It is difficult to find words that can adequately describe the year of 2020. The year had been a year of grief and pain, of revolution and change, of strength and support. We have had to find new ways of coping with the unprecedented amount of panic and sorrow that has come at us without an end in sight. And we have had to find new ways of connecting with each other in a time of disconnect. Our days are spent largely in virtual meetings — our microphones off, our voices muted. To break silence requires courage and heart, plenty of which can be found in this issue of Humanism in the Health Sciences. It is my great honor to share with you the unfettered voices of the students, faculty, and staff of the WesternU community in the time of 2020.
Sylvia Li, COMP-Pomona student
Editor-in-Chief, Humanism in the Health Sciences, 2020
Indudeep Bedi, COMP-Northwest student
Being an editor for Unmuted has been both a privilege and a learning experience for me. Through reading the profound words of my colleagues, I learned that humanism is not just an act. It is a way of being, and an identity that my classmates continue to strive to adhere to as well as identify in others. The collection of works in this journal proves that no matter what, whether there is a pandemic out there, or a difficult patient, or an insurmountable obstacle, or faced with a choice to adapt and be resourceful, they will never forget that they are first and foremost one thing: human.
Monica Morris, Pharmacy student
I am a third year PharmD student here at WesternU, and this is my second year working as an editor for the Humanism Magazine. I am also a mother to a rambunctious little two year old girl, London. Over the past 8 or so years, I have become very involved with politics. This year I volunteered with a couple different campaigns, from those of local government officials to a candidate in the presidential primaries. Being a working mom, a grad student, a want-to-be “campaign staffer”, and living through a pandemic has brought some stress, of course, but it has also brought me a whole new outlook. This year, I have learned that it is okay to slow down, take a break, and just really enjoy the little moments in life. I have been given the opportunity to spend so much more time at home with my daughter, and I would not change it for anything. This year, more than others, I am grateful that WesternU has a magazine like Humanism because it gives us the opportunity to experience the world, for just a moment, through the eyes of our fellow students.
Alex Dang, Podiatric Medicine student
This year has been a rollercoaster and has been full of challenges for all of us. The pandemic changed life as we know it because none of us could have ever expected to attend a professional school through an online platform or practice social distancing in our daily lives. However, the worst of times bring out the best in us as we build resilience and continue to persevere.
I am excited to be a part of the editorial team, and the theme Unmuted has allowed our students to speak their minds and express their thoughts during this trying time.
Jeremiah Sabocor, Pharmacy student
Being an editor for Humanism Magazine has been a breath of fresh air in my academic career as a student who majored in Biology during undergrad and who is currently in their second year of pharmacy school. I have never been an editor before, so this was an eye-opening experience for me. It was interesting reading the creative works of people from different health professions because I gained new perspectives ranging from personal patient encounters in a hospital setting to how the pandemic has affected students’ learning to be healthcare professionals in an online environment. I know this has been said many times over, but 2020 is definitely a year for the history books. A year defined by a global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, natural disasters, deaths of famous and influential people, economic instability, and political drama. Everyone had been affected one way or another, with some unfortunately experiencing loss of friends or family. But with a strong support system and the innate resilience of human nature, we were able to see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that was 2020. Let’s hope that 2021 will give everyone a much-needed break so that we can focus on the positive aspects of life.
Suria Markus, COMP-Pomona student
Coming into 2021 as a second-year student of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, my definition of humanism has changed. In my first year, I certainly would have identified as a humanist, but my definition would undoubtedly have been vague — something along the lines of “a faith in humanity above all else, with an emphasis on humans previously (and presently) marginalized.” Then 2020 presented the world with unprecedented times. As I grew accustomed to “Zoom life”, nearly all human contact evaporated. Adaptation to isolation began to reshape my consciousness, and along with it, my definition of humanism. It took on a new meaning. Or, at least, underwent an evolution. Because now my interpretation is defined by a faith in human connection. Over the course of 2020, I felt more connected to my community than ever before. Unspeakable events have occurred during the pandemic, and many of us have worked to challenge those events by strengthening our voices — learning to be more articulate, compassionate, and clear. We have taught ourselves to speak directly from the heart, because we no longer have the benefit of physical presence. In other words, the necessity of communication has strengthened our connections. There is much to mourn from 2020, but if you are a true humanist, you always see light at the end of the tunnel. Moreover, you rejoice at advancements made in reaction to tragedy. This edition of Humanism Magazine has a theme: unmuted. I can’t think of a more appropriate title. 2020 could have been a year where humanity was rendered speechless. Instead, we achieved a deafening roar.
