease

The Exoticization of Epidemics

By Rhea Argwal

Published 1:30 EST, Tue August 24, 2021

Abstract: 

During an epidemic, scientists tend to search for sources of the outbreak. If the outbreak has foreign origins, scientists often enlist the help of anthropologists to study local practices and customs since cultural awareness is necessary for any public health campaign or outbreak control. However, the role of anthropologists seems to extend further than that. Anthropologists identify ‘risky behaviours’ present within a society which may escalate an outbreak. Yet, these ‘risky behaviours’ always tend to be rooted in cultural contexts. Scholars tend to ignore socioeconomic factors, such as overcrowding, poverty, etc., which may have a greater hand to play in the proliferation of a disease through a population. This instinctive ignorance lets slip the presence of racism and Eurocentric bias in the subconscious beings of scientists and researchers. 

Ebola and Africa [1980s]

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), a rare and fatal disease, was first discovered in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 2021). After an incident on a shipping boat in 1989, Western media’s interest in the virus erupted. Due to its foreign origins, media and Western society linked the source of the outbreak to practices in African culture (Jones, 2011). 

The Ebola virus is a zoonotic disease meaning that the virus had been transferred from animals — specifically nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) — to people. Thus, enlightened with this information, scholars proposed the Bushmeat Hypothesis: “hunting, slaughtering, and eating infected gorilla or monkey meat is the primary cause of the virus’s entrance to a new population (Jones, 2011).

This argument became one of the dominant explanations of the Ebola outbreaks as it provided a correlation between cultural practice and a viral outbreak. However, doing so overshadowed other arguments which may have been greater factors at play; factors such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate provision of healthcare, exacerbated by a legacy of colonialism were responsible for much of Ebola’s spread. However, cultural factors were emphasised more than sociopolitical and economic factors. Africans were presumed to have beliefs rooted in witchcraft and superstitions which may have hindered efforts by doctors and scientists to control the outbreak (Jones, 2011). Disputing this notion was a Harvard professor and a medical anthropologist, Paul Farmer, who was at the forefront of the Ebola epidemic control. The failure to control the outbreak did not occur due to local customs and traditions but rather due to distrust in the healthcare system and the government. 

People fled the medical system, not because of superstitions, but mostly when the medical system was unable to rescue or treat its patients as constituted.”

(Paul Farmer in an interview with Ashish Jha on Lessons from Ebola)

Due to the lack of adequate hospital infrastructure, doctors had implemented a disease control paradigm that concentrated its efforts on isolating suspected cases and confirmed cases without providing actual care (unlike the current COVID-19 care centres). This approach was rendered ineffective. Distrust in the healthcare system further grew and people started turning to traditional healing systems as a desperate resort. 

The erroneous depictions of the Western media and the presumptions of Western society of the Ebola outbreak reveal the lingering presence of racism in our society and the remnants of colonialism. Additionally, it affirms the presence of bias in biomedical research.

AIDS as a Haitian Disease [the 1980s]

It is the 1980s. Haiti, a Caribbean country, has been receiving widespread publicity as the possible birthplace for AIDS. Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS) is a chronic and fatal condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that weakens one’s immune system. A severely damaged immune system progresses into AIDS as it is unable to protect the body from infections or cancers that a person with a healthy immune system wouldn’t normally acquire (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Upon the emergence of an AIDS epidemic, scientists begin investigating the sources of the outbreak. In an eruption of imagination, Western society and media speculated that voodoo rites, sacrificial practices, the eating of cats, and ritualized homosexuality, were the causes of the epidemic – “a rich panoply of exotica” (Farmer & Kim, Anthropology, Accountability, and the Prevention of AIDS, 1991). The speculations gave rise to stereotypes that were enforced time and time again by the U.S. press. Also notable was the media representation of Haitian-Americans: black, poor, immigrants, and associated with cult-like religious practices. As media sensationalized and misrepresented the Haitian-American community, incidents of harassment began to propagate. People of Haitian origin bore the stigma of a fatal condition. The statement of one Haitian-American physician mirrors this sentiment: 

“After all the wild theories of voodoo rites and genetic predisposition were aired and dispelled, and the slip-shod scientific investigation was brought to light, the public perception of the problem remained the same that if Haitians have AIDS, it is very simple because they are Haitians (Farmer & Kim, Anthropology, Accountability, and the Prevention of AIDS, 1991).”

