Superheroalert: 5 Ways YOU can help #PuertoRico TODAY! #dogood via @VargasVidot @BillyTaub & @PonceHealthSU

Aight, Superpeeps, another superheroalert. Bottom line up front: Join me in helping Puerto Rico recover by heading to the PMSFRELIEFFUND.org and iniciativacomunitaria.org.

Iniciativa Comunitaria normally works with clinics in the north of the island to help the homeless and reach out to Guatemala and Haiti, but now, with the disaster around them, they’re turning to local aid relief. They work with Puerto Rican Senator Vargas Vidot. I don’t know much about his politics, but I can tell you, having met him in person, his heart’s huge. Please read to the end of this article to read his truly inspirational speech about saving the soul of medicine!

My heart’s got a special place for the PHSU foundation, too. Since the crisis began, the students/faculty have provided medical and psychological support services and have been delivering over 100,000 lbs of privately donated goods and supplies to the residents, most of whom lost their homes and all of their possessions in the hurricane. That’s my alma mater, people!

Other initiatives:

Send nutrition, baby care, and beauty product care packages to Puerto Rico with my buddy Bill Taub. A prolific film consultant, Taub has volunteered his Arbonne business to join LYNC8 Project. He’s shipping these packages at cost free, meaning no profit—so if we can just cover the costs of making the products and shipping them, a Puerto Rican mother can care for her baby and feel a little more like a lady again. Contact him at billtaubarb AT gmail! Of note, iniciativacomunitaria.org is located in the North, and Ponce’s relief fund towards the South, but LYNC8 is located in the WEST, around the dam, where people got hit the hardest. I’d give to all three if I were you.

Sign this petition to deploy 50,000 US troops to help Puerto Rico rebuild. In the words of Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, “Puerto Rico is a bigger and tougher mission than Katrina, and we had 20,000 federal troops.” Yet only 4,400 federal troops have been deployed. What’s wrong with that picture? Puerto Ricans are American citizens. They’re not them or they. They’re us. US. If you search “Puerto Rico” on change.org, you’ll find a number of other petitions worth joining.

Sign this petition to get rid of the totalitarian Jones Act, which even without the hurricane prevents Puerto Ricans from getting food and necessary supplies. It’s a law that means that all ships that go to Puerto Rico have to land in Florida first–even if it would be closer to go to Puerto Rico! Shipping monopolies love this law because it gives them tons of money. Puerto Ricans hate this law because it means everything takes longer to get to them, and is nearly double mainland prices sometimes. End the discrimination against the poor!

-I’m trying to get in touch with my old Social Medicine group, and our sister organization, Amor Que Sana y Casa Ana Medina, in the South of Puerto Rico. Stay tuned. Samaritan’s Purse may also be doing good in the island.

But more than anything, I want you to join LOCAL organizations, by joining iniciativacomunitaria.org, and psmfrelieffund.org.

When Dr. Vidot came and spoke at my medical school graduation, surrounded by brilliant lights and brilliant minds, decked in fine robes and tassels on a stage of tropical splendor, he told us a passionate story about the humble little black case doctors used to carry. It’s a story you need to hear, so Senator Vidot gave me permission to share his speech—and I think now is a better time than any.

Hagamos Sonreir

by J. Vargas Vidot

SPANISH ORIGINAL

Vivimos en un mundo complicado. Ustedes reciben un diploma que se convierte de inmediato en un emplazamiento moral, en una factura por cobrar, en un dilema ético. Y en que consiste?

Este dilema ético consiste en el desafío de escoger entre la gente y usted. Por delante les queda todavía unos cuantos años de una extraña combinación de retos y lamentos—todavía el sistema no los va a soltar a la realidad desprotegida de las paredes fuera del claustro académico. Todavía le quedan años de pasar o no pasar entre los cuales serán enfrentados en forma escalonada con las obscuras realidades que ensombrecen a la medina de hoy en día.

