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New York Times Article

Discussion in 'General Residency Issues' started by MossPoh, May 1, 2007.

  1. MossPoh

    MossPoh Textures intrigue me
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    Here was a little article in the New York Times today. I wasn't sure which forum to put this in, but it seemed to be a general residency type thing. (With the focus in surgery)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/01/health/01case.html?ref=science

    To operate on a patient without receiving a fee is the most satisfying of memories, the greatest of privileges. It leaves a glow, a high — the feeling young doctors must get these days when they go to third-world countries, repair cleft lips and palates, or build hospitals.

    I had those feelings once. It was a time of postgraduate training, with a working wife, no children, no malpractice bills, no office expenses. Just learning.

    Those were the days of my surgical residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, days beginning at 5 a.m., going without lunch, finishing at 7 or 8 p.m. (if you had the night off; your nights on, boy were you on). The old days, the ’50s and early ’60s, before anyone belonged to a health maintenance organization: they were the best of times, times of gaining a capacity for hardship and loving it, times of acquiring skills and knowledge, of sucking it all in.

    And patients, especially the ward patients cared for by the resident staff, knew how to thank surgical interns making 25 bucks a month.

    One patient was admitted with an obstructing cancer of the large intestine. In his mid-70s, a Chinese grandfather with a family he had nurtured all his life. Small, straight with hair the color of smoke, calmly powerful. He needed three operations for the colon cancer: the first, a colostomy, to relieve the block; a second, to remove the tumor; and finally, the last, to close the colostomy.

    He had little English but knew the value of “thank you.” A fortunate man. A man respected and admired by wife, children, grandchildren — all attached to the family restaurant business.

    I will always remember. A miracle. After each operation, at 7 to the minute, the evening of surgery, his family arrived at the ward kitchen, a sudden oasis, with enough egg drop soup, sweet-and-sour chicken, orange beef, on and on, to feed the entire surgical staff and a few hungry urologists. The dessert was fortune cookies containing special messages of gratitude.

    Over time, from other patients and their families, I received other edibles: cookies, fruitcake every Christmas, fresh-baked breads, pickles, jams, honey, cherry pies, a Gouda as big as a lung. Then there were the physical thanks: smiles, tears, shakes, hugs, as digestible and soothing as yogurt. I recall removing a colon for ulcerative colitis in a 7- year-old boy. His mother grasped my hands and said “golden.”

    Those poor patients gave what they could. From the wealthy private patients we got cash, a casual 5, 10, 20, rarely 50 dollars, enough to buy an infrequent Italian dinner for my wife and me. Easy for the rich to leave a tip. For them we were accessories, the busboys of the hospital, unimportant compared with their attending surgeons.

    Over the decades I have forgotten about delayed payments from insurance companies, arguments about fee schedules, tortured reasoning from administrators, disputes with my associates. I have never failed to remember those patients whose thanks made me feel like a real doctor. Every time my wife and I go to a Chinese restaurant, I remember the meals I had in the ward kitchen. Nothing has tasted as good since then.

    Larry Zaroff teaches medical humanities to undergraduates and medical students at Stanford.
     
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  3. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    That article reinforces the wise old Asian man, Asian no english, Asian model minority, Asians working in Asian restaurant and a variety of other stereotypes.
     
  4. Janders

    Janders Senior Member
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    I think you jump too quickly my friend. He was talking about an old Asian man who spoke no English and apparently ran a restaraunt with his family. A family that was apparently close and respected him. Those are facts. If he went on to suggest every Asian patient he has was like that, shame on him. But he's telling a factual story.

    Its like if I told a story about my Jewish friend who happens to be a Banker. Its true, he really is a banker. Big deal. Unless I generalize that fact somehow, I'm not stereotyping anything.

    Sorry if I sound defensive, but I think racism is a real problem in this country, and crying wolf at innocent people doesn't help that problem.
     
  5. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    If that story was about a black man who brought fried chicken and watermelon for the residents, you better believe it would not have been published, regardless of whether it was generalized or not. Let's cut out the double standard.
     
  6. Janders

    Janders Senior Member
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    If the Black man owned a family-run soul food place, and his family brought pulled pork, collards, fried chicken and green beans... would that be a problem?

    What if a jewish man who's family owned a deli brought in tasty latkas, brisket, matzah ball soup and the like?

    Anyway you spin it, its a family run ethnic food place that brings some appropriately themed food-items as a thankyou. And being an immigrant, the guy doesn't speak English. The author isn't making fun of them, he's expressing gratitude.