However, none of the speculations and gossip surrounding the epidemic had any epidemiological research to back them up.  As a matter of fact, declarations of plausible theories of the sources of the outbreak by scientific researchers had slowly begun unravelling the lies illustrated by the press. On December 1, 1982, the following statement was made: 

“Homosexuals in New York take vacations in Haiti, and we suspect that this may be an epidemic Haitian virus that was brought back to the homosexual population in the United States.” 

(Dr. Bruce Chabner of the National Cancer Institute, 1982) 

At the 1988 conferences of the American Anthropological Association, researchers congregated to discuss “Ethical Considerations in Anthropological Research.” The focal point of the meetings was the failure to lighten the burden of stigma on the Haitian-American community, aggravated by the spread of misinformation. Further addressed was the economic damage of Haitian businesses, which were boycotted by tourists and investors, and the rise in unemployment within the Haitian-American community. Nevertheless, in February 1990, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that no person of Haitian origin will be allowed to donate blood (Farmer & Kim, Anthropology, Accountability, and the Prevention of AIDS, 1991). The incessant discrimination against the community, not only resulted in economic damage but also a decline in the mental and emotional health of members of the ethnicity. All this, due to the deep-rooted racism in a system that embraced popular societal opinion rather than verified scientific research. 

SARS – CoV – 2 (COVID-19) Pandemic [2020]: Hate Crimes Against South East Asians

SARS-CoV-2, colloquially known as COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province, China. The virus evidently has zoonotic origins (similarly to Ebola) with genetic similarities to bat genomes. The COVID-19 virus first caused a viral outbreak in the Hubei province region, soon spread to surrounding provinces and all over China. In China, it has declared an epidemic. Subsequently, the virus infiltrated borders and crossed seas through international travel and infected millions of people; On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the COVID-19 viral outbreak, a pandemic (World Health Organization, 2020). 

Proclaimed as a zoonotic disease, researchers began investigating the source of the animal-to-human transfer and traced it back to the Wuhan Southern China Seafood Market where wild animals were being sold. The bushmeat theory, first proposed during the Ebola outbreak, found new ground almost 40 years later in the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. However, the magnitude of this viral outbreak significantly surpassed the Ebola epidemic; millions, if not billions, of lives, have been affected around the world; trillions of dollars are being spent on reviving an economy that has seen its deepest slump since the Great Depression. Now, at a very vulnerable state, with dear lives lost, people need someone to take blame and responsibility. Hate incidents and crimes against the Chinese and Asian communities increased. The pandemic had given rise to stigma and discrimination. News media picked up on this sentiment and began referring to the SARS-CoV-2 virus as the “Chinese virus,” or the “Wuhan virus.” Associations of such may have provoked people to detest a community that was struggling with an outbreak, too (Xu, et al., 2021). 

“Pandemics do not materialise in isolation. They are part and parcel of capitalism and colonisation. The countries that struggled to contain and control major epidemics in the recent past, from Haiti to Sierra, had deficient public health systems prior to these crises, partially as a result of their colonial histories. Moreover, products of capitalism – from war to migration to mass production and increased travel – contribute massively to the proliferation of diseases.”

(Edna Bonhomme, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, on the topic of COVID-19 and Inequality (Bonhomme, 2020))

In the three occurrences discussed above, there seems to also be three recurrent themes. Firstly, the sudden media interest in the three cases amplified the racialization of these epidemics. Arguably, the media played the biggest role in the dramatization of the epidemic’s events. Unexpectedly, scholars often also shared the view proposed by the popular press. The prejudices and biases present in these scholars subconsciously affected their judgements in an epidemic control centre or a research centre, thus adversely influencing the healthcare quality available in these countries. Additionally, in the media frenzy, the western way of living was enforced as the norm, painting foreign cultures as exotic. This is where the remnants of colonialism become apparent once again. Lastly, through analysis of media reports and scholarly articles or journals, one can understand that some researchers subliminally undermine indigenous knowledge and accept biomedical research as the divine truth. 