Antes aspirábamos a tener un pequeño maletín negro que no necesitaba bata blanca o nombres de prestigiosas universidades o centros medicos. Era un maletín negro incomodo para guardar las herramientas de rigor, pero con suficiente espacio para tener las herramientas que nos conectaban con la vulnerabilidad del prójimo. El pequeño pero venerado maletín del medico era símbolo de tantos sueños de esperanza, y cuando se llegaba a una casa las personas hasta buscaban donde situar este maravilloso icono de humildad y de reconciliación.

(When Dr. Vargas told this story on stage, he told us about how when he was a little boy, and the doctor came to his house, they made him move out of his chair so the little black doctor bag had a place to sit—it couldn’t be on the floor! He regaled us with stories of the famous, highly-esteemed doctor who still respectfully greeted/saluted his poor, lower-class grandmother when they passed on the street. Dr. Vargas then told us that achieving that little black doctor bag wasn’t expected for a boy like him. When he told his doctor he wanted to practice medicine when he grew up, the doctor asked him, “what neighborhood are you from, boy?” Upon hearing Dr. Vargas’ answer, the doctor shook his head. “You should consider nursing instead.”)

Mi papa, un hombre trabajado, aspiraba, mas que a otra cosa, a regalarme ese pequeño maletín en donde cabina tantas ilusiones, en donde no sabia un pet scan o un sofisticado lap top con miles de digas capaces de transportarnos a la medicina moderna pero tristemente desafiliandonos de la mas intima relación de transmutación con la persona que requiere mis servicios. Y hoy ganamos diplomas y reconocimientos que definitivamente son la mas intensa manifestación de tus logros, pero de ahi, en adelante, el maletincito se perdió en la inmensa complejidad irreducible de los que hoy es la medicina.

La sociedad espera grandes cosas de ustedes, pero las mas excelsas, las de mas transcendencia, las virtudes que este mundo hastiado de burocracia, pedantería e indiferencia basada en la ambición de protagonismos, espera, es que tu seas tu, es que puedas ademas de haber memorizado miles de algoritmos diagnósticos, puedas abrir el mas importante espacio de tu corazón, de tus emociones para recibir con solidaridad amorosa a prójimo.

(At this point, Dr. Vargas told us a story about one of his missions to Guatemala. He was running a clinic of children, and reporters came by to interview one of the boys he’d examined and treated. He ran up to the camera to explain to them, with great pride, all he’d done for the boy—but they said, “no, let the boy talk.” So they asked the boy, “what did the doctor do for you?” The boy stood quietly, and Dr. Vargas became stressed: the boy didn’t talk about how he listened to the boy’s heart and examined his abdomen and found the right medication, and instead just stood there, silently. “Did the doctor do anything for you?”

“He made me smile,” said the boy.

That was what the patient wanted.

“En cambio,” or on the other hand, Dr. Vargas told us of a rushed ER doc who said the patient’s lungs were clear…and the patient looked, and noticed the doctor didn’t even have the stethoscope in his ears. Was this a problem of a system that overworks the doctor in the name of higher pay, to exhaustion? Was this a problem of an individual who in that broken system no longer had the heart to care? Was this the future doctor we, sitting in that audience, would become? Or would we have our stethoscopes in our ears, and listen?)

Los haitianos que fueron parte de mi misión en Haiti a tres o cuatro meses de su tragedia, parecían alegres y se proponían con verdadera pasión volver a soñar, ya mi me resoluto extraña esa actitud tan alegre cuando todavía el mundo lloraba el terremoto. Ante mis preguntas, preocupado de que sus alegrías fueran interpretados como insensibilidad, fueron contestadas de la siguiente forma,

“Nosotros los haitianos hemos sufrido siempre, mucho antes del terremoto, ya sufríamos y a través del tiempo aprendimos a superar el dolor rápidamente porque de lo contrario el dolor nos mataría. Y la forma en que lo hemos logrado es cargando muy poco. Y le damas las gracias por lo que usted nos enseña, porque el día en que ustedes tengan que pasar por lo que nosotros pasamos, les va a ser imposible levantarse, porque ustedes cargan mucho, porque ustedes dependen de tantas cosas, porque ustedes le llaman éxito a tener lo que no necesitan.”

Antes el medico solo necesitaba una pequeña maleta, porque la mas grande virtud, la cargaban en su alma, en su espíritu de servicio, en su humildad y entrega.