    The basic theme of the article is that he misses the days when patients and families could pay their thanks with food and hugs. The example that springs to his mind is a wonderful Chinese family who owned a restaraunt and flooded him with the best Chinese food he ever had. How can he express that to you sensitively? Should we never mention Asians that happen to own restaraunts?
     
  7. Pinkertinkle

    Pinkertinkle 2003 Member
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  8. danielmd06

    danielmd06 Neurosomnologist
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    I thought it was a great article. Thanks for the uplift.
     
  9. eastcoastyall

    eastcoastyall Wisdom Onslaught
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    Good lord people. Its a cute story. Dismount the high horse.
     
  10. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    If that is all you got out of that article, you're looking for conflict where there is none.

    Have you ever been a doctor in NYC? I have, and patients that speak essentially no English (including Chinese) but are sick as heck are omnipresent. And gracious, thankful families do, sometimes, do things that warm doctors' hearts.

    Lighten up, Francis.
     
  11. MossPoh

    MossPoh Textures intrigue me
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    That was my end goal. To reinforce stereotypes. The second article talks about how the korean man he saved did his dry cleaning, and the italian man gave him mob protection. The third article gets into fried chicken, as well as gardening for life. You don't want to know what canadians do for you.
     
  12. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    Come on guys, if that article was about a black man and soul food, NY Times wouldn't touch it with a twenty foot pole. In America it's a lot more acceptable to stereotype Asians than it is to stereotype African Americans or almost any other racial/ethnic group. I feel that just isn't right. That's my opinion, you guys are free to disagree.
     
  13. goooooober

    goooooober Senior Member
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    This is so unrelated to the OPs article. What the hell are you talking about? This is not a made up character, this is a real person who is part of the diverse makeup of our society. It sounds like you are the one with all the stereotypes of different groups of people because none else read that article and came up with your poppycock conclusion.
     
  14. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    You still don't get it - I can guess that you 1. are young 2. are not in practice and 3. have never been to NYC. Well, maybe you could have been to NYC, but you didn't look around. Ever been to NYC Chinatown?

    I've had a brother offer me soul food, as he said to me, "this is comin' from a brother - come to my restaurant, and I'll make you some real soul food". I remember the Chinese carpenter that couldn't thank me enough after I explained to him (via the AT&T Language Line, as I didn't speak enough Mandarin then) about his AFib, even though I didn't fix it - his doctor in Chinatown hadn't told him anything, and, even though he was still fatigued, now knew why.

    I won't say that I feel sorry for you, because I don't and that is pedantic and demeaning, but I will say that it is unfortunate. Medicine is more than books and labs and EKGs - there are actual people, and there is pathos, and sadness, and gratitude, and human kindness. If you choose to find discrimination in the face of that, I do not begrudge you your life.
     
  15. cdql

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    True. But I don't think that's changing any time soon.
     
  16. hyperbaric

    hyperbaric Cool under pressure.
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    MossPoh - thanks for posting. I enjoyed the read.
     
  17. carrigallen

    carrigallen 16th centry dutch painter
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    Thoughtful, warm article...thanks for posting.
     
  18. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    No, you don't get it. It's a cute story and no doubt true, but it goes along with exactly how the media likes to present asians: docile, family oriented, restaurant entrepeneurs. Stereotypes are stereotypes, positive ones are just as bad as negative ones. In NY times you can't write an article about a brother offering you soul food, but you sure can write one about an asian man offering you fortune cookies. Stop being complacent, think different. And don't make any more of your guesses about me, I find those offensive too.
     
  19. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    I'm not psychic, and following what many, many sundry other people on SDN have said and done over the past several years is where I drew my conjecture. Notably, you do NOT address those, and, in fact, imply that you haven't been to NYC. If you're going to write something for other people to see, it's too damn bad if you're offended by people responding to what you write. If you're two for two for being offended in one thread, you're coming really close to sounding like a sniveling child. Believe it or don't, no one is going to walk on eggshells about what next you may "find...offensive too."

    edit: nice edit, but I caught it before you could take it away.
     
  20. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    Okay, let's start here. What is this supposed to mean?
     
  21. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    NYC Chinatown is its own world. Even with the undertone of crime, I never felt unsafe or unwelcome, despite being "gui lo". Restaurants are everywhere, and I was always welcomed, even though they'd never seen me before, and, to use the stereotype which I laughed out loud at (instead of sounding like a high-and-mighty, easily offended schmuck) was, "all you white guys look the same to us!" People are squeezed right together in NYC, and you may see a Hispanic fellow working in the kitchen in a Chinese restaurant. Chinatown borders on (and has consumed much of) Little Italy in NYC, but it hasn't destroyed it - just expanded.