Media Manipulation: Sensationalism 

Western media portrayals in each of the three case studies seem to have subconsciously depicted Western ways of living as norms by contrasting them with the ways of living of other ethnic communities. This juxtaposition depicts the complex and vibrant cultures of various ethnic groups around the world as simply exotic. Exotic, meaning interesting, different, and ‘other’. The exoticization of an ethnic community and its practices alienates its members, thus leaving them more susceptible to racial discrimination. This dramatization is not only demeaning for an ethnic community but also an exploitation of the credibility the masses of people associate with news media reporting. 

Systematic Racism, Stigma, & Discrimination

The existence of systematic racism, ingrained within institutions — in the laws, policies, and decisions — are mainly what hinders the provision of healthcare in epidemic control centres; it is what distorts epidemiological research. The erroneous conclusions of such scientific and anthropological research attribute the causes of an epidemic to local practices, traditions, and customs of an ethnic community while hardly considering sociopolitical or economic factors. This, in addition to media sensationalism, places a degrading spotlight on a community that may be suffering as well. Stemming from such situations is stigma and racial discrimination. At a moment when people are at their most vulnerable state, systematic racism and media sensationalism give rise to hate crimes as currently seen occurring against the South East Asian community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Worth Found in Indigenous Knowledge 

When planning epidemic centre controls in different countries, scientists and anthropologists often study the local practices, customs, and traditions — indigenous knowledge. However, the lens with which this body of knowledge is viewed indicates that scholars believe indigenous knowledge serves to hinder the provision of healthcare rather than aid its use. Subliminally, all scholars undermine indigenous knowledge and regard it as ‘backwards’. Associated with many of these communities is a cumulative body of knowledge and know-how honed through years of observations, experiments, and reflections. Although these practices have been developed through years of observations, it is not possible to ascertain their reliability or accuracy since they have not been assessed by the wider intellectual community as of now due to there being notions that indigenous knowledge is retrogressive and anti-development. If we aspire to put in the effort to inspect the accuracy of indigenous knowledge, we may be able to verify that the majority of their claims may be accurate and, in fact, useful in developing future theories or innovations, instead of labelling them as regressive. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the notion that any ethnic community’s customs or traditions hamper epidemic control efforts should be challenged. Publishing unverified scientific information that may be linking the source and spread of an outbreak to an ethnic community can prove to be very degrading and even detrimental for members of a community, leaving them predisposed to scorn and resentment. Although our world has come a long way from its colonizing history, the legacy and remnants of it can still be seen today in the form of the exoticization of ethnic practices through systematic racism. 

Rhea Agarwal, Youth Medical Journal, 2021 

Bibliography

Altman , L. (1983). The New York Times Archives Newspaper July 31, 1983, Section 1, Page 1 . DEBATE GROWS ON U.S. LISTING OF HAITIANS IN AIDS CATEGORY. https://www.nytimes.com/1983/07/31/us/debate-grows-on-us-listing-of-haitians-in-aids-category.html. 

Bonhomme, E. (2020, May 18). COVID-19 and Inequality: The Racialization of Pandemics. (t. G. (GRIP), Interviewer)

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Hospital with Ebola Patients (Drc, 1976). https://www.dw.com/en/ebola-outbreak-who-puts-10-countries-on-high-alert/a-43746378. https://www.dw.com/en/ebola-outbreak-who-puts-10-countries-on-high-alert/a-43746378. 

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). History of Ebola Virus Disease. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/summaries.html

Economic Development Department. (2020). Systematic Racism. Cabinet Secretary Keyes on Systemic Racism & the Role of Businesses. https://gonm.biz/stories/cabinet-secretary-keyes-on-systemic-racism-the-role-of-businesses. 