Hoy ustedes están obligados a ser la mas revolucionaria transición entre una medicina que los viejos hemos prostituido convirtiéndola en una vergonzosa medicina corporativa, y la necesidad de regresar alas raíces solidarias de esta noble profesión. Recuerde la nobleza de nuestra clase no ni residía en el pasado en la maleta negra, ni en el presente reside en la brillante bata blanca, ni en el futuro inmediato residirá en una tecnología que desafía el ciclo natural del humano; la nobleza de nuestra clase reside en los actos nobles que usted logre evidencia en su conducta profesional y personal.

Los niveles de depresión, ansiedad, el alcoholismo, y el uso de drogas, e inclusive el suicidio y el rompimiento de familias por divorcio es una realidad que sirve de contra punto paradójico a la ilusión de que el medico es el mejor que esta. Es a ustedes a quienes les toca volver a encontrar una senda de paz que sin rechazar la ciencia y los avances, pueda devolver al medico la sencillez del maletincito negro.

Y create, la inversion en el bien no es una característica de los débiles—es la virtud de los verdaderamente fuertes. Los vientos de futuro soplan hacia la incertidumbre y es en esos vientos en donde usted debe de navegar su nave. Le puedo garantizar, como dice Facundo Cabral que, “lo que se pierde en nombre, se gana en eternidad.”

El amor que nos trajo, es el que nos va a permitir sobrevivir.

Ustedes no reciben mete diploma gratuitamente—este diploma es un contrato social en el que usted debe, por encima de cualquier cosa, redimir la mediocridad del pasado, abriendo puertas de esperanza, entendiendo que no es necesario cargar mucho. Nuestro maletín es interno con intension de brillar a lo externo.

Seamos la puerta al amor, seamos el candado que encierra a la desesperanza; el Dr. Izquierdo Mora, mi maestro, decía que mas que un buen medico, seamos un medico bueno. Seamos buenos, no perdamos la capacidad de indignarnos, no perdamos la capacidad de soñar, no perdamos la capacidad de alcanzar el camino que en la sencillez nos devuelve al principio del amor.

Hagamos sonreír.

~Jose Vargas Vidot

LOOSE ENGLISH TRANSLATION

We live in a complicated world. You receive a diploma that immediately becomes a moral ground, a bill receivable, an ethical dilemma. And what does it consist of?

This ethical dilemma consists of the challenge of choosing between the people and yourself. Ahead there are still a few years left of this strange combination of challenges and regrets–the system doesn’t allow you yet into the unprotected reality outside the walls of academic cloister. There are still years to pass or not to pass before you become confronted in a staggering way with the dark realities that overshadow medicine today.

Before we aspired to have a small black briefcase that did not need a white coat or names of prestigious universities or medical centers. It was an uncomfortable black case to keep the tools of rigor, but with enough space to have the tools that connected us with the vulnerability of others. The doctor’s small but revered briefcase was a symbol of so many dreams of hope, and when people came to a house they even gave up their seats for this wonderful icon of humility and reconciliation.

(When Dr. Vargas told this story on stage, he told us about how when he was a little boy, and the doctor came to his house, they made him move out of his chair so the little black doctor bag had a place to sit—it couldn’t be on the floor! He regaled us with stories of the famous, highly-esteemed doctor who still respectfully greeted/saluted his poor, lower-class grandmother when they passed on the street. Dr. Vargas then told us that achieving that little black doctor bag wasn’t expected for a boy like him. When he told his doctor he wanted to practice medicine when he grew up, the doctor asked him, “what neighborhood are you from, boy?” Upon hearing Dr. Vargas’ answer, the doctor shook his head. “You should consider nursing instead.”)

My father, a working man, aspired more than anything else to give me that little briefcase where I had so many illusions, where I did not know a pet scan or a sophisticated lap top with thousands of gigas capable of transporting us to modern medicine–but sadly disaffiliating us from the most intimate relationship of transmutation with the person who requires our services. Today we win diplomas and recognitions that are definitely an intense manifestation of your achievements, but I fear briefcase has been lost in the immense irreducible complexity of what today is medicine.