    I'm a craftsman just as much as the restaurateur (regardless of what kind). Asian food (not just Chinese and subsets of Chinese cuisine) are as much art as food, and there is a special appreciation of texture, color, scent, spice, taste, and parallel & contrast that is lost on European and American. I am honored when someone feels I've done something for them that they want to repay me with their craft - it puts us on even footing. I saw the pride that the Chinese restaurateurs put into their food, even if it went by the perceptions of the customers.

    And Larry Zaroff is a truly good man. There are many people in medicine that are technically superior, but you wouldn't want to live next door to. I would break bread with Dr. Zaroff any day. As I say, if you want to be offended, you do that. But people are people - and, if one person helps another, and that other feels compelled through gratitude to respond in kind to that first person, it is a flaw on you if you see fault in it, as you are not in the loop. Candidly, if you are so offended, put your money where your mouth is and go tell any- and everyone that might do such a thing as you think that they are demeaning and humiliating themselves by doing such things. Just don't be surprised when you are not met with open arms and profuse thanks.
     
  22. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    You seem to enjoy writing for writing's sake. It's not helping your message get across.
    Your post is totally irrelevant you are missing the point. The point is there's a problem in the media regarding the portrayal of Asians, and it needs to stop. Here are 2 stereotypes that this article(though nonfictional) neatly plays into.

    from http://www.manaa.org/articles/stereo.html
    "Asian Americans restricted to clichéd occupations. Asians and Asian Americans make their living in a wide array of professions, but too often, Asian American professionals are depicted in a limited and predictable range of jobs: restaurant workers, Korean grocers, Japanese businessmen, Indian cab drivers, TV anchorwomen, martial artists, gangsters, faith healers, laundry workers, and prostitutes. This misrepresents the diversity of the Asian American work force.

    Asian Americans as foreigners who cannot be assimilated. Because they are racially and culturally distinctive from the American mainstream, Asian people have been widely seen as unable to be absorbed into American society. According to this view, anything Asian is thus inherently "alien" to America. This is reflected in the media by the disproportionate number of unacculturated Asian characters speaking with foreign accents."

    These portrayals continue because people like you are complacent. If somewhere in that mess of fanciful writing, you're saying that Asians should be proud to be portrayed as accented restaurant owners and kung fu artists, you are wrong.
     
  23. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    You're the only one with their panties in a twist. You want to play the victim, go ahead. I see humanity. I love my job. I love helping people. And I love seeing people "do their thing", and having pride in it. That is irrespective of being a doctor, restaurant worker, florist, automobile spring/suspension worker, painter, construction, firefighter, or whatever.

    Be a racist, and be offended, and be a man alone in the midwest. Good luck with that - with your attitude, you'll need it.
     
  24. MWillie

    MWillie On the wards
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    You are too quick to drop accusations as usual. In this one thread you've implied if not directly accused me of being sniveling child, clueless about culture, needing luck to succeed, and a racist. If I were as quick to be offended as you suggest, I should be blowing my top by now. Fortunately, I am not.

    I do not believe the author of the article has any intention to offend, but that just shows how deeply ingrained the stereotypes are. The article would be much better had he chosen another example.
     
  25. ajce9

    ajce9 Membership Revoked
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    I've lived in NYC for 3 years. I agree with what you say. I also don't think the purpuse of the article was to put any culture down. It was just stating facts of what someone did for him and how he so much enjoyed that.

    It may be true that Asians are looked at a certain way but this article was not written in order to do that. It was just a nice story about nice things.

    I'm amazed how it has been turned into such a negative discussion.
     
  26. goooooober

    goooooober Senior Member
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    I can't even believe you guys are still discussing this crap.
     
  27. pillowhead

    pillowhead Senior Member
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    Maybe in the NY times you can't write about a black person offering you soul food but here in Atlanta you sure can. So maybe the issue is the overly politically correct NY times rather than some portrayal of an actual true story even if it does seem to feed into a stereotype. So what if it does? It was TRUE! What are we supposed to hide the truth just because the TRUTH might offend somebody?

    Ask any long time southern family doc about what his patients used to give him for payment and I guarantee you will get stories about cornbread and chitlins. And if the local paper here did such an article, that's exactly what I would expect it to print. Quite frankly, real soul food in New York is probably harder to come by than good Chinese food anyway!

    Way to take a heartwarming story and make turn it into this crap of a thread.
     
  28. AlternateSome1

    AlternateSome1 Burnt Out
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    *Long pause for irony to set in.*

    Thank you for expressing your opinions on political correctness and the double standards of both mass media and society in general. Now that we have heard you, is it acceptable to go back to appreciating the story for what it is, and not demand that the author rewrite the story to disavow any knowledge of wise asian men, asians without perfect second language skills, or asian restauranteurs?
     
