A true strength of the Yale pediatric community is its mentorship. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I chose Yale for residency. As a newly minted pediatric intern, every day I heard so many new names. It was hard to keep them straight. When I would share with someone that I was interested in community pediatrics, advocacy, and writing, everyone would say: Have you met Margi? Have you heard of Margi Rosenthal? You must meet Margi! One email later, I found myself sitting across from Margi herself, sipping tea in the atrium of the hospital. I shared with her my dream of starting a narrative medicine blog for the Yale pediatrics department and I asked if she thought it was doable. She immediately said – let’s do it!
Though I only knew Margi for a few years, her mentorship and belief in me will have a lasting impact on who I am as a pediatrician, community member, and writer. I have seen how one person can connect with a community in such a deep and meaningful way through her actions, her words, and now her memory. I am forever thankful.
Here, I wanted to share some of Margi’s words from her own writings as a way to honor her as one of the founding editors of Paw Prints. For Margi.
You Should Break Up With Me, The New York Times, September 2020
Brian didn’t break up with me. And, as predicted, the 14-hour operation left me sick with pancreatitis and sepsis. I had to go back into the operating room for a small bowel obstruction, after which I was in and out of the hospital for four months. Many of those times, Brian met me in the E.R. and followed me to my room, where he would strum his ukulele, make lip-syncing videos and sleep on the couch next to my bed.
When Brian had an extended business trip, he gave away his S.U.V. We played that one more Irish than Jewish: We didn’t discuss how every time I entered that car I’d wondered if I was going to die, or how its absence now gave cancer a larger chance of doing me in.
On our hike in the fall before my surgery, I tried to teach Brian that love always ends. Car crashes, diabetes, cancer. What happened instead is he taught me that love is a long, elliptical story. And that, with and without all of our ghosts, I was lucky to be a part of his.
How to Give Bad News, The New York Times, March, 2020
I know bad news is coming my way when my oncologist walks into the exam room with a nurse. It doesn’t matter that he introduces her as a new nurse getting to know the system. In my more than six years of seeing my oncologist for metastatic colon cancer, he has never come in accompanied. He wants her in the room to learn how to give bad news.
After 25 years as a pediatrician, I know the guidelines. Find a quiet room. Give the news directly. Allow for silences. Offer tissues and glasses of water. Wait for the family’s questions and answer them as fully as possible.
I’ve had to tell families that their child has a chronic disease, is gravely ill, has died. Now my oncologist rotates the chair facing the computer so it faces me. He sits down, makes eye contact, glances at the box of tissues by his side.
Yale Has One Big Chance to Move in the Right Direction on Race, Time Magazine, June 2015
When my 15-year old daughter came home from 9th grade and crinkled her face as she told me studying American history is about memorizing the names of old, white men, it pained me. I love history and believe in its power to help us understand our world today.
But what I said to her was: “What if instead of those names, they were names like Vivek?”
“That is so racist, mom. Don’t say that.”
“What if the names were like Shmuel?”
“You can’t say that either,” she said.
When I offered an Indian-sounding name, I was trying to appeal to my daughter’s well-developed sense of her father’s heritage. When I switched to a Jewish-sounding name, I was leaning on mine. Neither worked for her.
“It’s complicated, mom. You don’t understand.”
She’s right. I have no idea what it feels like to walk around this world with brown skin. I have a very good idea what it feels like to watch someone you love walk around with it—whether getting stopped more often in an airport (her dad) or being told she could not play on a playground (her). But I know that no matter how much those events hurt me, I am still not walking in those shoes.
After Flint, why would anyone trust a family doctor?, The Boston Globe, February 2016
It makes sense that trusting relationships between families and their health care provider are associated with better child health — families are more likely to call their doctor when they are worried and seek care, and then follow directions, if they have a good rapport with that doctor. But trusting relationships occur less commonly among households with no health insurance, lower income, and minority ethnic status. And when a patient and health care provider are different — in race or primary language — there are fewer trusting relationships and less appropriate use of health services.