Elkins, R. (2017). Protests Against FDA Ban on Blood Donations from Haitians and people of Sub-Saharan African origin, 1990. Trump Reopens an Old Wound for Haitians. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-reopens-an-old-wound-for-haitians. 

Jones, J. (2011). Ebola, Emerging: The Limitations of Culturalist Discourses in Epidemiology. The Journal of Global Health.

Farmer, P. (2010). The Exotic and the Mundane: Human Immunodeficiency Virus in Haiti (1990). In P. Farmer, Partner to the Poor . California : University of California Press .

Farmer, P., & Kim, J. Y. (1991). Anthropology, Accountability, and the Prevention of AIDS. The Journal of Sex Research Vol. 28, No. 2, Anthropology, Sexuality and AIDS .

Mayo Clinic. (2020). HIV/AIDS. Retrieved June 29, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/symptoms-causes/syc-20373524

Scotti , E. (2014). Ebola Investigation Team in Drc, 1976. The Original Ebola Hunter. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-original-ebola-hunter. 

Unknown , U. (2021). Stop Asian Hate . Amid Rise in Anti-Asian Attacks, Advocates Call For Black and Asian Solidarity. https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2021/03/18/amid-rise-in-anti-asian-attacks–advocates-call-for-black-and-asian-solidarity-. 

World Health Organization . (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) . Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200423-sitrep-94-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=b8304bf0_4#:~:text=All%20available%20evidence%20for%20COVID,be%20handled%20by%20humans.

Xu, J., Sun, G., Cao, W., Fan, W., Zhihao Pan, Z. Y., & Li, H. (2021). Stigma, Discrimination, and Hate Crimes in Chinese-Speaking World amid Covid-19 Pandemic. Asian Journal of Criminology, 16(1 ), 51-74.

Categories
Commentary

What Makes a Good Doctor? The Balancing Act Between IQ and EQ

Introduction

Many would argue that medicine is a prestigious career. A doctor is expected to treat, improve and save patient lives. But does this cookie-cutter definition really describe a “good” doctor? 

There is no doubt that the medical profession is not for the faint-hearted. So, what sets apart this profession, and what differentiates the ‘good’ doctor from the “bad”? In this essay, I am hoping to explore this rather complex, intriguing question and analyze whether this perceived notion of a doctor, in reality, is ‘good’.

Medicine is an intellectually demanding career. After years of hard work at medical school, doctors are expected to apply their skills to patients with conditions of varying complexities. A doctor at times may not have a clear and immediate solution as exemplified by Covid-19. 

The key here is the problem-solving aptitude, ability to cope with difficult & demanding situations by being resilient and empathetic to patient wellbeing. The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) that measures academic or cognitive intelligence may be too narrow to cover all the skills required, individuals with a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) may achieve higher success. EQ refers to the person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions.1 Evidence is emerging that EQ is as important for patient outcomes as it is for business and relationship success.2 

Therefore, the perfect concoction of qualities of a good doctor is formulated by IQ and EQ – the Intelligence and Emotional Quotients. 

So how does EQ contribute? 

Emotional intelligence can best be described as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.3 

In fact, in the UK much of this is evaluated as early as the application to medical school. Physicians work in both emotionally demanding and highly complex environments. A Loyola Medicine study4 demonstrates that an educational curriculum for physicians in training improves their emotional intelligence, which may help protect against burnout.

Key competencies of a good doctor: 

Communication and Social Skills 

Doctors need to first communicate to understand their patient’s issues and then effectively explain the diagnosis, using clear, simple language emptied of medical jargon. Physicians with high EQ have the ability to recognize, relate and influence a patient’s emotions to make them feel empowered and hopeful. 

Relationships and Caring 

It’s important to not view patients as a list of medical problems but as opportunities to build confidence and trust between patient and doctor. When patients are cared for and listened to, they are more likely to comply with medical recommendations and return for follow-up visits, leading to strong relationships and positive interactions with clinicians and health care administrators. 

