I learned something about ethnicity when I
first started practice in Worcester, Massachusetts, at that time a city
with the largest percentage of first- and second-generation immigrants
of any its size in the United States. One of my first patients asked
me, "What are you?" I answered, "A family doctor," and she
replied, "No. What are your people?" I responded, "German." She
thought for a moment and declared, "Never met any Germans before."
I hadn't thought of myself as anything, really, to that point because
where I grew up, everyone was like me—white and Midwestern. So in
Worcester, I started seeing patients as they described themselves:
Irish, Italian, Armenian, Jewish, Greek, Assyrian (one man corrected my
faux pas when I referred to him as Syrian by explaining that the
Assyrians are completely different and an ancient people and there was
a big difference between them and Syrians).
Frey III JJ. Too Sad. JAMA. 1999;281(2):112–113. doi:10.1001/jama.281.2.112
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