Blog | Friday, April 27, 2018

Affirmative actions


Best moment of my week at Grady:

Yesterday I encountered a young man at Grady who spoke to me by name.

“Hi Dr. Manning!” he said. Even though I wasn't sure where I'd known him from, I smiled big and responded in kind. He went on. “I know you don't remember me. But I just want you to know that I just matched in Emergency Medicine and am about to graduate from medical school at Morehouse School of Medicine!”

“That's fantastic!” I replied. “Where are you going?” He told me and I congratulated him. Genuinely, too. Because matching into a residency program is a big effing deal and a huge accomplishment. And since he stood there still smiling, I repeated myself. “That's really, really awesome.”

And I said that because it was. But then he jogged my memory about how we'd met:

About 5 years ago, I was making rounds at Grady one afternoon. This young man was working as a one-to-one patient safety sitter (not for the faint at heart at ALL) and, since his patient was fast asleep, he'd brought along books to study to make the most of his time. I was seeing the patient in the next bed over and couldn't help but notice how fervently he was scanning the text in front of him. This kid meant business.

“What are you studying?” I asked him.

“Ma’am? Oh, studying for the MCAT,” he replied.

And honestly? I mostly remember was that I liked his hustle and the tenacity in his eyes. So I told him just that. Then I extended my hand and introduced myself because I knew what it meant for him to be a black man sitting in that chair studying for a med school entry exam with a black doctor standing in front of him.

I really did.

This was 2013. Within the year that Deanna had passed. My intention with people changed when she died. Even the tiniest moments I think about, wonder about … like, “Hmmm … what am I supposed to be doing with this one moment in time with this person?” Heavy, I know. But this was my paradigm shift. And so. I know exactly what happened next: I gave him a word of encouragement and told him that I was sure he would become a doctor. And that big smile on his face showed me that he believed me.

Then I took his picture so that I would remember that moment in time. And I am so glad that I did.

Yep.

You know what? When I ran into him, I didn't remember him. But you know what? He remembered me. He also remembered that I encouraged him, too. Then he reminded me that I had taken his picture that day. Sure did. And I knew then and there exactly who he was and could see the moment crystal clear.

Here is what I know for sure:

Life is but a twinkling of an eye. Every little sliver of time that we get is an opportunity. And sure--from this 2013 photo, it's clear that this young man was already well on his way to succeeding. But I love knowing that God placed me in his path that day and that I noticed him. I really am. I could have walked right by and not seen him at all.

My goal is to see people. Like, for real see them. I loved this moment and the affirmation it brought to us both about the power of letting our lights shine.

Yeah.

Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, FAAP is an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches medical students and residents at Grady Hospital. This post is adapted from Reflections of a Grady Doctor, Dr. Manning’s blog about teaching, learning, caring and growing in medicine and life. It has been adapted and reprinted with permission. Identifying information has been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.