Society expects great things from you, but the most exalted, the most transcendent virtues, the ones that this world really awaits as its blasted with bureaucracy, pedantry and indifference based on the ambition of prominence–the greatest virtue is that while you memorize thousands of diagnostic algorithms, you can also open the most important space of your heart, of your emotions, to receive your neighbor with loving solidarity.

(At this point, Dr. Vargas told us a story about one of his missions to Guatemala. He was running a clinic of children, and reporters came by to interview one of the boys he’d examined and treated. He ran up to the camera to explain to them, with great pride, all he’d done for the boy—but they said, “no, let the boy talk.” So they asked the boy, “what did the doctor do for you?” The boy stood quietly, and Dr. Vargas became stressed: the boy didn’t talk about how he listened to the boy’s heart and examined his abdomen and found the right medication, and instead just stood there, silently. “Did the doctor do anything for you?”

“He made me smile,” said the boy.

That was what the patient wanted.

“En cambio,” or on the other hand, Dr. Vargas told us of a rushed ER doc who said the patient’s lungs were clear…and the patient looked, and noticed the doctor didn’t even have the stethoscope in his ears. Was this a problem of a system that overworks the doctor in the name of higher pay, to exhaustion? Was this a problem of an individual who in that broken system no longer had the heart to care? Was this the future doctor we, sitting in that audience, would become? Or would we have our stethoscopes in our ears, and listen?)

The Haitians who were part of my mission in Haiti three or four months after their tragedy seemed happy and proposed with real passion to dream again, and that happy attitude struck me as strange when the earth was still crying over the earthquake. I questioned them, worried that their joys would be interpreted as insensibility. They answered:

“We Haitians have always suffered, long before the earthquake; we already suffered and over time we learned to overcome pain quickly because otherwise the pain would kill us. And the way we have achieved it is by carrying very little. And we thank you for what you teach us, because the day you have to go through what we go through, it will be impossible for you to get up, because you carry a lot, because you depend on so many things, because you call it success to have what you do not need.”

Before the doctor only needed a small suitcase, because the greatest virtue, loaded in his soul, was his spirit of service, in his humility and dedication.

Today you are bound to see the most revolutionary transition between a medicine that we old people have prostituted, turning it into a shameful corporate medicine, and the need to return to the roots of solidarity of this noble profession. Remember the nobility of our class did not reside in the past in the black suitcase, nor in the present resides in the bright white coat, nor in the immediate future will reside in a technology that challenges the natural cycle of the human life; The nobility of our class lies in the noble acts that you achieve, evidenced by your professional and personal conduct. The levels of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug-use, suicide, and divorce among doctors serves as a paradoxical counterpoint to the illusion that the doctor’s way is the best one. It is up to you to find a path of peace so that without rejecting science and advances, you can return to the simplicity of the little black suitcase.

And believe me, investment in good is not a characteristic of the weak-it is the virtue of the truly strong. The future winds blow towards uncertainty and it is in those winds where you must navigate your ship. I can guarantee, as Facundo Cabral says, that “what is lost in name, is earned in eternity.”

The love that brought us here is the one that will allow us to survive.

You do not receive a diploma for free-this diploma is a social contract in which you must, above all, redeem the mediocrity of the past, opening doors of hope, understanding that it is not necessary to carry a lot. Our briefcase is internal with the intention to shine externally.

Let’s be the door to love, let’s be the lock that locks the despair; Dr. Izquierdo Mora, my teacher, said that more than becoming a “buen medico”–or good doctor–we need to be a “medico bueno”–a doctor who is good. Let’s be good, let’s not lose the ability to be indignant, let’s not lose the ability to dream, let’s not lose the ability to reach the path that in simplicity returns us to the principle of love.

Let’s make smiles.

~ Jose Vargas Vidot

Meditate on this a little, even if you aren’t a doctor. How is your life a social contract for good? When you’re done pondering, join Dr. Vargas at Iniciativacomunitaria.org, and join my fellow medical students and teachers at PMSRELIEFFUND.org. Puerto Ricans like Dr. Vargas aren’t victims who need your pity; they’re heroes who need your action. And we can be their supporting cast as they rebuild.

How will you build your #superheroalert response today?

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