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A Piece of My Mind
January 15, 2019

The Unicorn

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
JAMA. 2019;321(2):149-150. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.21048

Mr J looked at me in astonishment as I entered the exam room. I greeted him warmly. “My name is Dr Mgbako, and I’m your new doctor.” Mr J clutched my forearm, reluctant to end our handshake. He looked to his case worker, then back to me, then back to his case worker. “You mean to tell me I have a young, BLACK doctor? Now we are in business!”

A proud black man in his mid-50s, Mr J explained that there were some important things I needed to know about his life. First, we discussed his struggles with drug addiction. After being clean for years, he fell in love with a younger man who brought addiction back into his life. He now faced the reality that no longer using cocaine also meant letting love go. He then recalled the time he was homeless. Those years left him with crippling anxiety, and he worried that someday he would end up sleeping in subways and under bridges again. Then there was his relationship with his mother. She had always been there for him, especially when he was hospitalized and gravely ill. “She’s who I live for. Without her, I guarantee I wouldn’t have survived,” he said. I listened intently as his poignant personal story helped slow the pace of a hectic day.

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    1 Comment for this article
    I Could Not Have Stated This Any Better!
    Minka Schofield, MD | The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
    As an African-American female surgeon I am met with awe in the eyes and voices of patients regularly. All wondering “ are ‘YOU’ the surgeon?” I have learned to adapt to this but find myself more amazed and somewhat embarrassed when it is an African-American patient. You have just expressed so eloquently my feelings and at the same time provided perspective and meaning to their reaction when they learn that I am the surgeon. These encounters truly represent how far we have come AND how far we have to go. I am even more proud of being an African-American physician after reading your article. Well-done!