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation 

EQ can help prevent emotions affecting clinical decisions. This self-awareness can be critical in ensuring each patient is treated with respect & dignity and is provided the highest quality care, thereby covering two of the six core NHS values.5 

Leadership and Teamwork – To be a physician is to lead6

In addition to clinical responsibilities, physicians serve as leaders and advocates and medicine involves leadership responsibilities at various levels i.e. individual, community, and societal levels. 

EQ accounts for 67% of the abilities needed for leaders and mattered twice as much as IQ. 7 Besides leadership, teamwork is essential for best patient outcomes and high EQ individuals create better connected and motivated teams. A lack of EQ, a source of failure as a leader, results in being overly defensive, resolving conflict poorly, and not connecting well with your team.8 

Despite the unfocused attention towards leadership, it can make an important difference in better clinical outcomes, experiences, increased empathy, and financial sustainability; not only this, but it also affects physician well-being. EQ and higher levels of leadership can help make physicians more resilient to the stresses of professional burnout and result in greater professional satisfaction. Overall, higher EQ increases both influence and change and helps physicians become the type of leader that others want to follow.

Conclusion: What is important – EQ or IQ? 

Let us picture it: High IQ but can’t get along with others? Or high EQ but unable to make the correct diagnosis? Without the other, achieving success would be a huge struggle. 

Instead of focusing on one aspect of intelligence, the greatest benefit may lie in learning to improve the less dominant one.

A successful doctor cannot have one but not the other. Instead of focusing on one aspect of intelligence, the greatest benefit will come from striving to learn the one lacking. 

Doctors with EQ besides IQ demonstrate greater influence, deliver positive results and create leaders. In the future, new technologies based on Artificial Intelligence and surgical robots will enhance technical expertise, but not the ability to emulate emotions, making EQ more valuable than ever. 

EQ can also be enhanced9 and IQ can be increased10, so what does this mean? 

Multiple aspects of intelligence are all essential to the growth in the field of medicine. The perfect balance of the qualities which lie in both is what makes not only ‘good’, but a ‘great’ doctor. 

Asmita Anand, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

1https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-emotional-intelligence-2795423
2https://www.cognitiveinstitute.org/get-smart-about-emotional-intelligence/
3https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095749954
4https://www.dovepress.com/promoting-wellness-and-stress-management-in-residents-through-emotiona-pe
er-reviewed-article-AMEP

5https://www.hee.nhs.uk/about/our-values/nhs-constitutional-values-hub-0
6https://hbr.org/2018/10/why-doctors-need-leadership-training
7Goleman, D. (1998). Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY. Bantum Books
8https://leanforward.hms.harvard.edu/2019/06/13/emotional-intelligence-for-physician-leaders/

9https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_emotional_intelligence_be_taught
10https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/iq-boot-camp/201605/newevidence-iq-can-be-increased-brain-training

Categories
Commentary

An Analysis of the Impact of Alcohol on Mental Health in “Streetcar Named Desire”

Text below taken from Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, 1986:

BLANCHE:

Mitch!–just a minute.

[She rushes about frantically, hiding the bottle in a closet, crouching at the mirror, and dabbing her face with cologne and powder. She is so excited that her breath is audible as she dashes about. At last, she rushes to the door in the kitchen and lets him in.]

Mitch!–Y’know, I really shouldn’t let you in after the treatment I have received from you this evening! So utterly un cavalier! But hello, beautiful!

[She offers him her lips. He ignores it and pushes past her into the flat. She looks fearfully after him as he stalks into the bedroom.]

My, my, what a cold shoulder! And such uncouth apparel! Why you haven’t even shaved! The unforgivable insult to a lady! But I forgive you. I forgive you because it’s such a relief to see you. You’ve stopped that polka tune that I had caught in my head. Have you ever had anything caught in your head? No, of course, you haven’t, you dumb angel-puss, you’d never get anything awful caught in your head!

[He stares at her while she follows him while she talks. It is obvious that he has had a few drinks on the way over.]