Jeffrey Kerr, COMP-Northwest student
While stated ad nauseam, 2020 was truly an unprecedented year. Thus, it was such a pleasure and an honor to assist in curating this issue of Humanism Magazine. When we peer back at human history, it was often periods of widespread societal hardship and rapid change that inspired the most thought-provoking and seminal artworks ever. It is an understatement that our WesternU medical family as well as the medical community at large was unduly challenged in 2020. Understanding this, I performed my job as editor with an assured gravitas.
Personally speaking, I often produce artworks as analgesia for a stressful medical school life that are inspired by patient narratives, as many of my peers did for this issue. Others created works as commentary on social justice and as visionaries. Regardless, WesternU this year was certainly, and proudly, Unmuted.
Monica Gupta, COMP-Pomona student
In my experience, reflection upon ourselves and the world helps stimulate our hearts and minds and maintain our capacity for compassion and empathy. As Dr. Rana Awdish said, good patient care encompasses not only getting a patient from sickness to health, but also validating a patient’s suffering and being compassionate during their journey. I am proud of my fellow classmates for “unmuting” themselves to contribute their reflections to our Humanism Magazine; embracing our creativity is a way of celebrating our shared humanity. Medicine may be crucial for life, but art is one of the things that makes life worth living.
Lou Deringer, COMP-Northwest student
Encountering the human-ness of one another is one of those experiences that makes life so very beautiful; it occurs when a clinician sees a patient, when friends share a meal, when one journeys through the creations of another’s mind or hands. In fact, it occurs in these very pages. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have participated in the preparations for this edition of the Humanism Magazine — this edition is undoubtedly coming at the very time we need it the most.
Wayne Kuang, COMP-Pomona student
Heroes arise during times of peril. Through these situations, we finally clearly see the ones who will stand by our side and see those who will let us fall behind. It is fine to be the one in need of help, but don’t ever be the latter. I encourage everyone to use this pandemic as an opportunity to make a difference. That difference can come in all shapes and form, whether it’s volunteering at a shelter, checking in on an acquaintance’s well-being, or even introspection. I’ve done my part in educating the community and being in the frontlines as a medical student. I am excited for whoever reads this magazine and this message, and I would like us all to start asking ourselves what we have done during this time.
Mitchell Goldman, Podiatric Medicine student
In the journey to becoming a healthcare professional, it can often feel as though we are giving up our own individuality to adopt the teachings that shape us into the best health care providers we can be. I hope that this collection of works reminds the students how important it is to express yourself and celebrate what makes each of us unique.
Akshitha Thatiparthi, COMP-Pomona student
In unprecedented times with increased barriers and obstacles, we chose our theme, Unmuted, to allow our classmates a voice and artistic outlet to share their views, hopes, dreams and opinions. I hope, through the pieces in this journal, we can share the joy of emerging stronger together while continuing our journey to become compassionate and caring health care professionals.
Halley Egnew, COMP-Northwest student
This year’s theme, Unmuted, really resonated with me. I think that we live in a world where it’s easy to get muted, by which I mean to feel that your perspective isn’t important. Specifically, in medical school, sometimes I feel that only scientific aspects or my personhood are useful and appropriate. But who defined useful? Who defined appropriate? Ultimately, we are all going to be healers, and healers need their science knowledge along with their human experience. I’m so appreciative of the chance to work on this magazine with like-minded students who value humanism. Welcome to Unmuted, and thank you for reading!
Nia Huggins, Pharmacy student
Sometimes it is said that science is impersonal and distant from the experiences of love and lost. However, the same cannot be said about the people who use science as a tool to grow, to heal and to inform. Having the opportunity to read and edit the works of the science-oriented, I have seen proof that science and furthermore medicine is a human experience, a nurturing connection we spread and share with others; stories collected from all walks of life and made of all trials and tribulations. COVID-19 has only personified the expression of care our neighbors are capable of. Thank you to WesternU’s Humanism Magazine and to the WesternU community for unmuting during these trying times!