Or is it?


On December 9th, 2013, Jahi McMath, a thirteen-year-old Black female, underwent one of the most common pediatric surgeries: a tonsillectomy. Only this tonsillectomy was more complicated than most. In addition to her tonsils, Jahi’s surgeon removed the adenoids, uvula and soft palate, and other nearby tissues. This was considerably more invasive than your run-of-the-mill adenotonsillectomy and radical treatment for Jahi’s obstructive sleep apnea.

Seemingly unbeknownst to everyone but the surgeon, Jahi’s right carotid artery was unusually close to her pharynx, significantly increasing the risk of bleeding. As the anesthesia wore off, Jahi began bleeding profusely from her mouth and nose…

How much risk is too much?


Healthcare workers are dying. As of December 31st, 2020, more than 300,000 American healthcare workers (HCWs) have been infected with the coronavirus. Tragically, at least 1,100 have died.

The circumstances facing HCWs are dire: Covid positive nurses are being forced to work. Hospitals are still scrambling for protective gear. Hiccups in vaccine distribution have led to debates of priority between colleagues. All of these factors have contributed to a rise in mental and physical illness, burnout, and moral distress among HCWs.

Which leads me to wonder: Why? Why are HCWs putting themselves and their loved ones at such risk? Other…

The decision to report an assault to law enforcement hinges on whether a survivor thinks she’ll be believed


Recently, Denver’s popular street art festival, CRUSH, has come under fire for downplaying its role in the gentrification of a historically all-Black neighborhood and the cannibalizing of local artists.

Oh, and because it’s founder and gatekeeper to the city’s street art scene, Robin Munro, has been accused of sexual assault by at least two women. Several other women, responding to the original accusations on Instagram, describe similar interactions with Munro, whose contract with the RiNo Art District is currently suspended while the organization investigates the allegations.

That a white man may have been abusing his power to prey on and…

Yellow fever, race, and the politics of medicine

Image by Vincent LaBarca

If Dr. Fauci is our patron saint of infectious diseases, then Benjamin Rush was the Fauci of 18th-century America. Born in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, 1745, Dr. Rush was a true Renaissance Man. Physician, patriot, author, abolitionist, philosopher, father of American psychiatry, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Rush remains one of America’s most enduring, if lesser-known, figures.

He was also notoriously obstinate, paternalistic, and fervently evangelical. As a physician, he relied less on scientific inquiry and more on dogmatic theory. …

Intimate partner violence and the limits of patient confidentiality

Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

I n medicine, second-guessing is second nature.

Should I have ordered that test? Was that the best choice of antibiotic? Maybe I shouldn’t have sent that patient to the emergency department?

On the one hand, self-doubt is essential to being a competent, thorough clinician. Recognizing our limitations spares patients from burdensome and unnecessary testing while fostering a relationship built on mutual respect.

On the other hand, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. The discipline is inherently uncertain. This ambiguity eats away at the confidence patients come to rely on.

Medical decision-making is grounded in evidence-based practice and instinct…

The search for meaning in a meaningless world

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Among millennials, losing one’s religion is something of a trope. Still, even a trope can’t escape reality, and I can attest to my generation’s reluctance to engage with a spiritual community. Although my parents weren’t regular churchgoers, I was baptized and went to catechism. I (infrequently) attended mass, recited the psalms, and read picture book versions of the Bible.

I also felt ashamed of myself for engaging in sinful acts, guilty for questioning Biblical truths, and afraid that I was going to Hell. I was happy to jettison the self-hatred Christianity wrought. …

Government overreach isn’t a problem when their guy is in the White House

Source: Wikipedia

The Three Percenters, an anti-government militia, claims to be “America’s insurance policy,” a group of like-minded patriots who vow to “combat all those who are corrupt.” Despite being labeled as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and other advocacy groups, they insist they are “NOT anti-government.” Their goal, they contend, is to “utilize the fail-safes put in place by our founders to rein in an overreaching government and push back against tyranny.”

As a profoundly liberal individual, I like the sound of that. …

The coronavirus response is rapidly unraveling, taking healthcare workers with it

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Whenever someone asks me why I do what I do, I usually give the classic, selfless healthcare worker answer: to help people.

There are more practical reasons for choosing a career in medicine, of course: job security, competitive pay, practically limitless variety. But the ability and desire to care for others is a necessity. My job as a nurse practitioner would be impossible if I didn’t have a heart for strangers, many of whom are in the throes of the worst day(s) of their lives.

This calling, though, can be taken to the extreme, ultimately resembling a savior complex. The…

COVID toes? More like COVID nose, am I right?

Source: Weizmann Institute of Science

It’s safe to say coronavirus is taking America to the cleaners. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and most of my disappointment is aimed squarely at our political leaders.

Compounding the crisis is just how in the dark we are. Every day brings a new revelation that challenges our expectations of the virus.

Case in point: fever checks.

Checking for fever makes intuitive sense. After all, fever is an early, reliable marker of COVID-19. It’s also simple, quick, and accurate. But there is growing concern that a reliance on fever checks overlooks asymptomatic viral shedding.

A 2009 analysis of…

It’s high time we celebrate Black English for the rich, nuanced language it is

Illustration: Christina Villanueva

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

It just bugs me when people don’t speak properly.

What about this classic:

Everyone should learn to speak correct English.

If you’re like me, a college-educated cis white guy, you’ve probably heard some version of these phrases from one of your equally privileged friends. Maybe they were bothered by a stranger using a double negative, as in:

Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Perhaps they were poking fun at someone who replaced ask with aks:

Lemme aks you somethin’.

These otherwise woke individuals get all huffy when someone uses your instead of you’re

Vincent LaBarca

Nurse practitioner and dude on a motorcycle — vincewritesok.com

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