MITCH:

Do we have to have that fan on?

BLANCHE:

No!

MITCH:

I don’t like fans.

BLANCHE:

Then let’s turn it off, honey. I’m not partial to them!

[She presses the switch and the fan nods slowly off. She clears her throat uneasily as Mitch plumps himself down on the bed in the bedroom and lights a cigarette.] I don’t know what there is to drink. I–haven’t investigated.

MITCH:

I don’t want Stan’s liquor.

BLANCHE:

It isn’t Stan’s. Everything here isn’t Stan’s. Some things on the premises are actually mine! How is your mother? Isn’t your mother well?

MITCH:

Why?

BLANCHE:

Something’s the matter tonight but never mind. I won’t cross-examine the witness. I’ll just–[She touches her forehead vaguely. The polka tune starts up again.]–pretend I don’t notice anything different about you! That–music again…

MITCH:

What music?

BLANCHE:

The “Varaouviana”! The polka tune they were playing when Allan–Wait!

[A distant revolver shot is heard. Blanche seems relieved.] There now, the shot! It always stops after that.

[The polka music dies out again.]

Yes, now it’s stopped.

MITCH:

Are you boxed out of your mind?

BLANCHE:

I’ll go and see what I can find in the way of–[She crosses into the closet, pretending to search for the bottle.]

Oh, by the way, excuse me for not being dressed. But I’d practically given you up! Had you forgotten your invitation to supper?

MITCH:

I wasn’t going to see you anymore.

BLANCHE:

Wait a minute. I can’t hear what you’re saying and you talk so little that when you do say something, I don’t want to miss a single syllable of it… What am I looking around here for? Oh, yes–liquor! We’ve had so much excitement around here this evening that I am boxed out of my mind!

[She pretends suddenly to find the bottle. He draws his foot up on the bed and stares at her contemptuous]

Analysis

The impact of alcohol on mental health is a prevalent global issue throughout the world. It is also seen through many literary texts. For instance, this issue is explored in the play “Streetcar named desire” and mentions of such issues are deeply layered to discover and inspect the human mind. This is seen throughout this dialogue and that Blanche is on the influence of the drug, and as a result her physiological and mental state are deterred, which is coupled with Mitch’s rejection of her love. Tennessee Williams effectively portrays this through various literary devices such as juxtaposition and employing music to develop Blanche’s mental deterioration and her dependence on alcohol. For example, in the first dialogue, William utilizes the polka music to demonstrate Blanche’s instability and the resulting halt of the music coupled with Mitch’s entrance showcases the emotional connection and affection that Blanche has for Mitch, and it further illustrates that Mitch’s company is the only way for Blanche to escape her guilt from her husband’s death; however, her attempt later falters as her facade, symbolized by the makeup, crumples as Mitch realizes about her past. Thus, this action parallels Blanche’s failure to kiss Mitch and capture his love which also juxtaposes Mitch’s contemplation to kiss her in scene 6. This rejection comes as a shock to Blanche because she is not used to being rejected to be intimate with men. This is revealed in scene 9 where she confirms the fact that she uses sexual encounters with random strangers to fill up the hole in her heart after the fact that her husband had died. This superficial attempt, subsequently, resulted in Blanche’s dependence on alcohol and her ensuing guilt for her husband’s death to fill the gaping hole. Her tolerance for alcohol is shown as she appears on one side to be agitated but then also reverses to being welcoming and giddy. She then becomes delusional and lies about where her drink is like in Scene 1 to her sister Stella and then pretends to worry about Mitch’s mother. Her instability comes to a boiling point and hence the polka music resumes again and even Mitch couldn’t stop this repetitive music that seems to inevitably drive Blanche to insanity. This shift results in Blanche to become reliant on alcohol and risking her mental sanity to solve her problems and cope with the foreboding music that alludes to the guilt of her husband’s death.

Frank Liu, Youth Medical Journal 2020

References

Reis, Kurt, and Tennessee Williams. A StreetCar Named Desire. 1986.