Tag Archives: Dei

On MLK Day 2023: With Gratitude to Dr. King, from a Desi Doctor

In February 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in India for a five week trip to learn firsthand the South Asian history and strategies that informed the US battle for Civil Rights. Nine years after Gandhi‘s death, Dr. King wrote that he was deeply struck by direct observation of the Indian caste system and the parallels in American conceptions of race. Over 60 years later, caste-based discrimination continues in India, and, exponentially, in Muslim communities In India.

If you get a chance, read Dr. King’s words about his impressions of India, just profoundly beautiful.

Related: Caste book summary by Isabel Wilkerson

South Asian health professionals in North America need to express gratitude for the activism that has reduced racist structures but also to acknowledge the privilege afforded to us by education and profession. Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian physicians and mental health must lead that charge. Asian physicians make up the second-largest majority of all health professions within the United States. South Asian doctors fall around the 15% range. Of these, for example, greater than 60,000 physicians and approximately 10 to 12 percent of entering medical students are estimated to be of Indian heritage in this country.

Like many of our first and second-generation colleagues, our parents were primarily part of a migration from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. It began around 1965 and increased through the early nineties, thanks to relaxed immigration legislation and increased employment opportunities, many brought about by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and The Fair Housing Act of 1968. The large number of South Asian immigrants who arrived during those years did so as either recent university graduates, or with the scholarship or family funds to obtain an education here on U.S. soil. As a result, South Asian immigrants have been prominent in fields that require extensive and often expensive training, such as medicine and technology.

We the first and second generation children of immigrants can use our education and position to advocate for change. The first thing to do is speak out against racism within our own communities. Although this statement often angers my South Asian community, it would be dishonest to state that we did not witness growing up with elderly community members, outwardly spewing racist propaganda; particularly condemning engaging in romantic relationships or close friendships with Black women or men. I work with a large number of Desi clients, and many feel they must keep their personal lives secret from family, a practice which is painful and ego-dystonic.

Related, see Dr. Siddique in The Meaning of Difference, McGraw Hill.

As healers, South Asian medical and mental health professionals, must be part of solutions to tackle health inequities for our Black patients. Health disparities in medicine are prevalent in all fields of medical practice. Coronavirus is still claiming the lives of Black Americans at a rate almost 2.5 times greater than Whites or Asians. Black men continue to have a substantially lower life expectancy. As a health community, we must set the goal to help narrow the disproportionate gap in Black Americans’ deaths from coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. At the least, we should take our skills and funds to contribute to organizations that will help abolish the health inequities that we see daily in our line of work.

South Asians have endured discrimination. Our names are mispronounced, our office lunch mocked, we are stereotyped as doctors or convenience store clerks on many popular shows. We continue to endure micro aggressions from patients, administrators, and supervisors based on who we are. Of the utmost importance now is that we take some of the burden for fighting for persons of color away from our Black colleagues and patients, so they can take a timeout or at least rest.

Additional reading:
Microaggressions are a Publc Health Crisis.
Why Representation Matters: Media and Mental Health

Clinical Psychology + Eastern Philosophy + DEI = Mental Health

7 Eastern Concepts for Mental Health

SANGHA
Community of friends practicing together in order to encourage awareness and mindfulness. Buddhist writings state that the water from all the oceans has only one taste, salt. And for all humanity there is only one desire, freedom. This requires community as a practice.

METTA
An attitude of kindness and goodwill, wishing other people well with affection, but also realizing that true happiness is something that they ultimately will have to find for themselves. It’s fully loving another without being responsible for the other person‘s happiness. That doesn’t mean you don’t help them. It means you don’t own their stuff.

SAMSARA
Impermanence or state of flow. The idea that people are constantly in a process of development/ stages of life. The literal translation from Sanskrit is “a wandering through.” Where we are right now, the good or the bad, it’s not permanent. As the expression goes, the good news: nothing last forever; the bad news, nothing last forever.

DUKKHA
Existential suffering. That experiencing the pain of illness, aging, death, loss, abandonment, is part of the human experience. We are not individually cursed with misery. We are in this together. Empathy is required.

CETANA
Intention or volition. Intention determines whether an action is ethical. We are human and make errors. We may have good intentions (a desire to act) that do not pan out in a desired result/outcome. However, intention encompasses present action regardless of consequence and predicts future behavior. Intention matters.

SEVA
Compassion, service to others, giving without expectation of return, recognition, or glory.

KARMA
The most misunderstood of concepts, karma is not a vengeful creature looking to bring down people. It is an accumulation of all events and actions. It is the universal checking account of withdrawals and deposits. Sometimes we are in overdraft, because human, other times, we are earning interest.

Love, health, and peace to you and yours. 🙏🏽

On Neuropsychology and Respect: the complicated history of sage

Burning sage, also known as smudging or cleansing, is an ancient indigenous North American spiritual ritual.

Scientifically, it has been established that white sage (Salvia apiana) is rich in compounds that activate certain receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for elevating mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain. In addition to dissipating negative energy, improving mood, and strengthening meditative practice, burning sage may improve memory, attention, and focus. A 2016 literature review of neuropsychological studies noted that evidence for Salvia’s cognitive-enhancing benefits are promising, and perhaps a means to help battle dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Last but not least, burning sage has antimicrobial properties. It truly cleanses.
 
Smudging has been well established as a Native American cultural or tribal practice (see the American Psychological Association sources on indigenous mental health).

As non-native individuals and mental health practitioners, it is our responsibility to be informed and respectful. For example, if non-native people “cleanse their space of negativity” through the use of smudge medicine (burning sage, sweetgrass, palo santo, etc.), it is crucial to understand its cultural significance and history. It was illegal for Native Americans to practice their religion until 1978 in the U.S., and many were jailed and killed just for keeping indigenous practices and traditions alive. Smudging sage was part of those banned religious practices. It was literally a crime.

Because of all that complicated history of sage burning, when non-Native people use white sage to “smudge” their homes or other spaces, it can infringe upon the cultural importance and authenticity of the ritual and its historical spirituality. The practice of smudging, therefore, should not be taken lightly, according to Dr. Adrienne Keene, an assistant professor of American Studies, Psychology, and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, author of the blog Native Appropriations, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation

It is possible to practice and appreciate indigenous cultural, medical, and spiritual practices without disrespecting them. Do research, be mindful, have gratitude, and strive to celebrate Indigenous people and traditions in a way that is culturally conscious. It is a gift, not a right.

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