  29. meehawl

    meehawl Junior Member
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    Yes. The story is basically harmless and sentimental, but it derives from and is embedded within a culture of stereotypical framing. Such framing acts as a subtle push, constraining the expectations of Asians and non-Asians who read it.

    I am waiting for the followup story where a group of Irish-Americans pay the doc in whisky, then have a bit of a drunken donnybrook in the waiting room, all the while tap-dancing a hearty jig.
     
  30. Lenny

    Lenny New Member

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    Tipping residents? Food, sure, but cash? Anyone ever have this happen to them and, if so, did you accept the money?
     
  31. edinOH

    edinOH Can I get a work excuse?
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    I swear I think sometimes people are just looking for things to get offended over. It isn't like the guy in the story owned a dry cleaning business. :rolleyes:
     
  32. gingerMD

    gingerMD New Member

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    I am a Chinese immigrant myself. I do not find the story offensive at all. I fully appreciate the way Dr. Zaroff still remembers the gratitude the family expressed a long time ago, and I believe that the family will be happy to know that their thankfulness has been treasured for such a long time too.

    I totally believe the story. It is true that there are stereotypes regarding Chinese running restaurant business and not speaking good English. However, these stereotypes do not come from nowhere. There is certain truth in it.

    First, Chinese cuisine is an important part of Chinese culture and I am very proud of it. I fully respect all the Chinese restaurateurs who has made it well known to the American public and made it possible for me to still get the food I value so much in the US. As a matter of fact, you are very likely to find a Chinese in Chinatown who is in the restaurant business. This is because Chinese pays a lot of attention to the preparation of food, and there is a huge demand for Chinese restaurants, first from Chinese Americans and later from the general American public as well. I totally agree with a previous post that Chinese restaurant owners are proud of what they are doing. They should never be ashamed if their professions are revealed. What is so wrong with earning a living by offering something others cherish, something that I personally cannot live without?

    Second, considering the huge difference between Chinese and English, it is totally understandable that it is relatively hard for a Chinese to speak perfect English, than say a German. Just try to learn Chinese and you will understand it. There are quite a few first-generation Chinese Americans who hardly speak English, especially in Chinatown. On the other hand, I would imagine that very few second-generation Chinese Americans do not speak English. Please note that in the article, Dr. Zaroff only mentioned that the grandfather did not speak English and he did not say that about his children and grandchildren. Maybe his grandchildren are doctors, lawyers or bankers, but that is irrelevant.

    I think that the efforts should be paid into having better coverage about Chinese Americans, instead of refraining from mentioning about people who fit into the stereotypes. It is not right to ignore these people in the media since they are an integral part of Chinese Americans. Being overly sensitive does not improve racial relationship. Instead, it makes us all constantly aware of the stress between different ethnic groups. I think that what should be emphasized is never to look down upon another person just because he is different from you, instead of trying to ignore the differences between different populations.

    Personally, I value Chinese culture, cuisine and language very much. Although I want to learn about the American culture (which probably consists of multiple components), I still want to keep part of myself loyal to my origin. I am proud of being a Chinese American, and will never want to hide my Chinese part. I am sorry to have written such a long post. I just do not want to leave the impression that Chinese are very sensitive about the stereotypes. As long as a stereotype is not morally inferior, I am totally fine with it. Well, that is just my personal opinion. You may say that it can not represent Chinese American opinion.

    I must stop now before someone kicks me out.
     
  33. 8744

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    Ah yes, the good old days when residents worked for 25 bucks a month and knew their place, not like residents today who are all uppity, demanding sleep, time off, and a decent salary, things that we did without back in the noble days of medicine when everything was clean and pure and we worked for chinese food and hugs.
     
  34. 8744

    8744 Guest

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    I would be gravely insulted. Oh yeah. The good old days when we worked for tips.
     
  35. PediBoneDoc

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    although some have taken offense to the article because of the particulars of the story, i think that most would agree that it is nice for our work to be appreciated. be it a hand written card from a child because use fixed their arm or a venison sausage from a hunter who's family you helped. these gestures mean more in rejuvenating your enthusiasm in medicine. this is why many people do charity work overseas, because it helps that altruistic side of them. that part of them that initially brought them into the medical field.

    in the past, it was more common for patients to bring something to say thank you; in todays world, you are more likely going to hear more often that you have done something wrong like made a patient wait an extra hour.

    so, this was a nice article. thanks MossPoh
     

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